The Phoenix Suns died on Sunday, May 15 after a short illness. They left behind a multitude of baffled fans, an owner with many pressing questions, and a coaching staff and front office with lots of work to do. While their collapse was both sudden and mysterious, there is some speculation that they may have been murdered by a Slovenian dude named Luka.
While this won’t be the last time I write about the Suns this year, it will probably be the last thing I write about them for a good long while. For one thing, like many of my fellow diehard fans, I am feeling like the last seven months were a mirage and I’m left wondering, “What happened?”
During and after the game on Sunday, I had no clue what I had just seen. I’ve spent so much time being angry at these guys over the past few weeks for the way they were outplayed during a good amount of the New Orleans series and then in Dallas in games 3,4, and 6 that I couldn’t even get mad. I was just stunned. To see a team that looked like they could not be beaten by anyone in a seven-game series get completely destroyed by the Mavericks was nothing short of inexplicable.
I’m still confused.
To me, the most pressing issue is what the heck happened with Deandre Ayton and Monty Williams. Was there a dust up? Why did he only play 17 minutes in the game? It’s not like he was going to bring them back in the second half. The way Dallas was playing, there was no way they were coming back in that game after it went to 20 points in the second quarter.
If Ayton quit on the team, that’s a terrible sign. If he was upset because he was not part of the plan of attack, that is understandable, but I did not see him play aggressively enough to warrant the Suns trying to get him the ball more. What I saw was a Mavericks team that swarmed him quite often when he got the ball in the post because they knew he was not going to make a strong move to the hoop.
There were several times I thought Ayton had a lane to the basket if he would have just taken a quick dribble or two on Powell or Kleiber and went around them. I guess we’ll never know, though. If I were a betting man (and thankfully I am not), I would say there is a strong chance that Ayton has played his last game for the Suns.
My realistic dream scenario would be to trade Ayton to the Spurs for Jakob Poetl and Dejounte Murray. The Suns would probably have to add a piece to get it done, but Murray would be the heir apparent to Paul and be our super 6th man in the meantime and Poeltl would be a good replacement for Ayton. I’m guessing San Antonio would want Cam Johnson, along with Ayton, to make it happen. I’d do that trade in a heartbeat if the Suns are set on getting rid of their young center.
The other issue is more on Williams. How does the NBA Coach of the Year get outcoached in two series in a row? Why were there no significant adjustments made between game 6 and 7 when Dallas thoroughly kicked their teeth in during game 6? It seems like the Suns thought they were just too good to lose, and Williams was waiting for them to kick it into that extra gear that no one could match during the regular season.
I don’t think they fire Williams. I don’t see any significant changes to his staff unless they could bring in another great X’s and O’s mind to help with these types of adjustments. Maybe Monty really has lost the team. There is so much speculation going on right now around the mental health of the team that it is hard to figure out where the problems lay.
Chris Paul definitely aged before our eyes and was exposed by New Orleans and Dallas. What adjustments, if any, can he make at this point? Why would any team that they face next year not attack him in the same way moving forward? If I’m an NBA coach, I’m doing exactly what Dallas and New Orleans did to him every game and making him a non-factor.
Sadly, I don’t see there being a bounce back for CP3 and I’m not sure who steps up as the team leader next year. Devin Booker shriveled up, too, in the last two games of the Dallas series and there are a lot of questions about him right now. He’s clearly not the gunslinger/cold blooded killer that he seems to want to be. His mouth wrote a bunch of checks that his ass couldn’t cash and it’s going to take a ton of work for him to regain the momentum he had going into the playoffs.
Booker is a great player. One of the best the Suns have ever had, to be truthful, and I am shocked he didn’t show up. To see him miss the open looks he had in Sunday’s game was as big a surprise as anything that transpired. I still think he is the guy the Suns should build around, but he’s going to need some serious help.
It is clear that Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson cannot be counted on to shoulder anything more than a third or fourth best guy role. Bridges disappears way too much on the offensive end to ever be that No. 2 that Booker needs. I really like both players a lot, but if one of them would have to be moved to bring in a second go to guy, so be it. I think the Suns will move on from Cam Johnson before Bridges, so we’ll see what happens. I know they like them both, though, so maybe not.
As for the rest of the team, I hope they bring back Biyombo and McGee if they can. Both are serviceable bigs who should be signed for reasonable prices. If they get Saric healthy, they will have enough big guys and Torrey Craig and Jae Crowder are both under contract for next year. I doubt they bring back Aaron Holiday or Elfrid Payton as they will be exchanged for similar cheap guards.
Here lies the body of the Phoenix Suns best regular season team ever. The Mavericks kicked and the Suns dipped, and the team’s fans will wonder what the fuck forever.
See you tomorrow.
The rain was coming in quick that day.