Despite finishing the Bubble 8-0 and narrowly missing out on the play-in game, the Suns playoff chances did not seem that great. But once they swung the trade for Chris Paul, the Suns playoff chances grew dramatically.
Even after acquiring the Point God, nobody really expected such a turnaround in the desert.
Is it a fluke or are the Suns real contenders? Find out below.
Suns playoff chances
After getting Chris Paul in a trade, Vegas became a bit more optimistic about the Suns. They set the win/loss record at 38.5 wins which seemed a bit low for a Chris Paul team.
What’s even worse is that many prominent analysts believed the team would not even win that much. The narrative was clear, years and years of losing completely shattered any winning culture that was once prominent in the Sonoran desert. The last time they played in the playoffs was in 2010, so what could they possibly do?
There were many sceptical about the trade the Suns made to bring in Chris Paul. They sent out four players and a 1st round pick for Paul and a relatively obscure commodity in Abdel Nader.
Yes, Paul had a renascence year in Oklahoma but there was no way he could keep that up. No way considering his age. But James Jones, better known as Champ in the league, knew what he was doing. That move alone should win him the Executive of the Year award. The team lead by Paul simply exploded, and when one looks at the production of Kelly Oubre Jr. and Ricky Rubio in 2021, the move is a brilliant one.
Out of all the others that left only Aron Baynes had any sort of role in the team but his role was filled by Jae Crowder who does it better. The rest of the roster was filled with seasoned veterans while the December move for Torrey Craig is a very underrated one.
How the season went
It went brilliantly.
We already mentioned how nobody gave them any real chance of doing any sort of damage in the west. Most agreed they could get in the postseason via the play-in tournament but they finished as the 2nd best team in West trailing the Jazz by a fine margin. They are 7th offensively and 7th defensively in the League with the 5th slowest pace. Ranking so high in offensive rating while playing such a slow pace means they are mostly playing half-court offence and that benefits the Suns playoff chances greatly.
Paul is the facilitator of everything good that happens on the court. He brought a dose of experience and winning mentality that the Suns lacked all these years. He lifted a significant burden off Devin Booker allowing him to focus on scoring which is what he does best. They are one of the most efficient mid-range teams which is a part of the court many teams abandoned. The three-point shooting became much better with Paul as the point guard.
The biggest difference to years prior is on the other side of the court where Mikal Bridges is not the only player that plays defence. With Crowder and Craig, he shuts down wings pretty well and Deandre Ayton has come a long way defensively since his Arizona days as well.
The key player for the Suns is the player that made all of this possible. The arrival of Paul to the Suns is probably one of the best offseason moves in the past decade.
He is a man that is 35 years old with numbers that are slowly regressing over time but also a man that has so much more to give. He finished the season narrowly missing out on a 50-40-90 season. The only reason he didn’t get it because he shot dozens of half-court shots, so when you think about it he posted a 50-40-90 season at age 35.
Some campaigned for him to become the MVP which 20 years ago would have happened but that award has changed so much over the years that that was not realistic but he is certainly the MVP of the Suns.
The Suns playoff chances will also depend a lot on how Devin Booker does in the Playoffs. One of the best scorers in the league has a game that is built for the postseason. A player that can get buckets at will is needed in the postseason but rarely any player has a great first tango.
The playoff rotation is somewhat set but coach Monty Williams has shown willingness to adapt rotations to teams if need be. The guard spots are locked in with Paul and Booker with Cameron Payne more than capable of replacing both in short spurts. Their wing depth is best with Mikal Bridges pretty safe at the SF position while Torrey Craig recently saw more time than Crowder at PF.
Cam Johnson has been hurt in the past weeks but reports suggest he should be ready to go and he will find time wherever he can as his 3 point shooting is too valuable. Their C position is the thinnest. Ayton is a lock but his play is hot and cold and you never know what you will get. Dario Saric could see some 5 time as well but his play has been poor lately.
Suns playoff chances: Final thoughts and expectations
Phoenix ended up as the 2nd seed in the West right behind the Utah Jazz. They could possibly face a mammoth task of playing the Lakers in the 1st round which would be a spectacular matchup between two Franchises that do not like each other one bit. It should be a good series if it happens, especially if the Lakers are not healthy which they don’t seem to be.
Booker is the best scorer whose numbers are a bit lower than usual but his play next to Paul has never looked more mature.
Chris Paul has been playing the best basketball of the season in the past two weeks which might prove key in the playoffs and they will go as far as Booker and Paul can take them.
The goal for the Suns internally was always of winning a ring. Chris Paul did not come to push the Suns into the playoffs but to win a ring.
How realistic that is remains to be seen but only one team had more wins than the Suns in the regular season. They defeated all better teams this year except the Nets. against whom they lost twice. The quality and talent is there but the lack of playoff experience could prove a difficult thing to overcome.