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Why You Shouldn't Bet on the Phoenix Suns to Win the 2024 NBA Championship

The Phoenix Suns are the third-highest favored team to win the 2024 NBA championship behind Denver and Boston. It's all or nothing for the Phoenix Suns. Since acquiring the ever-so-serious Chris Paul in 2020, Phoenix inched closer to clutching the tantalizing Larry O'Brien trophy. However, three years later Father Time struck Phoenix's landscape-changing guard. Not surprisingly, the Suns ditched Paul this past summer to get younger but not sacrifice talent. Bradley Beal is a better scorer than Paul and, at this stage in his career, a better ball-handler than the highly-touted "Point God" Paul. Despite picking up a hefty tab in Beal's contract, the Suns have a mission to win at the highest level, regardless of the cost.

It's easy to see why people expect the world from Phoenix, in light of its roster harboring three players who seemingly score 20 points in their sleep. Not to mention obtaining championship-level head coach Frank Vogel, possibly to salvage Phoenix's relationship with playoff disappointment Deandre Ayton. Moreover, during free agency, the Suns addressed their lack of bench production. To the Suns' credit, mainly the front office, and especially ownership, team paralysis from fear of failure didn't affect the franchise's competitive drive.

However, even with the multiple positive points of the Suns' roster, a few nagging factors potentially make for a dangerous bet for them to win it all. Spending a billionaire's money is easy, but risking yours should come with more thought. I pinpointed a few angles that cast the Suns as a disappointment once the confetti falls.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including NBA Writer of the Year, Best NFL Series, MLB Series, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

Injuries Will Cost the Team

Yes, every team deals with injuries. However, Phoenix's three stars continuously appear on injury reports. Kevin Durant has the highest injury risk. Daring back to the 2019-2020 season, Durant's injury occurrences increased annually. Last season alone indicated the Suns must practice extreme caution with the two-time NBA champion as he hurt himself during a pregame shootaround.

Durant's inaugural season with the Brooklyn Nets was delayed a year due to the former Golden State Warrior's Achilles injury suffered in the 2019 playoffs. Following that painful campaign, Durant played in only 137 games. Expecting a limber Durant at age 35 is illogical.

Similar to Durant, Beal is also on the wrong side of 30, with a three-season sample showcasing why you shouldn't project the former Washington Wizards guard in the lineup at a steady rate. Playing in 150 games for three seasons barely clears Durant's mark, but the lack of games indicates a warning sign for the damn-those-draft-picks Suns. Delving into the injury reports alludes to future issues. Hamstrings and knee injuries accounted for the past six ailments of the three-time All-Star.

Paul, the same player the Suns ditched for Beal, experienced nagging hamstring pain in 2015. However, his notable case occurred in the 2018 playoffs versus the juggernaut Warriors. The point is, once you experience hamstring issues, they don't instantly vanish.

Lastly, although younger than Durant and Beal, Devin Booker's recent injury history allows probable cause for doubt in Phoenix's championship success. Missing 29 games last season, the most in his eight-year career, a groin injury played a pivotal role in the Suns' playoff seeding. However, unlike Durant and Beal, Booker's younger age, theoretically, cushions long-term injury issues.

While Booker's injury history isn't as drastic as Durant's, last season is more of a trend than an anomaly. In eight NBA seasons, three saw the NBA 2K23 cover athlete play less than 65 games.

Before crippling your pockets, be mindful of the Suns' stars plentiful injury history.

 

Doubting the Defense

Of all the solid role players the Suns signed in free agency, few of them address the Suns' defensive necessities. Aside from Durant and Ayton, and sparsely, Booker, few, if any, of the other Suns keep up on defense. Admittedly, the Nuggets headed into the 2023  postseason with a fifteenth-ranked defensive rating. However, by the end of their championship run, they finished fourth in the aforementioned stat.

Who was Denver's primary stopper for the athletic wings, typically responsible for playoff success? Aaron Gordon.

Standing 6'8, Gordon played a pivotal role in Denver's championship campaign. Unfortunately, for Phoenix, no such player exists on its current roster. Durant is the closest thing to Gordon as a defensive stopper, but at his advanced basketball age, expecting the University of Texas alum to be elite on both sides of the ball seems unfair.

DeAndre Ayton is not bad defensively, but with two consecutive postseasons of proof, depending on him is more dangerous than utilizing the five-second rule in a porta-potty. More on him later.

Among the role players, the best defenders scale at 6'5 and under. Dependable role player Torrey Craig is gone, leaving them with Eric Gordon, Keita-Bates Diop, and Damion Lee. None of those names invoke footage resembling a defensive irritant at this stage in their career.

Last season, the Suns ranked seventh in defensive rating. Color me shocked if they finish top 10 with Beal in the lineup.

 

DeAndre Ayton's Defense (or Lack Thereof)

Kevin Durant is the best defender on the Suns.

Before Ayton truthers throw me off the proverbial bridge, the center's inability to keep his internal motor hinders the Suns' championship chances. Ayton's physique is a mirage of defensive dominance. Despite standing at 6'11, 250 pounds, Ayton's lack of awareness and, at times, apathy for stopping his assignment haunt the Suns in the postseason.

 

Is he a bad defender? Not at all.

However, succumbing to mental and emotional lapses during the playoffs, for that matter, play on repeat like bad reruns. In Game 7 vs. the Dallas Mavericks during the 2022 Western Conference Semifinals, the 2018 No.1 draft pick played a mere 17 minutes, scoring five points and grabbing four rebounds.  Former Suns head coach Monty Williams explained the 17 minutes as an "internal" decision. Frankly, figuratively speaking, Ayton doesn't show much internally.

Ayton's ho-hum attitude is partially the reason for Williams' departure from the team he helped build into a respectable unit. Coaching relationships aside, Ayton also didn't play through a rib contusion in the closeout playoff game vs. the Nuggets last spring. In all fairness, perhaps one shouldn't condemn Ayton for such an act, but in the same breath, other athletes have played through worse.

Ayton is a good player, but the Suns need him to be great on defense, and they can't afford for the apathetic center to take nights off, especially in win-or-go-home games.

Until Ayton proves he's not a max-money malcontent center, avoid burning your money on the Suns.

 

A Team Worthy of Placing a Bet

While I spent your good time telling you why placing a bet on the Phoenix Suns at +650 odds renders a costly mistake, you probably wondered well, if not Phoenix, then who?

There is no legitimate point to downplay one option without providing a better one. With that said, take the favorite here - the Denver Nuggets. With Nikola Jokic and the same championship nucleus, they strike me as the safest choice of the 30 teams at +475 (DraftKings). Those are still some pretty good odds for a defending champion and it feels like the Nuggets are quite getting the respect they deserve.



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