The Phoenix Suns stunned the basketball world with their 2021 Western Conference title run. After re-signing star point guard Chris Paul, the Suns are primed to make another run. Will the newly added depth be enough to keep Phoenix in the title hunt this season?
Phoenix Suns 2021-22 Season Preview
2020-21 Season Recap
The Suns had an epic turnaround last season. Despite going undefeated in the 2020 bubble, Phoenix was 34-39 in the 2019-20 season. After adding Paul, the franchise had high hopes for a playoff run. The team exceeded those expectations with a 51-21 record last year. Along with Paul, the breakout performance of big man Deandre Ayton and the continued growth of All-Star Devin Booker propelled the Suns to new heights. Starters Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder both played solid defense and shot 42.5% and 38.9% from three respectively. Phoenix’s depth was another strength last season, with Cameron Johnson, Cameron Payne, Dario Saric, and Torrey Craig filling out the rotation.
Payne was especially vital to the Suns’ playoff push. With Paul missing time due to multiple injuries and a positive COVID test, Payne was called on more than once to lead the offense. The sixth-year journeyman did not disappoint, averaging 9.3 points in the postseason and pushing the pace offensively. Ayton also stepped his game up in the playoffs. The former first overall draft pick improved on his regular-season output by scoring 15.8 points and grabbing 11.8 rebounds per game. Booker led the team in scoring with 27.3 points per game and showed incredible toughness by playing through a broken nose suffered in the conference finals against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Phoenix Suns Offseason Moves
The biggest move the Suns made in the offseason was re-signing Paul to a four-year $120 million deal. Phoenix also brought back Payne on a three-year deal. They did lose some perimeter depth with the departure of Craig, E’Twaun Moore, Jevon Carter, and Langston Galloway. Craig will be the most missed of this bunch. The forward was the only departing player to have a significant role in the Suns’ playoff rotation. The other three were mainly regular-season contributors, with each averaging just over four points and 10 minutes per game.
Phoenix added some much-needed frontcourt depth by signing gold-medalist JaVale McGee. McGee’s ‘Shaqtin a Fool’ days are long behind him and the shot-blocking expert has contributed to three championship runs. While Ayton is the future for Phoenix in the paint, their lack of depth in that area forced Crowder to occasionally be matched up with the opponents’ centers. The Suns also netted a solid shooter by trading the 29th pick in the draft along with Carter for Landry Shamet. Shamet should do a great job of stretching the floor and filling in for Booker during games. He is more athletic than he gets credit for and is a great shooter off of screens. Phoenix also added Elfrid Payton to insure the point guard position.
The Suns entered training camp fourth in the NBA Power Rankings behind the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, and defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. Head coach Monty Williams is blessed to have the bulk of his talented young core returning this year. The key to Phoenix’s season will be the health of their aging superstar. With Paul entering his 17th season, the Suns’ would be wise to limit his playing time a bit in the regular season. Payne has shown that he is up to the task of running the offense when needed and the addition of Shamet will help cushion any offensive production lost in Paul’s absence.
With conference contenders like the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets having major injuries to key starters, the stage could be set for another NBA Finals run for Phoenix. While they may have a tough time beating the Lakers or Utah Jazz in the regular-season standings, if the Suns stay healthy, they should be in the hunt for home court in the first round and another postseason push.
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