The Phoenix Suns are the latest demonstration of one of the core principles of the NBA.
Specifically, “if your franchise is hot garbage and all hope seems lost, acquire Chris Paul.”
The New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans had their worst season in 2005. They drafted Paul with the fourth pick in the ’05 draft and posted the franchise’s only 50-win season in 2008.
The Los Angeles Clippers were a garbage fire for decades. They acquired Paul in 2012, immediately went 40-26, and made the playoffs. They’d done so in just one of the previous 14 seasons.
The Suns bottomed out in 2019. Excepting their 16-66 expansion season, the 19-63 record was the worst in franchise history. Devin Booker looked like he’d never win anything in his life. And DeAndre Ayton, picked first overall, looked like all promise and no delivery in that first season.
Then they got CP3. Two years later, they were in the Finals. Let’s look at what rock bottom looks like, shall we? Because you don’t get Chris Paul until you stink.
The On-Court Record
Phoenix, like so many teams we’ve discussed in this series, got real bad real fast out of the gate.
After winning their opener, Phoenix won just three of their next 27 games to drop to 4-24.
Next came a shocking four-game winning streak.
But the celebrations of a potential turnaround were short-lived. Phoenix then went 3-26 in their next 29 contests, posting an even worse stretch than a 3-24 skein.
Another brief renaissance followed, as the Suns won five out of seven. They even beat the Warriors, a team on their way to their fifth straight Finals.
That brought them to 16-52; they went 3-11 the rest of the way.
Throw in a minus-9.2 Net Rating that was second-worst in the league (Cleveland, at minus-9.9, took the wooden spoon) and this team was just awful. Well, except for those two stretches where they were a combined 9-2.
The Featured Players
Just about nobody has ever put up gaudier counting stats with worse advanced stats than Devin Booker.
Booker, in 2019, averaged 26.6 points per game while posting just .076 WS/48 and 3.5 WS overall.
That’s what being a scorer and nothing else buys you. Booker was a horrid defender and didn’t do anything but score.
Ayton, even if it put him second-worst among starting centers ahead of only Marc Gasol, still managed to post .128 WS/48, putting him above the Mendoza Line. His 5.8 WS led the team.
And as rookie seasons go, posting that kind of number in Year 1 usually augurs well. Sure enough, Ayton topped the Superstar Line for the first time in 2022, posting .203 WS/48.
The real smoking gun for the 2019 Suns was Josh Jackson. He stunk out the joint in truly epic fashion, posting minus-1.7 WS. Jackson has negative Win Shares in 291 career games, making him one of the most truly brutal draft busts of all time.
Phoenix absolutely wasted the fourth pick in the 2017 draft on Jackson. There’s no nice way to say it. The guy has fewer Win Shares in his 291-game NBA career than Len Bias, who died on draft night in 1986, had in his zero-game career.
“Worse than a dead guy.” Put that on his Hall of Shame plaque.
Giving the coaching spot to an untested guy who’s never done it before is a crapshoot.
And Igor Kokoskov? He was crap. And his team couldn’t shoot.
Congratualations on joining the one-and-done coaching club, Igor. 19-63 is a heck of a career record.
Phoenix was 21st in 3PAR, but that’s probably for the best because they were dead last in 3PT%.
They posted a 115.1 Defensive Rating, which isn’t the worst these days, but compared against a 105.9 Offensive Rating, that’s a recipe for losing a lot of ballgames.
And as we’ve seen, Phoenix lost a lot of ballgames.
Lo and behold, the Suns fired their failed experiment.
Phoenix took the COVID bubble by storm in 2020. They won all eight games. Sadly, they landed just short of the playoffs.
But then they got Chris Paul.
They were in the Finals in 2021. They went 64-18 in 2022. Sure, they flamed out in the second round against Dallas, but that’s still the franchise record for regular-season wins.
So that’s how you do it. Stink out the joint. Get CP3. And get good.
NEXT: Portland Trail Blazers. We’re going to meet some old friends as we find out what happens when your franchise nosedives after a promising start. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!
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