Assessing This Phoenix Suns Roster Against Championship Expectations

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The trade deadline has come and gone and the Phoenix Suns did not make a major move. We have seen the competition get even stiffer as the Denver Nuggets (McGee & Gordon), Portland Trail Blazers (Powell) & Dallas Mavericks (Reddick) have both added quality pieces to their rotations. The Western Conference has just keeps getting deeper.

Still, sitting at 2nd in the West it's hard to argue that standing pat is the wrong choice. This Suns roster is balanced with seven players averaging double figures on the season. Much of the core is still so young that a lot of improvement can be expected internally. Then there are quality veterans like Galloway, Moore, Nader, and Kaminsky that can make an impact if called upon.

Take a look at the players averaging double figures this season:


Points Per Game

Devin Booker


Chris Paul


DeAndre Ayton


Mikal Bridges


Jae Crowder


Cam Johnson


Dario Saric


With that said, to be a legitimate championship contender that improvement and growth needs to happen quickly. It's been a while since Suns fans have witnessed this, but defensive rotations get crisper in the playoffs. Breakdowns and open shots are much harder to generate. This is why teams shorten their rotations from 10 players to 8 or even 7. Every play is crucial. The Suns will get a taste of that this season. It will help them mature and they will be better for it in years to come.

But how does this current roster stack up to recent Champions? I've compiled a list of the recent Championship teams. I listed every player averaging double figures in the regular season and then the ones that averaged double figures in the playoffs.


Regular Season Averages

Playoff Averages

2020 LA Lakers

Anthony Davis: 26.1

LeBron James: 25.3

Kyle Kuzma: 12.8

Dion Waters: 11.9

Anthony Davis: 27.7

LeBron James: 27.6

Kentavious Pope: 10.7

Kyle Kuzma: 10.0

2019 Toronto Raptors

Kawhi Leonard: 26.6

Pascal Siakam: 16.9

Serge Ibaka: 15.0

Kyle Lowry: 14.2

Jonas Valanciunas: 12.8

Fred Vanvleet: 11.0

Danny Green 10.3

Kawhi Leonard: 30.5

Pascal Siakam: 19.0

Kyle Lowry: 15.0

2018 GS Warriors

Kevin Durant: 26.4

Stephen Curry: 26.4

Klay Thompson: 20.0

Draymond Green: 11.0

Kevin Durant: 29.0

Stephen Curry: 25.5

Klay Thompson: 19.6

Draymond Green: 10.8

2014 GS Warriors

Stephen Curry: 23.8

Klay Thompson: 21.7

Draymond Green: 11.7

Mareese Speights: 10.4

Harrison Barnes: 10.1

Stephen Curry: 28.3

Klay Thompson: 18.6

Draymond Green: 13.7

Harrison Barnes: 10.6

Andre Iguodala: 10.4

2015 Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James: 25.3

Kyrie Irving: 19.6

Kevin Love: 16.0

Dahntay Jones: 13.0

JR Smith: 12.4

LeBron James: 26.3

Kyrie Irving: 25.2

Kevin Love: 14.7

JR Smith: 11.5

What takeaways can we come away with from these?

  • Every Superhero Needs A Sidekick
Every championship team with the exception of the Raptors had two 20ppg scorers throughout the regular season. Chris Paul is great. But there has not been a championship team where the second leading scorer was as low as Chris Paul is.

As noted, the Raptors are the exception. They did this in three ways; First, Kawhi Leonard took his game to a whole other level in the playoffs. Second, they had multiple veteran role players to steady the team in specific matchups. Third, Pascal Siakam made a considerable leap in production.

But we saw the players averaging double figures drop from seven to only three in the playoffs. Can the Suns replicate those results come playoff time? Is Booker ready to boost his scoring average from 25ppg to 30ppg like Kawhi did? Is the Suns supporting cast comparable to that Raptors squad?
  • The Stars Get Brighter While The Role Players Fade Away
This is the most glaring takeaway on the difference between regular season and the postseason. The stars up their game while the role players production slip or in some cases even disappears. In this respect, Chris Paul can be expected to increase his production in the playoffs. He is a proven veteran and desperately wants to win a title. I think playoff Paul will be much better than regular season Paul.

Can we expect the same from Booker? It will be a new experience for him. We have never seen Booker in the playoffs. I for one am a firm Booker believer. I suspect most on this site are as well. But it is worth noting we have seen stars fall off in the playoffs. Paul George is a recent example. He did excel in Indiana though, so last season might not be the whole story.

Also, I was not expecting to see that Klay Thompsons number in the postseason dipped. He is known to be a star, but every regular season his numbers were better than his playoff numbers. Likely this is due to less open shots in the playoffs and his teammates in Curry and Durant were dominating the ball more.

Finally, don’t be surprised to see the supporting casts production drop off in the playoffs. Championship caliber teams don’t have seven double digit scorers in the playoffs. Minutes get squeezed as days off between games, longer commercial breaks, and matchups mean everything. For a Suns team that has relied so heavily on depth throughout the year, that advantage can be marginalized simply by the nature of playoff basketball.

  • Keep an eye on Bridges and Ayton
If the discrepancy between the stars and role players grows in the playoffs, we will have an opportunity to see how Ayton and Mikal react. Will we see them up their production and rise to the occasion? Or will the lack of easy opportunities pull down their production?

We did see Kyrie Irving increase his scoring output in the Cavaliers championship run. Before LeBron, he was known as a talented offensive player, but he undoubtedly leapt to another level in the playoffs and established himself as a star.

Pascal Siakam made a similar leap in the Raptors championship run. He went from a lanky, talented player to earning a big contract and becoming the face of the franchise.

If this roster becomes a championship level team it will take growth internally. Those are the two most likely candidates. Sure Cam Johnson is capable of surprising us too. But he is much less likely to make that jump than the other two.