The Kevin Durrant sweepstakes are over – or at least on a long pause – for the Phoenix Suns. The roster that James Jones has constructed during this past off-season is what we should expect to see take the court when the team tips off against the Dallas Mavericks on October 19. That is our reality, and it’s a reality we should be perfectly fine with.
The turnover on this roster has been very little. For the third consecutive year, the team are poised to field a starting lineup of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, and Deandre Ayton. That is a starting five that combined their forces to assist the team in winning 64 games, the best ever seen in the franchises 55 year history.
How can this team improve? They already possess organic chemistry and, seeing as the starting five has been together longer than Flight of the Concords was on HBO, have an instinctual brand of basketball that is hard to replicate. Still, opportunities exist.
We are taking a look at five different ways the Phoenix Suns can approve from within during the 2022-23 NBA season. We’re looking at five different players who have an opportunity for growth in the upcoming season.
Here are your candidates:
- Devin Booker — to top 8 player in the NBA
- Deandre Ayton — to top 20 player in the NBA
- Mikal Bridges — to top 30 player in the NBA
- Cameron Johnson — to top 50 player in the NBA
- Cameron Payne — to top backup point guard in the NBA
Let’s take them one at a time, with a little help from the Bright Side staff.
Next up? The man who has one of the most inspiring stories in the NBA
Cameron Payne — to top backup point guard in the NBA
Why it needs to happen:
Chris Paul is no spring chicken as he enters his 18th season in the NBA and the Suns’ need to spell his minutes throughout the regular season is a major concern. He played 32.9 minutes-per-game last season, his 11th most in his career. The fact of the matter is the Point God has broken down in two consecutive postseason runs. Monty Williams can only be confident in not overplaying Paul during the regular season if he knows his backup, Cameron Payne, can execute the offense and maintain the same philosophies as the first team while CP3 is on the bench.
We’ve seen glimpses of effectiveness from Payne throughout his time with the Suns, most notably in the 2021 postseason.
Last season, following the signing of a three-year, $19M deal with Phoenix, was a step backwards for the Murray State alum. He was hampered by lower extremity injuries throughout the season and could not get into any rhythm during the season.
Then there was the postseason.
Payne averaged a mere 4.2 points in his 13 games played last playoffs, shooting 29.7% from the field and 16.7% from beyond the arc. On 30 three-point attempts. Add 2.1 assists and 1.0 turnovers and his performance was a key factor in the embarrassing exit for the Suns.
It’s time for Cam Payne to put the past in the rearview. He possesses the potential to be a highly effective player, both in terms of playmaking and scoring. We’ve seen it. And the need is there. CP3 is a year older. Whoever spells him at the point guard position must have a stellar season. That responsibility falls on Payne.
How it can happen:
Payne is all about consistency and staying healthy. Last season, his turnovers skyrocketed – a career high 1.8 – and with it went his effectiveness running the offense went his confidence. Add in a couple of lower leg injuries, and Phoenix’s backup point guard position was inconsistent.
Aaron Holiday joined the team and attempted to take some of those minutes simply to relieve some of the pressure that Payne was under. However, this was not sustainable. As Payne enters his 8th season at 28 years old, he is in his prime.
He earned his contract through tenacity, perseverance, and faith in himself. It’s time for him to embrace these qualities once more and execute on the court.
Unfortunately, I believe we saw apex Payne in the 2021 postseason. His greatest attribute is his speed, which allows him to create increasingly tough shots through the contortion of his body. These aren’t easy shots to make. They only get tougher with time. And time isn’t necessarily on his side.
You can’t knock his heart. But his ability has already reached its ceiling. I can see Cameron Payne being moved before the trade deadline this year, garnering an asset and utilizing his non-guaranteed contract to get something that could help this team. The question becomes what and who. But that is a topic for another time.