So much for a bad vibe around the Phoenix Suns in the 2022-23 season, in the off-season, it looked as if this team would be the most distracted team in the league and would struggle to find its identity in the process.
That scenario has been so far from the truth at the early start of the season, the Suns are 6-1 and are two missed free throws from DeAndre Ayton away from being undefeated.
The Suns are winning games a different way than they did last year and it’s working, and keep in mind they played one-way last year and won 64 games and led the league.
Now Monty has changed things up that will preserve star point guard Chris Paul and also have more than two scoring threats on the floor at all times.
The ball is moving and the guys that it’s moving to are all duel threats, they can play on the defensive end and be aggressive on the offensive end as well.
The Suns have had three of their top scorers sit out of the game when the game was in the balance, last year that was almost impossible and would have been a loss if Devin Booker and Chris Paul were not on their offensive game.
Mikal Bridges has been a terror as usual on the defensive end and ultra-aggressive on the offensive end looking for his shot and his drives to the trim on a consistent basis.
New starting power forward Cam Johnson has been adjusting to the new role as a starter and looks like he is not thinking as much as he was at the beginning of the year.
Cam scored a game-high 29 points and made 7 three-pointers and played efficiently on the defensive end guarding Karl Anthony Towns all night.
Towns used his muscle and scored underneath the rim pushing Johnson down in the paint, but Cam didn’t relent or back down as he battle back and drew fouls as well and got his hands on a few causing turnovers or missed attempts.
The last time we saw Cam Johnson play at a level this high was the game before he was injured against the New York Knicks last year when he was pushed to his limit of patience with Julius Randall man-handling him in the paint.
Johnson seems to play better when he is angry, it seems to lock him in and he gets in a zone that is unstoppable, so the reason we haven’t seen him lite it up until last night, maybe Cam needs to get mad more.
Randall got ejected and Cam went off for six threes and one of those was the game-winning shot, last night there was not as much animosity with KAT but Johnson did say there was subtle trash talk going on.
The game against the T-wolves featured the starters winning the game for the Suns and the bench was disappointed, and Minnesota made all of their runs when the bench was on the floor.
Suns down the Wolves 116-107 and the game looked as if the T-Wolves never came up to the level of the Suns, and the Suns coasted and played their game and never felt threatened by Minnesota.
The Wolves got the game to a two-point Suns lead in the fourth quarter after leading by as many as 18 points, and the starters came back in and restored order and finished the game with Devin Booker in foul trouble and no Deandre Ayton out with an(ankle) injury.
The Suns are shooting more three-pointers than usual, over the last two games they have put up 83 three-point shot attempts, but it has not been a team just jacking up three’s, it has been mostly taking what the defense is giving you and following the game plan of how the opponent will attack them.
Going forward, we will see the Suns win games with Chris Paul being a scoring focal point and Booker and Ayton do not have to carry the load alone. The emergence of Bridges and Johnson is getting better and has become part of the scoring core of the starting lineup making them one of the most potent lineups in the league.
The last three years of Suns basketball has looked very similar to those methodical winning Spurs teams with Duncan and company, a team that didn’t have the most flashy star players, but its culture and system just played effectively every night and frustrated teams and just simply won games consistently.
Head Coach Monty Williams coming from the Greg Popovich coaching tree is paying off in the Valley, and he may not be exactly like coach Pop, but he has created a winning culture in the regular season the Spurs had in knowing how to coast and win through an 82 game regular season.
The West is still owned in the regular season by the Suns much like it was the last two seasons, and maybe it’s a matter of time before all the other teams that were projected to be atop the conference, may start to get comfortable and come together and be gelling at their top level but for now, the Suns are the standard.
Until that time the question will be, how much further along will the Suns be at that time after this type of start, and could again, like those old Spurs teams become a well-oiled machine on both ends of the court.