The Phoenix Suns ended the regular season with a 45-37 record, earning the West’s No. 4 seed and setting up a first-round matchup with the No. 5 seed Los Angeles Clippers (44-38). In the aftermath of trading for superstar Kevin Durant back in February, the Suns immediately catapulted to be among the leading favorites to win the 2023 title.
Despite the confidence in Phoenix, we’re breaking down the key reasons why the Suns won’t win the title this year.
Why the Suns will not win the 2023 NBA title
Phoenix went undefeated (8-0) with Durant in the lineup this season but the enemy of analytics will always be a small sample size. In the NBA postseason, where the pace of play slows down and rotations shorten, team chemistry proves to be invaluable in chasing wins. The talent jumps off the page when looking at the Suns’ starting lineup, but is eight games enough time for this team to knock off the likes of the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, or Memphis Grizzlies, who have had their core foundations in place for years?
There also begs the question of Chris Paul’s efficiency down the stretch of the postseason, particularly if Phoenix finds themselves playing in June. Look no further than Paul’s playoff performance in the 2021 postseason. From the first round to the Western Conference Finals, he averaged 18.1 PPG on 47 percent shooting from the field. After going up 2-0 in the 2021 NBA Finals, the Bucks rattled off four-straight wins in which Paul’s plus-minus rating stood at -13, -10, -6, and -8.
If teams focus their defensive efforts on Durant and Devin Booker while forcing Paul to shoulder more of a scoring load, can he feasibly shoulder that responsibility through four rounds at age 37?
Defensive efficiency could also be a factor to look at when considering their postseason chances of success. The Suns had the seventh-best defensive rating (113.0) in the regular season, but that was a product of having the likes of Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson on the wing. In the playoffs, where referees tend to swallow the whistle a little more willingly, it remains to be seen whether Phoenix’s depth will be enough to carry them not offensively, but in particular on the defensive end.