Can the Phoenix Suns jump back in the mix?

Let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane.

For the 2020-21 season, Chris Paul joined the Suns and paired with young star-in-the-making Devin Booker to lead the Suns to the second best record in the NBA at 51-21 (COVID-19 shortened season; 70.8% win percentage would translate to 58-win pace). They’d go on to win the Western Conference Finals, and lead the Milwaukee Bucks two games to one before succumbing in the NBA Finals.

In the 2021-22 season, the Suns returned with by-far the best record in the NBA at 64-18 (78.0 win percentage), a full eight games ahead of the second-place Grizzlies. They won the Pacific Division by 11 games over the Golden State Warriors. But, after leading the Western Conference Semifinals two games to none, they were upset by the Mavericks in seven games.

Now, fast forward to this season. The Suns were favored to contend in the West again, with among the shortest odds to win the Pacific Division, the Western Conference and the NBA Championship. But, as things stand entering February of 2023, the Suns would be on the outside of the playoffs and competing in the play-in games if the season ended today.

What happened? Are the problems fixable? And is there any way that the Suns can reclaim their status as one of the best teams in the league and legitimate contenders for the elusive crowns?

Let’s explore.

How the Suns got here

You can’t tell the story of the 2022-23 Suns without mentioning the injuries. In a league where most teams deal with some injury adversity, the Suns have been hit much harder than the average. Here’s a chart of games played and missed, for their five starters and sixth man to start the season:

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