First and Foremost, Coaching
Monty Williams was a great hire for the Suns, and this not only proves it but solidifies his future. Within the bubble the Suns were first in point differential, and had the #3 offense and #6 defense. Coach Monty took this roster to new heights and took advantage of a strange situation. Williams is the Suns’s 5th coach in 5 years but it’s safe to say that he’s staying in Phoenix for a while.
Monty not only brings talent and inspiration to his guys on the court but he also brings a culture off the court. He brings soul, and a family atmosphere, something that was lacking before. He knew that the Orlando bubble posed a serious opportunity, and he capitalized on it. Monty found numerous ways to connect to his young core and his players bought in. To quote one die hard Suns fan “Monty Williams is [the] man that our young team can look up to and aspire to be.”
Cam Payne had to Blow Up
Payne has made a few stops throughout the NBA since 2015 but since being picked up by Phoenix he’s made quite an impression on us in the Bubble. He’s shown notable improvements in several aspects of his game. He spreads the floor shooting 50% from three, and 47% from the field. He doubled his points per game, and has been an effective defensive rebounder. He’s been the most improved player of the Bubble easily.
Ayton had to be Better
The Suns made an iffy choice on draft night selecting Dandre Ayton instead of Luka Doncic, but the pick has been more than defensible. Ayton is developing into a modern big with a round skill set. In the 2020 season he’s rebounding over 11 a game and scoring over 18 points. No doubt Ayton was big contributor to the Suns’s 8-0 Bubble record.
Devin Booker had to go to the Next Level
Devin Booker has always been a great scorer, but most of us wondered if that would translate into anything bigger. Now that he’s finally playing with a true point guard in Ricky Rubio, Booker has been unlocked and taken his scoring to the next level. His 3 point shooter was always good but now he can be patient and make more plays at the basket and in the midrange. He can make space for himself in isolation or with the use of his teammates, and his assist percentage is among the best in the league. On top of all this he actually is playing defense. Not spectacularly by any means but he know where to be positionally and is trying. Without Booker getting to this level the Suns don’t go undefeated, simple as that.
The Suns surprised us all this Summer, including me (I wrote they were going to tank). This is a team, and a fan base, that is finally seeing some light after being in the dark for far too long. They are developing young talent the right way and they have a talented coach. To quote the same fan from earlier: “regardless of the end result to our postseason ambitions, we transcended the bubble.”
(Photo: Derick E. Hingle/USA Today Sports)