With five wins from their opening seven games of the NBA season, the Phoenix Suns vastly exceeded expectations that began and ended in next summer’s Draft Lottery.
They’ve now regressed to a 5-4 start with narrow losses to Brooklyn and Portland, but there’s a very winnable contest for them on Tuesday night when they travel to the Sacramento Kings for the first leg in a home and away mini-series on consecutive nights. But is the Suns’ success a sign of things to come or a mere aberration?
Chances are it’s the latter, even though Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe were shamefully underrated as a backcourt coming into the campaign. Phoenix has scored 98.8 points per game but it’s their defence that has been most surprising.
When allowing for the strength of opposition, their adjusted defensive rating – the number of points they give up per 100 possessions – trails only San Antonio and Indiana. That suggests a team playing hard and focused, which could keep them competitive on any given night.
Over the entire year, class will tell however. And none of the Suns’ wins so far have come against teams with winning records. But the Kings have lost three out of four on their current homestand, with those reverses coming by an average of nine. So have a look at Phoenix on the handicap of +1.5 and for this one to stay under the total points line of 192.5, available at 1.91.
Another interesting team is the Atlanta Hawks, who travel to the Miami Heat tonight. The Hawks (6-4) lead the league in assist-to-turnover ratio and that’s translated into a NBA-best 26.3 assists per night, just ahead of Miami. If the Heat do have one glaring weakness, it’s their rebounding which could give Al Horford and Paul Millsap plenty of second chance points.
The Hawks are a generous +9.5 on the handicap but with both teams on fire and pushing the ball, head over the total points line of 205.5 at 1.91.
Best bet: Take Phoenix on the handicap of +1.5 against Sacramento at 1.91.
Read more from Unibet columnist Mark Woods