Small-Market Suns Are NBA’s Best Behind Unique Blueprint

    • The Suns enter the All-Star break with an NBA-best 48-10 record and a 6.5-game lead over the Warriors.
    • GM James Jones deserves more credit for working with only the 13th-highest payroll ($136.4M).

One year after winning the Western Conference, the Phoenix Suns were projected to win 51.5 games.

Entering the All-Star break, Phoenix owns an NBA-best 48-10 record and is running away with the West, holding a 6.5-game advantage over the Golden State Warriors. 

In an era where Big Threes and superteams dominate the headlines, GM James Jones deserves more credit for working with only the 13th-highest payroll ($136.4M), trusting last season’s role players to continue to complement Chris Paul and Devin Booker.

  • Phoenix re-signed Paul (four years, $120M) and DPOY candidate Mikal Bridges (four years, $90M).
  • Jones also brought back Cameron Payne (three years, $19M), Frank Kaminsky (one-year, $2.1M), and Abdel Nader (three years, $4.1M).
  • He made a deadline trade for Torrey Craig ($4.9M), who was part of last year’s Finals run.

Jones — the reigning Executive of the Year, and three-time champion as a player — signed his own multiyear deal in January in the midst of an 11-game win streak.

He did take one major risk, however: He didn’t offer star center Deandre Ayton the rookie extension this past offseason (five years, $172 million) — he’ll become an RFA this summer.

But the Suns are clearly the best team with 24 games remaining and only two losses since Jan. 1. They’re also now the betting favorites for the title (+425*) — and they have the fifth-easiest schedule.