The Phoenix Suns are coming off a long and relatively unexpected run to the 2021 NBA Finals. Their run ultimately ended in heartache after blowing a 2-0 lead to the Milwaukee Bucks, but last season will still go down as a positive for Phoenix. The Mavs can’t say the same about last season, but how do they compare for the upcoming season? Let’s get into it.
Best player: Luka Doncic vs Devin Booker
I feel like I should preface everything that I’m about to say by first mentioning that I like Devin Booker and understand that he’s obviously a great player.
Okay, now that I have my bases covered... This isn’t a tough choice to make. Luka Doncic is far superior to Devin Booker, and it’s not even close to being close to being close.
Devin Booker is probably better on the defensive end, but neither guy is elite. I also trust Booker to knock down an open jumper more than I trust Doncic. But everything else goes to Luka. Rebounding, getting to the rim, playmaking, controlling the speed of the game, clutch gene. You name it, Luka’s got it.
Sidekicks: Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. vs Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton
When I started thinking about the sidekicks of these two teams, my initial thought was that the Suns are miles ahead of the Mavericks. If we’re going by how things looked last season, that would be true. Kristaps Porzingis was a relative disaster, and Tim Hardaway Jr. was good, not great. On the other hand, Chris Paul destroyed Father Time in their head-to-head matchup, and Deandre Ayton flashed All-Star potential at the center position.
The thing is... All of what I just said could flip in 2022.
If Kristaps Porzingis stays healthy and Jason Kidd uses him correctly, he could be a monster. There’s also a world where Tim Hardaway Jr. could be great, not good next to Luka for another year. On the other hand, again, CP3 could easily lose a round to Father Time soon, and Deandre Ayton could backslide.
I want to give this one to the Mavs, but I don’t think I can right now. The “ifs” surrounding Porzingis are too massive. I’ll give Paul and Ayton the benefit of the doubt.
When it comes to this matchup, unfortunately, the Mavs are lagging behind. Outside of their top three guys, the Suns still have Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Cam Johnson, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, and more. All of those guys would get a lot (a LOT) of playing time if they were in Dallas instead of Phoenix.
A big problem for the Suns last season was their frontcourt depth. It’s definitely not great now, but it’s much better than it was. In the offseason, they added JaVale McGee, a solid veteran presence to play in reserve minutes. They also got impressive play in Summer League out of former lottery pick Jalen Smith, who wasn’t NBA-ready last season.
If Smith can play a little in this upcoming season, their frontcourt depth behind Deandre Ayton will be fine.
The Mavericks have enough swag to compete with a lot of teams in this department, but Phoenix isn’t one of them. Cameron Payne used to go viral before nearly every game dancing with Russell Westbrook, and Devin Booker has impeccable fashion, drives cool cars and is dating Kendall Jenner. With those two alone, the Suns probably have the edge over the Mavericks, but with Chris Paul’s grandpa vibes, it’s over for Dallas.
Overall Advantage: Mavericks
You’re probably wondering why I’m giving the Mavericks the overall advantage when the Suns won three of the four categories.
With these two teams, there’s a big enough difference between the best players to make the overall difference in the series. I’ll take Luka with a cast of misfits over Devin Booker with a nice roster around him. Luka’s that good.
Plus, if Father Time does end up coming for Chris Paul, that could get messy for Phoenix.