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Should the Dees be worried about what happened to the Phoenix Suns?

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Roar Rookie
27th May, 2022
10

I have a pretty tangential interest in the NBA.

I like it. The sport itself is unbelievable and the athletes who play it are, in my view, probably the best all-around athletes on planet earth when you consider their explosiveness, stamina, straight line and lateral quickness in addition to the incredible coordination required to be an elite basketball player.

What annoys me about basketball is how the concept of team has been eroded to the point where it is a pure theoretical. As a result, the three teams that I really enjoyed watching this year have been the Celtics, a team built around three players they drafted, Golden State, for the same reason, and the Phoenix Suns. Why the Suns? They’ve only been together two years.

Two words.

Chris. Paul.

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The guy is like a great conductor when he’s on song. He’s in total control of a basketball game. You so often hear about point guards that “he’s like a great quarterback”. My untrained eye usually can’t really see it, but with Paul it’s like watching Tom Brady pull the strings.

You can see him constantly talking, always in the right spot defensively, especially as his on-ball defensive skills have waned, but it’s on offence where he’s special. He takes up or turns down screens like a mafia don deciding which senator to bribe to get a gaming licence. He carries the game in his pocket, in total control of proceedings.

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He’s constantly delegating, setting people up to succeed, making sure everyone is in the right spot for the game to be played as efficiently as possible.

Chris Paul

(Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

But then there are times when the game is on the line that Chris Paul turns into Tony Soprano after he was shot, needing to reassert his dominance.

While Tony beat the living daylights out the extremely buff Penne Matriciana (because he gets so angry, it’s like he has chilli flakes up his ass) to reassert who the gorilla is in the family, Paul does it with a deft midrange game. He gets to his spot on the elbow with pure guile at this point and still has enough lift on his jump shot to make it feel like he can’t miss.

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Paul had the Suns looking like a well-oiled machine in the regular season, leading them to 64 wins while having his customarily efficient 16 and 9 night after night. They looked like a shoo-in to make the finals in an uncommonly weak western conference, so we thought. It looked like some miracle would have to befall them to not, at the very least, make the western conference finals if not the finals themselves.

Sound familiar?

The Dees have now won at this point 17 matches in a row. The all-time record is 23. But it’s not just that they’re winning, it’s how they are winning. They’re doing it while barely breaking a sweat. They play teams close right up until they start getting nervous, then they turn it up for five minutes and the game is out of reach.

It is inconceivable that they could get blown out at this point because their defence is so stout. Ranking first in the following categories: opponent point per game differential; opponent inside 50s per game; opponent points per game. It’s absurd.

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Beyond that, they’re third in points per game, first for inside 50s per game and they boast the best array of top-end talent the league has seen since those late 2000s Geelong teams, or maybe the early Franklin Hawthorn teams.

They have three players for whom the argument could be made that they are the best at their respective positions in Christian Petracca, Max Gawn and Steven May. Each of those players plays in a different line, if you accept that Petracca and Gawn more and more are largely forward half players.

They play so well together, and complement each other perfectly, just like the Suns did.

Max Gawn leads the Melbourne Demons out

(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

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Now, let’s go back to the Suns, this time with another mafia pop-culture analogy. In the playoffs, Paul was like Vito Corleone in The Godfather. You could see that he did still have that ruthless streak at times, twice in the first series against New Orleans ripping games away from the Pelicans in the fourth quarter like Vito had Khartoum’s head ripped off. But really, with the added intensity you could see that he, like Vito, was slippin’.

In the second round series versus Dallas, Paul clearly had fallen off and there was no Michael Corleone there to arrest the slide into obscurity. He only scored above 13 points twice in the series and they were in the first two games of the series. Beyond that he didn’t play with his usual verve and authority, even if he knew it was the right thing to do.

And if Paul was Vito and there was no Michael, then DeAndre Ayton had to be Fredo. An avid gamer by all accounts and unlikely to be handed a max contract by the Suns, Ayton was a total non-factor in that second round series, like Fredo fumbling his gun while his old man was shot in the back trying to buy oranges.

So that leaves Devin Booker, or Sonny Corleone in this analogy. Clearly talented and has a place in the world, but just consistently unable to pick up the slack when his father slips. Booker initiated offence regularly in the regular season while Paul was out injured but couldn’t do it effectively in the playoff run, leaving too much to the ageing legs of Chris Paul, who is not what he once was.

Sonny, in much the same way, was totally incapable of running the family effectively. He didn’t listen to his Consigliere, kept his father’s office in a state of disrepair with plates all over the place and was too easily baited into his own murder which led to one of the great death scenes in history.

As an aside, has any plan in history ever worked as well as the plan to kill Sonny. That they knew he was going to go to Connie and knew which way he was going to go is wild enough. But also, how did they know the car following would be so far behind. And what about the guy in the toll booth? He just hid behind some balsa wood and was fine?

I find that hard to believe given the Barzinis were better armed than the US military in 1943, or a small suburban US police force in 2022.

So, could this happen to Melbourne? Doubt it. It’s a team of Michael Corleones. Cold, calculating and almost heartless in the way that they dismantle teams.

They are not incredible personalities, nor do they appear especially jovial. They are just dominant. Critically, they have played in one grand final and they won it, unlike the Suns who lost in the finals to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. They do not share Chris Paul’s penchant for failing when the moment is at its biggest.

This is of course with the exception of talismanic skipper Max Gawn, who has Michael’s ruthlessness, mixed with Sonny’s warmth and relative humanity compared to his lousy cold-hearted brother.

So, should the Dees be worried by the example set by the Phoenix Suns?

Probably not.

Can’t see them getting beaten.

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