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16 Game Review: Suns Playoff Grades

16 games are in the books, so let’s take a peek at where everyone on the roster stands thus far.

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

16 games are officially in the books. The Phoenix Suns have won 12 of those 16 games and is the only team that has not faced an elimination game once this postseason.

We have a little bit of time to kill while we wait on the Bucks-Hawks series to conclude, so I figured now would be an opportune time to review the players one-by-one.

We will hand out grades along with statistical breakdowns to each key contributor thus far.

Suns Playoff Run Team Stats

  • Record: 12-4
  • Plus/Minus: +7.0
  • Field Goal Percent: 47.8%
  • Three-Point Percent: 37.3%
  • Free-Throw Percent: 86.2%
  • True Shooting Percent: 58.3%
  • Offensive Rating: 113.6
  • Defensive Rating: 106.7
  • Net Rating: +6.9
  • AST/TO ratio: 2.13

Now we move on to the grades, organized in tiers. This is mostly based on production, but there is some “relative to expectations” measured in as well.

Tier 1: Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker, Chris Paul

The Big 3. These three have been the Suns’ best players throughout this run without a doubt. Deandre Ayton’s steady play complemented by the scoring outbursts from the backcourt to close-out games has been the perfect combination of roles and responsibilities meshing together seamlessly.

Deandre Ayton

  • Grade: A+
  • Stats: 16.2 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 0.9 BPG, 70.6 FG%, +6.2 net rating.

No, the field goal percentage is not a typo. While Ayton may not have the incredible peaks that Paul and Booker had to take over and close games out, his consistency has been the Suns’ saving grace. Having a 22-year-old bring this kind of reliability and intensity on both ends has been a game-changer.

The Valley Oop was one of the most thrilling moments in franchise history as well, he’s just truly had his fingers all over so many of their wins I cannot overstate how crucial his play has been throughout this run.

Devin Booker

  • Grade: A
  • Stats: 27.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 4.8 APG, 56.6 TS%, 91.3 FT%,+7.6 net rating.

Booker fought through occasional struggles against defensive schemes specifically designed to slow him down yet still put together a historically good stat-line for a 24-year-old in their first playoff run.

He’s been the workhorse for this team as they’ve withstood the injuries + health and safety protocols to Chris Paul and Cameron Payne in large part to Booker holding down the fort. He also played through a broken nose which cannot be comfortable. Make no mistake, the Suns are not here without him.

Chris Paul

  • Grade: A
  • Stats: 18.1 PPG, 8.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 47.0 FG%, 40.5 3PFG%, 90.6 FT%, 8.3 net rating.

The Lakers series can be mostly forgotten given the circumstances (shoulder injury). What I’ll remember the most from Paul was his dominance in the Denver series and putting on the finishing touches against his former team in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.

His Game 6 performance against the Clippers was one for the ages, and it should solidify his legacy in the playoffs for years to come, especially if the Suns win it all. Chris will appear in his first NBA Finals and I’m looking forward to what he puts together to complete this run.

Tier 2: Cameron Payne, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Cam Johnson

Cameron Payne

  • Grade: A-
  • Stats: 10.1 PPG, 3.8 APG, 2.5 RPG, 36.4 3PFG%, 93.8 FT%, +9.4 net rating.

Payne has been incredible off the bench for Phoenix and was a major reason they were able to stay afloat in the Lakers series when Paul was not his usual stellar self. Along with that, during the Clippers series, he provided a huge offensive punch when they needed him most with Paul sidelined to COVID protocols.

The ankle injury led to him missing a game and some shaky play upon his return, but the burst and confidence looked much better to close the series out, which is great news for Suns fans.

Mikal Bridges

  • Grade: B-
  • Stats: 10.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 46.8 FG%, +6.3 net rating.

Mikal is still doing all of the little things and chasing around the toughest assignments night in and night out, but even he would admit there’s room for improvement offensively. The confidence wavered a bit at times which ultimately led to some very quiet scoring outputs.

This grade is relative to my (and many others’) expectations for Mikal heading into the playoffs, as he’s been what some would call a disappointment. We should not take for granted what he brings to the table defensively each game, but on the other side of the floor, the Suns will need him to be a more consistent threat.

Jae Crowder

  • Grade: B-
  • Stats: 10.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.9 APG, 58.7 TS%, +10.3 net rating.

Crowder had a very rough start to the playoffs against the Lakers to the point where Suns fans were calling to bench him. He quickly proved that line of thinking wrong, busting out of a shooting slump in a big way.

The defense, toughness, leadership, and intangibles he brings to the table are priceless. You can live with the hit-or-miss shooting if he brings those aforementioned qualities to the table on a nightly basis.

Cameron Johnson

  • Grade: B-
  • Stats: 8.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 70.3 TS%, 88.7% FT, +2.0 net rating.

Johnson had a few nice moments here and there and really hit his stride in the Clippers series prior to missing Game 6 due to food poisoning. Jackson Frank wrote a great piece that touches on his contributions during their series win over the Clippers, where he excelled.

As Frank notes, “Although he missed Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals due to a non-COVID illness, he was essential to the Suns during the initial five games, averaging 10.8 points, four rebounds, and 1.2 steals on a scorching 86.2 percent true shooting (.700/.529/1.000 split) in 23.8 minutes per night.

Tier 3: Torrey Craig

Torrey Craig

  • Grade: B-
  • Stats: 4.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 44% 3PFG, +11.8 net rating, 101.2 defensive rating.

Craig’s defensive versatility, hustle, and all-around tenacious attitude have been a welcome addition to the Suns’ rotation all season long. That has not changed during this playoff run. Torrey has posted the best defensive rating on the team (amongst their rotation pieces) at a sparkling 101.2 and leads the team outright in net rating at +11.8. While these numbers aren’t everything, it speaks volumes to see him at the top of each list.

He just missed tier 2 due to the smaller sample size, so he gets his own tier.

Tier 4: Dario Saric

  • Grade: C
  • Stats: 4.8 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.1 APG, 62.8 TS%, +11.0 net rating.

Do I feel comfortable when he’s on the court? No. Has it been all bad? Also no.

He is trying! That, I’ll give him... we need more good Dario, please and thank you.

Tier 5: E’Twaun Moore, Frank Kaminsky, Abdel Nader, everyone else.

Grade(s): D+

It’s been an impressive run that every Suns fan should be soaking in right now, but the job is not done. 4 more wins. Whatever it takes.

Comment below with your pick on who you think needs to step up the most in the NBA Finals.

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