Suns season preview: Can they get past that Game 7?

Suns season preview: Can they get past that Game 7?

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Suns season preview: Can they get past that Game 7?

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The Suns had the league’s best record last season and were one of the heaviest favorites to win the title heading into the playoffs. It all went bust, though, when they lost to the Mavericks in one of the more embarrassing Game 7 performances in recent memory.

Many will write the Suns off now because of their second-round exit, especially with the Western Conference getting stronger all around. They are still extremely talented and deeper than ever, though, so they should still remain a contender as long as they don’t let last year’s collapse define them.

Below, check out our preview for the 2022-23 Suns campaign.

Roster changes

Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

Returning: Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Chris Paul Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Landry Shamet, Dario Saric, Cameron Payne, Cameron Johnson, Torrey Craig, Bismack Biyombo, Ishmail Wainright

Additions: Damion Lee (Golden State), Josh Okogie (Minnesota), Jock Landale (Atlanta), Duane Washington Jr. (Indiana)

Subtractions: JaVale McGee (Dallas), Aaron Holiday (Atlanta), Iffe Lundberg (Virtus Bologna), Elfrid Payton

Strengths

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

* One of the best half-court teams on offense… For the second season in a row, the Suns were one of the best half-court offenses with Chris Paul. He led the league in pick-and-roll possession frequency while averaging 1 point per pick-and-roll possession. This style has helped them be one of the most efficient teams in the league with a slower pace, which translates well for the playoffs.

* Amazing in the clutch… The Suns had 42 regular season games that were defined as clutch situations and they won 33 of them. They also had a 33.4 net rating in the clutch, which was more than twice the amount of the next team. Part of their success is their ability to hit difficult mid-range shots, with Booker shooting them in the mid-40s and Paul shooting in the mid-50s.

* Great at avoiding and forcing turnovers… Part of the Suns’ success last year is how they often won the possession game. They had the 4th lowest turnover percentage in the league while also forcing the 6th most turnovers per game last season. This contributed to them having the 8th best pace, giving them more scoring and transition opportunities.

Weaknesses

(Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

* No answer for the absolute best players… Their Achilles heel thus far has been their inability to contain some of the absolute best high-usage players in the league. Giannis Antetokounmpo got whatever he wanted in the 2021 Finals, and Luka Doncic slowly figured out Phoenix’s defense and took it apart. Whether it’s a scheme or personnel issue, they need to be more prepared to take on the best players in the playoffs.

* Not enough threes… While the Suns thrive in shotmaking from the 5-19 foot range, it comes at the expense of their three-point shooting. The Suns attempted the fourth fewest shots from 25-29 foot range in last year’s regular season despite averaging a solid 35 percent from that range. They need to attempt more, especially in the playoffs where the Mavericks attempted nearly 1.5 times as many threes as the Suns did in their playoffs matchup.

* What if Chris Paul takes a step back?… The 37-year-old guard is the offensive engine for the Suns and has also been very available over the past three seasons, missing minimal time with injuries compared to previous years. He continues to play at an All-Star level, but what happens to the Suns if he no longer does? Any significant regression in his efficiency, passing, or defense could change their outlook for this season. With that in mind, it would make sense for the Suns to start being proactive in looking for additional backcourt playmaking.

Depth chart

Suns 2022-23 Depth Chart by Dionysis Aravantinos

Suns 2022-23 Depth Chart by Dionysis Aravantinos

Possible moves

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Suns were briefly in the market for Kevin Durant earlier in the offseason, which likely would’ve meant parting with core players like Ayton, Bridges, and Johnson. With Durant off the market and no other All-Star seemingly available, they seem unlikely to make a significant move to their core. This especially rings true considering that they cannot trade Ayton until January, and they cannot trade him this season without his consent.

The Suns made shrewd minimum signings with players like Lee and Okogie, which could make players like Shamet and Craig expendable. Their salaries could be combined to acquire higher-paid role players, such as the ones the Jazz have made available. Such a trade would likely involve draft compensation, and the Suns have all of their own picks available to play with. Crowder could also be the salary filler for a major trade as the Suns have made him available, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

While they could use an additional impact role player for the playoffs, they are deep enough and could also just roll with the team they currently have. They have one more roster spot open and currently project with a $32.6 million luxury tax payment. They also have the $6.5 million taxpayer mid-level exception unused, which could give them an advantage in the buyout market later in the season.

Salaries

Prediction

2nd in the Pacific division, 2nd in the Western conference (as voted by the HoopsHype staff)

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