Phoenix Suns showed their faith in coach Monty Williams by handing him a new multi-year contract, and now his task is to deliver a first ever championship to the franchise.
Williams still had two years left on his previous deal with Phoenix and the fact they have opted to tie him down to a longer deal underlines just how much they value their head coach.
|What:||NBA Season 2022/23|
|Where:||USA and Paris (one game)|
Regular Season - October 18th 2022 - April 9th 2023
|How to watch:|
ESPN, ABC, TNT, NBA TV and bet365 Sports Live Streaming
|Odds:||Boston Celtics +450, Golden State Warriors +600, Milwaukee Bucks +650, Los Angeles Clippers +700|
The 50-year-old joined Phoenix in May 2019 and they were invited into the NBA Bubble in his first campaign in charge. Williams oversaw an 8-0 run in the Bubble in Orlando, but it still wasn't enough to secure a place in the play-in tournament and they failed to reach the playoffs.
Chris Paul joined the team in 2020 and in his second season in the hot-seat Williams guided the Suns to second seed in the Western Conference. They overcame defending champions Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs and claimed series wins over newly-crowned MVP Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets and LA Clippers, before losing out to Milwaukee Bucks in the Finals in six games.
That represented Williams' first trip to the Finals series as a coach and the Suns' third appearance, and their first since 1993.
Last season, the Suns claimed top seed in the Western Conference with a league-best 64-18 overall record, a franchise record, and Williams was named the 2022 NBA Coach of the Year.
Phoenix were unable to back up their regular season success in the playoffs, however, as after scraping past an understrength New Orleans Pelicans in the first round they were beaten in seven games by a Luka Doncic-inspired Dallas Mavericks, blowing 2-0 and 3-2 leads.
Williams has transformed Phoenix from a team that missed out on the postseason for 10 years in a row into genuine championship contenders in just three seasons in charge, but can he go one better and land a first title for the Suns?
Phoenix are to +850 win the NBA Championship outright, defending champions Golden State can be backed at +600 and Los Angeles Clippers are +700.
The Suns now have their main men locked down for the foreseeable future after Williams extended his deal.
Paul and Mikal Bridges signed long-term extensions last year, while Devin Booker signed a new deal this offseason. Deandre Ayton is also tied down after the Suns matched an offer sheet given to him by Indiana Pacers, after they allowed the center to become a restricted free agent.
"I'm grateful to extend my commitment to this team and to all the people who make it a special place," Williams said in a statement, via the official NBA website. "Our players put in the work every day that allows us to be successful, and I'm excited to continue this journey with them."
The Suns were viewed as the surprise package as they reached the Finals series in 2021 but they managed to back that up in style last term. After a 2-2 start, Phoenix embarked on an 18-game winning run that started in October and finished in December as they held on to top spot in the West for close to the entirety of the campaign.
However, after guaranteeing top seed they eased off and closed out the season with a 2-4 run in April. The Suns were never able to rediscover their early season form and ultimately fell short against the Mavs in the second round of the playoffs.
Last season, the speculation surrounding Ayton's future was an unwanted distraction and Booker suffered a dip in form at the worst possible time. Phoenix also found themselves up against Doncic in inspired form and, with their own stars struggling, the Mavs proved too strong.
This year, they have their core men tied down to long deals and speculation won't be an issue. The challenge for Phoenix is trying to peak at the right time, and they can use their experiences from last season to try and ensure that happens.
Paul may be 37, but he remains one of the most talented point guards in the league and with Booker on their roster, the Suns have one of the best backcourt line-ups in the NBA.
Ayton could be set for a better season now his future is resolved, and the Suns clearly have a team capable of going all the way and winning a first title in their history, while in Williams they have one of the league's best coaches.
The championship is a very real possibility but they will, of course, face plenty of challenges along the way. The Suns are in an incredibly competitive conference as Golden State will be looking to defend the title after claiming the championship last season, while the Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas, the Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves will all see themselves as genuine contenders in the West.