What Warriors can learn from Suns' improbable NBA Finals run

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What Suns' improbable NBA Finals run can teach Warriors originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

It wasn't too long ago when the Warriors began their dynastic run with their Cinderella story NBA championship win in 2015. Following that improbable run, they weren't only just the team to beat, but the team that others tried to emulate in their roster construction. 

But now, the Warriors have missed the playoffs two years in a row and the tables have flipped. Instead of setting the standard for what a team should look like, they are looking toward other teams for guidance. 

The Warriors don't have to look much further than the Phoenix Suns, who are in the midst of a Cinderella story themselves after making it to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993. Oh, and this is the first time they've even cracked the postseason since 2010. 

One of the biggest takeaways the Warriors can learn from the Suns is their usage of Deandre Ayton. That should be a blueprint for how James Wiseman should work for Golden State. 

Just a few months ago, Ayton -- the 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick -- was labeled a "liability" to the Suns. And some of the critiques were fair. As we've learned, it's harder for younger centers to acclimate to the NBA game. The same exact thing goes for Wiseman. 

But now, Ayton is one of the main reasons Phoenix is headed to the NBA Finals. His ascendance is the result of simplifying what's asked of him, restraint and role acceptance -- getting fewer touches on a per-minute basis, resulting in fewer points, assists and shot attempts. But, one area that has gone up is rebounding missed free throws, grabbing 59.1 percent of opponents' missed free throws during the regular season. In Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, Ayton grabbed 22 rebounds. 

This is what the Warriors need to see from Wiseman. Playing with a generally smaller lineup, the Warriors need their bigs to live under the rim -- especially one such as Wiseman, who still is figuring out the other nuances of the game. They need him to be a pure rebounder and help them get extra possessions, an area the Warriors almost always had a disadvantage in this season. 

They also need Wiseman to take more shots at the rim, which Ayton does as well. Also in Game 4 against the LA Clippers, all of Ayton's points that we're assisted were tip-ins or put-backs. Ayton has moved away from face-up midrange jumpers and instead, used that area of the court to set screens for Chris Paul and Devin Booker, dribble-handoffs, and rolls to the rim. Again, another area that Wiseman should emulate. 

But the Warriors can take much more away from the Suns than just how to use Wiseman. Curry can be compared to Paul. Klay Thompson can be compared to Booker. Andrew Wiggins had the best season in his career this year and proved he can be a strong two-way player. Could he become Golden State's version of Mikal Bridges, who has become a steady 3-and-D wing? 

Then, Phoenix has Jae Crowder, the trusted veteran who supports the stars. This is something the Warriors lack, but desperately need to balance out their young roster. 

Golden State also must add some more shooters and build a deeper bench after being forced into an eight-man rotation. The Suns are one of the deepest teams in the league and, like Ayton accepted his role, each bench player have embraced their roles as well. Everyone knows what is expected of them, and it translates on the court.

RELATED: Myles Turner is Warriors' best Wiseman trade option

None of this is to say the Warriors need to copy exactly what the Suns have done this year to get back into the playoffs and NBA title contention. But, there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from them. What Phoenix has put together has taken them from the second-worst record in the league to the NBA Finals in just two years. 

In 2019-20, the Warriors were the worst team in the league, with their .231 percent win percentage matching what the Suns' was in 2018-19. If they want to make as quick of a rebound as Phoenix, Golden State ought to be taking some notes.

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