ESPN’s NBA staff still mighty high on 2022-23 Phoenix Suns

Aug 10, 2022, 9:54 AM
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the first half of Game One of the Western Confere...
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the first half of Game One of the Western Conference First Round NBA Playoffs at Footprint Center on April 17, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

If you were wondering why the Phoenix Suns have, so far, attacked the offseason with only tinkering, it might be best to remember the full context of the past two years instead of their 2021-22 flameout.

Phoenix has finished the last two regular seasons with a top-two record and has NBA Finals and conference semis appearances at the tail end of those years, respectively.

Not too bad.

Which is why, after the team re-signed Deandre Ayton and shuffled the depths of the rotation, ESPN’s NBA analysts and writers believe the Suns aren’t in bad shape when it comes to competing for a playoff spot and more. In other words, no Kevin Durant, no problem.

ESPN’s panel picked Phoenix to finish the regular season atop the Western Conference and with 56 wins despite their competition only getting stronger. Writes Kendra Andrews:

Sure, Phoenix is coming off a surprising second-round meltdown to the Mavericks. And they didn’t make any major roster additions over the summer. Frankly, they probably don’t need any. They need Chris Paul to be healthy, Devin Booker to play at an MVP-caliber level and for any animosity between Deandre Ayton and the franchise to be erased.

And while the ESPN roundtable didn’t pick the Suns as a championship favorite, Phoenix was still up there in terms of going deep into the postseason.

ESPN had the Suns as the third most likely squad to come out of the Western Conference Finals despite nobody on the panel selecting them as their No. 1 option. Phoenix is still sixth in terms of likelihood of winning the NBA Finals, behind the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat.

That’s notable with the Warriors returning their title team and having developmental players potentially bolstering the depth chart. The Clippers are projected to return Kawhi Leonard to join Paul George and a wing-heavy roster that can compete with anyone.

Boston has NBA Finals experience now, and Milwaukee will be challenging so long as Giannis Antetokounmpo is healthy. That’s without touching on the Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers, who added talent to cores with multiple All-Stars.

The Suns, with a strong foursome of role players around Paul, Booker, Ayton and Mikal Bridges, still carry weight in this discussion because they bring proof of past success.

Here’s how the voting went down for the Finals winner predictions.

1. Golden State Warriors: 52 points (36.8% of first-place votes)

2. LA Clippers: 35 points (26.3%)

3. Boston Celtics: 30 points (10.5%)

4. Milwaukee Bucks: 21 points (10.5%)

5. Miami Heat: 11 points (5.3%)

6. Phoenix Suns: 8 points

T-7. Denver Nuggets: 5 points (5.3%)

T-7. Minnesota Timberwolves: 5 points (5.3%)

9. Philadelphia 76ers: 3 points

10. Dallas Mavericks: 1 point

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ESPN’s NBA staff still mighty high on 2022-23 Phoenix Suns