After missing the playoffs in the 2020 bubble, the Phoenix Suns bounced back to make it all the way to the NBA Finals this past season. Their magical run was amazing to watch from start to finish.
Despite having a very similar roster the year prior, they performed a lot better and finished as the second seed in the Western Conference. The only true difference on the team was veteran point guard, Chris Paul.
Veteran Chris Paul
Despite being 36 years old, Paul not only displayed his basketball brilliance on the court, he served as a true leader for his young teammates.
No matter where Paul shows up, he always seems to make a huge difference. Look at the 2020 season when he was with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Going into that year, ESPN gave the Thunder a 0.2% chance of making the playoffs.
Not only did they make the playoffs, but they also finished the season as the fifth seed in a stacked Western Conference and pushed the Houston Rockets with James Harden and Russell Westbrook seven games.
Even though Paul was only there for one season, he was a great mentor for guys like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort who seem to be part of the foundation of the team going forward.
Deandre Ayton Looking Good
Going back to Phoenix, former #1 overall pick Deandre Ayton showed immense strides this past year. Not only did he play well in the regular season, he stepped up when it counted most in the playoffs.
In his first two playoff series, he went up against two of the best big men in all of basketball in Anthony Davis and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic. Thanks to Ayton’s defense and improved offensive game, the Suns were able to neutralize them.
Starting shooting guard Devin Booker also took the next step as an absolute superstar. Due to Paul’s arrival, he was not asked to be the primary ball-handler which paid big dividends.
His confidence level looked at an all-time high and his arsenal of shots was extremely impressive.
Backup point guard Cameron Payne and Cameron Johnson also played great last season to make a big impact for Phoenix.
Phoenix Suns Season Preview
Despite their incredible run, they were ultimately not able to get it done even after they took a decisive 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals. Giannis Antetokounmpo and company played great all series long and rattled off four straight impressive wins.
Luckily for Phoenix, they were able to resign almost all of their main contributors including Paul who signed a 4 year, $120M contract extension.
Because Phoenix is so young, I believe the playoff experience they gained will be invaluable going forward. The problem is, the West this year is looking as tough as ever, especially with all of the injured superstars returning such as Anthony Davis for the Lakers and Kawhi Leonard for the Clippers.
I have Phoenix making it to the Western Conference Finals but losing to the LA Lakers. With the addition of Russell Westbrook, I believe it is going to be too much for the Suns to handle especially from a matchup perspective.