The Suns had the right idea, but the payoff never came
Welcome to our Phoenix Suns Season in Review series where we do individual PLAYER REVIEWS of each man that contributed in the 2021-22 season. We go through the roster to analyze what went right/wrong for them, and what they can do to get better for next season.
Check out all players covered so far here: 2022 Phoenix Suns Player Reviews, including Cameron Johnson, JaVale McGee and more.
- Position: Small forward
- Vitals: 6’7” tall, 221 pounds, 31 years old
- Experience: 4th NBA season
- Stats (with Suns): 6.9 points per game, 20.8 minutes played in 27 games (2 starts), 45.0% shooting overall, 32.3% from three, 4.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists.
Take a look at how we’ve reviewed Torrey Craig since rejoining the team.
Regular Season Recap
As the trade deadline approached for the Phoenix Suns, many wondered how James Jones would navigate the opportunity to improve the team. He opted to trade away former 10th overall pick Jalen Smith for a known commodity, the Indiana Pacers’ Torrey Craig.
Craig was a familiar face in Phoenix and had assisted the team in achieving their first NBA Finals appearance in 28 years in 2021. He wasn’t lighting the world on fire in Indiana as he was averaging 6.5 points on 33.3% shooting from deep. Adding a wing who can defend is always a plus, especially in the modern NBA, so Jones brought him back for another run with the Suns.
Ok some behind scenes info – Suns wanted to bring back Torrey Craig over summer but prioritized backup Center (Javale McGee) with the non-tax payer mid-level exception they had and Craig found a deal before that was finalized.
— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) February 10, 2022
Torrey shined in his inaugural return, scoring 14 points against the Orlando Magic, and solidifying the fan base’s desire to have him return. For the next 11 games, however, Craig struggled mightily, averaging 3.7 points and shooting 13.5% from beyond the arc.
He put together a solid four game stretch in March in which his numbers dramatically spiked, as he poured in 14.3 points and shot 64.3% from deep. This included his best performance of the season at Houston, a game in which he started, when he scored 21 points and grabbed 14 rebounds against the Rockets.
He would average 6.8 points over the final 11 games of the season in 20.3 minutes.
Craig was virtually ineffective for the Phoenix Suns throughout the playoffs, averaging only 7.6 minutes per game and 2.2 points. He appeared in nine of the thirteen total games and was unproductive on both attack and defense.
He averaged 1.5 points, including 25% from beyond the arc, in the First Round series against the New Orleans Pelicans. He was ineffective on defense, posting a team-worst 139.3 defensive rating, and there were stretches in which you forgot he was even on the court.
Against the Dallas Mavericks he upped his scoring average to 2.8 points on 33.3% shooting from behind the arc, but again, the depth of the Phoenix Suns believe they possessed with the addition of Torrey Craig was not enough to defeat the Mavs. Craig had a -9.2 net rating in the series, which was second worst on the team behind Jae Crowder.
When right, Torrey Craig is an ideal three-and-D wing player in the NBA. He is 31 years old, and it appears as if last season he might have lost a step. This does negate some of his effectiveness and it will be interesting to see how he performs next season relative to this role.
He brings the physicality to a second team unit that is much needed throughout the duration of a long 82-game season. His size and presence can deter second team scores from being as effective as they desire to be. That being said, we did not see this consistently throughout his duration with the Suns this past season.
As noted above, there are periods of the game in which Craig is a complete non-factor. His athleticism has begun to dwindle, and I truly feel like he has not been right since been injured in the NBA Finals on a dunk by Giannis Antetokounmpo.
If he takes his time and allows his body to heal correctly, he may transform this weakness into a strength, restoring his lateral agility. But, until that time arrives, he’ll be a mediocre three-and-D wing and a second-team player.
What to work on
When Torrey Craig returned to the Phoenix Suns, I was amazed at how inefficient he was from beyond the arc. He isn’t a high-volume three-point shooter, but his stats have dropped dramatically year over year. In 2020-21, he shot 36.9% from deep on 2.6 attempts, compared to 32.3% on 3.6 attempts in 2021-22.
He was no longer an offensive threat for the Suns this season, and he had an average defensive rating of 107.8. It’s not that he didn’t do anything well or poorly. Everything he did was mediocre.
What does he need to work on? Trying to become above average at one aspect of his game, whether it be three-point shooting or defensive prowess.
- Entering final year of a 2-year, $10M deal he signed with the Indiana Pacers.
Craig will earn $5.1M this season with Phoenix. He possesses one of those expiring contracts that could be appealing to opposing teams when stacking contracts to make potential trades work, so keep an eye on that.
Time to grade out Torrey Craig’s 2021-22 season.
- Overall grade as an NBA player: C
- Relative grade to preseason expectations: D-
In an effort to bring awareness to his foundation, McGee is hosting the Water for Life Charity Softball Game on June 22 at Chase Field. The event will have some of our favorite Phoenix Suns players competing like Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Mikal Bridges, James Jones, and Cam Payne.
If you are interested in attending, click here.