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Center of the Sun: The Suns will likely still be able to count on CP3 next season but only so far

Your weekly roundup of Suns news, rumors, notes and videos from the prior week plus a preview of the week to come.

NBA: Playoffs-Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

I was reading an article on Chris Paul on the RealGM site a few days ago that highlighted something about CP3 that’s been in the back of my mind for a while. Despite all of his skill, talent and high basketball IQ, he’s almost always been the smallest player on the court. As they say, he’s “generously” listed at 6 feet tall and 175 pounds. The average NBA player is 6’6” and 214 lbs and the average NBA point guard is 6’2.5” and 192 lbs.

No matter how good a player is, going up against taller, heavier players every night over a long 82 game season is going to take a physical toll on anyone... especially a 37 year old with lots of miles already on his personal odometer. CP3 has the reputation of breaking down physically at the end of the season and it should be no surprise to anyone that it happened again. There’s a reason that they have different weight classes in boxing and you don’t see featherweights duking it out with heavyweights. No matter how good he is on the court, in the NBA Chris Paul is still physically a featherweight compared to virtually everyone he plays against night after night.

Counting on CP3 to make it though this past season healthy and play at his best throughout the playoffs was what the Suns hoped for. To expect him to be able to do that was just wishful thinking though. Back during all the bad seasons the Suns went through, I learned quickly that crossing your fingers and wishing upon a star really has no effect on whatever it is you’re hoping for. It certainly didn’t get CP3 through either of his two seasons with the Suns completely healthy. He’s been doing everything possible to stay in tip-top condition and extend his career but nothing he or anyone else did was ever going to be 100% effective.

Some might wonder if I’m trying to lay the blame for the Suns’ playoff failure at CP3’s feet but that’s not the case at all. He gave everything he had and at 37 it wasn’t his fault that he is not as durable as we needed him to be. The failure was in counting on him to be at or at least near 100% physically throughout the season. At his small physical size, that’s what he’s always needed to best utilize his great talent and play at a high level against much taller and heavier competition in the NBA. That’s just extremely unlikely and the front office either didn’t realize this or more likely just crossed their fingers and hoped for the best, neither of which are really acceptable.

Counting on Cam Payne as CP3’s primary backup also proved to be a mistake. As much as I’ve liked Payne in the past, he’s only 1 inch taller than CP3, just 8 pounds heavier and doesn’t have nearly the talent, skillset or BBIQ that Paul has. The only thing he has over CP3 is younger legs but he was even less durable throughout the regular season than Paul (CP15 missed 24 regular season games vs CP3’s 17 games missed).

CP3 is almost certainly going to remain with Phoenix next season and the problem with his durability is likely only going to get worse. Cam Payne is not the answer to shoring up the PG position and Aaron Holiday (6 ft tall, 185 lbs) isn’t likely to be it either. Elf certainly isn’t and likely won’t be back with the Suns in 2022-23. The Suns need to find someone young and certainly at least a little bit bigger than CP3 to be his backup next season, preferably someone who also might at least might have the potential to take over the starting PG role at some point down the line.

That definitely won’t fix all of the problems that led to the Suns’ playoff meltdown this year but not addressing it during this offseason would likely only set the stage for another disappointing end to the 2022-23 season.

2021-22 Season Highlights




Quotes of the Week

“When you do everything that you can and it don’t work out, then you got to be at peace with it.” - Chris Paul

“I’m not going to change my approach to team building, which is to create and construct a team that has a ton of depth, a ton of skill and great chemistry” - James Jones

“I explore all options, so if there’s an opportunity to get back in the draft, we will.” - James Jones

“I’m not sure whether it’s next season or the one after, but it (luxury tax) is definitely coming and we know that’s coming so we see ourselves as a taxpayer. That’s just part of what it’s going to take to try to bring home a championship.” - James Jones

News & Notes

The Phoenix Suns’ Current Players’ Status For The 2022-23 Season: Chris Paul And Devin Booker Are Locked In, But Deandre Ayton Could Leave The Valley Of The Sun. Fade Away World

Deandre Ayton’s future with the Suns is the biggest question of NBA free agency. SBNation

Suns Playoff Demise and Ayton’s Contract Situation Reasons For Concern In Phoenix. Sports Illustrated

What Chris Paul Can’t Do. RealGM

Charles Barkley blasts those who expect Chris Paul to be the same player the guard once was. Ahn Fire Digital

Deandre Ayton ‘did not feel valued’ by Suns, is expected to receive max offer as free agent, per report. CBS Sports

Examining potential sign-and-trade destinations for Deandre Ayton. Basketball News

How The Suns Came Crashing Down To Earth. FiveThirtyEight

Chris Paul after Suns’ Game 7 collapse against Mavericks: ‘It’s tough’. Andscape

The Suns and Their Season Succumbed to the Terror of Luka Doncic. Sports Illustrated

This Week in Suns History

On May 23, 1976, the Suns played in their first ever NBA Finals game against the Celtics in Boston. The Suns put up 22 more field goal attempts than the Celtics (99-77) but an uncharacteristic poor shooting night for the Suns (38.4% vs 47.2% FG percentage season average) plus being outscored 20-11 at the free throw line led to a 98-87 loss to the Celtics. It was also the only game of the series in which Paul Westphal (8 points on 4 of 17 shooting) failed to score in double digits.

On May 23, 1984, the Suns defeated the LA Lakers 126-121 in LA in Game-5 of the Western Conference Finals to cut the Lakers’ series lead to 3-2. All five of the Suns’ starters - Kyle Macy, Walter Davis, Maurice Lucas, Larry Nance and James Edwards - scored 20+ points in this game with Macy, Davis and Lucas all playing 40+ minutes (and Nance was close with 39 mins). Sadly, their series comeback attempt would be cut short when they lost the following game in Phoenix 99-97 on May 25.

On May 25, 1993, newly acquired Sun Charles Barkley won the Maurice Podoloff Trophy as the 1993 NBA Most Valuable Player. Barkley helped lead the Phoenix Suns to a then franchise and NBA-best 62-20 record during the 1992-93 season and averaged 25.6 points, 12.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 76 games.

On May 28, 1974, the Phoenix Suns drafted future 9-time NBA All-Star and eventual Basketball Hall of Fame member George Gervin with the 40th pick in the 3rd round of the NBA Draft. Gervin was however already playing in the old ABA and elected to stay there with the San Antonio Spurs instead of jumping to the NBA to play for the Suns. Gervin was originally signed to play in the ABA for the Virginia Squires in 1973 by Johnny “Red” Kerr... formerly the first head coach of the Suns in 1968-69 and 1969-70.

Classic Suns Highlights

Walter Davis 27 points/10 assists vs. Lakers (1984 WCF Game 5)

Charles Barkley Was A BEAST In His Prime! 1992-93 MVP Season Highlights

Suns Trivia

Back in 2018, after many poor seasons, the Suns slipped from 4th in all-time win/loss percentage in the NBA to 7th. They remained there - barely - until this season when their recent return to winning ways over the last two seasons boosted them back up to 5th in all-time win/loss percentage.

Mikal Bridges is the 1st Suns player to make an NBA All-Defensive team since Raja Bell was named to the 2nd team in 2007-08 and 1st Suns player to make the All-Defensive first team since 2006-07 (also Raja Bell).

Devin Booker has scored in double figures in all 32 of his career playoff games. His career playoff PPG average is 26.06 which is 2nd on the Suns’ all-time leaders list behind only Charles Barkley’s 26.52 ppg playoff average as a Sun.

Chris Paul finished this season with 275 career steals in the playoffs which places him at 13th on the NBA’s all-time leaders list in total playoff steals.

Important Future Dates

June 2 - NBA Finals begin.

June 23 - NBA Draft.

June 29 - Final day for teams to make qualifying offers to restricted free agents.

June 30 - Teams can begin negotiating with free agents at 6:00 pm ET.

July 1 - Official start of the 2022/23 NBA league year. Moratorium period begins. Restricted free agents can sign an offer sheet. Teams can begin signing players to rookie scale contracts, minimum salary contracts, and two-way contracts. Teams can begin exercising the third- or fourth-year team options for 2023/24 on rookie scale contracts.

July 6 - Free agency moratorium period ends (10:01 am ET). Teams can begin officially signing players, extending players, and completing trades. The two-day period for matching an RFA offer sheet signed during the moratorium begins.

July 7-17 - NBA Summer League (Las Vegas).

July 13 - Last day for teams to unilaterally withdraw qualifying offers to restricted free agents.

August 31 - Last day for teams to waive players and apply the stretch provision to their 2022/23 salaries.

September 5 - Last day for teams to issue required tenders to unsigned second-round picks; those players become free agents on September 6 if not tendered.

Late September (specific dates TBA) - Training camps open.

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