Oct 19, 2022 - Sports

The NBA is back and the Suns look to avenge their early playoff exit

Data: FiveThirtyEight; Table: Axios Visuals
Data: FiveThirtyEight; Table: Axios Visuals

The Phoenix Suns are under extraordinary scrutiny and pressure as they kick off the 2022-23 season Wednesday night at home against the Dallas Mavericks.

  • Tip off is at 7pm.

Catch up quick: The Suns won a franchise record 64 games last season, giving them the best record in the NBA. They entered the postseason with perhaps the highest expectations they've ever faced.

  • But the team struggled in the playoffs and lost in the second round to the Mavericks, who embarrassed them on their home court in a Game 7 blowout.
  • According to FiveThirtyEight's analysis, the Suns have a 5% chance of winning the NBA Finals, putting them in a three-way tie with the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors for ninth place.

1 big concern: Phoenix's roster has been pretty constant over the past two years, but the team has been trying to trade power forward Jae Crowder, who skipped training camp and is listed by the team as inactive.

State of play: A lot of eyes will be on center Deandre Ayton and head coach Monty Williams, whose frayed relationship became a problem as the season wore on. In Game 7 against Dallas, Williams benched the struggling Ayton.

  • Backup center Dario Šarić will return to the lineup after missing all of last season with an ACL tear he suffered during Game 2 of the 2021 NBA Finals.

What's the same: The Suns will rely heavily on their star backcourt of Chris Paul and Devin Booker.

  • Booker, now in his eighth season, is establishing himself as an elite player.
  • Paul, entering his 18th season, had a great run during his first two years with the Suns but he's 37 now and Father Time is undefeated.

The other side: Our colleagues at Axios Dallas put together their three reasons why they think the Mavs will win.

Why the Mavericks will win:

  • Well, Dallas already proved to be the better team at the end of last year. The Suns had a great regular season but then ended it with a game against the Mavs.
  • While Dallas lost the team's clear-cut No. 2 option when Jalen Brunson went to the New York Knicks in free agency, Spencer Dinwiddie has proved he can step up when needed. Plus the Mavs added the aging big-man shot blocker JaVale McGee (from Phoenix) and solid six-man Christian Wood.
  • Luka Dončić. The Suns don't have an answer to the Slovenian soul slayer. It's not clear if anyone does.

Why the Suns will win:

  • It's a revenge game.There's no better way to make a statement than by opening the season with a win against the team that sent them packing.
  • Ayton got his contract extension and he knows there's a lot riding on him being the player the Suns were counting on when they used the top draft pick on him (bypassing Dončić in the process).
  • Going into the playoffs, Phoenix had a nine-game winning streak against Dallas, who hadn't beat the Suns since November 2019. The team that won 64 games during the regular season just didn't show up in the playoffs.

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