First half summary: It’s hard to see the first half of the season developing any better than it did for the Suns who, as a top-five team in the West, are in rarified air. Devin Booker, who had averaged one coach per year of his career and never sniffed the playoffs, must be dizzy in a positive way right now. The Suns are actually good and managing to sustain quality basketball.
Once again, it’s Chris Paul as a difference-maker. Much as he did last season in Oklahoma City, Paul is again taking a young team further than it imagined. Paul’s presence has not only had an effect on Booker, but more importantly former No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton, who is averaging averaging a double-double and shooting a career-best 60.1%. His confidence is up and the big man feels important to the mix.
Biggest question going into the second half: Cam Johnson and Mikal Bridges are showing growth here in their young careers. They will be crucial to the Suns’ ability to diversify its offense and add more second-half flex. Can those two swingmen keep their foot on the developmental gas pedal and be even better over the next few month? Bridges especially has been solid as a 3-point shooter (42.3%).
One of the most underrated pickups in the offseason was Jae Crowder, who left a championship-quality Miami team (financial security played a part). Additionally, center Frank Kaminsky has been revived in Phoenix and developed into a reliable 3-point shooter (41.9%). Those two help make the Suns a respectable if not dangerous perimeter club.
Remember when there were questions in the past about Paul’s durability? Well, he’s answered positively about that, avoiding injuries and giving 32 minutes a night. The Suns will keep their fingers crossed that the veteran’s body continues to treat him right. If it doesn’t, Phoenix lacks anyone on the roster who can impact the game from the point like he can.
Playoffs or lottery?: It appears the Suns’ lost decade is a nightmare of the past, as they finally are making a believable run toward the playoffs and, perhaps, home-court advantage in the first round. This would be a major step under coach Monty Williams and a continuation of what we saw from the Suns in the bubble, when they went undefeated and narrowly missed out on the playoffs.
Booker was so sensational during that run, when every restart game was essentially a playoff game for Phoenix. It would therefore be a spectacle to behold if the Suns finally return to the playoffs and Booker gets a chance to shine in prime time.
That said, this is a largely inexperienced team from a postseason standpoint. The best advice is rather simple: Continue to take cues from Paul and learn valuable lessons along the way. The Suns can stand to be a bit better in all areas, and if there is reasonable improvement across the aboard, they can get beyond the first round. That alone would be cause for celebration, no matter if their playoff stay ends there.
— Shaun Powell