The Phoenix Suns roster, after James Jones reimagined it by trading away more assets than a French trapper in the 1800’s, isn’t one that possesses many holes. They are offensively sound, possess numerous wing players with athleticism, and coached by a defensive mastermind. After flipping the majority of the roster, however, there still are numerous concerns and weaknesses around this team. Now is the time to get it all out of our system, to put it into the ether, and identify where our concerns are as a Suns community.
Projections are that Phoenix is going to be good. Really good. When your roster is led by the competitive in-his-prime Devin Booker, the silky smooth scoring of Kevin Durant, and the cylinder-attacking shot making ability of Bradley Beal, there’s no doubt as to why. The team currently has the third best odds, per DraftKings, to win an NBA championship. They sit at +600, trailing only the Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks, and Boston Celtics.
Scares you a little bit, doesn’t it? Talking with others about the potential of the team makes you a tad bit nervous, right? The weight of expectations generally has not garnered the results we desire here in ‘ole Phoenix. History says we will be crushed by their weight and the season will end how it always has: with a loss.
In typical cynical fashion, we have to recognize the weaknesses of the roster. No team is perfect.
This is an easy one to point to because it is an ultimate x-factor for any team. Looking up and down the roster, the Suns have numerous players who have had their challenges staying healthy, including their big three. Booker has had soft tissue issues throughout his career, Durant missed the entire 2019-20 season with an Achilles injury, and Bradley Beal has averaged 50 games played over the past three seasons. The newly acquired Jusuf Nurkic has had his challenges as well.
Even their backups have had issues. Damion Lee is already out with a meniscus injury, Nassir Little averaged 48 games played while with the Portland Trail Blazers, and Bol Bol has faced numerous nicks and trains throughout his career.
If you define this as a “weakness”, then, yeah. It is. The overall health of the team, top to bottom, can be viewed as a weakness for the best ability is availability.
We just haven’t seen it yet. We don’t know how this team is going to play together. The organic chemistry that Phoenix developed over the three-year period with Chris Paul leading at the point was unique in the NBA as it is not the norm. But while the majority of the NBA, for the most part, stood fast this off-season, the Suns flipped the roster on its head. Did they compromise their chemistry in doing so?
Frank Vogel knows this will be a challenge. On Suns Media Day he stated, “I don’t want the competition to distract my purpose in exploring the roster and all the combinations that we can look at through the course of the season.” That can compromise chemistry at the front end of the season. We need to be ready for it.
James Jones was astute by bringing in players who, outside of Eric Gordon, are younger to make up his bench. In theory, these are players who are fighting for minutes, fighting for relevance, and fighting for their next contract. The majority of them signed veteran minimum deals with a player option next season which, seeing as the Phoenix Suns will be heavily featured on national television this season, will put the spotlight on these players and incentivize their success.
But depth is an area that most will point to when they talk about the roster construction of the Suns. With your top three players earning $130.3 million, having players on veteran minimum deals is the only way to fill out your roster. Does this compromise your overall team depth? Or did Phoenix become a destination and therefore, as stated above, players are willing to pay for less to have an opportunity to play for the championship and ultimately plate for more?
Jones made a wise choice by hiring a defensive head coach to lead a team with such potent offensive weapons. The hope is that his defensive-minded ways and schemes will add to the overall success of the team on both ends of the floor. Defense leads to offense, and if the Suns can buy in on that side of the floor, great things may lie ahead.
But will they?
Plenty of this falls on the shoulders of center Jusuf Nurkic who, seeing as such elite scores are around him, won’t be called upon to be a major part of the scoring on the offensive end for this team. He can make his name on the defensive end.
“His skill-set complements our best guys, and more importantly, he’s ready to win,” GM James Jones said on Media Day. “He’s been in a situation the last few years where they’re just playing to try to get to where we are, but we’re playing to win championships. And if you get a really good player who’s motivated and you give him an opportunity to win a title, you usually see the best versions of those players.”
You could combine the last two potential weaknesses and ask that question. Is it defensive depth that could hurt the Suns? With Josh Okogie potentially coming off of the bench, combined with the rebounding and interior shot deterrence that Drew Eubanks brings, it could be a strength. But again, we haven’t seen it yet.
What are your thoughts? What do you think the Suns’ primary weakness is entering this hyped season? Is it one of the things listed above, a combination of both, or something completely different? I’d love to hear what you have to say.