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Who is most to blame for the Phoenix Suns Playoff Meltdown? We weigh in…

The staff weighs in and not surprisingly disagree with each other.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Phoenix Suns Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s a bitter (no “sweet”) time for all Phoenix Suns fans, still recovering from the game 7 — though you’re well within your right to include game 6 in that — meltdown vs the Dallas Mavericks.

As sort of a therapy session for the Bright Side staff, we’ll each talk you through who’s most to blame for the postseason collapse.

Writer: John Voita

James Jones: 20%. James Jones put together a roster that won 64 regular season games. He did his part to put them in a position to be successful. But for the second consecutive season, he didn’t make any substantial moves at the trade deadline that would’ve fortified the team’s championship aspirations.

Monty Williams: 50%. The lack of adjustments by Monty, coupled with the fact that he played a hampered Chris Paul and did not take advantage of an Ayton mismatch that could have dominated the series, lost the series for the Suns.

The Suns Backcourt: 29%. 0-11 in the first half of a Game 7. 7-22 overall. Devin Booker and Chris Paul combined for one of the most historic choke jobs we’ve ever seen. The two combined for a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio in the series. Pathetic.

Me: 1%. For believing that this year would be any different. I’m at fault for once again allowing myself to become emotionally wrapped in the expectations.

Writer: Dave King

Assigning blame feels punitive and unnecessary — like kicking someone when they’re down — but at the end of the season you really do need to assess what went right/wrong and who should be credited for it.

Any ‘blame’ is on the margins for the franchise’s best regular season and back-to-back years winning at least one playoff round — a feat not accomplished in Phoenix in 15 years.

James Jones: 10% of whatever blame there is to go around. Jones put together an excellent ‘system’ team of role players around a pair of star ball handlers, but the undersized Landry Shamet is not a proven playoff player off the bench and the Suns needed a better option at combo guard to supplement Book and CP. Ultimately, Shamet and Payne lived up to their reputations (not good enough) rather than exceeding them. I don’t his handling of Deandre Ayton’s contract had any impact on the 2021-22 season, but part of that was DA himself not making it a big problem. That could have gone very poorly.

Monty Williams: 30%. He’s the well-deserved Coach of the Year, yet he and his staff failed to address the Mavericks schemes in the second round of the playoffs, culminating in the demoralization of the team, 60 points in losses the last two games and the ugliest Game 7 performance in NBA history. Ahead of the game, Monty expressed no recognition that the team would shit the bed on Sunday yet their energy and commitment to basketball was the worst I have ever seen.

Devin Booker and Chris Paul: 40%. Your two All-Star, All-NBA guards FAILED TO MAKE A BASKET until the team was down 40 points in Game 7. They also combined for only 3 assists against 4 turnovers in that time, so it’s not like they were setting up their teammates for success. Sure, everyone missed shots but there was little attempt by the All-Star playmakers to create the best possible shot on every possession. The Mavericks played good, but not ‘hold one of the league’s best offenses to 27 first half points’ good. CP and Book combined to shoot 0% on 12 of the team’s 46 shot attempts before the deficit got to 40.

Ayton, Bridges, Johnson and others: 20%. These guys are your role players, so they’re not supposed to be the reason you win or lose when Monty, CP and Book perform as badly as they did. Yet, it would have been nice to see the team’s 3rd-or-worse best player go off like Spencer Dinwiddie (30 points). I know many of you will question my take as ‘DA is a role player’ but you really know he is. He doesn’t get to handle the ball every possession like those other guys, and can’t pass to himself. These non-All-Star players combined to shoot 35% on 34 shot attempts before the deficit got to 40.

Writer: Kenneth Manoj

James Jones: 30%. While the Suns have Jones to thank for building most of this core, Jones must be held to the extremely high standards that come with claiming you’re a true championship contender. My main gripe would be on rolling back with practically the same bench unit they had last year, which was proven to be thin on skill, size, and scoring capability. Jones did well to address size, but he did not address the bench’s inability to create buckets for themselves and the bench’s ineptitude on defense. Cam Payne and Landry Shamet did well during the regular season, but come playoff time they were proven to be defensive liabilities and could not provide the spark off the bench offensively either. Jones did not make the necessary moves at the trade deadline and honestly, the team’s draft record during his tenure hasn’t been that good either.

Monty Williams: 10%. Monty is to thank for the 64 wins. He had this squad firing on all cylinders for months and his steady hand was exactly the presence this team needed. But his inability to get his team to respond aggressively and seriously during the Pelicans series foreshadowed the collapse against the Mavericks. Monty was not the source of the team’s arrogance, but it was his job to sniff that out and snuff it out.

Devin Booker and Chris Paul: 10%. As explained by Dave and John above, Booker and Paul were garbage in Games 6 and 7, and they must take the blame as leaders of the team. Yes, Paul had a fantastic Round 1, and Booker had been outstanding in Games 1, 2, 4 and 5. But no one will remember those performances. Everyone will remember how they played in Games 6 and 7

Suns’ Regular Season Hubris: 50%. There is a thin line between taking pride in your regular-season record and being arrogant about it. The Suns’ proved throughout the course of the playoffs that they did not understand this. Allowing the Pelicans’ series to go to six should have been the wake-up call. Allowing the Mavericks to tie the series at 2-2 should’ve been the RED ALERT, MAYDAY, TAKE THIS TEAM SERIOUSLY! But alas, the Suns seemed to continuously bank on their success in the regular season as proof that they knew how good they are and knew how much better they were than the rest of the league. It was Monty’s job to break it, Booker and Paul certainly fed this arrogance as well. But this was shared by the entire team and allowing it to fester in the first place is the fault of the group, not just its leaders.

Writer: Kyle Glazier

James Jones: 0%. James Jones put together an excellent squad that went 64-18 this season while being top five on both ends of the floor. The team then won its first playoff series even though its leading scorer missed three of the six games. The Suns were good enough to win a championship this season, they just didn’t, and that isn’t on the GM.

Monty Williams: 30%. Monty Williams was extremely ineffective as a playoff coach this season. The Suns were able to overcome it in the first round, but his failure to gameplan for the Suns’ obvious interior advantage over Dallas is inexcusable. He also appeared to completely fail to motivate and manage his squad, culminating in an ugly public falling out with Deandre Ayton.

Devin Booker and Chris Paul: 50%. These two guys walk with a lot of swagger, talk a ton of trash, make an obscene amount of money, and just plain blew it this series. As much as Monty Williams failed to rally the Suns, so did Book and CP3. They also both played mediocre to badly for the most part, including just not showing up at all in Game 7.

Deandre Ayton: 10%. Ayton has a legitimate gripe with both his head coach and his backcourt for not making a better effort to utilize him against the Mavericks...but Ayton is no blameless victim here. He played passively, which is on-brand for him, and seemed content to cede his rightful offensive role to Jae Crowder and some bench players. Ayton’s pedestrian 16/8 line in this series (despite being guarded by Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber) is a team failing, but Ayton is very much part of that team.

Everyone else: 10%. Teams win and lose together, so every Sun has to accept some level of blame for this humiliation. Mikal Bridges probably deserves the lion’s share of this 10% because he played pretty poorly in this series. Despite his chest-thumping reputation as a lockdown defender, he got schooled by Luka Doncic numerous times and was deadweight on offense. Cam Payne is an honorable mention, he was terrible.

Writer: Damon Allred

I’m not normally the type to spend much time focusing on who or what to blame, since I’m more of a “looking forward” type of person, but I felt now’s an especially good time to do just that.

A big part of that is the blindsided nature that all of us fans feel about that end to the series. It was just so uncharacteristic of this team and this program to just completely fall flat on their faces in the biggest moments of the season.

James Jones: 40%. I’m reminded of the trade deadline just three long months ago when the Suns had reportedly all the opportunities in the world to improve the roster, whether it be Eric Gordon, Thad Young, or otherwise. Not to mention the Jalen Smith debacle juxtaposed with the successes of players like Devin Vassell or Tyrese Haliburton, taken just one and two picks respectively after the Suns selected Smith in 2020.

Monty Williams: 20%. He clearly did not make the necessary adjustments to help get opportunities for Booker and Ayton especially. I’m also quite bothered by him leaving Paul in when clearly not right, chronicled well by John Voita here. But also, why did the defensive looks that the Suns were giving Doncic never change? Many of the best basketball minds have said that the best way to limit a great offensive player is to show them a mixed bag of looks, and the Suns just never did that.

Chris Paul: 10%. It’s frankly pretty hard to blame someone who’s injured, but he still had a lot of weird processing moments throughout the final five games of the series; his assist to turnover ratio was 5.6 to 3.8 over that stretch, and he turned down open looks from three quite often.

Devin Booker: 10%. I don’t think Booker did much wrong in the series if you ignore the 4.8 turnovers per game over the final 5, as well as the 9-31 shooting over the final two.

Deandre Ayton: 10%. What a debacle of a final series, and possibly final games with Phoenix. While on one hand, I’m kinda with him on the whole “I can’t pass myself the ball” thing, he also turned the ball over pretty frequently when they did feed him, or he went up to the rim too soft. I’m ready to part ways, hopefully in a sign-and-trade, so that the Suns don’t lose him for nothing.

Twins — Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson: 10%. We expected offensive jumps from both this season, and while they showed it for stretches in the regular season, neither materialized for more than a game or two max during the playoffs. Next season, they both have to be more consistent on that end.

Writer: Tom Aizenberg

One of the most fun aspects of recapping an underwhelming season is the blame game. While not an effective means to improve or even necessarily the smart way to look at basketball it is objectively fun and hilarious at times.

James Jones: 5%. I don’t really think Jones did anything wrong here but he could have improved the team more at the deadline or in the offseason rather than making JaVale McGee your signature addition.

The 4-15 and Monty Williams: 5%. Monty won coach of the year for a reason, I don’t think it’s his fault that his star players underperformed repeatedly. The role players (Bridges and on) could have played better for sure but again they are role players. There are bigger fish to fry.

Devin Booker: 20%. The Suns’ best player and supposedly the best shooting guard in the league (I still believe this) had three games with under 20 points in this series (all losses) including the pitiful 11-point game 7 which includes primarily stat padding. The game was far beyond gone by the time Booker made his first shot.

Chris Paul: 20%. Not as talented as Booker but equal blame because of how bad Paul played in the last 4 games. Booker had three bad games but Paul had four horrendous games and all in a row. In the first two games, Paul scored 47 total points. In the last FIVE GAMES, Paul scored 47 points. That doesn’t even feel possible. Even for a low-volume shooter like Paul. Embarrassing. Not to mention 7.6 combined turnovers and fouls per game over those last 5. His season average is only 4.5

Deandre Ayton: 20%. People forget this man was a NUMBER ONE OVERALL PICK. Not number 8. Not number 15. UNO! Number one picks are expected to be at the low end, all stars. At the LOW end. Ayton averaged a measley 15 points in this series against below average center Dwight Powell and 6’8 forward Maxi Kleber. Are you kidding me?? And he wants a supermax?? No way!

I know what you’re thinking. “This doesn’t add up to 100% and there’s no more Suns blame to go around. What is that last 30%?”

Ryan McDonough: 30%. Drafting Deandre Ayton over Luka Doncic. Luka had more than double the points Ayton had, 15x as many steals, 12 more rebounds, 7x as many assists and only two fewer blocks. Luka schooled Ayton in every category and all the Suns had to do was pick him.

How about you, Bright Side? Spread the blame around in the comments.

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