Making the Case for Phoenix Suns to “Run it Back” Ahead the Offseason

Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

With the NBA Finals coming to a close, the Phoenix Suns’ failure to advance to the league’s grandest stage this year is still on every desert dweller’s mind.

It’s impossible not to picture what could’ve been; the Suns were favorites to win it all for much of the season and looked primed for a Finals return before. Then, the Dallas Mavericks threw that all off of a cliff.

The way that defeat happened, more-so than just losing the series outright, has led to something of an existential crisis on Planet Orange, as Suns fans have scrambled for ways to radically alter the team. But while I understand the disappointment, the Suns’ best strategy next season might just be to run it back.

Why the Phoenix Suns should bring their guys back for the 2022-23 season

This past year, Chris Paul’s propensity for getting injured during the playoffs reared its ugly head once again in the Dallas series. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong in that Game 7, but it was CP3’s diminishing play in the preceding games that put the Suns in that tough position to begin with.

Paul looked incredible both in the New Orleans series and through his first few contests vs the Mavs. As a result, Phoenix moved through the first round and jumped up 2-0 on Dallas.

Then a quad injury occurred and Paul started to look like a shell of himself. His play dropped off at a rapid pace, and the Suns once successful game-plan of targeting Luka Doncic followed right after.

It’s natural then, to wonder if the Suns should move on from Paul with that being the second straight postseason in which he’s hobbled across the finish line. Paul’s habit of getting injured at the most important moments feels frustrating to say the least.

But still, no realistic scenario where the Suns move on from the Point God while staying as good as they are with a healthy version of him exists.

Paul remains an elite ball handler, evidenced by his All-NBA selection this year. He can carry a team to playoff wins like he did in his historic, perfect, closeout game against the Pelicans as well.

Paul’s play shows no signs of slowing down—it’s worth it for the Suns to give it another go with him at the helm and hope that lightning does not strike a third time in the shape of another postseason injury. This is admittedly a tough ask when looking at his recent playoff history, but the risk is worth the reward.

The Deandre Ayton contract situation resembles another dark cloud looming over Phoenix this summer. The Suns failed to reach an agreement with Ayton last offseason and now find themselves facing that dilemma once again.

While moving on from Ayton seems more likely than moving on from CP3, doing so resembles an even larger mistake. DA is still only 23 years old with his whole prime ahead of him. He already has two fantastic postseason runs under his belt and fits well with Phoenix’s remaining core.

Ayton’s abilities as a top tier roll man remains a key ingredient in Phoenix’s offense. His versatility as a defensive anchor has proven valuable as well. Such bigs do not exactly grow on trees in the modern NBA.

The former first overall pick also previously illustrated his readiness to contribute on a Finals-bound team, so there’s not a lot of guesswork to be done on whether or not he can remain effective deep into the playoffs. It’s definitely in Phoenix’s best interest to retain Ayton at whatever the cost and capitalize on his prime years.

Much of the disappointment surrounding the Suns stems from their Finals trip one year ago, as it made anything less than a return appearance this past year a massive failure. While that is true to an extent, it’s important to remember the vigor it takes to reach that stage—let alone win on it.

Blowing everything up after a single disappointing season has all the makings of an extreme overreaction. The Suns can look to a team currently in the Finals, the Boston Celtics, as a reason not to go down this route.

With their current core, the Celtics made the Conference Finals in 2018, then suffered several playoff disappointments in the years to follow. During those seasons, pundits questioned the legitimacy of their young duo in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Those arguing to break up the two became even louder as the Celtics stumbled out of the gate to begin this year as well.

But Boston never lost faith in their team and are now reaping the benefits of that belief. Last year’s Suns, like the 2018 Celtics, were far ahead of schedule with a youthful team.

There will be pitfalls on the way, but it’s important for young teams to go through that and then find their way out of the woods. No two situations in the NBA are identical, but the Suns can absolutely draw on Boston’s philosophy of building continuity and perfecting what they already have in place.

Expect the Suns to make some moves around the edges of their roster during this coming offseason, but Phoenix’s core deserves this redemption opportunity.

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Aside from CP3, the Suns’ main players are all on the cusps of their prime years. Running it back with this group is not only Phoenix’s top option for next season, but also positions them for the long term as well.