Each week, NBA.com’s writers will weigh in on some of the most important topics around the league.
The Suns haven’t lost a game since Oct. 27. What is fueling this current winning streak?
Steve Aschburner: It would be snarky but true to mention their schedule, which has been among the league’s friendliest thus far. Then again, all a team can do is beat the opponent facing them that night, and the Suns are doing that masterfully. But it’s more than that (Golden State’s schedule hasn’t been all that rigorous either, by the way). Phoenix is the most accurate-shooting team in the league. The Suns have great depth and every necessary implement in their tool kit. The experience they gained last postseason seems like a direct carryover. And Monty Williams is on his way to winning that Coach of the Year award he narrowly missed out on in 2021. Somehow, Williams’ calm guidance even managed to spin the Suns out of the inner-office turmoil swirling about owner Robert Sarver with mature, bonded, positive momentum. Seems to me Phoenix is on a mission to get back to The Finals and win, even as it focuses specifically on the opponent at hand game by game.
Mark Medina: Talent, maturity and continuity. The Suns have shown that the reason for their run to the NBA Finals went beyond eliminating teams nursing serious injuries, including the Lakers (Anthony Davis, LeBron James), the Nuggets (Jamal Murray) and the Clippers (Kawhi Leonard). It also has to do with the Suns having an All-Star veteran point guard that can delay Father Time (Chris Paul), an aggressive scorer (Devin Booker) and an emerging young center (Deandre Ayton). The Suns also have a coach who patrols the sideline with a steady, assuring and commanding presence (Monty Williams). By maintaining their NBA Finals roster, the Suns have proven capable of building off of their six-game series loss to the Bucks in The Finals. The Suns have also navigated potential road blocks. Though the Suns’ front office failed to agree with Ayton on a max rookie extension, that has not affected him or the team enough to hurt bottom-line results. Neither has the NBA’s investigation into Suns owner Robert Sarver. The Suns have poured their energy into the work, and they have the talent to ensure that leads to results.
Shaun Powell: More than anything, the Suns are healthy, unlike some of their fellow contenders, and they’re not going through adjustment phases or drama — also unlike some of their fellow competitors. This is virtually the same team that advanced to the NBA Finals just five short months ago and most of their key players are either in their prime or trending in that direction. And the “player in his sunset” is Chris Paul, who is fit and leaning on wisdom and still able to find the open man.
John Schuhmann: If you ask them, it’s accountability, which speaks to leadership.
Monty Williams: “They understand the accountability within the locker room is at a high level… They want to do well on the defensive side of the ball.”
Chris Paul: “When a guy is not where he’s supposed to be, we let each other know, one through 15.”
The offense is going to be there, but it was going from below average to top-six defensively that really fueled the Suns’ improvement last season and it says a lot that they’ve been this good defensively early this season, without any kind of “we can flip the switch when we want to” mentality after their success in the playoffs. They rank third defensively overall and second over the course of the winning streak. Of course, Tuesday will be just their third game since the start of the streak that they’ve faced an offense that currently ranks in the top 10.
Michael C. Wright: Maturity that belies their collective youth, combined with back-to-back seasons that generated momentum, confidence, and hunger for more. Look no further than Phoenix’s undefeated run in the 2020 NBA bubble as one of the main starting points for the Suns. The hiring of Monty Williams obviously helped Phoenix establish a culture of consistency and accountability, but none of what we’re seeing now takes place without buy-in from the players, starting with floor general Chris Paul. So, you’ve got Paul’s steadying influence combined with Devin Booker continuing to perform like the star he’s always been, along with strong contributions from Deandre Ayton and a deep supporting cast. Phoenix ranks in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating, and we all know that’s usually a formula for sustained success. The Suns need to capture one more win to tie their franchise record of 17 consecutive W’s, and it’ll be fun to see the club compete for that milestone Tuesday against the best team in the West in the Golden State Warriors. If Phoenix finds a way to topple the Warriors twice this week, it might have a legitimate shot at running up the current streak to 20 games or more.