A year after losing in the NBA Finals to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, the Phoenix Suns are having a marvelous season.
They finished with the best record in the National Basketball Association by winning 64 games, which is also a team record, and they seem to have the type of momentum that is indicative of a squad that is about to win the world championship.
Point guard Chris Paul, who has been one of the greatest at his position for over a decade and a first-ballot future Hall of Famer, seems poised to finally get himself a championship ring.
But there are certain teams, such as the Bucks, Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets, who could prevent that from happening.
If Paul doesn’t win it all this summer, he will likely never get it done for a few reasons.
Paul Is Getting Up There In Age
Although by all accounts, he takes great care of his body, Paul is 36 years of age, and he will turn 37 in the first week of May.
Even athletes who are meticulous about preserving their bodies eventually lose to Father Time.
Paul is still a great player, but there may be signs of slippage.
His scoring average of 14.7 this season was a career-low, and he set another career-worst mark by making only 31.7 percent of his 3-point shots this year.
Paul has always been the type of player who, although he doesn’t score a ton of points consistently, can go off for over 30 points on any given night.
This season, he is yet to reach the 30-point mark in a single game.
With every year he continues to play in the NBA, the odds of him falling off a cliff due to age continue to build.
The Suns May Lose A Key Player This Summer
Some may have forgotten about it because they have played so well all season, but the Suns will face a crossroads regarding their starting center Deandre Ayton.
He will become a free agent this summer, and the franchise has reportedly refused to give him the maximum contract extension he has asked for.
ESPN Sources: Suns talks with Deandre Ayton on rookie extension have ended — without a deal. Ayton expected max contract and owner Robert Sarver hasn’t offered it. More coming on consequences for failing to reach deal with 2018 No. 1 overall pick. NBA Today debut, ESPN2. Now.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 18, 2021
The Suns are already over the salary cap, and a standoff could ensue, with the team ultimately choosing to let him leave and chase big bucks elsewhere.
If that happens, Phoenix won’t be as formidable next season.
Ayton averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds a game while making 63.4 percent of his shots this season. The team uses him heavily in the pick-and-roll and gets him many easy baskets when he rolls to the basket.
Deandre Ayton Masterclass vs Timberwolves (35 Points, 15/24 FG, 7 Offensive Rebounds). pic.twitter.com/A5ZISielMf
— Playoff RB (@RyB_311) March 24, 2022
According to NBA.com, when Ayton was on the floor this season, the Suns boasted a robust 117.2 offensive rating, but when he wasn’t in the game, that number fell to 110.6.
The Rest Of The League Is Getting Better
Next season, the Suns could have stiffer competition for the NBA title.
The Golden State Warriors should be stronger if they stay healthy, and the Memphis Grizzlies are rapidly improving.
The Los Angeles Clippers will likely be title contenders again given good health, and the Los Angeles Lakers, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, could reload again and return to title contender status.
Back East, the Brooklyn Nets’ best chance of winning it all will likely come next year, as they will have a full training camp with their revamped squad, including (presumably) Ben Simmons.
Now is the time for Phoenix, because it may not have a tomorrow.