Setting expectations: Arizona Sports roundtable predicts win total for Suns
Expectations have changed for the Phoenix Suns. At the beginning of last year, with Chris Paul in tow, it was assumed they would make the playoffs.
After finishing second in the Western Conference and coming out on top of it in the playoffs, it’s time to reset things heading into 2021-22.
The Suns have a target on their backs after making the NBA Finals, but what do we expect out of the team this year, which tips off at 7 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station with a home game against the Denver Nuggets?
We asked our show hosts and ArizonaSports.com editors to predict a win total and explain themselves. Safe to say expectations are high.
Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta
Call me crazy, but I think the Suns are poised to match or exceed their winning percentage (.708) from a year ago. Health has a lot to do with it, and considering their roster remained remarkably healthy a season ago, the law of averages on that has to be a concern. But they’re pretty much running it back with the same core from a year ago, so I think this team will win 58 games and be in contention for the top spot in the Western Conference once again. I can’t wait to watch Devin Booker in Year 7 and how much he gleaned from both his experience in a deep playoff run and his experience in helping Team USA to a gold medal in the Olympics.
Jon Bloom, Suns play-by-play voice and postgame show host
After completing my annual tradition of going game by game through the season schedule and picking win or loss, I have come up with a boisterous 57-25 final record that includes the Suns jumping out to a 9-1 start to the season, including a season-best seven-game win streak. That amount of wins should have them firmly in the race for the top spot in the West for the second straight season.
John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo
That would have tied for the third-best record in the West the last time we had a full season. The West is still tough so any predictions that get between 55-60 may be unrealistic. The core of the Suns should only be getting better, and having that continuity will certainly help. But again, the West is tough and the Suns now have that bullseye on their backs. Everyone will get up to play the Suns, something that hasn’t happened in a long long time.
Luke Lapinski, co-host of Wolf & Luke
Last season, they won 51 in 72, which projects out to roughly 58. They may have to manage Chris Paul’s minutes a little because of the short offseason, and I do wonder what the absence of an extension for Deandre Ayton means – but that’s more of a big-picture issue than something that should really impact the 2021-22 Suns. This team is returning all of its key pieces, has playoff experience now – both individually and as a team – and should be looking to finish what it started last year. I think the Suns keep it rolling.
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo
They’re deep, experienced but still young enough to expect improvement. They’ve added good complementary talent in Landry Shamet and JaVale McGee. I think they’re poised to make another run provided there is real improvement from Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton and Cam Johnson. Of course, I worry about Ayton and his situation; how he handles it externally and internally. I also worry about luck and how it was clearly on their side a year ago with the regular season injuries. To be frank, I almost don’t care how many regular season games they win. At the end of the season, if healthy, they have as good a chance as anybody no matter what their seed is.
Kellan Olson, ArizonaSports.com editor and co-host of Empire of the Suns podcast
They get the most in the league, 60.
This team doesn’t really have a weakness. They could be top-five in offense and defense after nearly doing it last year. They’ve got two terrific primary ball-handlers, shooting, passing, perimeter defense, rim protection and they are deep. All of it is inside a system that is clearly working and a team-oriented style of basketball on both ends that makes them better. They are the cream of the crop in the West.
Kevin Zimmerman, ArizonaSports.com lead editor and co-host of Empire of the Suns podcast:
Is this a lot? Yes. But that’s the bar for a team with continuity, upgraded depth, significant playoff experience and young players who should continue to make leaps. This same team cruised last year as one of the best in the league, through the regular season and through the playoffs. I don’t think other teams took them lightly then, either. There will be bumps in the road as the younger players like Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton evolve and grow alongside the star backcourt duo, and maybe there is load managing this season. But there’s probably more room for error against bad and average teams.
Tyler Drake, ArizonaSports.com editor
Last season’s ending should be more than enough bulletin board material for the Suns to be absolutely swinging out the gate. This team was built to produce long-term and I don’t think 60 wins is out of the realm of possibility at all, speaking to architect James Jones’ work behind the scenes. Just look at the offseason he’s had with adding even more depth to a loaded roster. There’s no better way to get a bad taste out of your mouth then picking up a whole lotta Ws. Phoenix is on a mission in 2021.