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The Phoenix Suns cruised through the Western Conference playoff bracket, going 12-4 on their way to the NBA Finals.
They were up 2-0 in the NBA Finals. They led in the fourth quarter of Game 4 and might have won it if not for one of the great, clutch blocks in Finals history. They had a chance to take the lead in the final minute of Game 5. They led at halftime of Game 6.
The Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA championship, but the Suns were tantalizingly close. They would have been a fitting champion after a great season. They just didn't catch the key break they needed.
The question for bettors is whether the Suns can get back to that stage this upcoming season, or if that was their one opportunity to finally win a title.
Suns had a fantastic season
There was nothing fluky about the 2020-21 Suns. They went 51-21 in the regular season. While they did catch some injury breaks in each of the three rounds of the West playoffs, that's part of the game and the Suns handled business when they caught those breaks. Phoenix was unquestionably one of the NBA's best teams.
The question is whether the Suns can do it again.
The Suns are +1500 to win the NBA championship at BetMGM and +700 to repeat as West champs. The Brooklyn Nets (+240), Los Angeles Lakers (+400), Golden State Warriors (+900) and Bucks (+900) are the only teams with lower championship odds. It's a bit of a hedge. Oddsmakers don't expect the Suns to fall off, but they don't expect them to fully repeat their great season either.
The Suns have had a solid offseason. The big move was retaining point guard Chris Paul. The only notable loss was Torrey Craig, a tough defender who averaged 7.2 points per game. They added center JaVale McGee for frontcourt depth and guards Landry Shamet and Elfrid Payton, making a deep backcourt even deeper. It was a positive offseason.
But the main question surrounds the biggest name on last season's roster.
Can Suns repeat in the West?
Paul is one of the all-time greats, but he's 36. In the playoffs last season, Paul dealt with multiple injuries and seemed worn down late in the NBA Finals when he had some uncharacteristic turnover issues. Paul was good over the course of the season, transforming a Suns team that hadn't made the playoffs since 2010, but we have to acknowledge that his play could dip significantly at any time. Not many point guards are still playing great basketball at 36. If Paul slips to a middle-of-the-pack point guard, it's hard to see the Suns keeping pace.
The Suns do have a good young foundation, including Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. Their role players were fantastic all season. Monty Williams is proving to be one of the NBA's best coaches. But aside from Paul's age, it's also hard to repeat a (near) dream season. Other teams in the West are improving. Not everyone will be hurt next postseason. There's natural regression after a huge improvement.
It's going to be hard for the Suns to cash a West or NBA Finals ticket. If they can't, there will be a lot of energy spent wondering what could have been with a play here or there in last season's Finals.