The Phoenix Suns dropped to 12-10 on what has been an up and down 2023-24 season on Friday night, as they lost 114-106 to the upstart Sacramento Kings. A loss that felt like a foregone conclusion to most, with the Suns missing some of their top end talent for the game.
Not only were Bradley Beal and Kevin Durant out for the contest, the team were also missing dependable starter Grayson Allen. Head coach Frank Vogel was clearly feeling the crunch for the game, as he played no fewer than 12 players as even Bol Bol managed to see the court, albeit for only one minute.
After the game, Devin Booker was asked if he was concerned about the direction that the Suns' season at this point.
The organization have played over one-quarter of their games, and find themselves in seventh spot in the Western Conference. There are still plenty of games left to play, but sitting in the play-in tournament spots, one position ahead of the Houston Rockets, was not what the franchise had in mind for this season.
Nice as the in-season tournament was as a distraction and another trophy to try and win, being dumped out at the quarter-final stage in contensious circumstances and failing to make it to Las Vegas did sting the organization.
They swung for the bleachers in adding first Durant and then Beal, but right now look some way behind the Denver Nuggets and even Minnesota Timberwolves out West. The Los Angeles Lakers have also managed to beat the Suns three times already this season, which is further proof that the team would be in trouble if the two met next spring in the playoffs.
Leave it to Booker then to provide some calm at a moment when some fans have started to panic, by offering up the following reason for the Suns' struggles up to this point.
Booker obviously has a point here. We are yet to see Booker, Durant and Beal play a single minute together during the regular season, although the latest update on Beal is a promising one. He will be back before long, but the three games played up to this point was not what the franchise had in mind when they shipped Chris Paul out in favor of him.
Durant has been the organization's best player so far this season - and it is not even close - and the ankle issue that forced him out of the loss to the Kings does not appear to be cause for concern. But his absence does raise larger questions about having to rely so much on a 35-year-old this early in the season, not that Booker seems worried.
At this point Jusuf Nurkic has played more games than any of the "Big 3", not a statistic that anybody saw coming before the season started. The smart bet would be that he too will miss some time between now and the postseason, at which point the team really will be down to the bare bones.
That may seem like an overly negative way to view this roster, but it is grounded in the reality of Nurkic's injury history. Once the Suns have all three of their stars back and playing, plus Nurkic, we will get a much better idea of how good they can be. But with how disjointed the season has been because of injuries so far, perhaps Booker should be more worried than he appeared to the media.