With two weeks left until the All-Star break, the Phoenix Suns are the best team in the NBA.
Phoenix sits at an astounding 40-9 with a +7.9-point differential – the second-best mark in the league.
They have secured the best record in the West before the All-Star Game, meaning Monty Williams will coach Team LeBron in the ASG.
— #NBAAllStar (@NBAAllStar) January 31, 2022
The Suns seem poised to return to the NBA Finals.
Which would have been a shocking statement to any NBA fan just three years ago.
In the 2018-19 season, Phoenix went 19-63 – the worst record in the Western Conference.
Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN released an article detailing the dysfunction that plagued the Suns’ front office.
Then-GM Ryan McDonough allowed owner Robert Sarver to continuously meddle in decisions.
Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver reportedly put Goats in former Suns GM Ryan McDonough’s office roughly a year to “inspire him to find a GOAT for the Suns”. The Goats then proceeded to defecate in McDonough’s office…..
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) March 4, 2019
And the Suns seemingly had no discernible direction forward.
They had won 87 games across four years while employing four different head coaches.
But the 2018-19 season is also when they hired current GM, James Jones.
He shared front office duties with Trevor Bukstein that season before becoming the full-time GM in 2019-20 with Bukstein becoming the Assistant GM.
Since then, the Suns have gone 125-69.
That includes the magical 8-0 mark in the bubble and the 50-win trip to the NBA Finals last year.
James Jones has taken the Phoenix franchise from worst to (almost) first.
Jones Brought In CP3
Jones has made a litany of shrewd moves during his short time at the helm, but one trade stands above all.
At the time, it was a questionable decision.
Even after the resurgence he experienced in OKC, Paul was turning 35 years old and had two-years, $80 million left on his contract.
The 15-year NBA vet would be joining one of the youngest teams in the NBA seemingly just on the way up.
It could not have worked out any better.
Chris Paul has been INSANE over his last 5 games:
He has jumped to 4th on the MVP ladder and is 4th in win shares (0.4 out of 2nd place) pic.twitter.com/zzqBCmFo7M
— Basketball Forever (@Bballforeverfb) January 31, 2022
Paul was the missing piece in Phoenix.
His 2020-21 season was a master class, averaging 16.4 points, 8.9 assists, and 1.4 steals per game.
He played in all but two games and finished fifth in MVP voting.
Paul’s veteran leadership, defensive abilities, and floor general qualities were exactly what the Suns needed.
Many across the league were uncertain about Paul’s future in the league in 2020.
Jones’s gamble to bring him in has already paid immense dividends and earned Jones the 2020-21 NBA Executive of the Year Award.
Filling Out A Championship Roster
Acquiring CP3 is what defines Jones’ tenure so far, but teams do not make the NBA Finals with just one player.
And not every move was done during the 2020-21 season.
His 2018 swap of Trevor Ariza for Kelly Oubre brought in the main piece for the Paul trade.
Adding all of the Suns’ key trades together, this equates to highway robbery:
Sent: Zhaire Smith, Jarrett Culver, Kelly Oubre, Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque, 2021 1st (Miami), 2022 1st, cash
Received: Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Dario Saric, Chris Paul, Torrey Craig pic.twitter.com/SG5Xt83YFi
— Evan Sidery (@esidery) June 11, 2021
During the 2019 draft, Jones traded the sixth overall pick to the Minnesota for Dario Saric and the 11th overall pick.
He then used the 11th pick to select Cam Johnson out of North Carolina.
Jones also traded for Torrey Craig midway through the 2020 season.
Saric, Johnson, Payne, Crowder, and Craig all played significant roles on the 2020-21 Finals team.
Crowder and Craig provided tough, physical perimeter defense.
Johnson was a marksman from deep off the bench.
Payne was an offensive spark plug and even provided spot starting duties when Paul missed two games in the playoffs.
Saric was a do-it-all, gritty utility forward as a reserve.
And to lead the team, Jones hired one of the league’s brightest coaches in Monty Williams in 2019.
Jones’s team-building success has continued this year.
Offseason acquisition JaVale McGee has played some terrific basketball when Ayton missed time.
So has original 10-day hardship exemption signee Bismack Biyombo.
The Suns “Core Four” of Booker, Paul, Ayton, and Mikal Bridges provide the star power that makes this team tick.
But it is the depth of this team that makes them a true contender.
Jones was integral in assembling both groups of the team.NEXT: Devin Booker Made A Ridiculous Request In Toronto