Buying or Selling? | Suns Big Picture Predictions

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Updated: August 24, 2021
2021 NBA Playoffs – Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns

For a team who is only weeks removed from an impressive Finals appearance, the love around the league for the Phoenix Suns repeating this phenomenon is lacking tremendously. Even as they have retained the majority of their roster, and with such a dependence on a still-growing young core, internal development from this playoff push may make them even more dangerous, there are very few voices picking them as their top team out of the West. However, the majority does see them as title contenders, especially after retaining both their point guards in All-NBA selection Chris Paul and backup bucket getter Cam Payne. Where they respectfully sit in the eyes of the media and their expectations of this recent Final’s squad, is buying stock in the Suns a bet worth investing in?

Again, as explained in the first article of this series Lakers Big Picture Predictions, buying stock in a team or player is completely relative to how high or low the current perception of them is around the league. It also is obviously subjective since it functions in a fictional space dictated by takes from analysts on television and podcasts. But our opinions and predictions are possibly the most impactful variable for the viewer and the emotional attachment to the outcome of games or the production of players. We want to be right, and it is even more satisfying when we make a big bet that no one else was willing to make and pays dividends. This is the case study for the Phoenix Suns, and the variables to consider when betting on them and their success in the upcoming season towards another Finals appearance. 

Suns Playoff Success

Vegas has Phoenix’s odds at a +1300 for the championship, behind the Lakers, Bucks, and the Golden State Warriors. Considering two of three of those franchises reside in the West, at least according to Vegas, there is some doubt that the Suns would even make it to Conference Finals again this year. Now, the Warriors were placed 3rd in the odds rankings mostly because it was assumed that their draft capital and young assets would be exchanged for an additional all-star which has yet to happen, but even outside of the Dubs, the Jazz, Nuggets, Clippers, are all teams that many consider in a similar tier as the Phoenix Suns. So, to be able to gauge our system of measurement we must first identify what would be considered success and failure as an outcome of this season. With how high everyone is on the Lakers, making the Finals is not a must for ideological success when it comes to the Suns. It appears the threshold line should be set for the Western Conference Finals, especially considering who they would most likely meet there and who they would need to beat in the 2nd round to advance.

If they get past the Jazz, Warriors, Clippers, or Nuggets in the 2nd round, and say lose to the Lakers or Jazz in the Conference Finals, it will solidify in most people’s eyes that this year’s Finals push was no fluke and that they are as solid as they appeared. However, if they lost in the 2nd round, unless to the Lakers, it would undoubtedly be seen as a failure, which would have serious ramifications not on their current stock but the perception of their recent success and Finals appearance. Now, there a caveat is the matchups that, fair or not, alters this equation. If they lost in the Conference Finals to the Warriors, Nuggets, or a wild card team not yet mentioned, it would most likely be seen as a failure by the vast majority.

Now if the Warriors were to land say Beal or Lillard before the deadline, this would sway the loss on the side of success due to the overwhelming star power. However, as currently constructed, a Curry victory over CP3’s Suns would again have ramifications for last year’s playoff success due to the Warrior’s absence in these playoffs. The narrative would go something like: “Yeaa, they got to the Finals the year Lebron was hurt and Curry wasn’t there cuz Klay was still out.” Again, narratives and perceptions are not fair, but they dictate the weight of a take or prediction. With regards to the Nuggets, the reason perceptually they differ from the Jazz is due to the Murray variable and the unknown of his health and timetable for return. Also, it again has ramifications for the Suns’ playoff success due to the fact that the Nuggets were essentially a non-factor after the Murray injury this last season.

So, Phoenix would need to at least get to the Conference Finals, and not lose to the Nuggets, Warriors, or a black-horse contender, in order for the season to be a success. If they lost to the Clippers in the Conference Finals with Kawhi, I assume it would be seen as a gray space in the middle, with a 50-50 tug on a perceived success/failure playoff performance.

I think the upside on a pick for success with regards to the Suns does not match how difficult the route for them to succeed is considering all the potential landmines that lay in their path. A take that they make the Conference Finals is semi-bold at best, so if one were to gamble and have a strong feeling on this squad, it would be the gamble that they return the Finals. With regards to our risk-reward-ratio, this is an interesting take…not one I would make and would without hesitation bet against, nonetheless, an interesting one.

CP3 Stock & Legacy

One of the more interesting stocks to consider around the league is future first-ballot Hall a Famer Chris Paul. Recently reaching his first NBA Finals and also his first MVP considerations in quite some time, the perception around the league is extremely favorable around CP3’s name. However, due to his age, the expectations are quite reasonable, and the threshold to consider success or failure for him is a bit gray. There are two categories for purchasing CP3 stock that at times overlap and other times operate independently. One is the current stock of this newly signed 3-year 90-million-dollar deal, the other is his career legacy and what the future 2-3 season will do impact his overall ranking all time.

Let’s start with his current stock in the league and its relation to this new contract as the number attached to a player has such an overwhelming impact on perception around the league. In a previous article prior to free agency CP3 3 Year Extension-A Suns Sign & Trade, I argued against this long-term for the young Suns mostly due to CP3’s injury history which is well documented. So, with regards specifically to the contract itself, I would buy heavily in the future perception that this was a misstep by the franchise and by the vast majority’s perception who supported it. However, if only isolating this season, due to the fact the Suns are not expected to get to the Finals, as long as Chris Paul plays well and remains healthy, his stock should stay neutral. The question then of this threshold being identified is dependent on two things, health and if you expect the Suns to make the Conference Finals. Both need to occur in order for CP3’s stock to rise in relation to what it was set at in this MVP consideration year. 

With regards to his legacy, not only do both of those things need to occur, CP3 needs also to be the clear best player on the Suns and at least get to Conference Finals. If he can conquer either Lebron or Curry, it will have a serious impact on his resume and rankings all-time. However, if the Suns are to lose a series in which CP3 is compromised to injury or scoring under 20 points per game, it may have strong negative repercussions in this category. 

Similar to the predictions for the team itself, buying into CP3 stock is tricky since most likely it will stay relative to where it is already unless he gets injured again in the playoffs. So, buying CP3 stock at the moment seems like a poor judgment call in relation to our risk-reward-ratio. However, if you are already invested in CP3 stock, keeping it throughout this year is a sound bet. The team is strong and definitely a true contender. If one already has a tremendous amount of CP3 stock like our Director at basketballgods.net James currently holds, taking the gamble on CP3 making it back to the NBA Finals is worth the risk relative to the current expectations. The same would be true with regards to CP3 legacy stock. If one already has a considerable amount, there are very few situations that would have any serious negative consequences to his overall ranking besides an injury that would cause him to miss 1-2 series in the playoffs. But even then, due to his age, for most analysts this would have only a slight negative knock on his overall career. If you are high on the Suns, him getting to back-to-back Finals would have a huge positive impact on his overall ranking. So, if you believe that is a likely outcome, buying into CP3 legacy stock may be a good option.

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