Finally! It has felt like a long time coming, but we're experiencing winning basketball again in the Valley. Now that we have a moment let's take a deep dive—15 games into the season—on the Phoenix Suns' 2023/24 campaign.
I've divided up my observations across three groups:
· The Good: Things we definitely want to see more of.
· The Bad: Notable elements that are sorted out promptly (we hope!).
· The Elbow: Some personal observations that may add further insight for readers and fellow Phoenix Suns fans!
THE GOOD: A SUPERSTAR SYMPHONY AND A WINNING STREAK WALTZ
Amid the push-and-pull rhythm of NBA competition, the Phoenix Suns are conducting a basketball symphony led by Devin Booker and your favourite basketball player's favourite basketball player, Kevin Durant. And hasn't it been fantastic?! I'm still pinching myself. After all, Kevin Durant has only played 23 regular season Suns games to date.
Booker moves through defenses with a blend of finesse and ferocity, showcasing a scoring efficiency and three-point accuracy that we've come to appreciate. Good enough for 28.1 PPG and 9.3 APG. We're talking "Point Guard on NBA2K Numbers," putting to bed [finally!] the chatter about whether the Suns need a Point Guard.
Wait until he hits the 'games played' threshold, and we can see him on the leaderboard!
His 28 points per contest are good enough for the 7th spot [tucked in between Steph Curry and Jayson Tatum]. However, it's the passing numbers that have me delirious. His 9.3 dimes per game put him squarely into 3rd place.
Sure, you might want to upgrade the bench, but that's an entirely different conversation—Devin Booker | 1 | PG is a THING. And I'm here for it.
But there's more...
Enter Durant, a towering presence on the court whose playstyle and gravity on offense seamlessly complement Booker's style. Together, they create a basketball chemistry that is both effective and exciting. The collaboration between these two stars isn't just statistical; it's a shared basketball philosophy that Suns fans can appreciate.
But let's talk statistics because Kevin Durant's numbers are as pretty as all get-out.
31.4 PPG, whilst leading the league in 3pt% (on 53%/52%/89% shooting splits) and adding 7 rebounds and 5.5 assists, are gorgeous, white-hot, nut-roastingly delicious figures. And you can quote me on that. We're talking MVP, All-NBA Team-worthy numbers.
Now that the record is starting to show it, [9 - 6] with a 5-game winning streak and holding the 5th seed in the West, Booker and Durant have elevated their individual games, forming that dynamic duo we expected. One that strikes fear into opponents. Their partnership is not just a statistical marvel but a basketball pairing that paints the league with strokes of undeniable brilliance. What is most enjoyable is the wins are coming by the combined forces of (a) the bench stepping up, (b) the game plan being tweaked to maximise everyone's strengths, and (c) the fortitude to lock in and work.
All of these things are tangible and (more importantly) sustainable indicators of the Suns' season success.
THE BAD: NEXT MAN UP...ALL THE MEN UP?
Sure, it hasn't been perfect. Clutch performance numbers have left little to be desired, and this concept of giving up decent leads only to be found fighting for the win down to the wire (and, in several cases, losing the game) can leave a bad taste in our collective mouths.
Through the 15 games played so far, we've waited mainly to see who was stepping up in these critical support roles: Eric Gordon and Grayson Allen have given the Suns very consistent output as starters throughout the year so far. The Nurk and Eubanks duo has also been reliable on a nightly basis. With everyone else, though, it's a case of episodic developments.
Early on was the Yuta & Okogie chapter; following that was a brief window of "Welcome Back Keita," and in recent times, we've enjoyed a little Nassir-action. I’m going out on a limb to suggest that we’ll be getting More Metu Moments, next.
It's nice seeing each role player step up at different stages, but how much better would it be if we saw a little continuity from the bench--some reliability that we can bank on.
And ultimately, we will. Seeing the bench profile and makeup in another fifteen or thirty games will be interesting. Ideally, Frank Vogel and the coaching staff will have a reliable, versatile, and locked-in squad behind the primary starting FOUR, with a bench FOUR behind these guys for a powerful 8-man rotation.
But it will take a bit to get there. The ongoing challenge here (for the team as a whole) is knowing which five or six guys to go with down the stretch of close games. In any particular match. And there's no magic answer to it, either. Hopefully, the winning streak currently developing (and other future winning streaks, too!) will give the Suns a lot of intel into lineup effectiveness, cohesion, and vibe. Vibe... essential. Often, it's all about the vibe of the thing. (^_^)
All those intrinsic elements that go into winning a basketball match can only be garnered with games played, seeing what works (and what doesn't) and stacking wins with effective plans.
The last thing we can call "bad" here is this: just watching Beal as an observer breaks my heart for him. You can see it—he wants to be out there. And we hope he gets the opportunity to get his back right and be ready to go—but don't rush it, Brad. Get ready, all in good time!
THE ELBOW: WHERE'S THE MOOD, BENCH BANTER BASICS AND IS IT THE SHOES?
Do you like Devin Booker's shoe game? The "Book 1's" sum up Devin Booker entirely. They have that classic look and silhouette. Rather than get all fancy pants with a thousand colours, shapes, and patterns, we just see some steady block colours in rich pastel tones.
But the character is there; just a hint of "I told you so" about them. I love it. It's the kind of colour palette and restraint in the design philosophy you could employ on Master Chef, The Block (Australian audiences know it), or any other renovation/design-style game show and come out as the winner.
At first, there was a lot of talk about the shoe design possibly being the driving force behind Devin's early season injuries, but I'm glad to see we've moved off that narrative. Quite simply because it ain’t true.
One area where I want to see more talking is on the Suns bench--has anyone else noticed how subdued and down-right POLITE the Suns bench is during games? Perhaps it's because the roster is almost entirely new (to the city, the team, each other...).
Maybe someone within the Suns management team sat down one night and suggested that we ONLY bring in players that registered identically on the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator?? (I joke..!)
It may be on me.
However, I'm constantly comparing post-basket celebrations and bench banter/interaction with our favourite players of recent years. The Mikal Bridges 'head-bobble,' the pre-game warmup-dance routines, and the "call-and-response" from the bench to players on the floor were always impactful. And I want so much more of that.
You never know; it might come from more winning.
What we've seen in 15 games is a team; our team—the Phoenix Suns—push ahead in spite of the differences across the board. The complete overhaul from top to bottom. Just about all of these guys (coaching staff included) have had to learn how to function on the floor with new teammates, start new lives with their families, move into new homes, find new places to eat, and find places within Phoenix to connect to and feel at home in.
Hopefully, we're seeing signs that they are doing that with this winning streak.
I want them to start enjoying themselves together and bring a mood for each other and us. A mood of measured sass and ego. Of pride and good humour. I want the Suns to be confident in the knowledge that they know—sure as eggs—we definitely enjoy having them here, putting in the work.
And we're just about to begin witnessing the Suns start taking names and kicking butts.
See you on the next one in another 15 games time.