The Phoenix Suns are having another bad year. Let me know if you’ve heard that one before.
Despite drafting first overall in the 2018 NBA Draft and selecting Deandre Ayton – who by the way is having a great season – they find themselves dead last in the Western Conference with the second-worst record in the NBA.
As previously mentioned, no one is really surprised. We all expected another down year for Phoenix as they continue their rebuild.
They’ve already maxed out their star player Devin Booker through the 2022-23 season, they added Ayton in the draft and hope to retain the services of upcoming restricted free agent Kelly Oubre this offseason. With solid internal development, and perhaps the acquisition of another star or multiple role players, the Suns could find themselves back in the postseason within a season or two.
Despite their less-than-ideal record this season, Phoenix has put together a handful of really respectful wins. They’ve beaten the Milwaukee Bucks both at home and on the road. They have a wins at home against the Spurs, Lakers and Nuggets. And they have two impressive wins both at Boston and at Golden State.
No other team in the NBA can match that criteria for those types of wins. You wouldn’t be surprised if you were told that the Rockets or perhaps the Toronto Raptors notched those impressive victories, but the fact that it was the Suns is just incredible.
In fact, their win over Golden State the other night was just outstanding on a historical basis. Per Ben Fawkes of ESPN, the Suns were just the second team in 20 seasons to win straight up when coming into the game as at least 17-point underdogs. Booker was spectacular. He finished with 37 points on the night, with 17 of those coming in the fourth quarter.
“Playing in a place like this gets a little rowdy,” said Booker after his big night at the Oracle. “They’re the defending champs. Really tough team to play against, especially here. So to come in here, start off the game down 16 points, keep fighting the whole time and grind out a win for us was really big for us.”
With the big wins aside, they still have a glaring 53 losses on the season. They have won their last four of six games, but the rest of their schedule isn’t exactly patty-cake, so it is assumed they’ll surpass 60 losses with little doubt.
All things considered, where do the Suns stand going forward?
Their newly-hired coach Igor Kokoskov has been on the hot seat for at least a month, they are still searching for their general manager of the future after firing Ryan McDonough before the start of the season and their owner Robert Sarver reportedly threatened to move the team during a meeting in December. Could it be that all this drama has been stunting the true potential of this roster?
Since 2011, Phoenix has practically lived in the lottery. They’ve had a pick in the top 14 in each of the last eight drafts, including an extra five on top of that in the first round alone. Of those 13 first-round choices, only six remain on the roster.
Ayton and Mikal Bridges are having strong rookie seasons and Devin Booker is clearly on the verge of his first All-Star appearance – but outside of those players we don’t know who Phoenix can place their future success on.
Booker is quietly having a historically impressive year. In the three-point era, only three players have averaged 25 points, four rebounds and six assists while being 22 or younger: LeBron James three times, Derrick Rose, and Booker.
More impressively, Booker leads all of those individual seasons in true shooting percentage. Where Booker struggles is on the defensive end of the court, but that could be chalked up to the scheme and personnel as much as the individual.
The same thing can be said for Ayton. He is averaging 16.6 points and 10.3 rebounds, just the 15th rookie to do that in the three-point era. What’s more impressive is he leads all 15 (!) of those individual seasons in effective field goal percentage, as well as true shooting percentage. He’s not only on his way to a strong start to his career, but he’s already looking to be one of the more efficient centers of all time.
The Suns clearly have a long way to go. They have a lot they need to figure out as far as team management, leadership and structure goes.
But the bones are there. They have an on-ball killer in Booker and anchor under the hoop in Ayton. They’ll likely find themselves with a top-five pick in the upcoming 2019 draft, so that could add even more talent to an already young group.
However, in a league that is riddled with stars searching for better pastures, Phoenix needs to do all they can to build around Booker now.
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