We could sit here and talk through previous early-season struggles from teams that went on to be just fine. That would be a waste of energy, as we all know what happened the season the Suns started 8-8. There are several examples over the years of teams that were able to recover from slow starts.
Every season and every team is ultimately different. The turnover from this Suns team is massive, as the only returners are Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Josh Okogie, and the Lees.
The health situation and the 4th quarter meltdowns have fans on the brink of jumping off the ledge with this completely disappointing and avoidable 4-6 start.
As our Holden Sherman said, “It’s not time to worry, but it is time for some Suns wins.”
The Western Conference looks like a gauntlet this season. The depth of the conference makes stacking wins early all the more important. Securing a home-court advantage for at least the first round should be the goal at this point. The second or third seed would be ideal to avoid Denver in round two again.
Reason 1: Turnover takes time
The staple of Phoenix’s success over the past several years has been chemistry, continuity, and familiarity. When you have a connected team that has been through war together, it makes closing games out almost second nature.
Take a look at this year’s roster compared to last. The same goes for the coaching staff. It’s an entirely new group outside of a select few, essentially starting from scratch.
Forming an identity at full strength is a challenge of its own, but doing it with only a handful of Booker/Beal games makes it even more difficult.
Patience is a virtue, and Phoenix fans will need plenty of it this season as they figure things out. Their identity will form. It may take another two months, it could take two weeks. The focus should be gaining valuable reps, experimenting, and then peaking at the right time once you figure out what you’ve got.
The good news is, we’ll finally get to see the Big 3 against the Wolves. Time to get those reps in and develop chemistry!
Sources: Devin Booker expected to return Wednesday vs. T-Wolves after missing last five games with right calf strain.— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) November 14, 2023
Bradley Beal is also expected to play Wednesday after tweaking his back Sunday vs. OKC.
So Phoenix Suns Big 3 set to make regular season debut Wednesday. #Suns
Reason 2: Devin Booker solves almost every problem
I’m not saying they are an unstoppable force the second Booker returns from injury. He is a certified superstar playing the best basketball of his career.
This statement may sound dramatic, but it’s accurate until proven otherwise: The Phoenix Suns are not a good team without Devin Booker.
Can they be? Sure. Have they proven it? Absolutely not.
His return changes the entire dynamic of this team in a domino effect. In the two games he has played, Booker is averaging 31.5 PPG, 10.5 APG, and 7.5 RPG on 57/53/100 shooting splits.
The workload and defensive attention for Kevin Durant will lighten. The heavy minutes for Durant should also be less common. The staggering of stars becomes a lot easier for Frank Vogel when he has three options as opposed to one or two stars at his disposal.
Nearly every minute Phoenix figures to have at least two of their three stars sharing the court, and the stretch where it’s just one should be limited to small spurts.
We have yet to see the Big 3 in action after the first ten games of the season, and that is alarming in itself. That being said, we cannot judge this team until we see those three play together, and we will finally get that wish to come true tomorrow.
Reason 3: There’s only going uphill from here in the 4th quarter
I’ll go out on a limb here and say there is no way the Suns could play any worse in the 4th quarter this season this consistently.
“It’s difficult to get worse” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, but once the dust settles I expect them to close games out in the fashion we’ve all been accustomed to over the years.
Gerald Bourguet of PHNX does a nice job of illustrating just how awful they have been here:
The Suns are the NBA's worst 4th quarter team, ranking dead last in scoring, assists, turnovers, FG% and point differential. Regardless of Devin Booker's absence, they have to fix some key problems late in games: https://t.co/XyOJtquRJl— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) November 13, 2023
Devin Booker’s absence looms large, as the team is 1-7 in the fourth quarter in the 8 fourth quarters he has missed.
The way the team has fallen apart in these moments is concerning, but having the Big 3 pace themselves over the course of the game should allow them to play with more energy and not run out of gas in the final 12 minutes.
I won’t tell you how to live your life, but the early season panic won’t be coming from me. It’s showtime.