The Phoenix Suns finished the 2019 season with the lowest record in the Western Conference (19-63). They won the West and were the conference’s representative in the NBA Finals two years later, in 2021.
Internal growth of highly hyped young players like Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton had a part in their swift climb, as did astute roster additions like the Chris Paul deal.
The Suns, in any event, serve as a reminder of how rapidly a poor situation can turn around. To that end, Phoenix head coach Monty Williams mentioned the Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets in a new interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic as examples of Western Conference clubs who, like the Suns, might eventually become far more dangerous than imagined.
Every year, the West proves to be difficult. And, believe it or not, no one chose us to be here (in the Finals). Take a look at where we were chosen last year. Even with Chris, some people didn’t think we’d make the playoffs. So that element doesn’t worry me at all, because you have to play the games and put in the effort, and you won’t win just because someone said you will. You’ll win because you’ll go out there and win the game. That’s what we’ve been attempting to demonstrate.
This in no way diminishes the West’s teams. I’m looking at teams that are just as hungry as we were when we were on the outside looking in, teams like Sac [Sacramento], for example. That’s a group that’ll be after your head next year. Houston. I’m keeping track of all the changes they’ve made.
Monty Williams topics…— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) August 23, 2021
* Spirituality inside an NBA locker room
* The healing powers of building a wall (not the Giannis kind) in Texas
* Chris Paul's injury/free agency, and a bright Suns future
* What was behind his Bucks locker room speechhttps://t.co/Dp9ZttjT6f
Because Houston had the poorest record in the NBA last season, the connection may seem too good to be true. However, there were some clearly extenuating circumstances, such as the serious injuries suffered by veterans like John Wall, Eric Gordon, and Christian Wood. While that trio should be healthy for 2021-22, they each missed more than 30 of Houston’s 72 regular-season games in 2020-21. Many of their injuries occurred at the same time, leaving head coach Stephen Silas frequently short-handed.
As Williams mentioned, there are also offseason acquisitions. In free agency, the Rockets added veteran big Daniel Theis, who should provide more of a defensive presence in the frontcourt. But, most significantly, they selected four first-round rookies, including No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green. Green is seen as a potential superstar by many league analysts, and his outstanding performance in the NBA’s 2021 summer league did little to dampen their enthusiasm. Kevin Porter Jr., a third-year guard who was drafted in the first round in 2019 but only played 26 games with Houston in 2020-21, could be a rising star for the Rockets.
Green and Houston’s three 2021 draft picks (Alperen Sengun, Usman Garuba, and Josh Christopher) are all 19 years old, thus substantial contributions should not be expected right away. Houston, on the other hand, is worth keeping an eye on thanks to solid veterans, a pipeline of young talent, and future salary cap flexibility (between Wall and Gordon, the Rockets will have roughly $70 million off their books by 2023).
Given their recent results, a swift resurgence by the Rockets in August 2021 may appear to be a stretch. The Suns, on the other hand, could have said the same thing in August 2019 or even August 2020. As a result, Monty Williams’ viewpoint should not be dismissed.
Source: MSN Sports