The Phoenix Suns are in a rushed search for an NBA championship

Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul, Cameron Payne. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul, Cameron Payne. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

If the Phoenix Suns believe they have an endless and continuous period of time to contend for an NBA championship, they may wish to adjust their stance.

The Suns found out the hard way in 2021-22, conceding that an historically great regular season can easily count for nothing come the arduous and methodical style of playoff basketball.

The Phoenix Suns have been the best regular season team over the last two years, but time could be running out for them to press on to the league’s prized goal.

Granted, this isn’t necessarily a roster issue. Outside of the 37-year-old Chris Paul, the Suns have a reasonably young core of players who could theoretically contend for near on the next decade. But things move fast in this league, and as Phoenix mercilessly found out, nothing is ever guaranteed.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

If you think that the NBA’s current period is highly competitive with a rather fair spreading of talent, you’d be correct. Only one team in each of the last two seasons has had multiple All-NBA selections – Los Angeles Clippers (Kawhi Leonard and Paul George) in 2020-21, and Phoenix (Chris Paul and Devin Booker) in 2021-22. Prior to these last two seasons, all but one of the previous 33 seasons had at least two teams with multiple All-NBA selections.

But the situation could be about to become even more competitive than the equilibrium we’ve seen recently, at least according to salary cap projections. Recent spending power has been limited league-wide, resulting in most big name players being traded rather than signed through free agency. Of course, that means the team receiving said player is giving up assets in order to acquire them.

Therefore in the past two or three seasons, team improvements have often been based upon internal development and shrewd minor moves, rather than the major cash splash to try and buy your way up the league standings.

However, in his look ahead to 2023 free agency, ESPN’s Bobby Marks projects there’ll be 13 teams with available cap space. Of those 13, ten of them are teams that missed the playoffs last season.

Sure, leveraging cap space into actually signing major, difference-making free agents is easier said than done. Plus, some of the younger teams may wish to continue their rebuild a season or two longer before going all-in.

Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges
Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

Still, if even half the teams do decide that the time is ripe to attempt a move up the standings, then by nature, others will have to fall for that to occur. Of the teams to have made the playoffs last season, only the Utah Jazz seem comfortable for a spiral down and out of postseason contention.

That will leave us with an ever growing battle the NBA has scarcely seen. Who would have thought last season that, despite injuries and questionable roster construction, both Los Angeles’ teams would miss the playoffs?

This is what makes the Suns’ playoff exit all the more disappointing. They had a window where they were considered the best team in the league, as the favorite to win it all. While they’ve now come back to the pack, that window is still ajar for the ultimate glory to play out.

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For what it’s worth, the franchise now has a solitude of key figures that understand their place in the current landscape. Past Phoenix regimes may have taken this for granted, but one senses the current team understands their urgency to deliver sooner rather than later.