ESPN’s Zach Lowe ranks Phoenix Suns outside ‘the inner circle’

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 02: Devin Booker #1 talks with Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns before the game against the Adelaide 36ers at Footprint Center on October 02, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The 36ers beat the Suns 134-124. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 02: Devin Booker #1 talks with Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns before the game against the Adelaide 36ers at Footprint Center on October 02, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The 36ers beat the Suns 134-124. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images) /
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There’s been much conjecture on the standing of the Phoenix Suns and what to expect heading into the new NBA season.

What version of the Suns will we get in 2022-23 — the league-leading, all conquering 2021-22 regular season team that went 64-18, or the team that fell flat in the second-round of the playoffs and who could be affected by a tumultuous offseason?

ESPN’s Zach Lowe believes the Phoenix Suns don’t deserve recognition among six teams placed in the inner circle of championship contention.

In an in-depth article last week, Lowe has classified each team into one of seven groups, ranging from ‘the inner circle’ to ‘happy to lose’. The omission of Phoenix from the inner circle was controversial, with Lowe spending no time in divulging his reasoning for the exclusion.

"“Between Robert Sarver, (Deandre) Ayton and (Jae) Crowder, there is a lot going on in Phoenix, and the top of the West allows for nothing less than complete unified focus. Chris Paul turns 38 in May. The Suns have squeezed every drop from their offense, and may not have enough ingredients without a trade to inject meaningful diversification.”"

Lowe raises common held points and an argument that many identify with. Phoenix’s place in the inner circle has been usurped by fellow Western Conference contenders in the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets, two teams expected to make huge jumps thanks to the return of key players.

Other members of Lowe’s championship contenders included the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, along with Eastern Conference powerhouses the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers.

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Suns fans do have reason to be optimistic though, largely thanks to their young core that should all theoretically make leaps again this season. Still, it’s fair to suggest that Phoenix’s reputation has taken a battering across the last few months and that as a result, trust needs to be rebuilt among Lowe and others in the NBA fraternity.