The Phoenix Suns finally faced some stiffer competition in the 2015 NBA Summer League, but were able to ride Devin Booker‘s hot hand to once again overcome an early deficit and advance to the...

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Phoenix will meet San Antonio in final on Monday.

"Devin Booker for three." Get used to it.

The first round draft pick of the Suns put together his top performance of the 2015 NBA Summer League and led Phoenix into Monday's championship game with 31 points in a 93-87 win over the New Orleans Pelicans Sunday night. Four Suns scored in double figures.

For the second consecutive night the Suns were plagued by a slow start, shooting just 28% in the first quarter and falling into an 11 point hole. The Suns erased that deficit, outscoring the Pelicans 30-16 in the second quarter, carrying a three point lead into halftime. Then Booker caught fire.

Utilizing a dazzling array of shots from behind the arc and aggressive moves to the rim, Booker shouldered the scoring load in a game where T.J. Warren, the Summer League's second leading scorer, totaled just 2 points on 5 shots. Booker hit 10 of 17 attempts incuding 5 of 9 from three point range

Josh Harrellson also contributed his best game this week. Harrellson scored his summer high of 19 points on 8 of 13 shooting.

The Suns overcame 25 points from Bryce Dejean-Jones and 21 from Seth Curry. The Pelicans finish 2015 Summer League play with a 5-1 record.

Phoenix will meet San Antonio on Monday in the Summer League championship at the Thomas and Mack Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 6pm.

The Suns/Pelicans winner will play for the 2015 NBA Summer League title on Monday.

The Suns are two wins from a championship!

First up in the quest to hang a banner at the Thomas and Mack Center in 2016 are the New Orleans Pelicans. New Orleans eliminated Golden State 100-91 on Saturday night behind 24 points from Seth Curry. The Pelicans are undefeated in 2015 Summer League play. The villians:

Poor shooting resulted in an early Phoenix deficit on Saturday. Still, they have T.J. Warren. In the second half T.J. Warren started to do typical T.J. Warren stuff and finished with his summer high of 31 points in a 91-84 win over Chicago. The game featured a pair of poster worthy slams from Mike James you should check out. The good guys:

The winner advances to a Monday 6pm showdown agains the winner of the Atlanta/San Antonio matchup. Tip off for the Suns and Pelicans is scheduled for 5pm PT.

Since the Suns last Western Conference Finals appearance in 2010 the team has been mired in the perdition of mediocrity. How long might it take for Phoenix to get back to that level?

After a franchise record tying five straight seasons out of the playoffs a more modest goal might be just to reach the postseason, but I like to think big. Hearkening back to the final days of the Nash/Amar'e pick and roll... I began to wonder what kind of track record other teams had since reaching their last respective Conference Finals.

Getting to that point doesn't always indicate a team is truly within grasp of a championship, sometimes the other teams remaining are vastly superior, but it is still quite an accomplishment. After all, every season the Suns have gotten that far is pretty memorable to me. Only a few fan bases are probably spoiled enough for everything to blur together.

But with exactly what frequency and consistency do teams reach this penultimate round?

Conference FInals

By the Numbers

The mean is 2005.5, which means that on average teams reach the Conference Finals within a 10 year window. What this would project is that the Suns should be back in the WCF by 2020. Of course that number is precipitously affected by a few outliers.

The median, which is 2009.5, is probably a better indicator and conveniently falls just short of the Suns last appearance. The Suns are just slightly above average in terms of their last visit.

12 different teams have been in the Conference Finals since the Suns made it in 2010. That's 40% of the league and represents a decent variation in representatives over a fairly short period of time. Variation sounds good since the Suns are on the outside looking in right now.

26 of the league's 30 teams have been in the Conference Finals since 2000. Out of the four who haven't been, three have never made it period. With the Clippers, Raptors and Hornets representing franchise futility, only the Wizards are in an extended drought (46 years) since their last rodeo. Let's assume the Suns won't deteriorate into one of the league's worst teams and join this exclusive club.

Feel free to draw any other conclusions you would like to. There are plenty others I haven't expounded on.

Case Studies

Los Angeles Clippers - Although this team is the ultimate outlier, largely based on horrendous ownership, it also reveals how difficult it can be to reach a Conference Finals in certain situations. The Clippers team of the past few seasons is definitely better than some of the teams who have made more recent appearances. Sometimes luck and circumstance play into these situations.

Minnesota Timberwolves - Although Minnesota is only 11 years removed from a Conference Finals under Kevin Garnett that is the only trip in the franchise's mostly terrible 26 year history. An appearance doesn't necessarily indicate a team is on the right path over an extended period of time.

Detroit Pistons - Over a 22 year period the Pistons made 11 trips to the Conference Finals and five to the NBA Finals, winning three championships. The last six years Detroit has been a hot mess and doesn't appear that close to turning things around. In fact, Detroit is one of only three teams in the NBA with a longer playoff drought than the Suns. Previous historical success doesn't necessarily guarantee positive future results.

The Silver Lining

If you choose to look at it this way...

Is that the Suns are very, very likely to be back in the Western Conference Finals in the next 10 years and probably much sooner. There is apparently enough parity and cyclicality in the league to promote this type of trend.

Of course, things are always changing - collective bargaining agreements, inflated salaries and other unknowns may creep into the equation... but over the last 15 years of NBA basketball the outlook is somewhat roseate.

At least by this (simplistic and flawed) analysis...

The Suns turn to be back in the limelight shouldn't really be that far away.

Phoenix eliminated Chicago on Saturday to advance to the Summer League semifinals.

On to the final four!

The Summer Suns have advanced to the semifinals of the 2015 NBA Summer League playoffs after a 91-84 win over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night. Phoenix overcame poor first quarter shooting and a double digit deficit to eliminate Chicago.

Early in the game all Suns struggled shooting, including the normally ultra-efficient T.J. Warren. Warren had difficulties with his jump shot and finishing at the rim. The Suns leading scorer of the Summer League caught fire in the second half however, and finished with his summer high of 31 points. What most impressed Coach Bjorkgren however, was the effort Warren showed on the defensive end and on the boards.

"He's tough to guard and you know what i also like on him, is he was rebounding it better. His defense was good. You know, i ask him to guard bigs, I ask him to guard point guards, so he does a good job of doing his defensive assignment."

When the shots weren't falling in the first half it was the defensive intensity that kept Phoenix within striking distance. With Doug McDermott absent for Chicago, the Suns were able to trim the deficit to four points at the half despite shooting just 26% from the field in the first quarter.

"Well I thought defensively, in the first half we were doing a good job. We had seven consecutive stops in the first quarter, as well as the second, I just think in the first quarter there we left some of our shots in and out. We weren't finishing around the rim as well as we should in the second half i thought we were looking for our teammates a lot more."

In the first half when the team was struggling, Devin Booker at time looked awfully composed for an 18 year old. He handled the ball well, attacked the rim aggressively and all around looked confident on the court. Coach Bjorkgren talked about what Booker brings to the court other than the jump shot that was so coveted at NBA draft time.

"He has a lot to his game. More than what people pinned him as, just a shooter. He can really play D. He's really smart. He can handle the ball and he's good going right or left. He has a great feel for the game. He really just absorbs it all and just keeps getting better everday."

The defense will certainly be put to the test in the Summer League semifinals as the Suns will meet a New Orleans Pelicans squad that hung 100 points on Golden State on Saturday night. New Orleans got 23 points from the Summer League's leading scorer, Seth Curry, in the win over the Warriors. New Orleans has failed to hit the 90 points mark just once in five Summer League games, all wins.

Tipoff between the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans in Summer League tournament action is scheduled for 5pm PT at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. The winner will advance to Monday's championship game.

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