Has the Phoenix Suns championship window closed? Was it ever open? After the Sun’s best season ever and people proclaiming them championship bound, Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns have been unceremoniously dumped from the NBA playoffs. “Unceremoniously dumped” is putting it too kindly; they just experienced the worst and most embarrassing loss in game seven history.
If Chris Paul had even one championship, he might be considered the greatest point guard of all time. Now, depending on who you talk to, he could be regarded as the greatest bridesmaid of all time or the biggest choke artist of all time. Unfortunately for CP3 and the Suns, nuanced discussion doesn’t happen in sports discourse. We deal in hyperbole, and the Suns just suffered a loss than needs no exaggeration.
Where do the Suns go From Here?
For all of the trash talk and slander Devin Booker, CP3, and the Suns are receiving right now, they’re still going to field a good team next season. Paul, Booker, Miles Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Jae Crowder, Cameron Payne, and Landry Shamet are all under contract. Nobody knows what will happen with Deandre Ayton, but he’s under the Sun’s control and could be a trade piece. Let’s explore their options.
Run It Back
If Phoenix can come to terms with Ayton, this option isn’t as bad as it appears right now. Yes, the damage looks horrendous, but you’re still looking at a team that was first in Net Rating, fifth in offense, third in defense, and fourth in effective field goal percentage. No matter what metric you look at, this was a great basketball team with a real shot at the NBA title this year.
Upgrade the Roster
Phoenix is over the cap, but due to a healthy roster and the fact that they’re holding all their future draft picks starting in 2023, they can make some sizable moves this offseason. This isn’t the Los Angeles Lakers trying to save a sinking ship with toothpicks and duct tape; the Suns have options.
The first option would be to keep Ayton and package some role players (Crowder, Payne, Cam Johnson, and/or Shamet) with draft picks. Most teams will slim down their roster to the seven or eight best players come playoffs, Phoenix was playing nine or ten guys most games.
They can make a four-quarters-for-a-dollar-type trade, similar to the Milwaukee Bucks landing Jrue Holiday. That move helped Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks win a championship after getting embarrassed by the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs. Hmm.
Option number two, the fun option: Sign and trade involving Deandre Ayton. Ayton is due for the rookie max extension, it doesn’t look like the Suns want to pay it, and there are a lot of teams out there that could use a young center. Seriously, Ayton’s youth and considerable talent make almost any trade conceivable. If Phoenix thinks a player might be available, they’re holding the best trade chip in the league to get him. We could be looking at a situation similar to the Toronto Raptors landing Kawhi Leonard, a deal so out of left field nobody even knew it was a possibility.
This one is a hard pill to swallow, but the bitter truth is that the Dallas Mavericks made adjustments while the Suns did nothing. After Luka Doncic got his lunch taken by Booker and CP3 through two games, the Mavs adjusted to crowd CP3 and Booker and effectively take away their passing lanes and mid-range scoring opportunities.
How did the Suns respond? By mainly running the same plays they ran in their first two games. There wasn’t an adjustment; Jason Kidd had a counter while Monty Williams had zilch. Not a good look for your reigning coach of the year.
This is where being a GM and running a franchise becomes an impossible task. The players and everybody in the franchise love Monty Williams, and happy players are typically players who will play hard. If the locker room becomes discontent with the ship’s captain, that could lead to the team wildly underachieving. It’s a painful decision to make, but one the Phoenix Suns may have to consider if they want to maximize this roster.
Has the Phoenix Suns Championship Window Closed?
A championship is still on the table for the Phoenix Suns, but they’re going to have some difficult decisions to make going forward. Due to a strong roster from top to bottom, they have the flexibility to improve. However, with Chris Paul being 38 and a large luxury tax bill on the horizon, their window may not be open for much longer.