It’s been 8 years since we’ve seen the Phoenix Suns in the playoffs. The last time they made it to the postseason, Steve Nash was their point guard and Amar’e Stoudemire was throwing down poster dunks left, right, and center. Now, the roster consists of young, talented, battle-ready players who are hungry to win. And star guard Devin Booker believes that the playoffs are in sight for the season. He said this in an interview with CBS Sports’ Bill Reiter:
“It’s winning time. With that contract, and even before the contract, I felt that pressure to succeed for the city and the franchise. They took a chance on me to be that [max] guy, I know it comes with a lot of leadership and responsibility, but I think I’m built for it. I’m looking forward to next year a lot, with the additions to the team, we’re in much better shape to have a much better season.”
Booker was signed to a 5-year, $158 million max contract this offseason by the Suns, locking him up for the duration of his prime. Last season, he averaged 24.1 PPG on 43.2% form the field and 38.3% from three-point land, as well as 4.7 APG and 4.5 RPG. This was by far his best season so far in the NBA, and he’ll only be getting better.
But besides his rise to stardom, Booker believes that drafting Deandre Ayton will be a major reason the team improves on their 21-61 record the previous season. In the Summer League, Ayton averaged 14.5 PPG and 10.5 RPG for 26.8 minutes per game. Booker took note of his success in the summer league and had this to say:
“We’re in the best shape we’ve been in since I’ve been a part of the franchise. With the trades we’ve made, and with Deandre. He had an unbelievable summer league, playing the right way, not forcing it, was still dominating on both sides of the floor. He’ll be the down force threat we need to open up space for everybody else.”
Ayton said earlier this offseason that he can see himself and Booker as being “Shaq and Kobe 2.0”. Well, I personally believe that Ayton will need a few years in the league to work on some of his weaker facets like shooting and defense, but once he improves on this, he’ll really be a force to reckon with.
On top of the Booker-Ayton dynamic duo, the team also obtained 10th overall pick Mikal Bridges from the Philadelphia 76ers. He’ll work alongside Booker and Ayton to bring the Suns back to the postseason.
Acquiring veteran Trevor Ariza was a smart move as well, as the team mostly has young and inexperienced players. Ariza is a seasoned player, playing 14 years in the league for 7 different franchises, and he’ll be able to share his knowledge and experience with the young roster. Players like Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender, and Marquese Chriss will also need to focus on improving their game to help bring the Suns to the next level.
The way I see it, the Suns are like the Lakers in that they have a bunch of young stars with great potential, as well as a few seasoned veterans to help guide the younger players onwards. Now, the Western Conference is tough and competitive, especially with teams like the Rockets, the Lakers, and the Warriors all battling it out. So that leaves me skeptical to see the Suns make the playoffs. At best, they may be a 7th or 8th seed, and at worst, they will at least improve upon last season’s record. I would give it 2-3 more years for all these young guys to reach their full potential until I can say for certain that the Suns will be back in the postseason.