The Phoenix Suns followed their run to the Finals by having the best record in the NBA by eight wins, going 64-18. However, in the playoffs, they seemed to have lost a step.
A six-game series against the New Orleans Pelicans raised questions but not to the point of concern. Then in the second round giving up a 3-2 lead against the Dallas Mavericks, being down at halftime 57-26, and fans walking out early in a Game 7 made it easy to doubt the Suns.
In the offseason, only more question marks appeared as Deandre Ayton went into restricted free agency, and the Suns had to match a max offer. It seems to have driven a rift between Ayton and the organization, which is something you may not want to do with a critical young player.
Let’s check the latest NBA picks, stats, injury reports, and NBA predictions. We’ve plenty of NBA expert picks for you to consider.
- To win the NBA championship +1100
- To win Western Conference +500
- To win Pacific Division +185
- To make playoffs Yes -2500/ No +850
Player to Watch
Chris Paul and Devin Booker could both possibly fit this description. They are the Suns’ two All-Stars and All-NBA players, but we know what they will give us. Other than Paul slowing due to age and Booker possibly moving closer to a legit MVP candidate, the backcourt is set for success.
The more important player to keep an eye on is Ayton. He has arguably turned into the team’s best defender and rebounder while having a great connection with the stars in the pick-and-roll. However, at times it seemed as if the contract situation was weighing on him, culminating in Ayton being benched in the second half of Game 7 against the Mavericks.
It would be nice if Ayton could also expand his game offensively, still averaging the second-most points per game on the Suns last season with 17.2. But it does look like that was something the Suns wanted to see more of before handing him a massive contract.
- Player to Watch: F Deandre Ayton
After being traded to the Suns from the Brooklyn Nets, Landry Shamet signed a four-year $43 million contract and ended up playing 20.8 minutes per game. The Suns clearly saw he could add some value to the team, but he has yet to get the opportunity. Maybe Shamet could turn that around, as the team could use his three-point shooting.
On the other hand, Cameron Johnson is the player the Suns need to break out. He has been a solid piece of the bench, offering perimeter scoring and defense while gradually getting better every season.
The writing is on the wall that he will be a starter, which has triggered Jae Crowder to ask for a trade. Johnson will fill that role as the primary perimeter defender and floor spacer, which he showed he could do in moments, but he will now have to do it consistently.
- Breakout Watch: F Cameron Johnson
The end of last season must have left a bad taste in the mouths of the Suns’ players, and this offseason has only led to some more concerns. This is without even mentioning the owner trying to sell the team after being suspended for a year by the NBA due to workplace misconduct.
That being said, this team was so good last season that even if they lost 14 more games this year, it’s still a 50-win team.
There are valid reasons to doubt the Suns and how this season will pan out, but they are still a title contender. That part hasn’t changed yet. What has changed is the Western Conference is getting a lot better around them while they are getting worse, which lessens their chances to win the West.