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Center of the Sun: Phoenix Suns end Week Three at 4-6 for the season

The Fantable discusses if/when Dragan Bender will replace Marquese Chriss in the starting lineup.

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

@ Brooklyn Nets W (122-114) Full Recap

@ Washington Wizards W (122-116) Full Recap

@ New York Knicks L (120-107) Full Recap

@ San Antonio Spurs L (112-95) Full Recap

All in all it was a good week for the Suns. No matter what you think, two wins and two losses is a good week for a young, rebuilding team and we should all be happy that T.J. Warren’s injury wasn’t worse than it was. Still, those losses to the Knicks and especially the Spurs sting. But that’s the problem with the Suns suddenly starting to look pretty good and giving the fans some hope after that horrible 0-3 start. We don’t really expect losses every game anymore!

One of the things that has helped build that hope is the play of the Suns’ second unit. They have played very well and have allowed the starters extended rest at times... which leads us to this week’s Fantable question.

Fantable Question of the Week

Do you think that Dragan Bender will eventually replace Marquese Chriss in the starting lineup this season?

GuarGuar: I've been very pleased with Dragan's impact on the defensive end this season. He is clearly our best defender and his 3pt shot is starting to look better too. Now whether he starts over Chriss this season is a different story. Right now I like the “BLender” lineup coming off the bench. So if Dragan were to start, I would want Len starting as well. While Quese hasn't performed as well as Bender, he hasn't been bad. Chriss is shooting pretty decent from 3 and is rebounding the ball nicely.

I don't think it really matters who starts. Whoever is playing better between the two finishes that game, which is what really matters. We have seen games where Bender logs 6-7 more minutes than Chriss, and vice versa. I think doing this is fine for the time being, until a trade or something changes.

Sun-Arc: Before the 2016 draft, I was high on both of these very raw players, though I was higher on Dragan. Over the course of their first season I was really impressed with Chriss' ability to be more NBA ready than I would have thought. And he improved a lot more over the course of the season than Bender did. I suggested patience with those calling Bender a bust.

Then in summer league, we saw Chriss regress somewhat while Dragan began to gain confidence and improve with each game - scoring, rebounding, passing, blocking, defending. People began questioning whether Chriss could even play the game and how Bender was obviously a better overall player. I suggested patience with these guys before passing judgement.

We are still having these discussions, but I still think it is too early to know what either of them will be. Len was raw too, and it took him this long to become this useful. At the same time, Chriss and Bender show skills already that Len rarely/never has. Although they are still pretty darn raw, I think (hope) they won't take that long. Its only the beginning of their 2nd season. Bender isn't even 20 yet, and Chriss has only been playing basketball for 6 years or so. To me, neither look like a bust, I think we still need patience with them to know what we have.

Right now I would say not to put Bender in the starting line up, regardless of the stats. I'll give two reasons:

  • First: Chriss' body is more NBA ready to go up against starting power forwards like Blake Griffin. While Bender is clearly the better defender overall, I think Bender would get abused by several starting PF's, and really limit his court time.
  • Second: Chriss really seems to thrive on the confidence of being a starter, and it doesn't seem to matter to Bender. People have been pointing out how good the combo of Len and Bender ("Blender") is, but I think even if you move Len to the starting line up, Dragan would work really well next to Chandler as well.

Bender's perimeter shooting has begun to catch up to Chriss', as have his block %. And its very apparent that he knows how to play better defense in almost every way and do so while not fouling, which is one of Marquese's biggest problems. And I find this a really good reason to keep Bender coming off the bench, so he can play big minutes if/when Chriss gets in foul trouble. Dragan will always be ready to play and seems to work well with just about anyone he plays with - which makes him an excellent option off the bench. At least for now.

SDKyle: I think it’s highly likely that Bender will at some point see the starting five over Chriss, and I really have no problem with that.

Compared to Chriss, Bender is a superior defender and rebounder who doesn’t cost you anything in terms of his floor-spacing capability. That’s not to bag on Chriss, who is a great athlete capable of giving you explosive play at any given time. They really both suffer from the same consistency issues common to young players.

The main reason I think Bender will get his turn is because I think it’s very likely that we’ll see a number of lineup switches as the Suns inevitably begin to lose more often in the tougher part of the schedule starting in a couple weeks. When that happens, I think Jay Triano will properly begin some experimentation, an obvious one being trying to feature Bender more prominently. I’ve said in the past that Chriss is further along in his development than Bender, but overall they’re at a fairly similar level and swapping them at some point makes sense.

SouthernSun: This is a really interesting question, and I can't say I feel confident one way or the other.

On one hand, Bender has looked pretty good lately. Like, he has actually looked like an NBA player out there. He doesn't have the same deer in the headlights look that he has had while on the court for the majority of time he's been a Sun. He's looked marvelous defensively. There are times where you can watch him absolutely locking someone down, and it's fun to see (seeing a Suns player play defense is always fairly novel). He has really been a difference maker out there, and plus/minus seems to tell that same story. He hasn't been flashy, but he's getting the job done. He's looked more aggressive recently and I like that as well.

On the other hand, Chriss has looked pretty good recently as well. Add to that the fact that we already know he didn't take coming off the bench at the beginning of the season very well, and I'm not so sure it's a good idea to take him out of the starting lineup. Playing Bender more minutes than Chriss, but still bringing Bender off the bench, probably makes more sense.

And I know one could say "it shouldn't matter whether Chriss doesn't like it," and yeah, in a perfect world it wouldn't, but as Suns fans, we know it's not a perfect world, and you've got to work with what you get. We spent a #8 pick on Chriss, and if it's best for his attitude that he stay a starter, then that's what's best for his development, and if it doesn't have a negative effect on Bender's attitude, then it's probably what should be done.

By the end of this season, I think we'll have a pretty good idea of how quickly they're both developing, and the Suns can make a more informed decision for the following season. This is all barring a big move that takes a player out and maybe adds a player into the front court. Let's say for instance that we pull off a trade that happens to send out Chandler, and brings back someone like a Jahlil Okafor. Perhaps you use that shakeup as a reason to switch Chriss to the bench, say you wan to start Jahlil and that Bender fits best next to him, and you tell Chriss you want him to really lead that second unit, etc. Perhaps that would work.

The short version of my answer is this. While Bender may have proven he can, and perhaps should, start over Chriss right now, it may be in the Suns best interest to keep things as they are with Chriss starting, but with Bender maybe playing a few more minutes.

As always, many thanks to our Fantable... GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle and SouthernSun!

Key Stats

16.7 vs. 14.4

That first number is the average team turnovers the Suns have committed this season. They presently rank 23rd in the NBA for the season. That second number is the team turnover average for the last 4 games which would rank 5th in the NBA if that was the season number. The Suns still turn the ball over too much but they are improving. The Suns averaged 18.3 turnovers per game in the first three games of the season.

Random Stats: Troy Daniels is hitting 47.1% of his shots from three for the season and hit an insane 64.3% in the last four games. Marquese Chriss does not lead the team in personal fouls (3.3) per game. That honor falls to Tyson Chandler with 3.7. As a team, the Suns are still one of the most foul prone teams in the NBA ranking 29th with a 23.8 fouls per game average.

Statistics courtesy of

Game Highlights

Phoenix Suns vs Brooklyn Nets | Full Highlights | October 31, 2017 | 2017-18 NBA Season

Phoenix Suns vs Washington Wizards - Full Game Highlights | November 1, 2017 | 2017-18 NBA Season

Phoenix Suns vs New York Knicks | Full Highlights | November 3, 2017 | 2017-18 NBA Season

San Antonio Spurs vs. Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 11.05.2017

Quote of the Week

"The great thing about these dudes is this is a locker room full of great guys. It’s really a locker room full of great young guys with great personalities that actually listen and want to get better." - Tyson Chandler

Rookie Report

Josh Jackson - 23.9 mpg, 10.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 0.8 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.4 TO, 3.2 PF

Mike James - 23.6 mpg, 11.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.7 TO, 1.8 PF

Alec Peters - Assigned to NAZ Suns

Davon Reed - DNP (Injured)

Statistics courtesy of

Don't forget Bright Side Night is coming again!

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NOTE: With all the drama around the team these past weeks, the third annual Bright Side Night has been postponed to January 14, 2018.

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News & Notes

How center Tyson Chandler is staying positive with the going-nowhere Suns. Yahoo! Sports

How the longest-serving Suns are dealing with yet another round of desert drama. CBS Sports

Booker, Warren scoring efficiently for winning Suns without Eric Bledsoe. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Robert Sarver says he has no interest in selling Suns, disputes Washington Post report. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

ESPO: Jay Triano Has Phoenix Suns Focus Back To The Future. Greg Esposito/Sports360 AZ

Effort is the secret to the Suns’ recent success. The Step Back

From Grant to Gucci: The unlikely rise of Phoenix Suns' Mike James. The Oregonian/OregonLive

What Does Devin Booker Want to Be When He Grows Up? The Ringer

This Week in Suns History

On November 7, 1992, the Suns celebrated their 30th Anniversary season by moving into the America West Arena.

On November 10, 1990, the host Phoenix Suns routed the Denver Nuggets 173-143 to tie a record held by the 1959 Boston Celtics for the most points scored in a non-overtime game. The Suns had 107 points in the first half, breaking the mark of 90 set by the Nuggets three days earlier in a 161-153 loss to San Antonio. Suns Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons also picked up his 700th career coaching victory, becoming only the seventh coach in the history of the league to reach that mark.

Suns History in Video: Nash vs. Kidd

Suns Trivia

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Suns' 66 total rebounds at Brooklyn on Oct. 31 were their most since 67 on Feb. 17, 1998, at Dallas, and the Suns' 56 defensive rebounds were their most since defensive rebounds started being officially recorded in 1973-74 (their previous high was 51 on Dec. 22, 1988, at Denver).

Previewing the Week Ahead

Monday, November 6 - Phoenix Suns vs Brooklyn Nets, 7:00 pm AZ time

Wednesday, November 8 - Phoenix Suns vs Miami Heat, 7:00 pm AZ time

Friday, November 10 - Phoenix Suns vs Orlando Magic, 7:00 pm AZ time

Saturday, November 11 - Phoenix Suns vs Minnesota Timberwolves, 7:00 pm AZ time

Following a fairly successful five game road trip, the Suns return to the friendly confines of Talking Stick Resort Arena for a six game home stand.

First up is a rematch with the Brooklyn Nets whom the Suns beat 122-114 in Brooklyn last week. The Nets are presently on a four game losing streak but the Suns will be playing them on the second night of a back-to-back after returning from San Antonio. I'm giving the edge to the Suns even though they should be a bit tired Monday night.

On Wednesday the Miami Heat and former Sun Goran Dragic come to Phoenix. The Heat have gotten off to a rocky start this season, at least in part due to Hassan Whiteside missing five games due to a bone bruise. But he's back and they just beat the Clippers in LA 104-101. I’m still going to call this one as a Suns’ win although I think it will be a close one.

On Friday the still surprising Orlando Magic come to town. D.J. Augustin and Elfrid Payton have been sidelined with injuries as of late leaving Shelvin Mack as the Magic’s only true point guard. That led to a 105-83 pasting by the Bulls on Friday and a 104-88 loss to the Celtics last night. If they are still short handed when they come to Phoenix, I’d call this one a Phoenix win in what might still be a close game. If one or both are playing again, I’d call it as a probable loss for the Suns.

Then on Saturday the much improved Minnesota Timberwolves will face off against the Suns. After playing the Magic the night before, I really doubt that the Suns can get a win in this one... especially since the T-wolves will have had two days off beforehand.

I'm predicting that the Suns go 2-2 this week.

What's your prediction?

Last Week's Poll Results

The poll was, “In an Eric Bledsoe trade, what do you think is most important for the Suns to get in return?"

The results were:

44% - A young point guard with high potential.

34% - The best player/players possible regardless of position.

15% - Another draft pick that probably will be a lottery pick.

07% - I don’t care. I just want him gone ASAP.

There were a total of 339 votes cast.

This week's poll is...


What is your opinion on the Chriss/Bender debate?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Keep things as they are with Chriss starting and Bender on the 2nd unit.
    (56 votes)
  • 19%
    Bender needs to move into the starting lineup and Chriss to the 2nd unit.
    (31 votes)
  • 46%
    It’s too close to call. Just give the most minutes to whoever is playing best for now.
    (75 votes)
162 votes total Vote Now

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