They say that hindsight is 20/20. Seeing as the Phoenix Suns have been eliminated from playoffs much earlier than many expected, we now have the luxury of going back and looking at the “why”. Plenty of time to look at the hindsight. Why did this team not succeed? What prevented them from achieving the goals they set for themselves? Why did the best team in the NBA embarrassingly choke in historical fashion?
As I ponder the ups and the downs, the “what ifs” and “why didn’t’ we’s”, I continually find myself landing in my headspace during the trade deadline. Although I made a push for adding Josh Hart, I was always in the camp of consistency and chemistry when it came to the trade deadline discussions.
The way the Phoenix Suns performed this season was more than impressive; it was historic. The manner in which the team succeeded, executed, and won games in crunch time left little space for growth, at least in my opinion. As the trade deadline approached I did not think there was anything that this team needed to compromise that chemistry.
It appears that James Jones thought much of the same.
He did make a couple of minor tweaks. He added Aaron Holiday for cash considerations. Interesting, seeing as the Suns already had a backup point guard in Cameron Payne and a backup to the backup in Elfrid Payton. Just like the 2021 trade deadline season, Jones made a transaction to acquire Torrey Craig. He did so in 2021, which many of us thought was a steal.
In 2021, even as he added another wing defender to that Phoenix Suns roster, the true Achilles’ heel for the Phoenix Suns was not addressed. The team lacked interior size and depth. Knowing that the team would have to face off against Western Conference teams with bigs like the Los Angeles Lakers (who had Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, and Marc Gasol) or Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets, it was one glaring weakness the Suns had.
I had hoped that they would’ve played the buyout market, making plays at players like JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo. Their moves that James Jones eventually made, but far too late.
The Suns entered the NBA Finals and could not throw enough bodies at Giannis Antetokounmpo. He mauled the Phoenix front line, and proved that he is the best player on the planet. Despite the Suns being up 2-0 in the series, they withered and faltered, ultimately losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in 6.
One season later we are left with the same narrative. The moves that James Jones didn’t make might have ultimately cost him a championship. This is where the other side of that camp comes in.
Many believed that a third shot-making creator was the missing piece for the Phoenix Suns for the 2022 postseason run. Jones had addressed the depth and size on the interior, but additions such as Landry Shamet and Elfrid Payton did not address the need to buffer against any Chris Paul (or Devin Booker related injuries.
Chris Paul is many, many things. He is the Point God. He’s a Hall of Famer. He’s 12 time All-Star, 10 time All-NBA, and 9 time All-Defensive player. And he is fragile. Knowing this was a potential weakness of the Suns, and with names like Eric Gordon available, James Jones had the opportunity to solidify his roster and make a run at finally delivering Phoenix a championship.
“The don’t mess with the chemistry” crowd at the trade deadline were (and always have been) on the wrong side of history.— Zona (@ZonaHoops_) May 11, 2022
The one catch? Reportedly, the Rockets want a first-round pick. Jones did want to part with that pick, Eric Gordon remained in H-Town, and the Suns carried on.
Again, hindsight is 20/20.
The Phoenix Suns entered the playoffs and almost instantly could have used Gordon. Devin Booker was injured in Game 2 of the First Round against the New Orleans Pelicans. After a devastating loss in the Semifinals, Chris Paul reportedly had a quad injury.
Once again, James Jones’ inability to improve his roster at the trade deadline potentially cost him and his team a chance at the Larry O’Brien trophy.
I revert back to my feelings at the trade deadline, noting the chemistry that this team possessed. I didn’t think that anybody could beat it. It appears that neither did James Jones. He failed his team and this franchise in two consecutive years by not giving them the tools necessary to win.