Talk surrounding the Phoenix Suns stirred the pot all through the offseason, and that was again the case this week as ESPN crowned them as the No. 1 team in the western conference in their 2022-23 forecast.
The Suns, sitting at a projected 56-26, barely edged the Golden State Warriors (55-27) and Denver Nuggets (53-29) to claim the throne, something they successfully did last season after pacing the entire league with 64 wins in the regular season.
That success is again expected to be replicated, and at least on paper, ESPN's Bobby Marks believes Phoenix is who you need to beat to run the west.
ESPN Analysts Debate Suns' Spot in Power Rankings
"Well, it's the team continuity factor. That's what everyone is going to rely on here. I think the big question for me is going to be Deandre Ayton, of course, as far as... there was certainly some lingering bad taste as far as how their season ended," said Marks on the set of "NBA Today".
"Is Ayton going to be a rental for the year? Do we get to Jan. 15, is he going to be traded? You basically bring back the same group with Devin Booker and Chris Paul but, I think on paper certainly Phoenix is the team to beat again just based on what they were able to do in the regular season."
Fellow NBA analyst Tim Bontemps responded with a different (and lower) perspective of Phoenix.
"To me, I think the Suns were projected to be too high, I would've had them lower. To me, I think the Clippers are going to be the best team in the west this year. I thought they were very low in the projections from our summer forecast," said Bontemps.
"To me, this Suns team, we saw Chris Paul really wear down in the playoffs. He's going into his aged 38th season, what's he going to look like as the season goes on? You've got Jae Crowder who's in a contract year I believe in Phoenix, that tweet recently didn't seem like he was very happy there. You've got Cam Johnson who's up for a potential extension. There's a lot of stuff going on in Phoenix that I'm not really sure how it's going to go.
"As Bobby pointed out, one of the big stories this offseason was what's going to happen with Deandre Ayton? He ended up signing an offer sheet and it's really unclear what his future is there. So the Suns are probably going to be pretty good. I'm sure they'll still be near the top of the west, but I think there's more potential for regression then we're giving credit for."
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