Predicted finish: 8 in the West (4th in the Pacific, 14th in the power rankings)
Last seasons conference finish: 10th in the West
The Phoenix Suns really pulled the trigger on a win now trade for Chris Paul and I love it. After going 8-0 in the bubble, it became clear this team when fully healthy and not on a suspension (sorry Deandre) was flatout good. Their problem was Ricky Rubio has a ceiling we all know and with Paul available, it just made a ton of sense. Paul’s mentorship and work ethic should be a beautiful mesh with Devin Booker in the hopes of keeping Book happy in the Valley. Along with Book, Ayton showed growth last year, Mikal Bridges is the real deal and Cam Johnson is owed a series of apologies from major media personalities. The kings of the seeding games are officially back, better and ready to make a run that actually finishes with them in the playoffs this time around.
The big question for the franchise: Is Chris Paul enough for the Valley Boys to make the playoffs?
Of course, you have to ask in a stacked west is Paul enough? For me, I think as long as he’s healthy he is. What he brings to the equation is such and improvement over Rubio and with how he played in OKC last year, I just think it’ll be the perfect fit alongside Booker. He’ll also really help Ayton as Paul has made a career out of making big men money and then there’s the young wings who’ll thrive off the pocket passes the point god will send their way. This team also has the added benefit of being young and hungry with a good coach so Monty Williams will have an easier job than most in motivating this team in the dog days of the NBA season. It’s been so long without the playoffs there I think there’ll be a real fire throughout the season that just won’t exist in certain other organizations and as we’ve seen, just that added effort can carry you a long way in this league.
One move I want to see them make: Improve backup point guard
My one big concern is I’m not sure how their offence will run with Paul off the floor. They brought back Cam Payne who was one of the stars of the bubble but if anyone’s play there felt like a mirage it was his. For this team to really cement their playoff status I think this is the one real hole on the roster (and they could’ve filled it with Tyrese Haliburton).
Offseason Grade: B
As much as I love the Paul acquisition, drafting Jalen Smith over Haliburton is indefensible. He would’ve easily been able to play off ball with Booker and Paul and then taken over the reigns when Paul leaves in the not too distant future. Instead of that obvious choice, they took a big who I’m not sure how many minutes they have for him, further showing how dumb a pick it was. Their saving grace though may be the perfect acquisition of Jae Crowder. After what he did in Miami, Crowder is the ideal fit at the forward spot for this team.
Young player I’m excited for: Deandre Ayton
Last year was weird in more ways than one for the number one pick in 2018 but in the bubble he showed out. With Paul coming in, Ayton should get a ton of easy rolls this season and as the rest of his offensive game continues to improve, he’ll be that much more difficult to stop. Truthfully though, as much as his offensive game continued to grow in Orlando, it was defensively where he showed the most improvement. If he can continue on that track and even become a plus defender this year, first of all that would be an incredibly fast turnaround for a player who was laughably lost as a rookie. More importantly, it would just add to the great things Phoenix is building and really push them into a different category of the conference.
I really liked what Phoenix did this offseason and am not afraid to say it. Paul and Crowder were the ideal veterans to come in around this young core. That said, none of it will matter if they don’t make the playoffs this season. For the first time in years there’s pressure to win in Phoenix and I know Booker and Co. are excited to see days of winning Suns basketball finally back in the Valley.