June 15, 2021

Should Phoenix Suns Be 2021 NBA Title Favorites?

The NBA playoffs have been a wonderful experience with all of the star power and drama unfolding each night. Several series have already featured upsets and we're not even to the conference finals yet. Unfortunately, injuries have taken a toll on contenders and have left us wondering who the new NBA Finals favorite truly is.

Three series are left in the current round, and the Phoenix Suns are the only team to have punched their ticket to the conference finals so far. They'll play either the Utah Jazz or Los Angeles Clippers. In the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks are battling it out while the Brooklyn Nets are struggling with injuries against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Nets seemed like an inevitable force until Kyrie Irving badly sprained his ankle early in Game 4. Brooklyn's offensive force has been too much to contain, but with James Harden's iffy hamstring and Irving expected to miss the rest of the Bucks series, the Suns now look to be a menacing presence.

Of course, even Suns' star Chris Paul was on the list for hampered stars at one point as his shoulder limited him against the Los Angeles Lakers in Round 1. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, Jamal Murray, Mike Conley, and Joel Embiid have each struggled or been ruled out due to injuries. The healthiest team, the Suns, should for now be considered the favorite to win the NBA Finals.

This proclamation goes beyond the injury bug, though.

The way the Suns have dismantled the Lakers and Nuggets has left little doubt that Phoenix is the most well-rounded team left in the postseason.

Everything starts with Chris Paul. The 36-year-old Point God continues to defy history and logic as he dazzles with the ball and masterfully controls the Suns' flow. His domination of the Nuggets was a master course in how to play the position, and he's the best of a breed that's suddenly become extinct.

Paul's shooting nearly 51% from the field, 44% from three, and over 91% from the free-throw line. His assist rate is the highest it's been since the 2017 playoffs, and he's committing fewer fouls. He's the finest of aged wines and is playing the best playoff ball of his career statistically. 

Of course, the depth and scoring throughout the Suns' roster must be complimented as well. Devin Booker has been much more efficient in the postseason than his somewhat disappointing regular season and has been creating impact shots for himself with ease. He has the look of a young Kobe Bryant as he continually gets to his spot for mid-range jumpers.

The excellent defense has been most impressive, though. Despite slumping a bit in the second half of the season, the Suns have turned their defensive intensity back up. Hearing their crowd roar energizes the defense better than any remaining home crowd in the playoff race.

The length and athleticism between Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and even Cameron Johnson keep this defense working on a string. They constrict on shooters quickly, and their length challenges shots and passing lanes. Overall, it's like watching a young iteration of the San Antonio Spurs, but with even better point guard play.

The mastery of style has been so impressive to watch unfold. Paul's ability to lure defenders into his body or drop back to defend the rim opens passes only a few players can see before it happens. Regardless of their next foe, Paul's already shown the ability to continue getting what he wants against the Clippers and Jazz. 

There's time to put our money where our mouth is, too. The Suns are currently +375 at DraftKings SportsBook, and I plan on laying a big play on them. This is a fun team that's healthy and the momentum is right. I'm riding Phoenix until the sun sets on their season. 

Photo: Getty Images