Welcome to “Inside the Suns,” your weekly in-depth analysis of the current Phoenix Suns squad.
This week, we’re actually talking about things other than Deandre Ayton and the possibility of Kevin Durant coming to Phoenix for a change. Why? I have no news on KD’s situation and DA is here to stay…at least for a while. There are other things about the Suns worth discussing!
And now, on to the Fantable – a roundtable of Bright Siders giving their thoughts on the latest Suns numbers and news.
Fantastic questions of the week
Q1 – I expect the Suns to do more (through trades or FA acquisitions) this offseason, but unless they pull off something big enough they will largely go in 2022/23 with the same team as last season. What do you think is their ceiling if this is the case?
GuarGuar: I still think their absolute ceiling is a championship team. They won 64 games last year and reached the final the year before. Just because we were short last season doesn’t mean we can’t win everything next year.
OldAz: It depends… It depends on whether you’re going to measure next season based on the whole season (regular season counted) or only post-season results (as most fans will be a year from now).
If healthy, we’ve already seen this group win 64 games in the regular season, so that must be a reasonable cap for the same team this year. People thinking that “running back” makes the Suns a team game just doesn’t make sense. Having Biz for the full year makes up for losing McGee from a regular season perspective. All the other pieces are still in place and unless every team brings playoff intensity to every game of the Suns regular season, they will be in the top 6 seeds. However, that also assumes the Suns will continue the strategy of trying to win as many regular season games as possible. If so, they could replicate a 60+ win season, a 2 seed. . and lose again in the 2nd or 3rd round when Book and CP3 are (again) blitzed.
Instead, if they pull back the same team but prioritize developing additional offensive weapons (as Monty talked about after the Dallas series), they probably won’t win as many regular season games (may -be 53-57 as a guess and be a 3-5 seed), but their post-season cap would be higher, but how high is much harder to predict. We know the floor is competing for the Western Conference Finals because they’ve done it before. If, however, DA becomes more of an offensive force, Mikal moves closer to being Scottie 2.0, and/or Cam J of the Knicks game becomes a more regular occurrence, then there’s no reason this team can’t win it all. .
Basically, while the Suns’ floor is known with this unit based on the greatness of CP3 and Book, the Suns’ ceiling in 2022-23 will be 100% dependent on improvements made by DA, Mikal and Cam.
Cliff30: The ceiling is a championship. But the probability of hitting that cap is obviously lower than if they added KD or even a lower impact talent. But this group can win as is if things go well. I don’t know what happened in the seventh game. But if they react positively to this adversity and everyone improves, they can overcome the obstacle and win. We will see.
Jim C: The cap is an NBA championship.
Johnson (26), Booker (25), Bridges (25) and Ayton (24) are all young enough that an improvement seems like a reasonable expectation. The Suns probably won’t be the best team in the NBA next season. Teams like the Warriors, Clippers, Bucks and Celtics should be pretty formidable… Plus, there’s usually at least one team that takes a big step forward (maybe Memphis or New Orleans this season). Health and luck can be important factors, however, as long as they’re near the top…and they should be…anything is possible. The Core also had another year together and there may be benefits to continuity.
But let’s be realistic. If it’s basically the team… then the championship most likely rests with Ayton. He’s the guy who can take the leap. It has untapped potential. If he doesn’t improve, they won’t win a championship.
Q2 – At 37, what do you expect from CP3 this coming season?
GuarGuar: I really hope he gets more rest this year throughout the season. We just need him ready for the playoffs. Hopefully we can get a strong backup guard to relieve CP. I think this is his last year of “all star” caliber and I want to make the most of it when it counts.
OldAz: I expect regular season CP3 to be very similar to what we’ve seen in the past on most nights. He’s too competitive to limit his minutes unless this game dictates. I expect to see some “load management” applied, but really only in back-to-back situations. I also think we’ll see instances where CP3 struggles to resume a game, followed by longer periods (a game or two) where it just can’t play at its normal level. We started to see that in the playoffs, but the regular season drop in intensity and the diversity of the Suns’ regular season offense hides it all. This will become more pronounced and occur more often as age continues to catch up with CP3.
Unfortunately, I also believe that what we’ve seen in the past with CP3 in the playoffs isn’t even a realistic baseline (floor) for what to expect this year. He might still be able to pick his spots and dominate a quarter to take control of a single game like against the NO, but that will likely be followed by a longer period where he can’t contribute as much and will need let others intervene. Which is why I believe (in the absence of a KD trade) that improving the backup PG is by far the #1 priority for the remainder of this offseason or trade deadline.
Cliff30: I have no idea. Not a lot of guys play at that age. It could collapse at any moment. But during the regular season, he showed no signs of slowing down. I could see it repeating itself again. But I hope Monty steps in and manages his minutes better. I don’t think that’s really the issue in the playoffs, but a 37-year-old playing 33 minutes a game isn’t a great way to try to preserve it.
Jim C: Steve Nash made the All-Star team at 37 after leading the league in assists the previous year. It was Nash’s last good season. John Stockton also made the All-Star team at 37…and was effective for two more years…but a far cry from the player he was in his early 30s. Some of those all-time great point guards who rely more on IQ and conscience than athletics seem like they could play well at Chris Paul’s age.
That being said, my examples suggest that the end of the road for Chris Paul as a top-5 or top-10 playmaker is very near.
I think Paul will still be very effective, but managing minutes will be a problem. It’s also worrisome that he’s had nagging injury issues through the past playoffs … and throughout his career. I think it’s obvious that as people get older, it becomes more and more difficult to stay healthy and play rigorous sports day in and day out. If Paul has been dealing with age-related issues…it doesn’t make sense to dismiss that as a potential problem.
Q3 – Which Suns player would you miss the least if traded?
GuarGuar: Probably Torrey Craig. He’s not a good 3-point shooter and his rebound wasn’t what it was last year. I prefer to give Ish Wainright a chance because Ish has shown he could be capable of 3.
OldAz: There are only 7 players to consider here apart from Book and DA (not tradeable), CP3 (best able to trade next offseason) and the 3 recent signings. That leaves Mikal, Crowder, Cam J, Saric, Shamet, Payne and Craig. I would rank them in this order of importance and divide them into the following categories:
- Mikal and Crowder: If traded, Suns better get a global upgrade (“win the deal”), otherwise keep them.
- Cam J: I’d like to keep it, but understand if it needs to be included in a package for an upgrade.
- Saric, Shamet, Payne, Craig: JAGs – Wouldn’t miss if Suns traded any combo of these.
As for which of these 4 I would miss the “least”, it would have to be Craig. He didn’t carry any value last year and didn’t even bring the energy from the bench like he did in 2021.
Cliff30: Landry Shamet. The player would not miss, would be happy to be out of contract. Dario and Payne have at least had runs where they’ve played well for us, so at least there’s a connection with the fans. I don’t really have fond memories of Shamet’s time with the team.
But if we talk more about our main players, the guy I would miss the least is CP3. He was great, but his age makes him scary. You’d rather leave a year early than wait for him to fall apart. I also don’t have the same fan bond with him that I have with Booker, Ayton, Bridges or Cam. These guys are local Suns. We are the fifth stage of CP3. And you know if things went south in Phoenix, he’d be asking to move up to his sixth-place finish in no time.
Jim C: Jae Crowder among the players in the rotation. He was always inconsistent, but he became maddeningly so during the playoffs. He absolutely sucked in the first round.
Booker, Bridges and Johnson are really the only specific players I can’t wait to see next season. I really enjoyed watching McGee play last season. I like wild alleys. These are individuals whose games are what I like to watch. Watching games is fun…at least for me. I don’t like all the players who play for the Suns… I like some non-Suns. Ultimately, I’m a Suns fan. Players have come and gone.
As always, a big thank you to our Fantable members for all their extra effort this week!
Interesting stuff about suns
Mikal Bridges is underrated! | THE BEST OF THE 2022 SEASON
Cam Johnson Highlight Mix! (Vol. 1 • Season 2021-22)
Last week’s poll results
Last week’s poll was “Do you think the Suns still have a realistic chance of making a trade for Durant this summer?”
42% – Yes.
58% – No.
A total of 434 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is…
How do you think the 37-year-old CP3 will play this season?
Better than last season.
Pretty much the same as last season.
Worse than last season.
Much worse than last season.
142 voices in total