Five keys for the Phoenix Suns down the season’s final stretch

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Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Getting everyone accustomed to playing with KD and Durant familiar with everyone else will help Phoenix develop chemistry. Chemistry is something the team is going to need, as everyone has a part to play if the Suns are going to win a championship, especially the other stars.

Suns stretch run Key 2 – Keep Ayton at another level

Over the last month, heading into the All-star break, Deandre Ayton seemingly took a step as a player. Averaging more than 23 points per contest in the previous 15 games, Ayton is becoming the center the Suns need right before our eyes.

Of course, if you have followed the Suns long enough, we have been here before. After a great rookie season, Ayton got in trouble with a drug test and was suspended, and his growth was impeded. The last time Ayton had a sustained run like this was in February 2020, and then the world stopped, his progress was again halted, and his game fell back a few notches.

Now, with another volume scorer on the team in Durant, it would be easy for the more passive Ayton to sit back and let DBook and KD carry the load. However, for the Suns to be a real threat to get out of the West, let alone win the NBA title, they need a third scoring option, which is where Ayton falls into place.

If Ayton can stay above 20 points per game for the rest of the season, while Durant and Booker get theirs, come playoff time, a guaranteed 70 points from three players sure sounds good.

Suns stretch run Key 3 – Whose getting picked fifth?

At this point, once Durant is back on the floor, 80% of the Suns starting five names itself. Assuming all are available, Paul, Booker, Durant, and Ayton are the big four. However, basketball is played with five players at a time, and who that fifth person ends up being may be critical for this team.

The two most likely candidates are Josh Okogie and Torrey Craig. The latter has started for much of the season, filling in for injured players. However, Okogie has a bit more scoring punch than Craig. While neither is known for dropping 20 a night, both bring many intangibles and a willingness to do some of the dirty work, given the other four starters, which is what the Suns need.

If the Suns are playing a team with a quick ball-handling guard, Okogie may get the nod to help Paul defensively. Craig is the likely choice if Phoenix needs to bang a bit more or add more size.

Of course, there could be a surprise like TJ Warren, Terrence Ross, or even Damion Lee, who grabs that fifth spot. Williams and the Suns need someone to take it and make it theirs, regardless of who it is.