Jan 17, 2024 - News

Suns still a question mark as halfway point of season nears

Three basketball players in white jerseys stand next to a player in a blue jersey.

The Suns' Big 3 — Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal — earlier this month in LA. Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The high hopes that launched the Phoenix Suns' season have dissipated, and a team that had its sights set on a return to the NBA Finals has muddled through the past couple of months coping with injuries and a roster full of new faces.

State of play: As of Tuesday's 119-117 comeback win over the Sacramento Kings, in which they came back from 22 points down in the fourth quarter, the Suns are now 22-18, putting them in eighth place in the Western Conference.

  • That leaves the Suns clinging to a playoff spot as they near the halfway point of the regular season, which comes on Friday with their road game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Catch up quick: New owner Mat Ishbia's overhaul of the Suns' roster began with the blockbuster trade that brought Kevin Durant to Phoenix last season, continuing in the offseason as he dealt Chris Paul to Washington for Bradley Beal and sent Deandre Ayton to Portland in a trade that brought in Jusuf Nurkić.

Yes, but: Because of injuries, Tuesday marked only the ninth time in the Big 3 of Beal, Durant and star guard Devin Booker have played together in the Suns' 40 games so far this season.

  • Phoenix is just 5-4 in those games.

Zoom in: Durant is the NBA's fifth-leading scorer currently at 28.9 points per game, while Booker is 11th with 26.2 points per game.

  • Booker is also averaging 7.8 assists per game, the eighth best in the league.
  • Beal is averaging 17.9 points per game, though it's been 20.9 per game in the New Year, including a season-high 37 points in a Jan. 11 win over the Lakers.

The intrigue: It's understandable if it takes the Suns a while to gel, considering that most of the roster has little experience playing together.

  • Booker, Durant, Josh Okogie, Damion Lee and Saben Lee are the only players who were on the roster at any point last season.
  • Booker is also the only player remaining from the Suns' Western Conference championship team that lost the Finals to Milwaukee in 2021.

What they're saying: In a recent interview with The Athletic, the Big 3 were all optimistic about the remainder of the season.

  • "There's gonna be some ups and downs throughout this time as we figure it out. But if we stay in the saddle, and we just keep knocking them down and locking in, every day matters. Get better individually and figure it out as a team," Durant said.
  • Booker said "finding certain lineups that mesh well together" is an important factor.

What's next: The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 8, and if the Suns want to make a deal for a wing player who could add some much-needed perimeter defense, shooting guard Grayson Allen may be the team's most likely trade bait, the Arizona Republic reported.

  • In the interview with The Athletic, Beal acknowledged, "We all obviously understand that we've got to start playing some defense."

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