Confidence is certainly not a scarce attribute within the Suns’ camp.
The team didn’t reach the pinnacle of success that they wanted to after riding a shockwave of extraordinary feats to the last possible set of games that any team can compete in last year. But that hasn’t drained their collective morale as they look forward to continued excellence on the horizon.
It was a historic year rife with spectacles like no other during 2020-21 in the Valley.
James Jones earned a deserved Executive of the Year bid. Monty Williams was tabbed as the best coach league-wide amongst his peers in the annual NBCA election (he finished second in the league’s official vote).
But the guys who match basketball wits and athleticism on the court were the true jet fuel behind the team’s seismic eruption, and the epicenter to it all was none other than sir Chris Paul.
Paul, who turned 36 in May, injected an already potent young Suns group with a needed veteran’s presence and IQ, serving as the air pump behind their inflation into a potential juggernaut in the West for the next few years — that is of course, if he’s able to stay healthy.
Nonetheless, something special is brewing in the Valley, and the Suns are fully confident that the guys who brought them to the Finals last year can steal them a Larry O’Brien trophy sooner rather than later.
Their calm moxie in free agency is wholly evidencing that.
Phoenix’s first priority once the free agent floodgates opened was no secret. They’d be phoning the basketball gods in search of their coveted headman — the point God, CP3.
CP3’s asking price though, was not going to be cheap, and though the final contractual number was notably steep — a four-year, $120 million deal that will pay Paul until he’s 40 — the Suns were quick to shower him the necessary moneybags that would keep him in town.
What followed were a slew of re-signings to supplement the blockbuster contract.
Abdel Nader, Cameron Payne, and most recently, Frank Kaminsky all re-upped with PHX in relatively cheap deals that will fulfill clear needs, bolster their locker room — and most importantly — keep their homegrown talent in-house.
The only outside suitor who’s joined the first-rate Suns’ brigade as a free agent: Javale McGee, a 7’0 three-time champ whose resume as a board-gobbler and rim-protector more than speaks for itself.
Free agent center JaVale McGee has reached an agreement with the Phoenix Suns on a one-year, $5 million deal, league sources tell @YahooSports.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) August 3, 2021
Aside from McGee, who's already building camaraderie with new teammate Devin Booker at the Tokyo Olympics, Phoenix’s free agent direction has largely remained centripetal.
The majority of their available funds have already been dispersed in the aforementioned deals, and with a nearly dry spring of water in their well of dividends, they’ve been relegated to negotiating bargains through either trade, or with a veteran’s minimum salary as financial enticement.
Very few quality free agents are available who will except sums of this degree.
Phoenix’s track record thus far is revealing this: they’re mostly satisfied with who’s currently employed in-house, and believe they already have the pieces (save for a few unfilled roster spots to batten down) to consistently compete for a championship.
Deandre Ayton’s playoff stretch put him in circles with the likes of Hall of Fame centers as he posted eye-popping scoring and rebounding numbers (including converting nearly 80% of his at-the-rim attempts through the WCF) that cemented him as an efficiency-aficionado.
Look for his surge to continue to swell as year four beckons.
Both members of the two-headed “Cam” monster (Cam Payne, Cam Johnson) each established invaluable roles themselves. The former is now a reliable ball-handler and playmaker who can shift the needle and ignite his team with quick-hit scoring flurries, and energetic hustle plays.
The latter lit up the three-point arc during the postseason (44.6% rate), while flashing potential brilliance as a cutter, defender and inside finisher.
Jae Crowder’s spot as a 3-and-D stalwart, and spirited roughrider is unwavering, and Dario Saric provides spacing + rim presence as a backup big that perfectly complements Phoenix’s bench platoon.
Devin Booker’s scoring prowess is unmatched, and his calm self-assurance when the lights are brightest sets him apart as a rare jewel with room to shimmer brighter as the 24-year old continues to develop.
And Chris Paul is determined to right the wrongs of a haunting 2020, while acting a guiding elderly spirit to coax his incipient mainstays.
James Jones and company may have made the lightest splash of contending teams in the pond of available ballers.
But that doesn’t seem to faze the Suns. They’re comfortable with what they have, and unworried about what they don’t.
And unless an arctic cold front sweeps through the Valley and cools the city to unbearable temperatures, this team will remain warm and giddy inside, with confidence that they’ll be back and better than ever.