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Can the Suns end the drought in 2022/23?

There's a lot to like about the Phoenix Suns. Their run to the 2021 NBA Finals and response by setting franchise records in the regular season last year proved to be no fluke despite still being without their first NBA title. Yet the Suns still have a few questions surrounding their team heading into next season. Chris Paul is getting no younger, and there's pressure to capitalize on whatever is left of a championship window in Phoenix. When you look around the west, some fans may not like their chances. Golden State reigns as world champions, the series loss to the Dallas Mavericks still stings, and the Los Angeles Clippers once again look solid on paper after adding John Wall. Let us not forget about teams with star players such as the Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets, too. The Phoenix Suns are considered championship contenders despite how their historic season abruptly ended and it’s time for the Suns to make that Finals push, knowing that most of their depth is set to hit the open market after the 2022-2023 season. It’s all-or-nothing for the Suns this year.

For local fans of the Suns who are betting in Arizona, they are +800 to win a championship next season. The bench guard play for the Phoenix Suns in the 2021-22 season left a lot to be desired, especially given the position's lack of effectiveness during their playoff run. The guards for the Suns' bench shot 36.7% from the field in the 2022 NBA Playoffs. Of the 16 teams in the postseason, that ranked 14th. Their 30.2% from beyond the arc ranked 12th. While Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet appear to have a stranglehold on the backup point guard and shooting guard positions, respectively, James Jones has sought to strengthen the depth beyond them this offseason. The Suns are welcoming two new guards to the fray, one with championship experience in Damion Lee, and another who has spent his entire career in the doldrums in Minnesota, Josh Okogie. Okogie is a player who is known to bring energy at all times, including during practice. What he lacks in shooting ability he makes up for with heart, grit, and tenacity on the basketball court. He provides a good option for the Suns team. Elsewhere the Suns arguably have the best shooting guard in basketball with Devin Booker. After finishing fourth in MVP voting, the 26-year-old star has only gotten better each year with Booker yet to scratch the surface of what he can do in this league. In Booker, the Suns clearly have a number one option on a championship team.

Deandre Ayton is one of the best centres in the league and has few real weaknesses. That being said, he is more of a jack-of-all-trades centre. He can score, he can defend, he can rebound and occasionally can make some jump shots too. The former No. 1 overall pick became a star during their NBA Finals run with efficient play and excellent defensive prowess. The young centre is a dominant post scorer and is able to score on all three levels, shooting 36.8% from three and 63.4% from the field last season. Chris Paul has elevated Aytons pick-and-roll game, making him one of the best pick-and-roll partners in the league and will be hoping he will demonstrate this yet again in 2022/23.

For years, Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul had a reputation as the type of star who steps up during must-win games but he was not at his best last season. His struggles scoring the basketball proved to be detrimental to Phoenix's success with Paul posting career lows in scoring, failing to score more than 13 points in the last five games of the Mavericks series. However, Paul did lead the league in assists, making it known that he still has a lot to offer. Paul has no real weakness on the floor besides his age and as he now enters his 18th season, one can only wonder how much Chris Paul has left in the tank. The Suns don’t expect Paul to be the same player he once was but they do expect him to show up when it counts. Cameron Payne enters the 2022/23 season as the backup point guard, and the Suns may look to bring on another point guard if Payne isn’t more efficient in scoring the basketball. But for now, a lot rests on Paul's shoulders and if he can find his best then the Suns will be well to do some damage in the postseason.

The off-season has undoubtedly been productive for the Suns but the Kevin Durant trade saga was in danger of unsettling things in Phoenix, until the recent news that Durant would be staying with the Nets. The Phoenix Suns were consistently linked to the Brooklyn Nets star. Durant’s talent is undeniable and if not for his MCL injury earlier in the regular season the 12-time All-Star would have been in the MVP conversation. He just missed becoming the first Nets player in franchise history to average 30 points per game for a season and was matching some of his career-high stats before his knee derailed that momentum. The Nets would have almost certainly wanted Booker in return and there was just no way that was going to happen. Durants decision to stay in Brooklyn could be a blessing in disguise for Phoenix, and now they can focus on competing with their core, settled from last season.

As the Suns continue to position themselves for contention, the biggest critical question remains are more roster upgrades needed to seriously contend for a title, or was this just a bad series from a championship calibre team? The Suns have the talent to give Booker what he needs. If Ayton and Bridges are able to alleviate Booker with more offense, the Phoenix Suns are well positioned to make it back to the NBA Finals as long as their key figures step up to the plate.