Reviewing The 2021 Phoenix Suns

July 21st, 2021

By Alan Lu

In an injury-riddled year for the NBA, the 2021 Phoenix Suns had a terrific season overall.  They swung a big trade to land superstar point guard Chris Paul, and it paid off big time.  They won the second most games in the regular season with 51, which was helped them land the 2nd seed in the West.

Head coach Monty Williams did a great job of coaching the team, as he helped lead the Suns to impressive playoff series wins over LeBron’s Los Angeles Lakers, as well as wins over the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Clippers.  Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and DeAndre Ayton have teamed up to play terrific basketball, and their team has played very well all-around, as they’ve also gotten big contributions from their bench to help lead them to get to the 2021 NBA Finals this year.  They ended up losing in 6 games to the Milwaukee Bucks, but the Suns had a very good postseason run overall this year.

Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker had a very good year this past season, as he made the All-Star team and helped them reach the 2021 NBA Finals.
(Photo:
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press, via USA Today)

G Devin Booker
2021 (PHO): 67 GP, 25.6 PPG, 4.3 APG, 4.2 RPG, 48 FG%, 34 3PT%, 87 FT%, 19.2 PER, 59 TS%, 4.9 WS, .104 WS48

He played very well for the Suns this past season, as he excelled as a scorer and facilitator for his team.  He didn’t shoot the three-ball as well as anticipated, but when healthy, Booker was consistently a threat to score in bulk, as he could dominate and take over games.

Booker turned in some really strong playoff games, as he can score from anywhere on the floor.  He and the Suns dominated in the mid-range game, but Booker could look to improve his three-point shooting, as he and his team seemed to falter at that later on in the NBA Finals this year. 

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting shooting guard on the Phoenix Suns
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 3.5 stars (4.5 stars potential)

Phoenix Suns’ superstar point guard, Chris Paul played very well this past season, and he was able to help lead his team to the 2021 NBA Finals.
(Photo:
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images, Fansided’s Valley of the Suns)

G Chris Paul
2021 (PHO): 70 GP, 16.4 PPG, 8.9 APG, 4.5 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 50 FG%, 40 3PT%, 93 FT%, 21.4 PER, 60 TS%, 9.2 WS, .201 WS48

Chris Paul had a tremendous, all-around season, as he played really well during the regular season and the playoffs, and he helped lead the 2021 Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals.  When Suns’ executive James Jones made the trade to land Chris Paul, that may have arguably been the single best move of the entire season.

In the playoffs, he got hurt midway through, which sort of limited his effectiveness to an extent.  He was dominant in some of the games, as he played very well in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but he faltered later in that series, as he and his team had trouble adjusting to the stifling defense of Jrue Holiday and the Milwaukee Bucks.

2021 Season Grade: A-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting point guard on the Phoenix Suns
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 3.5 stars

Paul has a player option that he can exercise for next season.

DeAndre Ayton averaged roughly 14 points and 10 1/2 rebounds per game, and he had a solid season this year.
(Photo:
Christian Petersen/Getty Images, via SB Nation’s Arizona Desert Swarm)

C DeAndre Ayton
2021 (PHO): 69 GP, 14.4 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.2 BPG, 63 FG%, 77 FT%, 20.3 PER, 65 TS%, 8.4 WS, .191 WS48

Ayton played very well this past season, as he excelled as an interior player for them this year.  He showed that he can score on strong rolls as well as in the post, and he also rebounded and defended well both in the regular season and in the playoffs.

He turned in a dominant Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Finals, as he made very good hustle plays on both ends of the floor, and in the first two games, the Phoenix Suns seemed like the team to beat.  Unfortunately, the Milwaukee Bucks adjusted, and Ayton ended effectively getting shut down, as he was ineffective later on in the NBA Finals.

2021 Season Grade: A-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting center on the Phoenix Suns
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 3 stars (3.5 stars potential)

Mikal Bridges excelled in his role for the Phoenix Suns, and he provided strong shooting, defense, and athleticism for them this year.
(Photo:
Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports, via Sixers Wire – USA Today)

G-F Mikal Bridges
2021 (PHO): 72 GP, 13.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 54 FG%, 43 3PT%, 84 FT%, 16.4 PER, 67 TS%, 8 WS, .164 WS48

He did a terrific job of shooting and defending to help his team during the regular season, and Bridges made solid, team-oriented plays in the playoffs.  He is also a very athletic swingman that was able to make some impressive, highlight reel-worthy plays this year.

2021 Season Grade: A
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting forward on the Phoenix Suns
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars (3 stars potential)

Jae Crowder thrived as the consummate role player for the Phoenix Suns this past season.
(Photo:
Michael Chow/The Republic, via AZ Central)

G-F Jae Crowder
2021 (PHO): 60 GP, 10.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.1 APG, 40 FG%, 39 3PT%, 76 FT%, 11.8 PER, 57 TS%, 3.3 WS, .097 WS48

Crowder thrived as the consummate role player for the Suns this year.  It was puzzling that the Miami Heat didn’t re-sign him, and the Phoenix Suns were the beneficiaries of harping on Miami’s mistake of not having done so.

Crowder really excelled as a 3 and D role player this season, and he’s a versatile player that played well in his role both in the regular season and in the playoffs.  He also played unselfishly and was active as a rebounder in addition.

2021 Season Grade: A-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting forward on the Phoenix Suns
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Cameron Johnson is an athletic swingman that played well in his role for the Phoenix Suns this past season.
(Photo:
Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated)

F Cameron Johnson
2021 (PHO): 60 GP, 9.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.4 APG, 42 FG%, 35 3PT%, 85 FT%, 11.8 PER, 56 TS%, 2.6 WS

Johnson did a good job of shooting and scoring the basketball, and he especially excelled at knocking down shots in the Western Conference Finals against the Clippers this year.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Phoenix Suns
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars (3 stars potential)

Phoenix Sun’ point guard, Cameron Payne shot the ball very well in the regular season and in the playoffs this year.
(Photo:
Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports, via OKC Thunder Wire – USA Today)

G Cameron Payne
2021 (PHO): 60 GP, 8.4 PPG, 3.6 APG, 2.4 RPG, 48 FG%, 44 3PT%, 89 FT%, 17.4 PER, 60 TS%, 3.6 WS, .158 WS48

Payne played really well all-around this season, and he also turned in some dominant games in the playoffs where he scored and made plays at will to will his team to wins.  He may look to cash out in free agency, and the Suns will likely try to keep him if they can for next season.

2021 Season Grade: A
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Payne will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

F-C Dario Šarić
2021 (PHO): 50 GP, 8.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 45 FG%, 35 3PT%, 85 FT%, 14.3 PER, 57 TS%, 1.7 WS, .093 WS48

Dario Saric played well in his role for the team this past season.  He excelled as a shooter and facilitator for his team.  He didn’t quite defend as well or play as much in the playoffs, but he’s made strides to improve his jump shot, as well as offensively.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Phoenix Suns
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

G-F Torrey Craig
2021 (MIL/PHO): 50 GP, 5.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1 APG, 48 FG%, 37 3PT%, 77 FT%, 14.2 PER, 58 TS%, 2.2 WS, .133 WS48

Craig was signed by the Milwaukee Bucks in the offseason, but strangely the Bucks couldn’t really find a role for him, despite having been a valuable defensive specialist for the Denver Nuggets the year before.  He also didn’t seem to fit them very well either, as he’s a fairly low volume offensive player on a team that sorely needed shooting and scoring around their best players.

He played much better after having been traded to the Suns.  He shot the ball considerably better, as he also played his trademark good defense, and he also made very athletic, energetic plays to help his team on both ends of the floor.  Craig has played really well for Phoenix’s team, and he was a valuable role player for them this past season.

2021 Season Grade: B+ (D- w/MIL, A w/PHO)
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Phoenix Suns
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

C Frank Kaminsky
2021 (PHO): 47 GP, 6.6 PPG, 4 RPG, 1.7 APG, 47 FG%, 36 3PT%, 62 FT%, 15.8 PER, 55 TS%, 2 WS, .133 WS48

He was able to provide some floor spacing, playmaking, and defensive skills in limited minutes for his team this year.  He didn’t quite shoot as well as expected, but he played fairly well in his role with the Suns.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

Kaminsky will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

G Jevon Carter
2021 (PHO): 60 GP, 4.1 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 42 FG%, 37 3PT%, 57 FT%, 12.2 PER, 1.6 WS, .104 WS48

He didn’t play as much or shoot the ball nearly as well, but Jevon Carter was active on the glass, and he excelled as a defender this past season.

2021 Season Grade: C+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

Langston Galloway may not have played in the 2021 NBA Finals, but you have to admit, that he launched his own shoe brand, and did so just before the NBA Finals was a pretty cool thing to do.
(Source: Twitter/@NickDePaula)

G Langston Galloway
2021 (PHO): 40 GP, 4.8 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 45 FG%, 42 3PT%, 96 FT%, 12.1 PER, 60 TS%, 0.9 WS, .096 WS48

Though he didn’t play very much this year, he shot the ball very well, as he excelled as a shooter and scorer when he was on the floor this past season.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

Will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

G-F Abdel Nader
2021 (PHO): 24 GP, 6.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 49 FG%, 42 3PT%, 76 FT%, 13.4 PER, 60 TS%, 0.7 WS, .095 WS48

He didn’t play much this season, but he did a good job of shooting, scoring, and defending when he was on the floor this year.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

Nader will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

G E’Twaun Moore
2021 (PHO): 27 GP, 4.9 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.5 APG, 45 FG%, 31 3PT%, 86 FT%, 10.4 PER, 52 TS%, 0.4 WS, .049 WS48

He didn’t play very much for the Suns this past season, but he provided some playmaking and defensive skills for them in limited minutes.  He didn’t shoot the ball very well in the regular season, but he showed some shooting skills in very limited minutes in the postseason this year.

2021 Season Grade: C-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

Moore will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

G Ty-Shon Alexander (Two-Way)
2021 (PHO): 15 GP, 0.6 PPG, 0.7 RPG, 25 FG%, 22 3PT%, 50 FT%, 4.2 PER, 35 TS%, 0 WS, -.048 WS48
2021 (G-League); 10 GP, 9.3 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 40 FG%, 39 3PT%, 87 FT%, 12.4 PER, 61 TS%, 0.3 WS, .036 WS48

He didn’t play very much in the NBA this year, but he shot the ball better in the G-League this past season.

2021 Season Grade: D
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

F-C Jalen Smith
2021 (PHO): 27 GP, 2 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 44 FG%, 24 3PT%, 71 FT%, 8.4 PER, 50 TS%, 0.1 WS, .022 WS48
2021 (G-League): 6 GP, 8.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 39 FG%, 25 3PT%, 63 FT%, 14.2 PER, 48 TS%, 0 WS, -.005 WS48

He was a surprise pick in the top 10 in the 2020 NBA Draft, and it was definitely surprising that he was picked over players such as Tyrese Haliburton and Devin Vassell.  Smith did not play well at all though this year, and there wasn’t much playing time for him to get on the floor, but he also did not play too well in the G-League, either. To put it lightly, his play at both levels were truly awful for someone that was picked in the top 10 of the NBA draft.

If he does reach his full potential, he could project to be an athletic center that can shoot and defend if he pans out at the NBA level. On the other hand, I feel like my next season’s projection of him may be a bit generous, considering how terribly he played for the Suns and for their G-League team this season as a rookie. It also feels like my next season’s projection of him is also giving him a bit of the benefit of the doubt, because his strong sophomore season at Maryland seemed to showcase plenty of more skills and potential that he just didn’t show much of at all this year.

2021 Season Grade: F
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2.5 stars potential)

Head Coach:
Monty Williams
2021 (PHO): 51-21, 14-8 in the playoffs
Coaching Career: 258-281, 16-16 in his playoff career, 1 NBA Finals appearance with the 2021 Phoenix Suns

Monty Williams had a great season with the Phoenix Suns this year, and he was able to coach his team into the 2021 NBA Finals.
(Photo:
Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports, via SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun)

He had a terrific season this year with the 2021 Phoenix Suns.  He led them to far more wins than expected, both in the regular season and in the playoffs.  He led them to impressive series wins over LeBron’s Los Angeles Lakers, as well as against the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Clippers to get to the 2021 NBA Finals.  He lost in 6 games there to the Milwaukee Bucks, but Monty Williams led his team to a very good season overall.

2020-21 NBA Season Grade: A
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Head coach of the Phoenix Suns
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 3.5 stars

A Brief Summary of the 2020-21 Phoenix Suns’ Season:

The Suns had a very good season this year, and future Hall of Fame point guard, Chris Paul was able to get to his first NBA Finals in his career.  Paul and Devin Booker played terrific basketball, especially in the playoffs, and the Suns were a well-run team that blended their talent, depth, and coaching to get many wins this year.

The 2020-21 Phoenix Suns’ Season Grade: A

The Phoenix Suns’ Projected 2021-22 NBA Rotation:

Projected Starters:
C DeAndre Ayton
F Jae Crowder
F Mikal Bridges
G Devin Booker
G Chris Paul

Key Reserves:
F Cameron Johnson
F-C Dario Saric
G-F Torrey Craig

Others competing for a spot in the rotation next season:
The 29th Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft
C Frank Kaminsky
G Jevon Carter
G Langston Galloway
G E’Twaun Moore
G-F Abdel Nader

Other players that are currently projected to be on their next season’s roster:
F-C Jalen Smith
G Ty-Shon Alexander (Two-Way)

Impending Unrestricted Free Agents:
G Cameron Payne – Not Expected Back
G-F Torrey Craig – Expected Back
G E’Twaun Moore – Expected Back
C Frank Kaminsky – Expected Back
G-F Abdel Nader – Expected Back
G Langston Galloway – Expected Back

The Suns will look to re-sign most or all of their impending free agents, especially Cam Payne and Torrey Craig, but Payne may elect to cash out to sign with a different team in free agency, as he could command more money elsewhere.

Players with an Impending Player Option:
G Chris Paul – Expected Back

Projected Offseason Plan for the Phoenix Suns:
They don’t have any cap space to work with, and they will likely try to bring everyone back, or at least all of their key rotation players.  The Suns will need to make sure Chris Paul returns, and they will make a push to try to keep Cameron Payne and Torrey Craig.  From there, they will then likely make extra tweaks to make small improvements to their roster next season.

The 2022 Phoenix Suns’ Expected Win-Loss Record, and Projected 2022 Season Finish:
50-32, 3rd in the Western Conference in 2022

Expected 2022 Season Outcome:
The Suns are likely to finish at or near the top of the standings, and they are contenders to win the title if they can bring just about everybody back next season.

I primarily went to Basketball-Reference and No Trade Clause for research purposes. For more information on my ratings scale and how I rate NBA players and coaches, you can find it here. Thanks for reading.

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