EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

The must-watch games on the Phoenix Suns’ 2023-24 schedule

Aug 17, 2023, 12:32 PM | Updated: 12:36 pm

Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, Phoenix Suns...

Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns high fives Devin Booker #1 after scoring against the Denver Nuggets during Game Four of the NBA Western Conference Semifinals at Footprint Center on May 07, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona.(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Hey, everyone, the Phoenix Suns’ schedule is out!

You might be anxious to watch this basketball team assembled around Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal and Deandre Ayton. New head coach Frank Vogel brings a defensive identity around a revamped roster. Sportsbooks like Phoenix’s chances to win a lot.

We’ll get into the nitty gritty down the road.

For now, let’s take in the narratives and the pure play on the court. Here are the matchups we’re most looking forward to watching in 2023-24.

What Suns games are must-watch on the 2023-24 schedule?

Chris Paul’s Warriors debut – Oct. 24

TNT’s opening night slate is chock-full of storylines, but none are more obvious and noteworthy than Chris Paul’s first game against the Phoenix Suns.

His departure wasn’t mutual, after all. The Suns traded him for Bradley Beal despite Paul expressing a desire to play out the final year of his contract with Phoenix.

Paul expressed that discontent of being traded to the Washington Wizards by telling the New York Times that new owner Mat Ishbia and his non-Suns-employee friend, Isiah Thomas, “wanted to go in a different direction.”

Getting redirected to the Golden State Warriors probably helped Paul move on. On the court, it’s a fascinating pairing of two of the best — but very different — point guards of all-time. Paul and new teammate Draymond Green have a long history of not being cool with one another.

How does Paul fit? Does he come off the bench? He certainly gives Golden State something new.

We haven’t even gotten to Kevin Durant’s second game in the Bay Area since departing the Warriors in 2019. He’s played them a handful of times in Brooklyn but in California only once — alongside James Harden and Kyrie Irving — in 2021. Now he meets the Dubs as part of Phoenix’s new Big Three.

It’ll be a game of a bunch of alpha dudes playing against one another while in their first game learning the new dynamics of their roster ecosystem. Should be fascinating.

Return of the twins – Dec. 13

What a wacky career arc Mikal Bridges took. It was still midway through last season when it looked uncertain whether he could be a legitimate No. 2 offensive threat for a title contender. He hit major speedbumps when Devin Booker got hurt.

There were three games around Christmas 2022 where he didn’t even hit double-digit shot attempts. When he started pressing to get up more attempts, he had a 3-for-15 performance and a 2-of-10 performance at the start of January.

And then it all just clicked. He was a 19.3 point-per-game scorer in January and was traded a week into February along with Cam Johnson in the Durant deal.

Then he was a 26.1 point-per-game scorer for the Brooklyn Nets and a 24-5-4 guy in a brief playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Johnson had himself an uptick in contributions, averaging 16.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game for Brooklyn on 47% shooting and 37% three-point accuracy at high volume.

They’ve continued growing as members of USA Basketball national team set to fight for a FIBA World Cup this summer. And they will return to where they were drafted this season in what surely will be No. 1 on many Suns fans’ list of must-see games.

LeBron-KD at last? – Oct. 26

LeBron James and Kevin Durant enter the 2023-24 season with a 14-game streak of their teams playing one another but at least one of them missing from the game.

A showdown between them hasn’t taken place since 2018.

They’ve played one another 35 times, according to Stathead. They’ve crossed the 25-point threshold in 56 of those combined individual performances.

There’s not much more to explain that, if you love hoop, this drought needs to end between arguably the two best players in the last decade. They each finished last season still looking at the top of their games despite James dealing with some sort of injury and Durant ending his brief debut run with the Suns in a weird shooting slump with everything else going quite right.

Let us please have them healthy in the second game of the year.

The Monty Williams factor – Nov. 5

Ayton outlasting Monty Williams as a member of the Suns isn’t something you probably would have bet on.

It should not be lost on us that Ayton’s inconsistencies and underachieving have coincided with his head coach apparently not even sending him a message of congrats when the 2018 first-overall pick inked a life-changing max contract last summer.

The center’s aggressive play in FIBA Pre-Qualifying play with the Bahamas may or may not mean anything. No matter where you stand on that, what’s certain is nobody knows how effective Ayton can be under Vogel until we see it on the court over a decent sample of games.

I know there’s a preseason meeting between Williams’ new team and the Suns. But it should be fascinating to see if we get an angry Ayton game when that time comes in the regular season.

Ayton’s emotions don’t come out often, but it remains seared into my brain that his best game in college was in Oregon, when the Arizona Wildcats left head coach Sean Miller at home for a game after an ESPN report said Miller discussed a $100,000 payment to ensure Ayton signed with his team.

Ayton dropped 28 points and 18 rebounds with four blocks in that one. Will that emotional play come out against Detroit?

Honorable mentions

vs. Nuggets – Dec. 1: The Western Conference Semifinals rematch should be fun, and if we’re thinking Ayton turns a corner, it’s a good test against excited horse-racing champion Nikola Jokic.

vs. Mavericks – Dec. 25: It’s probably not going to be holly or jolly between Luka Doncic and Devin Booker going at it once again. They go at one another. The single Suns-Mavs matchup after the trade deadline last season was epic basketball to watch between those two, Durant and Kyrie Irving. It should hold similar viewing weight this season with Bradley Beal in that mix and Dallas being the NBA leader in distance between low floor and high ceiling.

vs. Spurs – Oct. 31: San Antonio has some fun young guys to match up with the Phoenix stars, but you have to include Victor Wembanyama’s early game against Phoenix on this last. Does Ayton guard him? Durant? Bol Bol for an all-timer of guys with wingspans? Also, it will be a Texas Haboob in Cam Payne’s first game against the Suns.

vs. Thunder – Nov. 12: If Wemby makes this list, Chet Holmgren and the Oklahoma City Thunder must as well. Holmgren has a year of watching NBA play and came with similar unicorn traits as Wembanyama before suffering a foot injury last year. But he’s on a team led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a crew of all-around great basketball playmakers who could be the most fun squad in the league and a surprise top-four finisher in the Western Conference.

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