Hollinger's Team Forecast: Phoenix Suns

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Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

For the second season in a row, the Suns surprised the basketball cognoscenti and raced to a division title and a spot in the conference finals. Phoenix had won 61 games a season earlier but wasn't expected to be as strong in 2005-06 following Amare Stoudemire's microfracture knee surgery, an operation which kept him out for virtually the entire season.

The Suns were unfazed, however, rolling to 54 wins and taking the Mavericks to six games in the conference finals. Optimists pointed out that the Suns had advanced one game farther than the previous season, though in truth that was stretching things a bit -- Phoenix got as far as it did mainly because the seedings were so screwed up (Dallas had to play San Antonio in the second round), and even so the Suns barely made it out of the first two rounds.

But it was another surprising campaign for the Suns, and once again the offensive attack was the key. Phoenix became the first team in league history to lead the league in scoring, field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage, and 3-point percentage. Just for good measure, the Suns led in assists too, and it goes without saying they were No. 1 in my metrics such as offensive efficiency and true shooting percentage. (But they were only second in turnover ratio. They really ought to work on that.)