The NBA announced the schedule for its inaugural in-season tournament Tuesday. The Phoenix Suns are in Group A of the Western Conference, which also includes the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies.
The winner of the group will automatically advance to an eight-team knockout round. The Suns could also make the knockouts if they are one of the two best wild card teams, or the squads with the best records outside of the six group winners.
Here are reasons why the Suns will/won't win the 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament.
1. Star power
The Suns have the best scoring trio in the NBA with Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal. Each player has at least a career scoring average of 22 points per game, and all have averaged at least 28 points per game in one season.
This summer, the Suns swapped Chris Paul, Landry Shamet and draft capital for Beal, who is 30 years old. Phoenix has Booker, who is 26 years old, and Durant, who is 34 but last season became the first player in NBA history to shoot 55 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line.
Phoenix will face the Lakers, who have LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but should have a clear advantage of offensive power. The Suns also have their group game against the Lakers at home, which is big.
The Suns fired coach Monty Williams this offseason and replaced him with Frank Vogel, who is arguably the best defensive coach in the NBA. Vogel's teams have finished in the top-3 in defensive rating five times since 2012.
Vogel's championship was during the 2020 NBA bubble, when conditions were abnormal. He and the Lakers stormed through the 2020 playoffs to win their title, which is the reason why the Suns believe in him.
The NBA's in-season tournament will award each player on the winning team $500,000. There is incentive to play and win, and it makes sense that Vogel will push his team to win this title and an NBA championship later next year.
3. Why not?
This is going to be an experiment for the NBA. The main goal is to win championships, so this is an extra wrinkle for teams early in the season.
Many will want to see the Suns win the championship. This tournament will not matter in the long run, but it makes sense for competitors to want to win it.
Expect the Suns to compete and try to win the NBA Cup. Booker is a huge competitor and could shine on this stage. Phoenix will also have a chance to show how it plays in games that matter most.
1. Not the end goal
The Suns are favorites for the NBA championship this season. Phoenix has not won a title in its franchise history and is going all-in to win this year with its new coach and overhauled roster.
The tournament is a new, exciting addition to the NBA season, but it won't matter if the Suns win it and not the title. Phoenix could still look to go all-in to win this tournament, but it makes sense it would prefer continuity development and progress from its team rather than an early championship.
The NBA's tournament is in the second month of the season, but the Suns could choose to focus on their long-term development and not play their stars heavy minutes.
The Suns and Lakers are expected to be two of the top competitors for the Western Conference championship. Phoenix has its group play game versus the Lakers at home, which is a big advantage. However, Los Angeles added depth to its team that made the Western Conference Finals this past season and is very dangerous with James and Davis.
Phoenix and Los Angeles should be the two favorites to win this group. The winner of their game could very likely be the winner of the ‘A' group and maybe even the entire tournament.