With the Phoenix Suns either on the phone trying to acquire Kevin Durant or writing hefty checks for Deandre Ayton this summer, one imperative offseason task is slipping through the cracks as we speak.
Especially with its anarchic nature, NBA offseasons resemble one of the more difficult things to “nail” across all major sports. Asking the Suns to acquire superstars, draft capital, well-liked glue guys, new jerseys, and grant every other fan wish is a tall order.
But we’re not asking the Suns for one of those “perfect” summers. Instead, we’re asking for one that is adequate, good enough, and fixes the team’s major flaws from the season before. To do that, they need to wake up and address this problem.
The Phoenix Suns Lacking Point Guard Depth is a Disaster Waiting to Happen
On the surface, the Phoenix Suns look like a top-tier team at the point guard spot. Chris Paul represents their headliner—an undoubted Future Hall of Famer still with the skills to torment his opponents night after night.
But when you look below that surface—at the team’s “opening acts” if you will—things are vulnerable.
During Phoenix’s 2020-21 season, and even during their 8-0 bubble run before that, Cameron Payne‘s renaissance in the league played as a major factor in all that success. Amidst those two seasons, including the playoffs, Payne averaged 8.7 points, 3.5 assists, and just 1.0 turnovers per game.
However, it was Payne’s efficiency from the floor that felt most impressive. Again between those two seasons, Payne posted .484/.451/.889 shooting splits. Those numbers more than cut it for a backup point guard in the league and consequentially helped the team prosper.
But last season, things went south for Payne. Laboring through multiple injuries, Phoenix’s backup ball-handler became frequently unavailable and when he did suit up he often played poorly.
Although Payne averaged an improved 10.8 points and 4.9 assists per game, the efficient shooting which made him a top sixth man across the entire league for two seasons disappeared. Payne put up .409/.336/.843 shooting splits, causing his true shooting percentage to fall by -10.3 points between those runs.
Payne also averaged a career-high 1.8 turnovers per game. This overall sloppy play combined with his health issues more or less forced Phoenix to pursue another ball-handler at the deadline last year after Paul injured his wrist, as the team brought in Aaron Holiday.
Yes, the Suns stayed winning last year even despite Payne’s problems, but that largely came due to Paul’s sustained greatness combined with Holiday and Booker stepping up at the point during that injured stretch for CP3.
But now entering the 2022-23 season, Paul is a year older and coming off back-to-back postseasons where injuries got the best of him. The insurance behind him is also weaker now with Holiday leaving for the ATL. For as ineffective as he was, Elfrid Payton was not re-signed either.
At this point, the only point guards on the Phoenix Suns’ roster include the 37 year old Paul, two-way player Duane Washington Jr., and then Payne.
With most free agents having already inked deals with teams for the upcoming season, it seems like the Phoenix front office is banking on either a massive bounce-back season from Payne or Paul to fend off the injury bug for the entire 2022-23 campaign. But with each player’s aforementioned pasts, those two scenarios feel unlikely to play out as such.
Whether it was bringing back Holiday or making a run at any other available ball-handlers either via trade or through the free agent market, Phoenix failed by neglecting to beef up their point guard position this summer.
Given how injuries to Paul helped knock out the Suns each of the past two years, this failure unfortunately feels like one that could derail the coming season in the worst of ways. It’s a massive error, but it hides easily behind Paul’s greatness when healthy and the collective optimism pertaining to another Payne turnaround.
While we can certainly hope that Paul stays healthy all season and Payne returns to his previous self, banking on such things happening is not how you construct a championship roster. Instead, you need something resolute like the Golden State’s deep, well-oiled machine from last year.
Phoenix at this point though has refused to patch up this glaring hole in their ship. If they do not tend to it soon (seriously, just sign Dennis Schröder), it threatens to sink yet another season.