A lot of blame needs to go to James Jones in this process, his fury of moves toward the end of the season left Williams with more questions than answers in his team, but Williams’s inconsistency with his squad during the regular season, which carried into the postseason points the finger back at the coach.
The Suns had no rotation and overworked their stars
Durant and Booker were mere shells of themselves when game 6 came around. Outside of Kawhi Leonard – who only played two playoff games – no other players averaged over 40 minutes per game, except KD and D-Book. From a scoring and simply ball-handling perspective, this load is too much.
However, the Suns had little choice because the team had few ball handlers available and none with confidence. The four regular starters all averaged big minutes, but no other player averaged even 20 minutes during the postseason. Instead, Phoenix had nine players average at least 10 minutes but less than 20, making it impossible for any one of the players, let alone multiple players, to find a rhythm and success off the bench.
Like with the minutes, the four main starters were the only players to average in double-figures scoring-wise, with Torrey Craig bringing up the rest of the pack, averaging less than 7 points per game. Like with Okogie and others down the line, the inconsistent role and minutes took a toll, and ultimately, Craig’s contribution vanished and did his minutes.
Making adjustments is not Williams’s strong suit
Besides wrecking the rotation, we saw Williams get beat on the sidelines for the second straight postseason with the Xs and Os. During the first round, Tyronne Lou adjusted and switched up his defenses to help inferior talent compete with superior skill, to which WIlliams had few answers. If not for the incredible ability of Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, the Suns likely would have lost in the first round to a Los Angeles Clippers team without their two best players.
As Lou mixed up the defenses, Williams said to run the same thing as Booker, and Durant went isolation. Chris Paul helped some, but his lack of athleticism prevents his skill from dominating in the pick-and-roll. As the hapless Clippers turned into a good Denver team, the same lamentable ending as last season was easy to predict.
As the Suns got to Denver, instead of finding new ways to pressure the ball or defend Nikola Jokic, Phoenix left their centers on an island to fight the best player in the world one-on-one. Sure, the refs protected Jokic, but so did Williams by allowing him to work single coverage the entire series.
The Suns never changed their defenses and went to a zone at any point. Yes, Denver is a good three-point shooting team, but you have to try something different. Even a box and one or a triangle and two would have been better than continuing to play late help defense and getting dunked on.
If not for Kobe Bryant taking over Booker’s body for a couple of days, the Suns likely would have been swept, as the only adjustment they made was to improve Booker’s accuracy, which was, unfortunately, a temporary fix.