NBA Season Preview: Phoenix Suns

2019-20 Regular Season Record: 34-39 (.466%), 10th in Western Conference, Missed Playoffs
Head Coach: Monty Williams

The Suns were heading towards another year of irrelevance last year upon being invited to the NBA bubble, as the team with the worst record. Starting the year without Deandre Ayton for 25 of the first 26 games due to a suspension really hurt. While Ayton was out, Aaron Baynes stepped up and played well, but was unable to replicate Ayton’s presence. Devin Booker was outstanding once again, averaging 26.6 ppg on a career best 48.9% shooting, 4.2 rpg & 6.5 apg and earning his first All-Star game nomination. Of course, the whole of the NBA is aware what the Suns were able to accomplish in the bubble, as they caught fire and were the only team to go undefeated. While it didn’t get them into the play-in game (due to a tiebreaker), it certainly gave them confidence heading into the upcoming season.

Devin Booker

Fresh off making his first All-Star Game, Booker is looking to take his game to the next level. The addition of Chris Paul should make that a whole lot easier (more on that below). Booker has already proved himself a great scorer – he is the youngest player in league history to score 60 points in a game, and the youngest to go for back-to-back 50-point games. He’s also proved himself to be a capable setup man with 6.8 apg in 2018-19 and 6.6 apg last year. With the ball out of his hands, and in Paul’s, Booker will be able to do damage off the ball and spot up for the 3-ball more often. Can he average 30 ppg with Paul hitting him in stride? It seems like a reasonable part of Booker’s evolution. 

Tom's Take: Booker will make his 2nd consecutive All-Star team and earn All-NBA 3rd team honors


Chris Paul joins his 5th NBA team (and 4th in 5 years) as the NBA’s active leader in assists and steals and one of the all-time great playmaking point guards. He’s formed incredible pick-and-roll duos with a variety of players that can dive to the basket (Tyson Chandler, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Clint Capela) or pop (David West, Danilo Gallinari, PJ Tucker) and has generally mastered the art of the half court offense. What can he do for the Suns? The first item of business is to take pressure off Devin Booker to be a playmaker. With Paul running the point, Booker won’t be needed to distribute as much and can concentrate even more on being one of the league’s premier scorers. Paul will also be able to get the most out of Deandre Ayton, both in the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop, as Ayton is becoming a more comfortable mid-range shooter and is great at getting to the bucket and finishing. One area that the duo should excel is getting Ayton post-up touches close to the basket. Both excel at getting the ball deep in the post. The average NBA post-up touch since 2016 has started 13.9 feet away from the rim, but passes thrown by Paul have started 12.3 feet from the rim, which is huge because Ayton’s average touch in the post has come at 10.5 feet away. With the two working in tandem, we should see Ayton getting post-ups even closer to the basket. Paul’s defense will also help the Suns, as he has never failed to average less than 1.6 spg over a full season. His veteran presence will assure the Suns don’t have too many dips in form over the season, as he is a tough competitor who is known to be demanding. He’ll help the young Suns players grow up quickly.

Can the Suns use the Confidence Gained in the Bubble?

The Suns were the hottest team in the bubble, and the only one to go undefeated. The confidence that comes from that type of run, against quality opponents, will be valuable for the Suns this year. They know that they can get hot and go on a run and beat the best teams in the league and if they do go into a bit of a funk, that they can ride it out and come back stronger on the other end. With Paul added into the mix, they have savvy, veteran leadership that will steady any ship. The dynamic duo of Ayton and Booker will carry the scoring load for the Suns as they make their push to the playoffs.

Tom's Take: Phoenix will get into the play-in tournament and ultimately make it into the playoffs. 

Photo Credit: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire