Suns

Suns Need to Shift Focus to Improving Next Season

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When the NBA suspended its season, the Phoenix Suns were playing .400 ball. They were just 26-39 and on a 4-6 stretch. Nothing to proclaim and nowhere near the playoffs. They were the thirteenth seed in the West and six games behind the eighth seed with just seventeen games to go.

Chances are, they have played their last game of the season. If and when the league comes back, the focus will be squarely on the playoffs. They may make time for two or three regular-season games just to help the players get in the groove, but teams like the Suns can’t expect anything more than that.

Another Lost Season

This season started with a lot of promise, and fans were convinced this team was for real! Even I fell for it again. Deandre Ayton’s 25-game suspension hit them right away, though, and was the first sign of trouble. The season never quite took off from there. They have dealt with their fair share of injuries and have not been able to get into a flow. Even after Ayton returned from his suspension, a nasty ankle injury set him back again.

The Suns have not had the entire roster healthy for more than a handful of games. Considering all these problems, the Suns have found themselves outside the playoff hunt again, in the midst lack of another lost season. They didn’t even have many highlights. Aron Baynes’ nine  3-pointer game was one of the final positives before the season shut down.

The best part of their season so far might have been their innovative idea to simulate and broadcast games virtually. The Suns have been doing this ever since the season went on hiatus. It’s been entertaining to follow their broadcasts of NBA 2K video games via Twitch. They have adhered to the original schedule and handle these broadcasts like real games. Good thinking!

What’s Left For This Season?

As far as the real games go, what can the Suns expect and look forward to if the season does restart? Ayton’s skills and development are at the very top of the wish list. He was developing well as the calendar flipped to 2020. While he is no Luka Doncic, he has shown signs of establishing himself as a star on both ends of the floor. Highlights like these should be a positive sight for any Suns fan:

You can see several elements of his game in that video at both ends, which were not in his repertoire last year. In the unlikely event of this regular season restarting and providing us with the full seventeen games, the Suns would be thrilled to see him improve.

The other exciting part of the last several games was Mikal Bridges and his evolution. He is one of the most versatile players on the Suns’ roster, and was also developing when the season stalled. His shot is getting better, and he doesn’t need the ball to contribute on offense. His 7-1 wingspan on defense is the real killer, though. This has allowed him to establish himself as one of the top perimeter defenders in the league. It’s great for the Suns that he has arrived and is now deserving of substantial minutes. He can stay on the court and seamlessly contribute in many different ways.

Return of the Vets

As for the vets, Kelly Oubre Jr. might be able to return from his knee surgery if the games are on. He was having the best season of his career and looked every bit like the essential asset for the future that we projected. As for the face of the franchise Devin Booker, he can engineer a different kind of comeback. While he has had an extremely efficient and successful season overall, he was in the middle of a slump when the season hit pause. The dog days of the NBA season seemed to have gotten to the first time all-star. Can we blame Book after another lost season? Regardless, it would be good to see him finish the season strong and lead this core to bigger and better things.

The Future is Still Bright

The bottom line is, this is still the Suns’ best season in five years. They have won more games than the previous four years, even with 17 games to go. Coach Monty Williams has established a decent culture, and it sure seems like the start of something good. They share the ball, play for each other, and look like a cohesive unit. Ricky Rubio brings stability and creativity to the point guard position that helps everybody. The core of Booker, Ayton, Oubre, and Bridges is worth getting excited about. The shooting of rookie Cam Johnson is nothing to dismiss either and fits perfectly next to that core and Rubio.

We are all tired of talking about the future when it comes to the Phoenix Suns. However, this roster is a better collection of talent and chemistry than we have seen in the last four years. It took almost the entire season for some of these pieces to emerge and gel, but it looks promising now. Like I mentioned before, the Suns won’t get their regular season back. We will all be lucky if we get even a couple more regular-season games this season. The NBA is hoping it can at least reboot the season with the playoffs. So, the Suns need to focus on 2020-21. They need to invest in the core and build around it. That’s what’s on their agenda for this spring and summer.

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About Aravind Srinivasan

Aravind loves two things- the NBA and writing. He has been a long-time Phoenix Suns fans since the Charles Barkley-Kevin Johnson era of the mid-90’s. He now lives in the Golden State and follows the Warriors closely. An avid sports and NBA blogger since the early days of blogging, he is now a Suns and Dubs writer for TLSM. His favourite Sun is Steve Nash and his favourite Warrior is Steph Curry. Twitter: @15cent

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