After a decade absence from the postseason, the Suns made their first playoff appearance since 2009-10 count in a big way by going to the 2021 NBA Finals. Chris Paul, who the Suns traded for in the 2020 offseason, makes his first career trip to the Finals. Phoenix’s young core of Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges will also be seeing the Finals for the first time.
The last time the Suns made the NBA Finals was 1992-93. Behind Charles Barkley’s MVP season, Phoenix fell to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in six games, coming a John Paxson three-point shot away from forcing Game 7. Prior to the 1992-93 season, the Suns appeared in the Finals in 1975-76 with Paul Westphal and Alvin Adams leading the team. Phoenix lost to the Boston Celtics in six games. Westphal was Phoenix’s coach in the 1992-93 season.
The Suns made the playoffs seven times during the Steve Nash era. The point guard had two stints with the team but is better known for his second one when he won MVP. Under Nash, Phoenix made three conference finals but fell to the Western conference powers San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers. Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Grant Hill and Boris Diaw were other notable players on those Suns teams.
After falling to the Lakers in the 2009-10 conference finals, the Suns didn’t make the playoffs for a decade. The team went through several rebuilds and retools, but its most recent attempt to build a consistent contender seems to have worked. Homegrown players Booker, Ayton, Bridges and Cameron Johnson form a great core going forward while veterans Paul and Jae Crowder add postseason experience. Castoffs Dario Saric and Cameron Payne are also delivering big minutes for Monty Williams’ group. Williams himself is proving to be a strong head coach after struggling in New Orleans and battling through personal tragedy. Executive James Jones has also fought a lot of criticism and questions to put this roster together.
These Suns feature a lot of talent, but they’ve also had a chip on their shoulder as underdogs as many across the league don’t see a true superstar on the roster. Booker is emerging as one during the postseason, but wasn’t considered one of the 10 best players in the league entering the playoffs. Phoenix may have gotten fortunate with its path as injuries to Anthony Davis, Jamal Murray and Kawhi Leonard have weakened its opponents, but that won’t concern the players. They’re four games away from lifting the franchise’s first NBA title.