With the season underway, the reigning Western Conference Champion Phoenix Suns have important storylines to pay attention to, possibly using them this season as a benchmark for future decisions. From their pushing back into contention in the Western Conference to decisions being made throughout the season that could impact the team going forward, this is an important year for the Suns. Here are three storylines throughout this season that will determine the future for Phoenix.
DeAndre Ayton’s extension:
Towards the end of the offseason, DeAndre Ayton became more vocal about his views on the rookie max extension. He stated that he wanted the same money as players in his 2018 draft class like Trae Young, Luka Doncic and Michael Porter Jr., who were all given 5 year extensions.
However, the Suns decided against offering him the extension before the season, not convinced that Ayton is worth the money. Although Ayton’s been a big piece of the core in Phoenix, his position as a big man who can’t necessarily shoot from distance can be replaced. Instead of paying a guy whose position is dying, the Suns can use this money to pay their other young players or use it for other free agents.
However, Ayton is still an important part of the team. At just the age of 23, Ayton’s career averages are 15.9 points and 10.7 rebounds. He also proved to be a big game player in the playoffs averaging 22 points, 19 rebounds and shooting 80% from the field.
If Ayton performs at a high level this season, the chances of him being a max player will shoot up. However, Ayton’s start has been on par with his normal production. After five games, Ayton averaged 13.8 points and 11.4 rebounds. However, Ayton will be missing the next few games with a leg contusion.
After Ayton returns to the court, his play from there will determine his future with the team. If he can make the jump to be a top player at his position or shows a spike in production, the Suns probably will sign him to the extension. However, if he doesn’t, Ayton’s free agency situation could become very interesting.
Devin Booker’s Breakout Season?:
Although last year’s season and playoffs could count as Devin Booker’s breakout season, there still is a lot for the young star to prove. This is his year coming off that incredible run to make an All-Star team without being a replacement or to make an All-NBA team and really put himself up there with some of the best players in the league.
However, Booker has not started the season at an All-Star level. So far, he’s averaging 21.8 points on 40.5% from the field and 27.8% from three, both significantly lower than his career averages.
However, this should not be worrisome for Suns fans. The season just started and shooting percentages are down for superstars across the league. This should be a season where Booker continues to build his resume with bigger accolades. Expect Booker to play at the same level or play better than he did during the playoffs. This is Booker’s year to really cement his place in the NBA.
Chances to Repeat?
For Phoenix, repeating will be a tough task, especially in the reloaded West. Teams in their own division, including the new-look Lakers and Warriors, have added or returned key players to their roster. Also, the Eastern Conference includes super-teams such as the Nets and Finals Champion Bucks.
The Suns need a lot of things to go right for them to return to the Finals. They need DeAndre Ayton to breakout and play like the number one pick. They need Chris Paul to produce numbers similar to last year even though he is another year older. And, they need the Suns’ high-energy bench unit to return to form like last year.
However, the Suns have the culture to be able to do something like this. They have great leadership in head coach Monty Williams and players like Chris Paul who are all on the same page. That’s what winning is about. Having the right pieces and the right people around in order to better your franchise.
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