It took lower than 4 minutes into his Suns debut for Kevin Durant to indicate the world that, sure, he’s again and wholesome forward of the ultimate 5 weeks of the NBA common season.

And, sure, the remainder of the league is in hassle.

Early within the first quarter of his first recreation motion in practically two months, Phoenix’s newly acquired celebrity swatted Charlotte’s 7-foot middle Mark Williams on the rim and casually jogged down the courtroom to the left wing — the place he’s drilled so many clutch photographs in his 16-year profession.

He nailed this one, too, the primary 3-pointer of what guarantees to be many for his fourth franchise.

It seemed as easy as the remainder of his 23 factors in 26 minutes in Wednesday’s group debut, as he completed 10 of 15 from the ground — tied for his fifth-most environment friendly taking pictures show (66.7 %) in 40 video games this season.

It seemed simple for his teammates, too, because the Suns coasted to a 105-91 win over the Hornets within the first glimpse of the Durant period.

And all of it reignited the dialog that dominated NBA circles within the wake of February’s deadline deal: ought to the Suns be favored to win all of it?

It’s a straightforward case to make, particularly after nights like Wednesday.

You possibly can see the seamless match instantly: Durant’s unimaginable gravity on the offensive finish opened up the lane for Devin Booker — who completed with a game-high 37 factors on 57.7 % taking pictures — and drew the protection’s consideration away from weakside actions even when Durant wasn’t concerned within the play.

Kevin Durant
Getty Photographs

That’s to say nothing of Durant’s personal talent set as an elite shot creator, which is one thing this group has sorely missed from the wing spot in every of its final two playoff runs.

His presence would have been a godsend within the 2021 NBA Finals, when Phoenix’s offense fell aside within the half courtroom, and in final 12 months’s convention semifinals, when the Mavericks’ switchable protection flummoxed the Suns’ star-studded backcourt.

Durant additionally masks among the defensive points that plagued these two earlier groups.

In that Finals loss, the Suns merely didn’t have the scale to take care of Giannis Antetokounmpo with out forcing middle Deandre Ayton into uncomfortable spots.

Now they do. And whereas Mikal Bridges was a stellar defender in his personal proper, he isn’t a 7-footer with the flexibility to defend all 5 positions like his de facto substitute.

Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Chris Paul
Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Chris Paul
NBAE by way of Getty Photographs

The most important situation with this new-look group is depth.

Particularly after buying and selling Bridges and Cameron Johnson within the deal to amass Durant, Phoenix is mighty skinny throughout all the roster with legit questions on the backup level guard and middle positions and a dearth of defensive-minded wings within the rotation.

That’s particularly regarding given this group’s well-documented harm historical past.

Durant has missed 157 of 287 doable video games (54.7 %) throughout the final 4 common seasons; Booker has already missed 27 of 63 video games (42.9 %) this season; and Chris Paul has a tortured historical past with postseason accidents over the past decade.

Betting on the NBA?

A powerful bench doesn’t elevate a group’s ceiling as a lot as its flooring, and that’s a serious concern when the expectations are so excessive and the margin for error is so low.

Following Wednesday’s win, Phoenix was dealing at +450 at BetMGM and FanDuel — behind the favored Celtics however forward of each different group within the Western Convention.

Make no mistake: at full energy, this group must be the favourite to return out of the West, and it has the upside to beat any group within the league.

Nonetheless, the Suns aren’t as invincible as, say, these Warriors groups have been with Durant on the helm, and the NBA is as deep with contenders because it’s been in years.

So, ought to Phoenix be the favourite to win all of it? In a phrase, sure.

That doesn’t imply there isn’t important threat in paying such a brief value, and this group’s weakest hyperlinks — which received’t be examined except catastrophe strikes — will in the end show whether or not it’s a value value paying.