The Phoenix Suns Deserve More Championship Attention Thanks to a Historic Similarity to the 2019-20 Los Angeles Lakers

Last season ended with the Phoenix Suns falling just two wins short of an NBA championship. Now, approximately halfway through 2021-22, Phoenix is dead-set on capturing its first Larry O’Brien Trophy.

With a league-best 30-8 record, the Suns are unquestionably one of the NBA’s biggest threats to win a championship. One significant reason, among many, can be attributed to a historic similarity they share with the 2019-20 Los Angeles Lakers, a dominant squad that ended its season with a title.

The Phoenix Suns are firing on all cylinders

Considering their streak of 10 consecutive seasons ending without a playoff berth, few would have been shocked if the Suns came back to Earth after last season’s 51-31 breakthrough. Yet here they are now, radiating atop the Western Conference and looking even stronger than last season’s championship finalist.

Entering Friday, the Suns are averaging 112.4 points per game, the third-most in the NBA. But this fast-paced squad is also an elite defensive unit, allowing a fifth-ranked 104.5 points per game. Only the Utah Jazz rank in the top 10 for both, but Phoenix remains the lone team in the top five.

All-Stars Devin Booker and Chris Paul are the faces of the Suns, but the team’s success lies in its depth. Not counting the injured Frank Kaminsky, Booker and Paul are two of Phoenix’s seven players averaging double figures. The two guards, along with Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges, are scoring at least 12.0 a game, with sixth man Cameron Johnson right on the cusp with 11.9.

With a convincing 106-89 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night, Phoenix became the first team to reach the 30-win mark. It’s an impressive feat for a team that started a measly 1-3. That means since October 30, the first-place Suns are a remarkable 29-5.

The Suns share an impressive stat with the 2019-20 Lakers

Good NBA teams are able to find a way to come from behind and pull out victories. Yet great teams grab the lead early and never relinquish it.

Phoenix’s win over the Clippers brought its record to a stunning 25-0 when leading after three quarters. Additionally, the Suns are 25-3 when leading after halftime and 22-1 after grabbing a first-quarter lead.

It’s certainly a smaller sample size, with over half of the regular season still to come. However, the Suns’ ability to maintain a lead puts them in direct comparison to the championship-winning Lakers from two seasons ago.

Even in a season that had to be paused and resumed in the Bubble, it was obvious the 2019-20 Lakers were the best team in the league. But what is often overlooked when it comes to LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the rest of LA’s championship squad is its dominance heading into the fourth. Counting regular-season and postseason games, the Lakers went an unfathomable 57-0 when leading a game after three quarters.

The Suns have a long way to go before catching LA’s mark, but they’re closer than anyone else. Not to mention, their records with leads after the first and second quarters are looking better than the Lakers’ 49-9 and 52-8 marks, respectively.

Despite having the league’s top record, the Phoenix Suns are being overlooked as title favorites

This NBA season has been dominated by headlines involving Stephen Curry putting up MVP numbers for the Golden State Warriors. Or the Brooklyn Nets and the reunion of their three-headed monster. Or the surprising Chicago Bulls sitting atop the East.

Naturally, it makes sense the Suns would be overlooked according to the latest odds, as well.

According to FanDuel Sportsbook, the Suns have +800 odds to win the NBA Finals. The Nets, Warriors, and Milwaukee Bucks are all considered a likelier champion than the team with the league’s best record. Even the Lakers, who sit at a disappointing 20-19, are creeping toward Phoenix with +1300 odds, tying them with the Jazz for fifth place.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Phoenix remain outside of the top-three title favorites, even if it finishes the season with the one-seed. So as the Suns earn impressive comparisons to a championship-winning Lakers squad from two years ago, they might be worth a flier before the oddsmakers start to catch on.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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