Realistically, the 2018-19 Phoenix Suns weren’t supposed to crash the playoff party in the Western Conference. After all, the Suns finished with the NBA’s worst record in 2017-18 and, generally, a jump from the league’s basement to even the fringe of the playoff race in the loaded West would be a wildly impressive accomplishment.
With that said, the Suns clearly attempted to make the next step with their moves over the summer of 2018, investing a hefty contract (albeit for only one year) in Trevor Ariza and acquiring Ryan Anderson and rookie De’Anthony Melton in a late August deal with Houston. Beyond that, Phoenix has been regularly selecting in the lottery for some time, adding theoretically impressive talent, and the Suns picked up big man Deandre Ayton with the No. 1 overall pick.
So far, though, the 2018-19 campaign has been a forgettable one for Phoenix, as the team appears once again resigned to the NBA’s bottom tier. The Suns picked up an impressive season-opening win over the Mavericks on a national television but, after that blip, reality struck and Phoenix currently boasts bottom-three units on both offense and defense to go along with an ugly, 4-19 record.
After an impressive efficiency breakout in 2017-18, Devin Booker’s shooting has cooled a bit and, even with small sample size caveats, it is probably safe to note that he shouldn’t be the best player on a playoff-bound team in the West. Booker certainly isn’t the major issue, though, as the Suns have received little in the way of complementary support, as only Ayton and T.J. Warren are joining their lead guard in averaging double-figures offensively.
All things considered, the Suns should be better on the offensive end than they are, and most of that can be tied to the team’s point guard conundrum (they don’t have one) and widespread struggles from players like Josh Jackson. Still, the defensive end of the floor will be a continuing problem, with Ayton struggling mightily in the early going (as many rookies do), Booker continuing to languish and issues all over the floor.
In a big-picture sense, it is easy to see why some projected a step forward from the Suns and, with nearly 60 games remaining, improvement could be in the offing. At the moment, though, the team’s roster construction remains bizarre and, even with a nice two-man core with Booker and Ayton, there is a lot of work to be done on the margins to turn this club into a coherent product on a nightly basis.
Where do the Suns rank in this week’s DIME power rankings? Let’s explore.
1. Denver Nuggets (16-7, Last week — 6th)