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Of all the unfinished work the NBA sought to complete with the Disney World reboot, the Phoenix Suns̵7; fate was never set. They were just there, invited to schedule, both the following thoughts and not the threat, their retreat into another sealed lottery.
Too much for it.
With their 130-117 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, the Suns are now in a perfect 7-0 win in the bubble and, more importantly, only left the qualifiers for the tournament’s post-season tournament. one more heartbeat.
You read all of that correctly.
Not lost in the euphoria, Phoenix’s fate is not entirely his own. A win over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday will go a long way to consolidating their starting spot but also have to be accompanied by a Memphis Grizzlies defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks or a Portland Trail Blazers defeat to the Brooklyn Nets.
Likewise, it also mentions that, whatever happens, most of the 2019-20 season is shown outside of Disney. The sun is still comfortably below 0.500, a stone or two more than contested for the title – or even a playoff lock state. They need to maintain perfection only for the chance to enter the post-season phase, where they, most likely, will serve as a stepping stone to the first round for the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, who cares? They have no expectations of a bubble or even a remote opportunity to disrupt the play-in and post-season tournament. They do it now.
Almost everything about them is a revelation. Devin Booker does not. The past seven games are just a slight exaggeration of how he’s been performing this season. Scoring, efficiency, passing, the absolute imperatives of the game – nothing new. His number, while remarkable, is not miles from normal:
Indeed, the addition of a trademark moment in the win – game winner against both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard – is the most drastic change to his résumé. His star’s novelty is the extent to which it is recognized and accepted, not that it exists at all. Phoenix has a player who is capable of leading a really good team, just like before.
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Bookstore GAME DEVIN-WINNER 🚨 https://t.co/4QAeIRNiA6
All the others, together, are epiphany. Where the Sun previously was occupying the tough space between rebuilding and mediocrity, they look instead like they’ve laid the groundwork to climb out of the NBA void.
Glimpses of the better outlook appeared across the rest of the list, from Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges to Cameron Johnson and Kelly Oubre Jr. But that growth is never combined with the sustainability that Phoenix is currently championing. Seven games was a drop in the group compared to the grand plan. For the Sun, it was also their longest streak of victories in the Booker era.
Importantly, Ayton looks like part of a viable number 2 at both ends of the floor.
His scoring opportunities came both during attack and when needed, in his own way, and he worked three-pointers more than his arsenal. His defense was tighter and more solid. He has held negative tackles almost all season and has a stronger presence in the back line. The opponent is shooting 8.7 percentage points below their average within six feet of the basket when he challenges them.
Bridge’s protection was in place – perhaps not fully appreciated, but known. His appearance has turned into an offense. He looks more comfortable in his own skin, is not afraid of attacking downhill and less hesitant to open three people. His decision-making over drives is no longer a hidden gem, and he even hints at a pull-up trio:
Jackson Frank @jackfrank_jjf
Mikal Bridges pull-up 3. Splash. https://t.co/yklhV5WZJm
Johnson, the number 11 overall pick for 2019, has outperformed the draft date impressions substantially throughout the season. His external touch is real – his 35.9 percent clip from a bubble below his 39.2 percent all-season low – and he’s not stunned. Decisions to kick the ball, dribble or pass the ball are made quickly.
Rubio has long provided a steady atmosphere, one who can ease the Booker’s burden from the start as they play side by side and live to break the defense. He’s an imperfect player, yes, but he has motivated Suns before.
Some of what’s happening at Disney will be an exception. Rubio’s 43.5% clip from outside the arc won’t hold. Cameron Payne also did not reach half of his way forever. Jevon Carter will take on defensive duties in the parking lot until the end of time, but his scoring performance – 54.2% from afar – will drop.
There is merit to how the Phoenix limits looks to three points, but its top six-point defense since a reboot cannot be considered the new standard. Dario Saric’s departure was a real surprise.
Isn’t it strange that the Sun would do this without Aron Baynes? What about Oubre? And on a more macro level, who knows how much the reboots announce for the future. They have faced G-League iterations of the Sixers and Oklahoma City Thunder, alongside a Miami Heat team without Jimmy Butler or Goran Dragic.
Ashley Landis / Associated Press
Fierce calls are also awaiting the franchise. Baynes and Saric (restricted) are imminent free agents. The bench needs help making shots in the long run, and Payne is probably not the answer.
Phoenix will do well to stick with its current starting year of Rubio, Booker, Bridges, Johnson and Ayton, which own a real 25.9 rating plus, but that complicates Oubre’s relevance. He has a year left on his contract and doesn’t have the qualifications to test the roster as a main initiator. Does the sun shop for him? What can they get him? And what can they potentially stick with him without having too much mortgage for their future?
Playing in the West only complicates the problem. It is interesting to say that the Sun is on the brink of controversy after the season is fully tilted. It’s another thing for them to back it up.
Currently, all 15 teams have hopes of making it to the playoffs next year. A few will definitely eliminate themselves from the fight, but the congress will not be significantly shallower than this season. Phoenix has read too much on the false starts and doesn’t start before. Doubling for this core is not without risk.
Problems related to the larger picture of the Sun, however, are problematic for another day, at a time when their season actually ends. Right now, it’s not. And whether they bowed to the play-in tournament, lost a match or won the right to disturb the Lakers in five-hour matches, they made money.
To be here, maybe even dreaming of post-season, is an enviable feat and cannot be underestimated. It doesn’t matter what happened before or it has taken an unprecedented playoff format in the global pandemic scene to have this opportunity.
They have it, they’re making the most of it, and in so doing, they leave the lasting impression that, a small pattern in mind, feels more like an expression than a stop.
Unless otherwise noted, stats are authorized by NBA.com, Basketball or Glass Cleaning Reference and current guidance on Wednesday matches. Information on salaries and limits is available through Basketball Insiders, Beginners Rights and Spotrac.
Dan Favale reporting on NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale) and listen Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B / R’s Adam Fromal.