With the NBA season less than a week away, we are in the heart of prediction season, meaning everyone from your next-door neighbor who hasn’t watched the NBA since Bob Cousy was a star to ESPN’s Zach Lowe is explaining to you why their takes for the upcoming season are the most legitimate and the spiciest.
The target on the Phoenix Suns’ back hasn’t softened, it’s been fortified since the start of last season. Mat Ishbia came to town in February and his ‘all-in right-now’ approach as a governor has catapulted Phoenix into not only must-watch form but also must-discuss form to inconceivable levels, a bizarre concept for a team that made the NBA Finals just two years ago.
With so many voices in the fold nowadays, it always feels that the people with the smartest and most insightful opinions are undermined by the people with the more flashy, sexier takes. Whether you agree with experts or not, their opinions should always be valued because they’re usually doing the grunt work to make their opinions.
It’s important as a Suns site for us to point out not only the Phoenix optimists in the NBA world but also the pessimists who are not as hopeful. Every fanbase wants to feel that their team is in a good position, however, it’s good to hear from people who think otherwise to help see how other people perceive the same product. This, in turn, helps create a more educated, and rational fanbase, that understands different perspectives better.
With the season less than a week away, I was fortunate enough to get in contact with one of those smart insightful people who actually do the grunt work required to be considered an expert, Brandon Anderson, NBA and NFL Writer for the Action Network who is not as optimistic on the Suns. Anderson, who’s been writing about the NBA for many years, views Phoenix’s team this year differently than most people in the Valley.
To start, Anderson pointed out that the Lakers’ defensive dominance in Frank Vogel’s first year as their head coach is not a good comparison to use to assess the Suns’ upcoming year guarding other teams.
“A weird NBA year with COVID and a long break,” Anderson said. “The D [defense] wasn’t elite till the postseason which was sorta ‘year 2’ because of the long layoff anyway, so I’m not sure it really proves much.”
When it comes to the Jusuf Nurkić acquisition, Anderson remains skeptical of his impact this year, even with Vogel at the helm.
“I don’t like him stylistically, don’t think he’s been much good since his big injury, and don’t see him fending well defensively with very little help.”
Phoenix’s defense remains a big question this year. The scheme and personnel will be wildly different than the past few seasons. With Phoenix’s offense expected to be a juggernaut, it will be about how the defense can stay afloat and not prohibit offensive production.
Instead of a well-balanced roster that clearly had a ceiling, the Suns have what NBA fans yearn for; a team with an undefined ceiling. More than ever, Suns fans wonder what can become of their new squadron before the season starts in a manner that is not deemed silly or impractical by the public.
With the team more offensive-oriented than ever, it is imperative that their defensive efforts are not hindering their play on the other side of the floor. Mikal Bridges isn’t walking through the door this year. A lot more defensive perimeter responsibilities will be put on Devin Booker this year compared to last season, and while the star showed glimpses of being a tenacious defender in the postseason, Anderson isn’t sure if he can do it for the entirety of the regular season.
“Superstars don’t play extended periods of tremendous defense during the 82g [game] regular season. I don’t see it for Booker. He’s come a long ways but he’s not going to be a lock down perimeter guy or close. Maybe for 5 minute postseason stretches.”
It’s been a long time since the Suns have had the expectations to not only contend for a title but to dominate the league.
Sure, the 2021-22 team had lofty expectations, but depth doesn’t win in the NBA, stars do. soon-to-be 27-year-old Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal warrant significantly more urgency than 25-year-old Devin Booker, 36-year-old Chris Paul, and a roster built on continuity and depth.
No matter what happens this year for Phoenix, there will be many peaks and valleys. And to prepare for the roller coaster that is an NBA season, it is essential to see things from the sides of people outside of our own bubbles who may view the same thing through a different lens.
To hear more of Brandon’s thoughts on the Suns for this season, check out his appearance on The Action Network’s Podcast, Buckets, where he gives his betting analysis on the entirety of the Pacific Division.