Credit: Fadeaway World
After spending years in the Western Conference bunker, the Phoenix Suns finally had their breakout season in 2021, when they made a run to the NBA Finals behind the play of Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and young big man Deandre Ayton.
Unfortunately, they were unable to build on that milestone and followed it up with a disappointing loss against the Mavericks in the second round.
Entering this campaign, the Suns have mostly the same guys they did a year ago. With no big-name acquisitions to help, it will fall on Booker and Paul to lift the Suns to where they want to be.
Of course, the supporting cast will also have to step up, and backup point guard Cameron Payne seems ready for the grind ahead. In a chat with the media on Friday, the young stud got real on his expectations for Phoenix and his biggest goal for the new season.
“Make it back to the championship," Payne said. "That’s my personal goal as long as the team goal.”
There are a lot of unknowns in Phoenix this year. At 37 years old, how much longer can Chris Paul play at an elite level? And for Devin Booker, can he finally take the leap as a player that experts have been waiting to see?
Perhaps the biggest concern of all is the state of Deandre Ayton. We all know the guy can play, but it remains to be seen if his heart is still with the organization after they initially resisted giving him the deal he wanted.
After signing the max contract with the Suns, Ayton went on to share his true feelings about all the drama he had faced around his return to the franchise.
"This is a blessing. This contract not only has generational impact for my family, but also with the way we are able to work in the Phoenix community and home in the Bahamas. That is the things that we go by … I've come to understand that this is a business. So, I was more anxious to know the end of the result so I could focus, move on and just get back to work. I just treated everything like a business. Just keep being professional, approach everything with professionalism and not looking too deep into it."
So, on paper, the Suns should be right near the top of the standings, competing at the highest level and on par with teams like the Warriors, Clippers, and Nuggets in the West.
If Cam Payne's goal is any indication of the Suns' mindset, then they will be ready to make amends for their shortcomings last season. Either way, we will find out what they are made of soon enough.