News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Weds. April 7, 2021: After years of basement-dwelling in a crowded Western Conference, it seems the NBA Phoenix Suns finally have the pieces they need for a playoff run, and Bahamas, Caribbean-born center DeAndre Ayton has played a massive role in their success.
First overall pick out of Arizona in the 2018 Draft, Ayton came into the league with huge expectation on his shoulders to become Phoenix’s second star beside sharpshooting two-guard Devin Booker. It wasn’t until this offseason, however, with the addition of multiple-time All-Star Chris Paul, that the Suns took the step to the next level. Behind Paul’s elite basketball IQ, Booker’s perimeter scoring and Ayton’s ability to create mismatches on offense, the Suns finally have a Big Three capable of challenging the established teams at the top of the Western Conference.
Paul has a reputation for making his teammates better, and this season has been no exception. Paul and Ayton have played every game for the Suns this year, building a chemistry that has seen Ayton play some of the best basketball of his career. Known for his massive wingspan, Ayton leads the surging Suns in blocks and rebounds, where he averages nearly eleven per game – no other Sun has five. At over seven feet tall Ayton is a defender’s nightmare in the low post, giving the Suns flexibility when they switch out of the Booker-Paul two-man game in the backcourt.
Heading into April, the Suns sat second in the Western standings, but bookmakers are still hesitant to put faith in them. Sitting +900 to win the Western Conference in the NBA betting on bet365, the Suns don’t have the playoff pedigree of the other teams around them, where the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets have all made deep playoff runs in recent years. Unlike those teams, however, Phoenix have stayed healthy all season, putting them in a position to seize a high seeding and home-court advantage through multiple playoff series.
With playoff basketball secure, the next question is how resilient this Suns team is. As a potential high seed they could face any of the teams scrapping for the play-in tournament in the basement of the Western Conference, possibly Luka Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks or the Golden State Warriors under Steph Curry, who always turns up in the playoffs. This is where Ayton, too, will need to step up his game in his first career playoff appearances, and where the veteran presence of Chris Paul could be invaluable.
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Once seen as an inflated and untradeable contract in Houston, Paul single-handedly kept the Oklahoma Thunder in playoff contention last season and finished seventh in MVP voting after a straight-swap deal with Russell Westbrook. A top-tier floor general who sees the floor like a coach, the future Hall of Famer continues to defy the aging process and has now landed in a spot where he can chase an elusive first NBA Finals ring.
The Suns, meanwhile, finished that season-ending NBA bubble with an 8-0 undefeated record, where Booker shot over 50% from the field while averaging 30 points a game. Now it seems that the red-hot Suns under Ayton and Booker, with the addition of Paul, are a combination destined to succeed.