The 2020-21 NBA season is set to tip-off on Dec. 22. To get you ready for the year to come, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.
Today, we take a look at the Phoenix Suns.
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2019-20 season record
34-39, 10th in the Western Conference
Jalen Smith, No. 10 pick in 2020 Draft
Chris Paul, Trade (Oklahoma City)
Abdel Nader, Trade (Oklahoma City)
E'Twaun Moore, Free agency (New Orleans)
Langston Galloway, Free agency (Detroit)
Jae Crowder, Free agency (Miami)
Ricky Rubio, Trade (Minnesota)
Kelly Oubre Jr., Trade (Golden State)
Aron Baynes, Free agency (Toronto)
Frank Kaminsky, Free agency (Sacramento)
|PG||Chris Paul||Cameron Payne||Jevon Carter||Ty-Shon Alexander|
|SG||Devin Booker||E'Twaun Moore||Langston Galloway|
|SF||Mikal Bridges||Cameron Johnson||Abdel Nader|
|PF||Jae Crowder||Dario Saric||Johnathan Motley|
|C||Deandre Ayton||Jalen Smith||Damian Jones|
3 key storylines
The crown jewel
In acquiring Chris Paul, the Suns have made their intentions very clear.
Given their roster heading into the 2020-21 season, Phoenix's goal is to make the postseason, and adding the veteran guard is a huge step towards achieving that goal.
In the 2019-20 season in Oklahoma City, Paul proved that he can still be a difference-maker on a winning team, even at his age. While his All-Star and All-NBA recognitions are a testament to that, it was his impact on the Thunder while on the floor and his ability to be effective within the team's construct that were the biggest takeaways.
Last season, the Thunder outscored their opponents by 6.9 points per 100 possessions (team-best) with Paul on the floor. With him on the bench, they were outscored by 6.5 points per 100 possessions.
Paul was also the league's leading bucket-getter in the clutch.
Last season also showed that by acquiring Paul, a team is getting a lot more than just a player. Not only is he going to serve as a mentor for what is a very young Suns team, he's going to be a second coach.
"He's a guy that he expects greatness out of us," Booker said of Paul. " … We can all learn from Chris in that way, of being vocal and letting people know where they need to be. Competing with people and doing it with love, doing it with care.
Phoenix's regular season hasn't begun yet and CP3 is already dishing out masterclasses:
Masterclass with a legend.. Chris Paul coaches up @Suns rook Ty-Shon Alexander! #NBAPreseason pic.twitter.com/mhypreExlc- NBA (@NBA) December 15, 2020
Paul is quite obviously the biggest acquisition of the offseason for the franchise but he's not all they added. Key role players like Jae Crowder, E'Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway and Abdel Nader provide the team with plenty of two-way talent and depth.
Will bubble momentum carry over?
Despite a blockbuster trade and plenty of activity in free agency, the Suns have preserved nearly every member of the roster that went 8-0 in the Orlando bubble. In addition to Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, there's Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Dario Saric and Cameron Payne.
There's bound to be some carryover confidence from that undefeated run, which could help the team in this not-so-normal regular season.
Booker, who was named to the season restart's All-Bubble team, will be expected to take the biggest jump while playing alongside Paul.
"There's a few things that are sort of going to draw you to a person, depending on what you have in common," Paul said of Booker. "I love basketball. I love to be in the gym. Love to hoop. (I'm a) gym rat. Book is like that."
Can Monty Williams lead team to the playoffs?
Monty Williams is a well-respected coach in the league and was highly sought-after prior to the 2019-20 season.
Williams helped the Suns improve by 15 wins last season. Under Williams, they went from being ranked 28th in offensive efficiency in the 2018-19 season to 12th in 2019-20. Their defensive rating also improved, going from ranking 29th in the league to a respectable 17th.
With an even better and deeper team at his disposal, Williams has an opportunity to lead the Suns to the playoffs for the first time in a decade. In an offseason where the Suns were busy but kept their young core intact, Williams is looking forward to the challenge.
"I learned from 'Pop' (legendary San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) years ago, if you have rules that stifle talent, you need to change the rules," Williams said.
"The process of learning who they are while implementing what we do is something that we cannot mess with. … I was pretty direct with all of the guys that we signed and traded for about how we play. But I also told them I'm willing to learn from them and grow, so that they can help our program."
With Paul, who Williams coached for a season in New Orleans, he gets a proven veteran who can help him in communicating his message to the youngsters.
5 games to watch
Dec. 23 vs. Dallas Mavericks
Season opener. Tone-setter. Not going to be easy against an MVP candidate in Luka Doncic and a competitive bunch in the Dallas Mavericks. But a win here could provide a lot of confidence and get things rolling in the right direction.
Jan. 3 vs. LA Clippers
CP3 and Booker vs. PG and Kawhi. Two All-Star duos.
This could also be a pivotal game for the Suns. It is the third of a four-game stretch where they play strong playoff teams in the Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors.
Oh, and who can forget the last time the Suns and Clippers played each other.
Devin Booker's game-winner is the #ULTRAMoment of the week! #SunsMoment @MichelobULTRA pic.twitter.com/Zvg7B2HKev- NBA (@NBA) August 16, 2020
Jan. 28 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
"I still talk to Shai about everyday man," Paul said about Thunder guard Shai-Gilgeous Alexander. "That's my guy."
The 2019-20 season with the Thunder helped CP3 remind everyone what he's capable of. This one won't be back in Oklahoma City but it should still be a special game for Paul.
Feb. 27 vs. Brooklyn Nets
The last of a monster seven-games in 11 days homestand comes against the superstar duo of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
During this homestand, the Suns also host some of the best teams in the East in the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics.
March 3 at Los Angeles Lakers
Everybody's got the defending champions circled on their calendar. The Suns should be no different.
The fact this is the final game before the All-Star break gives the Suns a chance to end on the right note and carry some much-needed momentum into the break.
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