Here’s what the Phoenix Suns can focus on improving this season
Welcome to a new season of Phoenix Suns basketball!
While last season was exciting, the Valley Boyz will look to become real contenders in 2020-21 with an upgraded roster. There are still several key issues that linger, and their resolution will create an even higher ceiling for the squad.
Here are three problems that took the Suns out of the win column too many times in the 2019-20 season, and how they have been addressed after the 6-2 start:
Phoenix Suns areas for improvement in 2021: Closing games
The Suns lost ten games by four points or less last season.
To put that into perspective, let’s pretend those were all wins. The Suns would have finished the season at 44-29 and third or fourth place in the Western Conference (depending on a tiebreaker with the Nuggets), even with Deandre Ayton’s suspension and the injury-riddled roster.
Instead, they ended up outside of the playoffs. That is a massive swing, and one that can be corrected only by better fourth-quarter performances.
With such a young roster, and especially one without playoff experience, these clutch moments are tough. We saw terrible fouls, bad shots, and blown leads, specifically against Denver and San Antonio in four of these ten games.
The additions of Chris Paul and Jae Crowder help immensely on both ends of the floor. The veteran pair have deep playoff experience, strong defense, and a penchant for clutch performance. (Paul specifically is one of the most clutch in the league, recording a +2.3 plus-minus on 52% shooting in the clutch last season.) However, the other players on the floor must follow their example with composure and patience. It is a simple mental change, but likely the most important collective improvement for this team coming into this season.
So far, after two weeks of games, there has been both good and bad. A three-point loss to the Kings exposed a serious rebounding issue as the Suns gave up double-digit second-chance points. However, the Suns came back with efficient shooting the next night and took care of them with ease. Chris Paul delivered in the clutch against Denver to seal a close win, but only after a complete meltdown in the entire fourth quarter that featured constant turnovers from himself, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton.
The closing offense looks good with both Paul and Booker assuming playmaking duties, but a lot of shots in the fourth quarter have been three-point attempts. When Crowder and Cam Johnson are off, getting to the free-throw line and feeding Ayton inside should be more of a focus. This will happen with time as the chemistry and rhythm come together.