The Phoenix Suns now drop to 20-30 on the year, five games back from a playoff spot, and now have a lot to contemplate coming out of a tough 97-119 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
You live by the shot, and you die by the shot. In the case of the Phoenix Suns, you die very often as they could not get it going from early on this game, shooting 43% from the field while only making 6 of 17 shots from beyond the arc.
Devin Booker had one of his worst performances of the season, going 3 for 15 with 11 points on the night accompanied by four assists and four rebounds.
The Suns are 1-11 when Devin Booker scores less than 20 points. Comparatively, they are 19-16 when he scores more than 20 points. Suffice it to say – the offense runs through Devin Booker. If Devin is off, the Suns are off and the numbers do not lie.
On the other hand, Deandre Ayton turned in a phenomenal performance. 25 points on 12-22 shooting, with 17 rebounds and 5 assists. In his last ten games, he’s averaging a 20 point 12 rebound double-double. He has shown more assertiveness in his scoring ability; showcasing both his mid-range game over defenders like Jarrett Allen and Deandre Jordan while still finishing around the rim on several possessions. Ayton was also active on the glass with eight of his 17 boards coming on the offensive end. If Deandre Ayton can play at this All-Star caliber level every night, he can silence the naysayers and finally put to rest the haunting of Luka Doncic.
Aside from Devin Booker’s offensive woes and Deandre Ayton’s monstrous performance comes a more imminent threat to any playoff push the Suns can make. That is the lack of depth on the bench. The Suns’ bench was out-scored by the Nets 20-37 in another exemplary night of the exact issue the Suns have been experiencing all season long.
Jevon Carter plays well defensively but lacks the confidence to shoot the ball when he’s open. Cheick Diallo can’t seem to get his positioning at the 5-spot right and appears lost while he’s on the floor. Okobo is allergic to taking any type of shot from the field, and Tyler Johnson rides the bench to avoid any injuries – as he is a pivotal cap space piece to a potential trade.
Phoenix recalled Jalen Lecque, AKA Baby Westbrook, only to play him 11 minutes against the Bucks and nine minutes against the Nets. Watching some of his G-League highlights, you have to wonder if the Suns can risk it all to give Lecque the chance to flourish. I think it’s time they unleash the beast, for the bench’s sake, am I right? I would much rather watch 20 minutes of Lecque attempting to dunk than 10 minutes of Okobo pretending to run the offense.
Injuries have kept Baynes and Johnson out for several games, along with Saric and Jerome for a handful as well. One thing is for certain, an injury-ridden bench will not help Phoenix market any of these players to other teams, much less win.
With the trade deadline upon us, the Suns must decide whether they should add more key components to surround their core players with (Luke Kennard?) or go for a big fish in a small NBA pond. Suns’ fans will all witness where the organization believes the team is headed, by 3 PM EST on Thursday afternoon.