In many ways, the Phoenix Suns as a team seem to have reached their peak. They first tied a 53-year-old franchise record for playoff wins (14, in 2021), and followed that up with a franchise record in regular-season wins (64, in 2021-22) before that extinction. playoffs that no one can properly explain, even their opponent.
The Suns may have reached this peak, and the only direction from here may be down. But we don’t know for sure, because sometimes the next peak is only visible after reaching the current one.
The Suns may still have a lot to climb, but for that to be true, we’ll have to see some dramatic internal improvement from some of these guys.
We have no idea who will actually improve this coming season.
What we can do, however, is rank the players the Suns desperately need to improve this coming season, whether that improvement is likely or not.
Here are your candidates:
- Devin Booker – in the top 8 NBA players
- Deandre Ayton – in the top 20 NBA players
- Mikal Bridges – in the top 30 NBA players (published 08/18)
- Cameron Johnson – in the top 50 NBA players
- Cameron Payne – to NBA’s top backup point guard
Let’s take them one by one, with a little help from Bright Side staff.
Today, our very own Tom Aizenberg explains why he thinks the most likely “big jump” comes from Deandre Ayton.
Deandre Ayton – in the top 20 NBA players
Why this must happen:
Deandre Ayton is one of the best centers in the league and has few real weaknesses. That being said, he is more of a jack-of-all-trades center. It would be nice if he was elite in any category, but instead he’s just really good. He can score, he can defend, he can rebound and sometimes also make jumps.
But unless you have multiple elite level perimeter players, it’s hard to win a championship without a big top level and Ayton isn’t quite in that level…..yet.
How it can happen:
Ayton needs to be able to create more offense on his own. When Booker isn’t on the court, Ayton should be able to easily expose any mismatch. Force a double team every time you are in the paint. And in defense, the rim protection needs to improve. There are defensive instincts that Ayton will never be able to develop because they come naturally to some and not to others. But being his size and averaging less than one block per game is pathetic.
Tom: Ayton’s natural talent combined with his age makes me believe the sky is the limit for him. However, he has also shown minimal improvement since entering the league as a Stallion rookie. I believe Ayton can be as big as he wants. So if he puts in the work, he can make that leap and make his first all-star appearance in 2023.
Dave King: I agree with Tom that DA can be as good as he wants, while maintaining that DA has indeed made significant progress as a player since entering the league. He was always excellent as a scorer at the rim, but as a rookie he was a spectator in defense and more than half of his offense involved taking shaky shots from mid-range when the defense sagged on him when capturing the high post. Now entering his fourth year, Ayton is the anchor of a championship-level defense and has added more wrinkles to his offensive game, including a near-unstoppable jump hook in the paint and a turnaround base jumper while improving on this medium when it arrives. the offence. DA has the ability to be an All-Star. He could have been an All-Star last year if he hadn’t missed some of the time before voting ended (knee, COVID, non-COVID illness) and I think that’s probably this year if he remains healthy and emotionally engaged.