Did The Suns Pivot In The Wrong Direction?


Bryson Taylor

Star point guard Chris Paul giving it all he has to keep the ball in play late in the fourth quarter.

2022-23 Regular Season

The Phoenix Suns have ultimately failed to meet fans expectations once again this season. The team had faced numerous challenges, including injuries and off-court controversies, which undoubtedly impacted their performance on the court.

While there were certainly some high points throughout the season, the overall outcome is undoubtedly a disappointment for fans.

The Suns season got off to a somewhat shaky start, with a record of 9 wins and 6 losses in their first 15 games. This left many fans feeling worried and questioning how the team could step up their game and improve their performance.

Jae Crowder, an important contributor to the Suns success, made the decision early on in the season to not play for the Suns until news of a potential trade surfaced.

In the end, Jae Crowder was involved in a multi-team trade that sent him to the Milwaukee Bucks, while the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets received players and draft picks in return.

Leading up to the trade deadline, the Suns management made significant moves picking up players in an effort to enhance the team’s chances of making a deep playoff run. Among the players picked up or traded for were Ish Wainright, Terrence Ross, TJ Warren, Saben Lee, and Darius Bazley.

On February 9th, the Suns made possibly the biggest trade of the season, acquiring the legendary Kevin Durant. However, the trade brought on a range of emotions among fans.

Phoenix Suns fans begin to flood in as they prepare to face the Los Angeles Clippers in game 1 round 1. (Bryson Taylor)

Prior to bringing Kevin Durant onto the team, the Suns record stood at a disappointing 30-27. Fans were eagerly anticipating his debut game, hoping that his arrival would spark a late-season turnaround for the team.

While some fans were thrilled that the team had acquired one of the top players in the league and a future Hall of Famer, others were reasonably disappointed that the trade involved giving up Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and four first-round draft picks spanning from 2023 to 2029.

Kevin Durant’s arrival had an immediate impact on the Suns, as the team went on a three-game winning streak on the road. However, during his home debut game, he suffered an ankle injury while warming up, leaving many skeptical fans feeling accurate in their doubts about his impact on the team.

Following his recovery from injury, Kevin Durant played a key role in leading the Suns to an additional five consecutive victories, ultimately securing the team’s spot as the fourth seed in the playoffs with a 45-37 record.


Nuggets star player Nikola Jokic preparing to shoot a free throw. (All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

As the playoffs approached, some fans expressed concerns about the Suns. With Kevin Durant being a relatively new addition to the team, there was a sense of uncertainty about how well the players would work together on the court. However, other fans remained optimistic, believing that the team’s talent and potential would be enough to carry them through.

The first-round playoff matchup for the Phoenix Suns was against the fifth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers, in what was a highly anticipated rematch of the Conference Finals from 2021.

Although the Clippers won the first game, they suffered a major setback when their star player Kawhi Leonard was sidelined due to personal reasons and injuries. As a result, they went on to lose the following four games, resulting in a series loss to the Suns.

Moving on to the second round of the playoffs, the Suns were set to face off against the top-seeded Denver Nuggets.

Led by the impressive play of Nikola Jokic, who many rightfully believe should have been the league’s MVP, the Nuggets posed as the biggest challenge for the Suns. Unfortunately, the Suns ultimately fell to the Nuggets in a disappointing outcome for fans of the team.

The Denver Nuggets got off to a strong start in their matchup against the Phoenix Suns, winning the first two games with double-digit leads.

Unfortunately for the Suns, they not only suffered back-to-back defeats but also lost veteran point guard Chris Paul to a groin injury during game two. Paul’s injury looked to be a significant setback for the Suns, as he would be unable to return for the remainder of the series.

Despite the concerns of many Suns fans that losing Chris Paul would be a major setback for their team, the Suns managed to rally and secure two consecutive victories in two very tightly contested games.

However, any hopes of a Suns comeback were discarded as the Nuggets completely dominated in games five and six, winning by 16 points in game five and a staggering 25 points in game six.

Despite their best efforts, the Suns were unable to contain the unimaginably impressive performance of Nikola Jokic, who averaged a whopping 35 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists throughout the series.

Monty Williams and Luka Doncic during the 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland (Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Although the Suns playoff run ended in disappointment, many fans have high hopes bout the team’s future prospects, particularly with the expectation that KD will develop better chemistry with the team over the offseason.

Along with that, the Suns have parted ways with head coach Monty Williams, who appeared to struggle with decision-making and rotations during the playoffs according to some fans and analysts.

There is also speculation among fans that the Suns may explore trades for veteran point guard Chris Paul and center Deandre Ayton, who has been with the team for the past four seasons.

If the Suns front office can pull off successful and reasonable deals for these players, it could potentially bring the team to new heights in the upcoming season, and maybe even a championship.