Reviewing the 2021-22 Phoenix Suns

June 11th, 2022

By Alan Lu

The 2021-22 Phoenix Suns won 64 games in the regular season, and they cruised to many wins throughout the year, but it came to an abrupt end when they were dealt a crushing, 33-point loss in a decisive Game 7 of their second round series against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2022 NBA Playoffs.
(Photo:
Christian Petersen/Getty Images, via SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun)

The Phoenix Suns were fresh off of getting to the 2021 NBA Finals under head coach Monty Williams, so big things were expected of them for the upcoming 2021-22 NBA season.  Sure enough, the Suns won 64 games in the regular season this year, which helped earn them the best record and the first seed in the West.  They ranked very well on both sides of the ball, and they were able to easily rattle off wins in the regular season.

However, things suddenly got really tough for them in the 2022 NBA Playoffs.  The Suns fended off a tenacious, New Orleans Pelicans team, and they dropped a couple of games to them before winning the first round in 6 games.  The Suns then faced off against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.  Doncic proved to be truly unstoppable in this series, and the Suns were upset in 7 games in their second round series.  Even worse, the Phoenix Suns were demolished in the decisive Game 7, and they lost by a whopping, 33 points in the elimination game to the Mavericks.

Overall, the Suns mostly had a very good season, but it came to an abrupt end when they had a disappointing Game 7 against the Mavericks and a second-round exit to them this year.  They looked like strong title contenders for most of the year, but they suddenly were unable to make shots or defend in the postseason, and they especially struggled to guard Doncic, and a combination of these things left Suns’ fans reeling about what their team should do next.  In addition, DeAndre Ayton will be a restricted free agent and owner Robert Sarver has a history of being cheap, and the unsolved contract dilemma may leave Suns’ fans wringing their hands on whether or not if they will bring back their starting center for next season.

Key Players:

Devin Booker had a solid season overall with the Suns, but he didn’t shoot the ball well at all in his team’s crushing, Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs.
(Photo:
Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)

Devin Booker
2021-22 (PHO): 26.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 47 FG%, 38 3PT%, 87 FT%, 58 TS%, 21.3 PER, 7.6 WS

He is a very skilled, scoring combo guard that thrived offensively, as he shot the ball very well and excelled as a playmaker for his team.  On the other hand, he will still need to improve his defense, and he also struggled in a critical Game 7 against the Dallas Mavericks in the postseason.

2022 Season Grade: B
Projected 2023 Rating: 3.5 stars (4 stars potential)
Projected 2023 Role: Starting shooting guard on the Phoenix Suns

Chris Paul had a good season with the Suns this year, and he had a perfect game by going 14 for 14 from the field to score 33 points in a decisive Game 6 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs.
(Photo:
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press, via KOLD)

Chris Paul
2021-22 (PHO): 14.7 PPG, 10.8 APG, 4.4 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 49 FG%, 32 3PT%, 84 FT%, 58 TS%, 20.8 PER, 9.4 WS

He is a very skilled, but aging point guard that had a solid season overall, and he is a superb playmaker, but he struggled a bit with his three-point shot this year.  Paul is a future Hall of Fame point guard and is a floor leader that really helped the Suns instantly become a title contender in the past two seasons, but the question may be how many good years he has left before he starts to decline as an overall player.   

2022 Season Grade: B
Projected 2023 Rating: 3.5 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Starting point guard on the Phoenix Suns

DeAndre Ayton had a solid season with the Suns this year, but was benched in Game 7 in his team’s blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the playoffs. Will Ayton be back with the Phoenix Suns? Time will tell to see if he will come back to re-join the Suns or not.
(Photo:
Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports, via FTW USA Today)

DeAndre Ayton
2021-22 (PHO): 17.2 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 1.4 APG, 63 FG%, 37 3PT%, 75 FT%, 66 TS%, 21.9 PER, 7.3 WS

He is an athletic, skilled big man that thrived as an interior player this year, but he struggled a bit in the playoffs, and he ended up getting benched in a crucial Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks this year that may hurt his case a bit in free agency.

2022 Season Grade: B-
Projected 2023 Rating: 3 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Starting center on an NBA team
Side Note: DeAndre Ayton will be a restricted free agent (RFA) at the end of the 2021-22 NBA season.  He will be a highly coveted free agent sought by numerous teams, but Suns have the rights to match any offers from other teams.

Mikal Bridges quietly had a good season with the Suns this year, and he was one of the league’s best defenders in the NBA.
(Photo:
Patrick Breen/Arizona Republic, via AZCentral)

Mikal Bridges
2021-22 (PHO): 14.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 53 FG%, 37 3PT%, 83 FT%, 63 TS%, 14.4 PER, 8.9 WS

He is an athletic, skilled 3 and D swingman that was one of the very best defenders in the NBA this season.  He thrived at making shots, as he was very efficient on offense, and he also passed the ball very well.  The only knock is that is that he’s not an elite scorer and he’s more of a player that plays within the system than leads on offense.  Still, Bridges is a very good complementary player for the Suns, and he has helped them win many games over the years.

2022 Season Grade: B
Projected 2023 Rating: 3 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Starting small forward on the Phoenix Suns

Jae Crowder
2021-22 (PHO): 9.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 40 FG%, 35 3PT%, 79 FT%, 54 TS%, 11.3 PER, 4.3 WS

He is a strong, mobile forward that is a 3 and D player in the NBA.  He is a tough, tenacious defender that can guard multiple positions.  His shooting and scoring numbers were mostly down, but his strong defensive play made him a valuable role player on the Suns’ team this season.

2022 Season Grade: B
Projected 2023 Rating: 2.5 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Starting power forward on the Phoenix Suns

Cameron Johnson
2021-22 (PHO): 12.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 46 FG%, 42 3PT%, 86 FT%, 63 TS%, 15.2 PER, 5.6 WS

He is an athletic, skilled swingman that excelled as a shooter and scorer off the bench for his team this year.  He thrived in a sixth man role, and he’s also proven that he can comfortably excel as a starter in games.  He also significantly improved his defense, and he played very well in his role with the Suns this season.

2022 Season Grade: A-
Projected 2023 Rating: 2.5 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Sixth man on the Phoenix Suns

Dario Šarić
2021-22 (PHO): N/A

He is a tall, skilled forward that can shoot and score the basketball, and his size, floor spacing skills, and versatility can provide mismatches that can swing in his team’s favor.  This season though, he was out due to a knee injury, so he was unable to play this year.

2022 Season Grade: N/A
Projected 2023 Rating: 2.5 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Rotation player on the Phoenix Suns

Other Notable Players:

Cameron Payne

He is a skilled, score-first point guard that can shoot and pass the basketball.  However, his shooting percentages were drastically down this year, and he also shot the ball terribly in the 2022 playoffs.

2022 Season Grade: D+
Projected 2023 Rating: 2 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Rotation player on the Phoenix Suns

Landry Shamet

He is a skilled, score-first combo guard that can shoot and score the basketball, but his shooting percentages were a bit down this year, but he still proved to be fairly effective as a shot maker when he was on the floor. 

2022 Season Grade: C
Projected 2023 Rating: 2 stars

Projected 2023 Role: Rotation player on the Phoenix Suns

JaVale McGee

McGee had a solid season as a backup center for the Phoenix Suns this year.  He is an athletic, rim-running backup center that provided solid interior play for them off the bench.  He didn’t play very much in the playoffs, but he was very efficient as a scorer off the bench for the Suns this year.

2022 Season Grade: B+
Projected 2023 Rating: 2 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Side Note: McGee will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2021-22 NBA season.

Aaron Holiday

He is a skilled playmaker that shot the ball fairly well, and he also thrived as a playmaker off the bench this year.  He also defended fairly well.  He played significantly better after arriving to the Suns in a midseason trade, and he seemed to make the most of his minutes on a crowded bench this season.

2022 Season Grade: B
Projected 2023 Rating: 2 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Side Note: Aaron Holiday will be a restricted free agent (RFA) at the end of the 2021-22 NBA season.

Other Players on the Roster:

Torrey Craig

He is an athletic, energetic 3 and D wing player, but he is much more of a defender than a shooter on the court.  He’s a solid defender that will play tough, tenacious defense, and can guard multiple positions, but he’s been inconsistent as a shooter over the years.  He’s a solid player to have at the end of the roster and he’s certainly a capable rotation player, but his limitations on offense may prevent him from ascending to much more than being at best, a fairly solid rotation player on a playoff-caliber team.

2022 Season Grade: C
Projected 2023 Rating: 1.5 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Fringe rotation player on the Phoenix Suns

Bismack Biyombo

He was a solid midseason acquisition by the Phoenix Suns, as they managed to sign him during the middle of the season.  Biyombo is an athletic, rim-running, backup center that provided solid interior play for them off the bench.  On the other hand, he doesn’t really provide much else other than energy and shore up a team’s interior, and his limitations on both ends of the floor make it difficult for him to get extended playing time, especially in the playoffs.

2022 Season Grade: B
Projected 2023 Rating: 1.5 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Fringe rotation player on an NBA team
Side Note: Biyombo will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2021-22 NBA season.

Elfrid Payton

2022 Season Grade: D-
Projected 2023 Rating: 1.5 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Fringe rotation player on an NBA team
Side Note: Payton will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2021-22 NBA season.

Ishmail Wainwright

He is a 3 and D, end of the bench player that can attack the hoop to score and has some defensive skills, but he struggled to consistently shoot or knock down shots for the Suns this past season.

2022 Season Grade: D+
Projected 2023 Rating: 1.5 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Fringe roster player on an NBA team

Gabriel Lundberg (Two-Way Player)

He is a skilled combo guard that can shoot and pass the basketball and he is a Euroleague veteran that hails from Denmark.  However, he struggled to make shots efficiently this year, and he barely played in the NBA this past season.

2022 Season Grade: D+
Projected 2023 Rating: 1.5 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Fringe roster player on an NBA team

Head Coach:

Phoenix Suns’ head coach, Monty Williams led his team to 64 wins in the regular season and also won the Coach of the Year award.
(Photo:
Rob Schumacher/The Republic, via AZCentral)

Monty Williams
2021-22 (PHO): 64-18, 7-6 in the 2022 NBA Playoffs

After leading his team to an 8-0 record in the 2020 Orlando bubble, and following that up by getting his team to the 2021 NBA Finals, big things were expected for Monty Williams and the Suns this year.

He helped the 2022 Phoenix Suns win 64 games in the regular season, which easily earned them the best record, the 1st seed in the West, and the Coach of the Year award.  However, the Suns struggled to handle the feisty Pelicans a bit in the first round, and they lost a couple of times to them before defeating the 8th seeded New Orleans Pelicans in 6 games. 

The Suns then eventually lost in a 7 game series in the second round to the Dallas Mavericks, and they were blown out in Game 7, as they lost by a whopping 33 points in that game.  The Mavericks jumped on them from the get go, DeAndre Ayton got benched, and the Suns shot the ball and defended horribly in that game.  Monty Williams coached very well and earned his Coach of the Year award up to the point where he received it this year, but his team didn’t fare very well in the playoffs, and the Coach of the Year award is now looking more to be a curse than a blessing for Williams and the Suns.

2022 Season Grade: B
Projected 2023 Rating: 3.5 stars
Projected 2023 Role: Head Coach of the Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns’ Projected 2022-23 Rotation:
C Dario Saric
F Jae Crowder
F Mikal Bridges
G Devin Booker
G Chris Paul
_____________________

F Cameron Johnson
G Cameron Payne
G Landry Shamet
F Torrey Craig
F Ish Wainwright

The Phoenix Suns’ Picks in the 2022 NBA Draft:
None

The Phoenix Suns’ Projected 2023 Win-Loss Record:
56-26, 1st in the Western Conference

Their Projected Offseason Plan:

The Phoenix Suns are projected to be capped out in the offseason.  Also, their starting center, DeAndre Ayton is slated to be a restricted free agent, so other teams can throw out offers at him, but the Suns can match any offer.  The Suns’ top priority will be to re-sign DeAndre Ayton, as they could either sign him, or sign and trade him to get value back, but definitely what they do regarding Ayton will be their top priority in the offseason.

They also have decisions to make with some of the other players on their roster, and they will have to decide if they will bring back JaVale McGee, Aaron Holiday, Bismack Biyombo, and/or Elfrid Payton.  The Suns did a lot of things very well, and their disappointing second round exit was one of the very few mishaps of their season this year.  It would be a shame if they let all of their players go to sign elsewhere in free agency, and the least that the Suns could do is to make an honest attempt to bring them back.  From there, the Suns could look to find ways to strengthen their rotation, and if they bring Ayton back into the fold, they could look to find creative new ways on both ends of the floor to improve their chances in the postseason to win a title next year, or they could also explore a trade that could benefit themselves and the other team that they would offer to for next season.  In the meantime, the Suns could look to add more versatility and wing depth to improve their ability to defend in the playoffs for next year.

Either way, the Phoenix Suns still had a very good year, despite having a disappointing second-round playoff exit, and they shouldn’t lose sight of that.  Many people had them as one of the top contenders for the title this year, and they were one of the best teams in the NBA for pretty much throughout the season.  They got beat by a red hot, Dallas Mavericks’ team that was led by superstar point forward, Luka Doncic in the second round of the playoffs.  That said, the Suns have a very good team, and they are most likely going to be one of the best teams in the NBA next season. The team analysis of the 2021-22 Phoenix Suns was done before the 2022 NBA Draft and the start of free agency.  I went to No Trade Clause and Basketball-Reference for research purposes.  Thanks for reading.

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