Contenders and Pretenders: 3 NBA teams that are the real deal, 3 that aren't

New York Knicks v Milwaukee Bucks
New York Knicks v Milwaukee Bucks / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages
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Pretender: Phoenix Suns

Another team that had major expectations coming into the season but has failed to meet them, the Suns, has been a major disappointment. With the acquisition of Bradley Beal to go along with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, Phoenix was expecting to be competing for a top seed in the West. Instead, they have been fighting to avoid the play- for the whole season.

For a team with Durant, Booker, and Beal, offense is not a problem for the Suns, as they are tenth in offensive rating. However, where the problem lies for this team is in the last few minutes of close games. Their clutch offense is among the worst in the NBA. Phoenix is 23rd in the league in clutch time offensive rating and has a true shooting percentage of 54 percent in the clutch, which is 21st. This has led to a 20-21 record in clutch games for the Suns.

In addition to that, Phoenix has struggled against the teams above them in the standings. Against the top five seeds in the West (Nuggets, Timberwolves, Thunder, Clippers, and Mavericks), the Suns are a combined 6-9. They are 2-1 against Denver, but two of those games were with Jamal Murray on the sidelines for Denver. Their inability to beat the top teams makes the case for the Suns as pretenders.

Phoenix has disappointed all season, with not a lot to suggest that their problems will be magically fixed in the playoffs. Matters will only get worse if they have to go through the play-in just to get a first round series.