Through the first 52 games, the Phoenix Suns have steamrolled through the competition sitting atop the Western Conference standings. The Suns look every bit the part of a team that can vie for the 2022 NBA title behind the stellar play of Chris Paul and Devin Booker combined with the deeper and more talented roster. However, Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal still doubts that Phoenix has what it takes to win a championship.
O’Neal took it further by delivering a stern message to Paul and his teammates that certainly won’t sit well with them.
Suns continue to dominate the Western Conference
After reaching the NBA Finals for the first time in nearly three decades, the Suns have stayed the course as one of the league’s top teams.
Phoenix set the franchise record with an 18-game winning streak while recently going on an 11-game winning streak before it was snapped by the Atlanta Hawks last week. They lead the Western Conference by 2.5 games over the Golden State Warriors behind balanced scoring and defensive prowess.
The Suns are third with 112.7 points and fifth with 26.5 assists and 46.1 rebounds per contest. Phoenix also ranks sixth allowing 105.0 points per game while sitting third-best with opponents shooting 44.0% from the floor and 34.2% from beyond the arc.
Paul is leading the charge behind averaging a double-double with 14.9 points and a league-best 10.4 assists. Meanwhile, Booker ranks 11th with his team-best 25.2 points, scoring 20 or more points 31 times, topped with two 40-point outings.
Despite the Suns’ continued dominance, Shaquille O’Neal dished out a stern warning.
Shaquille O’Neal believes Chris Paul and the Suns don’t scare anybody
Shaquille O’Neal has never been afraid to voice a strong take.
During a recent episode of ‘The Big Podcast,’ the Hall of Fame big man took a shot at the Suns by stating that they don’t have any player that strikes fear into opponents.
‘They ain’t got nobody that scares you,” O’Neal said. “Listen, Phoenix is like Utah to me. Got a lot of good players, but some of those players can be punked now. I’m just saying.”
O’Neal’s comments can be interpreted as meaning Phoenix doesn’t possess a physical enforcer or big man who protects the rim. Instead, his remarks should be inferred that the Suns don’t have a player who strikes opponents’ fear based on their ability like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, or Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The four-time NBA champion sees the Suns as a strong collective group of players led by Chris Paul and Devin Booker. Paul has set the tone with his leadership, allowing the rest of the youthful roster to grow and improve in his brief tenure.
The Suns are a more experienced team after last year’s playoff run, while Paul’s steady hand will guide them forward. The roster is deeper, with JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo providing much-needed depth and stability behind Deandre Ayton.
O’Neal’s remarks shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. He’s already vowed to live stream on Instagram himself walk two blocks with the word “Suns” written on his backside if Phoenix beats the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs.
If anything, the Hall of Famer’s words should provide Paul and his teammates more motivation to win an NBA title.
Golden State Warriors may be the Suns’ biggest Wester Conference challenge
The Suns sit atop the Western Conference standings, but the Warriors are not far off the mark.
Golden State has showcased they possess a deep roster that could vie for a championship. Stephen Curry’s MVP-caliber play leads the way, while Klay Thompson’s return adds another vital element. On top of that, the Warriors are amid an eight-game winning streak despite All-Star forward Draymond Green remaining sidelined with a back injury.
The Warriors will only improve as Thompson gets his legs under him more while his minute workload increases. Meanwhile, Green’s return after the All-Star break will provide another significant lift.
These factors may set up an inevitable Western Conference Finals showdown between these two teams.