This season has been a bit of a roller coaster for the Phoenix Suns. Early on, the team appeared like it was turning over a new leaf with Monty Williams as the new head coach. The Suns got off to a 7-4 start, and they even looked competitive in losses against some of the Western Conference’s best.
Fast forward to the All-Star break, Phoenix now sits at 22-33. The Suns have clearly improved upon last year’s 19-win season, but they’ve fallen far behind in the race for the eighth seed.
Moving forward, the most important thing for the Suns is that the team shows some type of growth. Entering the offseason with momentum would be huge, and getting rid of the losing culture that has been clouding over this team for the last decade is a necessity.
Luckily for Phoenix, help is on the way. On Friday, Deandre Ayton, Aron Baynes and Dario Saric will return to the floor.
A sprained left ankle forced Ayton to miss each of the last two games for the Suns. Prior to that, the big man had been emerging as one of the best defensive centers in the league.
Ayton’s defense was one of the biggest question marks surrounding him entering last season. Coming out of the University of Arizona, everybody knew he was going to be a double-double machine. But seeing him engaged on the defensive end is a great sign.
If Ayton can continue to improve the rest of the year, the Suns legitimately have something to build on heading into the offseason. An inside-out combo of Devin Booker and Ayton could be one of the best in the entire league, and Phoenix is slowly putting together a nice group around those two.
Baynes was one of the main reasons the Suns played so well to start the year. He brought a sense of toughness to the team that was desperately needed. He also came from the Boston Celtics, which means he knows what it’s like to be in a winning locker room. It didn’t hurt that he was a sniper from the outside while Ayton served his 25-game suspension.
Unfortunately for Baynes, a hip injury forced him out of action for a significant amount of time. That was one of the true momentum killers of the season.
Having Baynes back might give the team a jolt of energy. The Suns are extremely thin at center, which is why they needed to sign Jonah Bolden to a 10-day contract last week. Baynes’ presence in the lineup makes the guys around him want to compete, so his return could help make this look like a winning team again.
Saric’s role with the Suns was getting smaller before he hurt his ankle, but he was still a pretty important part of the rotation.
While Saric no longer looks like a guy that could be the power forward of the future, he is still a good player. Having somebody that can give the team 20 to 25 minutes of production is never a bad thing. As previously mentioned, the Suns have had a depth problem in the frontcourt recently. Saric’s return will make them a better basketball team.