Connect with us

Phoenix Suns

Suns Get Ready to Take on Former Teammates in Back-to-Back Games

© Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns have 12 newcomers this season, as they transition into almost an entirely new group around Devin Booker and Kevin Durant.

Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!

With that being said, there are going to be plenty of games this season when they take on teammates from just last season. This week, that happens to be both today and tomorrow.

Tonight, the Suns look to extend their three-game win streak, as they welcome back Deandre Ayton and the Portland Trail Blazers (3-10). Ish Wainright also plays for the Blazers, but has only played five total minutes and is currently out 4-6 weeks with an MCL sprain in his left knee. The Blazers also have this year’s only Suns’ draft pick in Toumani Camara.

Tomorrow night, they Chris Paul returns with the Golden State Warriors (7-8). Dario Saric has also been a key contributor for the Warriors this season.

Paul, Ayton and Saric were three huge pieces to the Suns’ Finals run back in 2021. Wainright signed with the Suns the season after.

Ayton and Camara were traded to the Blazers as part of the Damian Lillard trade in which the Suns received Jusuf Nurkic, Drew Eubanks, Nassir Little and Grayson Allen. Wainright was cut by the Suns late into training camp and signed with the Blazers, but has not appeared in a game yet due to injury.

Paul was sent to the Washington Wizards in the Bradley Beal trade, and then re-routed to the Warriors for a package including Jordan Poole. Saric was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder at the trade deadline last season and signed with the Warriors this offseason.

Devin Booker is the only Suns’ player left from the 2021 Finals run and reflected on facing his former teammates after the Suns’ 140-137 victory over the Jazz Sunday.

These matchups will be Ayton and Paul’s first games back in Phoenix.

Deandre Ayton’s Season with Blazers so Far

The Suns’ No. 1 overall pick in 2018 is not having the start he envisioned with the Blazers.

Ayton is currently averaging a career-low 12.2 points, but has tacked on averaging 11 rebounds and 1.5 steals. The Blazers are missing some of their key players and have dropped seven straight heading into tonight’s matchup. They were most recently blown out 134-91 by the Thunder on Sunday.

Ayton had a chance to return to Phoenix this preseason, but ultimately did not end up playing in the game.

The Suns and Ayton did not end on the right foot.

Back in high school, Ayton moved from the Bahamas to California and eventually to Hillcrest Prep in the Valley, where he became arguably the top high school player.

He then spent one year of college at Arizona, where he was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year in his lone year.

The Suns then decided to take the homegrown kid No. 1 overall in 2018, but it just did not pan out the way everyone wanted.

Ayton brought a lot of ups and downs to the Suns. He helped the Suns reach the 2021 NBA Finals. During the run had one of the best plays in team history now know as the “Valley Oop.”

Some other memorable moments from early in Ayton’s career include his All-Rookie team selection in the 2018-19 season. He then was suspended for the first 25 games of the 2019 season after testing positive for a diuretic. Ayton was also a big part of the Suns’ undefeated bubble run. Many many thought the Suns would have made the playoffs that year if he wasn’t suspended early on.

However, there were too many moments where Ayton looked out of place and not locked into the game. He signed a massive four-year, $133 million offer sheet last offseason with the Indiana Pacers, which the Suns ended up matching.

Ayton’s inconsistent play had fans calling for a trade of the big man for a while, but more so than ever after a rough end to the 2022-23 season. This was highlighted by Ayton getting benched during the team’s last playoff series against the Nuggets.

All in all, Ayton played in 303 total regular season games for Phoenix, starting 296 of them. He average 16.7 points, 10.4 rebounds and one block on 59.7% shooting across his five seasons in the Valley.

As for Camara, he has played in 13 games and started the last four due to injuries to Anfernee Simons and Scoot Henderson. The second-round pick is averaging 5.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 24.5 minutes per game.

The Suns will likely see both Ayton and Camara in the starting lineup tonight.

Chris Paul’s Season with the Warriors so Far

The 38-year-old Paul has been in and out of the starting lineup for Golden State, but has been a starter lately with Draymond Green currently serving a five-game suspension.

Paul is averaging a career low in points at 9.8 per game and shooting only 39.8% from the field, also a career low. He is averaging 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals.

Paul was very happy that the Warriors were able to pick up Saric in free agency, and the big man has not disappointed for the Warriors. Saric is averaging 9.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 21.4 minutes per game.

Paul helped the Suns reach new heights in his three seasons in the Valley after being traded to Phoenix from the Thunder in 2020. He was a big part of changing their future landscape to become a destination spot for players to want to come.

Paul averaged 15.1 points and 9.5 assists in 194 regular season games started for Phoenix. The Suns reached the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993 in Paul’s very first season in the Valley (2020-21). Paul is tied for second in assists per game in Suns’ history.

Saric joined the Suns one year earlier than Paul, back in 2019. He suffered an ACL tear in the Finals, which was brutal blow for Phoenix in trying to stop Giannis Antetokounmpo. This injury also caused him to miss all of the 2021-22 season.

In total, Saric played in 153 games for the Suns, starting 63 of them, and posted averages of 8.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

Now, Phoenix will play in two emotional games back to back against a ton of former Suns in front of their home crowd.

Deandre Ayton is on pace to shatter a free throw record

*Get the BEST Phoenix sports insider information, exclusive content, and access to our seasonal magazines! SIGN UP HERE to unlock our premium content!*

Brendan Mau is a senior writer covering the Phoenix Suns and more for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @Brendan_Mau

More in Phoenix Suns