In the NBA preseason rankings, the Phoenix Suns were expected to be in the running for the lottery pick as one of the worst teams in the league. Well apparently they did not get that memo, as this season, the young Phoenix Suns squad has emerged as a playoff threat in the extremely competitive Western Conference.
The Suns are currently in the midst of a three-team race for the final two playoff spots in the West. The Suns have the same 44-30 record as the Dallas Mavericks, but they hold the tiebreaker so they currently sit in the seventh spot in the West. The Memphis Grizzles are 0.5 games back of both teams and sit just outside the playoffs in the ninth spot.
With single digit games left to play in the regular season for all three teams, there is going to be an explosive finish to the NBA regular season in the Western Conference. So how did Phoenix defy the odds and prove critics wrong this season? One man who holds a lot of the responsibility for his team’s success is Goran Dragic.
With Eric Bledsoe missing 33 games due to a meniscus injury, Goran Dragic has played spectacularly for Phoenix this year. Dragic is one of three players in the NBA to average 20+ points and 5+ assists, while shooting over 50 percent from the field. The other two players are leading MVP candidates Kevin Durant and LeBron James. To add to that, Dragic is also shooting 42.4 percent from beyond the three-point line.
Another player who has stepped up for the Suns this season has been Gerald Green. Known for being an incredible in-game dunker, Green has shown this season that he has the skill set to contribute consistently for an NBA squad. Green is averaging 15.5 points per game on the year, and had a few breakout performances, including a career high 41 point game against the Thunder earlier this month.
Player to Watch in the Playoffs
Eric Bledsoe recently returned to the Suns lineup, and has been working his way back to 100 percent. Bledsoe was expected to be the Star of this Suns team and he will need to be just that for the Suns to get into the playoffs and make some noise in the West.
Bledsoe is averaging 17.3 points per game on 46 percent shooting, while also handing out 5.7 assists. If Bledsoe is able to get back to level of play that he was at before his injury, the back court tandem of Dragic and Bledsoe would be able to compete with any back court duo in the NBA.
How Will Their Season End
While a playoff spot in the NBA’s Western Conference is anything but guaranteed, expect the Phoenix Suns to sneak into the final playoff spot in the West behind the Memphis Grizzlies, with the Dallas Mavericks just missing out on a playoff berth. As of right now, an eighth seed in the West would match them against the defending Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs.
Despite the pedigree of the Spurs and the inexperience of this Suns squad, Phoenix has a chance to upset the Spurs in the first round. Head coach Jeff Hornacek and the Phoenix Suns like to play a fast tempo open court game, where the Spurs prefer to break opponents down in their half court offense. If the Suns are able to take advantage of their speed against an older Spurs lineup, look for the Spurs to take a surprise early exit from the playoffs.
Phoenix, Dallas, Memphis, and even Golden State are all battling for the final three playoff spots in the West. The NBA regular season is going to come down to wire in the West, with one team leaving empty-handed. So pay attention, because the ending of the regular season is going to be a photo finish.
NBA Daily is a daily series providing commentary, predictions, and analysis of events surrounding the NBA.
Commentary By Eric Kummel