Following a valiant 2021 NBA Finals run, the Phoenix Suns are off to a blistering start this 2021-22 season. Phoenix currently holds the best record in the league at 26-5. The Suns even went on a torrid streak that saw them win 18 games in a row. Phoenix will put that top spot to the test this Friday when they face the team with the second best record in the league, the Golden State Warriors, in what should be another blockbuster match-up between the two best teams in the Association. In this post, though, we’re looking at a Suns Christmas wish list.
These two powerhouses squared off twice just a couple of weeks ago in a pair of highly-anticipated games which saw both teams win on their respective home floors. The hype for this upcoming Christmas Day showdown should be no different.
The defending Western Conference champions definitely want to get another statement win over arguably their biggest threat in the conference. Doing so should further fuel their strong campaign and their bid to get back to the NBA Finals next June. With that said, here are three things that need to be on the Phoenix Suns’ Christmas wish list
Suns Christmas Wish List
1. Best record in the NBA
The Phoenix Suns would ideally want to hold that top spot down the rest of the season. Doing so this would award them home court advantage for the entirety of the postseason, where they aim to make it back to the Finals and avenge their loss in the 2021 championship round.
The Suns have the second best defense across the league behind the Warriors. They also have the third-best net rating in the NBA behind Golden State and the Utah Jazz. With the way Phoenix is playing, it wouldn’t be difficult to see finish atop the league standings when the regular season ends.
Nonetheless, it’s still a very long campaign and a lot could still change. Staying in that top spot is going to be such a daunting task throughout the year, especially with teams like Golden State and Utah also playing at extremely high levels. If the Suns want their best chance of making it back to the championship round, they might just need to secure the no. 1 seed in the West with all the other powerhouses vying for a Finals spot in the conference.
2. Chris Paul 100 percent healthy in the playoffs
The 2017-18 Houston Rockets learned the hard way just how important Chris Paul is for their title aspirations. It goes without saying that Paul needs to be 100 percent when the playoffs come if the Suns want any chance to compete for a championship. Devin Booker may be the team’s best player and their no. 1 offensive option. But Paul is the one the Suns turn to for leadership and guidance when the ship starts to turn south.
The 36-year old has also come up huge for the Suns in numerous clutch situations this season, as well as the last, including in the postseason. CP3’s steady hand is what steers Phoenix’s balanced attack and his wizardry as a playmaking puts his teammates in the best situation to succeed. There’s no question that Paul is still playing at his best. But he’ll need to be unscathed and in fully health during the playoffs if Phoenix wants to avenge its Finals loss this past July.
3. Deandre Ayton’s continued development
As much as Chris Paul and Devin Booker are the two engines that drive this Suns team, last year’s NBA Finals showed that Phoenix will need Deandre Ayton to be that third star to get them over the hump. Ayton had a breakout season in 2020-21 and played tremendously throughout the playoffs. However, he was largely outplayed by Giannis Antetokounmpo in the NBA Finals and did not have the same impact he had through the first three rounds of the postseason.
Ayton is having a strong 2021-22 campaign so far. He is averaging 16.9 points and 11.3 rebounds and is converting 62.5 percent of his shots, which are mostly inside the paint. Much like last year, the 2018 no. 1 overall pick is also anchoring Phoenix’s top-3 defense and has been a huge reason for their success so far this year.
Ayton and the Suns had failed negotiations on an extension this past summer. The 6-foot-11 center sought to get a max contract from Phoenix, but the Suns front office was reluctant to sign him to that kind of deal at that point. Ayton seems to be using this campaign to show that he is worth every penny of that max deal that he is coveting. With Ayton playing motivated for a massive payday, this ploy by Phoenix to delay his extension could be what pushes Phoenix to the top.