The growing pains continue for the Phoenix Suns, but the young core is showing plenty of signs of potential for the future.
Looking at the raw numbers, the Phoenix Suns are as bad as ever. They’ve lost 13 of their last 15 games, including five straight defeats where they’ve given up at least 110 points. They have the second-worst record in the West at 18-39, are tied for the worst point differential in the league (-8.4) and are ranked 30th in defensive rating and 28th in offensive rating.
For those not watching the actual games, it would seem that the Suns’ youth movement is a disaster, that Devin Booker is simply putting up good numbers without helping his team win, and that Dragan Bender, Josh Jackson and Marquese Chriss are all draft busts.
None of the youngsters’ flashes of brilliance are translating to team success just yet outside of Booker, but those assumptions would be inaccurate.
It’s only natural to write off a team that’s suffered two 48-point defeats this season, the most recent of which came in a nationally televised game. But those who tuned in to Phoenix’s game against the Denver Nuggets Saturday night saw much more than just another double-digit loss.
For starters, Phoenix’s dip in the standings and recent ugly losses have as much to do with health as the team’s youth and lack of established talent. Booker has missed the team’s last three games with a hip pointer, starting point guard Tyler Ulis is banged up, backup point guard Isaiah Canaan went down for the season with a horrific leg injury, Tyson Chandler and Alex Len are dealing with nagging injuries…the list goes on and on.
In Saturday’s game, the Suns were once again without Booker, Chandler and Ulis, leaving them with new arrival Elfrid Payton — who got to Phoenix the night before and had one shoot-around to familiarize himself with the playbook — and G League call-up Josh Gray at the point guard position.
Missing their starting point guard (who’s not really a starting-caliber point guard to begin with), starting center and their best player, scorer and playmaker, the Suns still competed with a vastly superior Nuggets team until talent won out in the fourth quarter.
It’s worth noting that Marquese Chriss has struggled since returning from injury after it appeared he was ready to turn the corner. But even with Chriss finding his way back and Booker sidelined once again, the impressive play of Bender, Jackson, Payton and T.J. Warren — both in Saturday’s game and over the last few weeks — shouldn’t be ignored.