Both Reuters and NPR – two news organizations that pride themselves on objectivity – described the 2022 NBA playoffs as “wide open.” Don’t trust the mainstream media? Warriors forward Andre Iguodala – a frequent media critic who carries the credibility of a highly respected veteran player – said, “It’s wide open.”
Which all feels insulting to the Suns.
Phoenix dominated the regular season. The Suns were the only team with top-five offense and defense. They have stars in Chris Paul and Devin Booker. They’re balanced and deep. They appear to have strong chemistry. They’re well-coached. They’re clutch. They’re battle-tested after last year’s run to the NBA Finals.
With a 64-18 record, Phoenix outpaced every other team in the league by at least eight games. The Grizzlies (56-26) was next best.
Every previous team to best the field by more than six games since NBA-ABA merger has won the title:
- 2014-15 Warriors (67-15)
- 2007-08 Celtics (66-16)
- 1999-00 Lakers (67-15)
- 1995-96 Bulls (72-10)
- 1991-92 Bulls (67-15)
- 1983-84 Celtics (62-20)
- 1982-83 76ers (65-17)
The Suns are favored to win the championship. But they’re the lowest-odds favorite entering the playoffs in a decade. That’s incommensurate with how much better they’ve been than everyone else all year.
Perhaps, regular-season results are less predictive than they used to be. Style of play changes so much in the playoffs now. Since the Warriors went a record 73-9 but lost in the 2016 Finals, elite teams have taken their foot off the gas in the regular season. The team with the best regular-season record hasn’t won the championship in four years.
But Phoenix plays a style, with ample tough-shot-making and defensive versatility, that should translate well to the postseason. It certainly did last year. Though they play hard, the Suns didn’t appear to be straining themselves this regular season. With the No. 1 overall seed already secure, they dropped four of six to close the season.
And they still finished a franchise-record 64-18!
Last year, I didn’t understand why the Suns were treated as an afterthought contender. They looked like a team in the thick of the race to me. I figured I must be missing something.
This year, I’m not second-guessing myself. I’d take the field over any one team, as I would most years. But picking one team to win the title?
It’s absolutely Phoenix, and it’s not that close.