The Phoenix Suns were poised to win it all this season amid their fantastic 64-win regular season. Yet they have been eliminated from contention by the Dallas Mavericks in seven games. It wasn’t a thriller like many expected. It was a massive blowout. Analysts like JJ Redick have been parsing out the reasons for the Suns’ failure. From his point of view, if they had Eric Gordon on their roster, then the Suns wouldn’t be in Cancun now.
Redick observed how the Mavs defended Devin Booker — the Suns’ primary offensive tool. An easy remedy would’ve been for Chris Paul to be extra-aggressive on offense. But for some reason, Paul averaged just 9.3 shot attempts per game — way below his 15.0 average in the first round.
“The way (the Dallas Mavericks) were playing Devin Booker, they were basically blitzing everything. They always had two (defenders) on the ball with him. If CP (Chris Paul) is unwilling to shoot and unwilling to be aggressive… here’s a lost opportunity, to me. James Jones (Suns GM), for the last two trade deadlines, has preached continuity,” Redick said on Get Up.
According to Redick, things would’ve been different if they had guard Eric Gordon in the fold. The Suns, for all their oozing talent, need a clear-cut third shot creator. Gordon is that guy.
“I think they had an opportunity this year to go out and get a third shot creator. Eric Gordon was available in Houston. I know the Phoenix Suns fans wanted Gordon to be there. That to me changes the complexity of this team, because you do need someone that is able to attack. Eric Gordon is one of those guys. You needed that third shot creator,” Redick said.
Gordon has been in the trade rumor mill since the Rockets pressed the reset button. The man has remained professional by not ranting on social media or publicly requesting a trade. As Redick noted, the Suns knew Gordon’s availability but did not go for the chase. This was a grave mistake that led to their downfall.
Failure in honing Bridges
The Suns knew they needed a third scoring option behind Booker and Paul. In the offseason, head coach Monty Williams shared their plans of developing Mikal Bridges into a legitimate scoring threat, effectively making him a two-way player.
“I know he’s going to continue to add to his game. I knew what he could do with cutting and moving without the ball, but now he’s got used to playing with the ball and we need him to. We want to put him in environments that allow for him to be a third option for us on any given night and I think he’s capable,” Williams said.
We cannot wholly say the Suns succeeded in this regard. Bridges averaged 14.2 points per game this season, a minor uptick from his 13.5 points per game last year.
Bridges’ playoff numbers also paint a similar picture. This year, he averaged 13.3 points in 13 games. Last season, he dropped 11.1 points across 22 games.
Yes, there is an improvement. But these are not significant leaps. Against the Mavericks, Bridges averaged a mere 9.9 points per contest. In Game 7, he scored just six points on a horrendous 27.3 percent shooting.
The Suns’ second-round exit proves that the playoffs are different from the regular season. Williams and his players need to go back to the drawing board. They also need to entertain Redick’s advice or throw Bridges into an intense offensive training camp sooner rather than later.