Amidst the turbulent losing streak that the Suns are currently experiencing, there is one hard truth that Suns fans have begrudgingly accepted. This roster is not a championship contender; the biggest problem is the backcourt.
The Suns started this season looking like a force to be reckoned with, but that dominant demeanor has escaped the ball club for the last couple of weeks. It was expected for the Suns to struggle offensively, given that Chris Paul has only been back for four games.
Where the concern lies for Phoenix is their inability to generate easy offense, even with Paul in the lineup.
The Suns thrived in the early stretch of the season as it looked like Devin Booker and Cam Payne would be enough to replace what we were not getting from Chris Paul. Well, over the past five games, the Suns have turned over the ball nearly 15 times a night, compared to only 13 per game for the season. At the same time, their assists numbers have remained the same.
This trend of increased turnovers is not the result of more ball movement leading to honest mistakes. These turnovers are being forced out of the Phoenix Suns because they lack scoring ability in the backcourt outside of Booker.
The Phoenix Suns need another scoring guard that can create
Since last season’s playoff exit, the Suns have needed to add another guard off the pine that can run the offense and be a scoring threat night in and night out. Bogdan Bogdanović has been mentioned, but the Suns likely don’t have enough assets to draw him. Derrick Rose is an intriguing option, and it appears that youth will be the focus in New York, so he must be available.
Payne is an excellent personality on this team, and one can only imagine the laughter, confidence, and toughness he provides on the floor and in the locker room. But he does not bring a consistent enough playmaking punch to be the first guard off the bench, especially when it has become clear Paul is not the same player he once was.
Saying that Paul has declined is not alluding to his decline from being a superstar. Instead, it alludes to CP3 being a shell of the player that helped Houston come within a game of defeating the Kevin Durant-led Warriors.
Paul has regressed so far that our championship window is only open if Book can get out of this slump and get back to being an MVP-level player (very likely) and for Ayton to find consistent aggression (a lot less likely). There is also the need for Mikal Bridges to shoot consistently – unlike against the Rockets – and remain confident in his ball-handling abilities and scoring.
Ayton and Bridges are critically important because Paul is no longer a threat to score when he wants. He averages less than ten points a game and shoots less than 40% from the field.
A big part of what made Paul so deadly was his ability to put defenders on a string and then pull back for a jumper, or he would blow past slower defenders to get to a short jumper. Neither option is not there for him like they used to be.
The truth is that the Suns, as currently constructed, are not built to compete for a championship. It is far too difficult for this team to generate easy shots if Booker is not clicking, and their defense has regressed since their Finals run. It hurts to say it, but it is hard to see this group winning a championship unless structural changes are made to this team. The lack of firepower in the backcourt is the biggest blight to this club on a window closing fast.