Some pundits believed the only reason why the Phoenix Suns reached the NBA Finals was because of injuries.
In the 2021 playoffs, the Suns faced the Los Angeles Lakers with an injured Anthony Davis, the Denver Nuggets, who played without Jamal Muray, and the Los Angeles Clippers without Kawhi Leonard. While it’s true that Chris Paul was hurt too, the Suns never faced a healthy team in the playoffs.
Mind you, Giannis Antetokounmpo was injured before the start of the finals but came back stronger.
With most Western Conference teams making massive moves during the 2021 offseasons, the question now stands: Can Phoenix rise against stacked and healthy squads in the West?
A Difficult Climb
While Chris Paul’s leadership steered the Suns to their best finish in years, you have to admit that injuries that hit the other teams helped the Suns’ cause. Pundits believed that the Suns wouldn’t reach the second round of the 2021 playoffs if the Lakers had a healthy Anthony Davis.
Many still believed that the Suns could compete against a stacked Western Conference. However, with Pheonix making minimal roster moves during the offseason, things look darker for Phoenix.
Let’s put it this way: the Dallas Mavericks are continuing their roster buildup around Luka Doncic. The Utah Jazz looks to regain full strength with a healthy Donovan Mitchell. More importantly, the Golden State Warriors will welcome a healthy Klay Thompson back.
However, the rest of the West reloading doesn’t mean that the Phoenix Suns would end up at the bottom of the West. With CP3 and Devin Booker leading the team, the Suns are considered a playoff-bound team for the 2021-2022 season.
Then again, it also depends on whether or not the Suns would be healthy enough for another deep run in the playoffs. By the time the 2022 playoffs come around, Chris Paul would be 37. There’s no saying how long he can grind it out against a stacked conference.
That, and if Deandre Ayton would be able to hold on his own against the best big men in the West. And, how much help the Suns would get by then.
How Far Can Phoenix Go?
Last season, the Suns finished the regular season with a 51-21 slate- the second-best record in the NBA. Can they replicate that finish? It’s unlikely.
At best, Phoenix could be in the top four but not better than both LA squads. At worse? They could still make the 2022 playoffs via the play-in tournament.
Phoenix’s fate in the 2022 playoffs depends on who they will face in the first round. If the Suns’ roster remains the same until the playoffs, they could only go as far as the West semifinals.
Then again, nobody expected them to reach the 2021 playoffs, and yet, they did. Nobody even thought of the Suns competing for a championship, and yet, they did. In other words, we shouldn’t count the Suns out just because they have a quiet offseason.