What Happened to the Suns?
What happened to the Phoenix Suns? This is the million-dollar question.
Just a couple of months ago, the entire NBA circle had the Suns pegged as the favorites to make the NBA Finals. They landed Kevin Durant and formed a formidable core of Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, and Durant.
The Suns suffered some injuries down the stretch but still managed to get the 4th seed. Unfortunately, that meant a second-round matchup against the top-seeded Denver Nuggets, who handled them in six games.
A Look Inside The Kevin Durant Trade
Was the Kevin Durant trade worth it? This is the question that will be asked all offseason. The short answer is yes, especially with Durant’s desire to remain in Phoenix alongside Booker.
On the other hand, the Suns’ trade for Durant essentially wiped out their depth. Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridges, and Cam Johnson all left, along with four first-round picks.
In 56 games with the Suns, Bridges played just north of 36 minutes per game and averaged 17.2 PPG. With the Nets, he averaged an eye-popping 26.1 PPG as the main guy. Johnson averaged 25 minutes per game, although he played just 17 contests due to a few injuries.
The trade for Durant basically sent away three reserves, although Crowder hadn’t done anything for the Suns. Still, Johnson and Bridges were key parts of the rotation. In the series against Denver, the Suns went with a very thin bench, and besides Landry Shamet, nobody was even remotely productive.
So, when Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul missed time due to injuries, it got even worse. Shamet and Jack Landale went into the starting five for Game 6 with Paul and Ayton out, and Torrey Craig, TJ Warren, and Damion Lee were essentially the only options for Monty Williams.
In the playoffs, depth matters, and quality bench options are essential, which is something the Suns didn’t have.
I’m never one to put all the blame on the coaching staff. At the end of the day, the players need to perform. The Suns scored 87 points in Game 1 and barely scored 100 or more in the final two games. Nikola Jokic had a triple-double in three of the last four games, and the Suns had no answers for Jokic or Jamal Murray.
Is it Mony Williams’ fault? Not entirely, but he is to blame some due to his execution and failure to make adjustments. Let’s not forget the Suns had a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals to the Milwaukee Bucks before Giannis Antetokounmpo and company came roaring back. Maybe it is time for a change at the top.
There are more questions than answers in Phoenix. Will Chris Paul be traded? Probably. Did Deandre Ayton play his final game in a Suns inform? Most likely. Devin Booker’s Game 6 postgame media absence and exit interview disappearance aren’t good signs.
Nonetheless, as long as the Suns have Booker and Durant on the roster, they should remain a threat in the West. On the other hand, something needs to change, and this was very likely the Suns best chance in the foreseeable future to bring home the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
The players get the credit when the team does well. But when that isn’t the case, the coach gets the blame. It will be interesting to see what happens during the offseason.
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