The Phoenix Suns went from Western Conference champions in 2021 to being eliminated in the second-round of the 2022 playoffs as the number one seed.
Phoenix looked good all of 2022 when they were fully healthy. They managed to have the best record in the NBA during the regular season and were slated to face the Pelicans in the first-round. That first round was anything but easy for the Suns, but they eventually won in six games before going to seven games with the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavericks were far from an NBA title favorite and most thought that Phoenix would beat them in a game seven at home. Dallas ended up blowing them out to advance to the Western Conference Finals where they got steamrolled by the Warriors.
This now begs the question, can this iteration of the Phoenix Suns still win a championship going into the 2022-23 season?
Every great NBA team has their championship window. In 2021, Phoenix was just a couple of games away from winning it all, and in 2022, they were the best team in the league for 90% of the season. It is expected that the Suns will be one of the best teams in the league again come the 2023 playoffs. Currently, the Suns have the sixth best odds, according to Wynnbet, to win the 2023 championship.
The case for the Phoenix Suns still being championship contenders
This team still has arguably two of the top 20 players in the NBA – Chris Paul and Devin Booker. That’s a top ten duo in the league undoubtedly, but what makes this team even more special is their supporting cast.
The third-best player on the team is likely Deandre Ayton, who averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Ayton could match up well against any other teams’ third best player and could be even better this upcoming year.
Phoenix also has a couple young players who are already good but could be even better this upcoming season as well. Those players are Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, who are both great role players as they can both score, shoot, and defend multiple positions.
The Suns essentially have the same core intact from the 2020-2021 Western Conference championship season. With internal development, this team could be even better than they were the last two years.
The case for the Phoenix Suns no longer being championship contenders
The past two seasons have been a little odd to say the least. In the 2020-21 season there was no truly dominant team and Phoenix came out of the West to many people’s surprise. The 2021-22 season had one standout team and that was Golden State, who won the championship with ease.
The 2022-23 season should be different. While the Suns may have been one of the best teams in the league, you have to look at how other teams have improved while Phoenix has essentially remained the same.
Right now in the Western Conference, there are potentially seven teams that could realistically make it to the NBA Finals – the Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Nuggets and Suns. While some of these teams have proven themselves as contenders, others will have greatly improved rosters next season, or will be contenders if they can get and stay healthy (Clippers, Nuggets and Lakers)
The Western Conference will be exceptionally more competitive than it has been the past couple of years, assuming that these teams are healthy and stay healthy for the playoffs.
Can this team still compete for a championship in the West with all of these new contenders popping up, or have Phoenix been surpassed in what may be remembered as a period of wasted opportunity?