Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.
It was another long week for Suns fans. The Detroit loss was definitely the low point and even though the win in Chicago was nice, I think that the Boston game was the best one that the Suns played. At least I found it the most enjoyable to watch.
This week the Suns have pressing situation that needs to be resolved quickly. Mike James' two-way contract is up on December 6 and the Suns will have to either let him go as an unrestricted free agent or make a roster move or a trade to open up a spot to sign him to a standard NBA contract. I went over the options in an article back on November 24 (Mike James' two-way contract with the Phoenix Suns will expire on Dec. 6) so I won't rehash them here. But no matter what the Suns do to resolve that issue, the point guard position is - and may remain - an issue for the Suns.
Will the Suns find a way to retain James and just finish the season with a point guard rotation of James and Tyler Ulis? Will they make some sort of minor trade that brings in another point guard that might be a moderate upgrade for the rest of the season? Do they swing for the fences and use some of that horde of assets to try and bring in a point guard that would be a major upgrade and possibly accelerate "the timeline"?
One other option that has started to be kicked around is Brandon Knight. A lot of fans have given up on Knight... but has Ryan McDonough?
And that leads us to our Fantable question of the week.
Fantable Question of the Week
The Suns obviously need a quality point guard. Whether you would use the term "quality" to describe Brandon Knight or not, he is now the best point guard that the Suns have. What do you think are the odds that Ryan McDonough does nothing to significantly upgrade the Suns at point guard through a trade this season and plans on Knight possibly being the starting PG next year?
GuarGuar: I think the odds are pretty high that McDonough doesn't trade for a point guard this season. However, I don't believe we will go with Brandon Knight as our starting PG next season. There aren't many options right now to trade for at PG. I think we end up drafting one with the Miami pick (Sexton, Young, Duval) and roll from there. It's sad because we had 3 All-star point guards a few years ago. Now we find ourselves desperately looking for some relief at the position. It's a tough decision what to do because we don't want to get caught in a bad contract, but also don't want this dreadful PG play to continue.
I'm not a fan of keeping what we have at PG and Knight starting next year. It's very clear that PG is our biggest weakness right now and needs to be addressed immediately. If we could trade for a short term PG for some relief this season I would be all for it. However, that would hurt our tanking and not please McDonough. I doubt McDonough trades for anyone that will help us this season. While that makes me sad, I understand it.
Sun-Arc: Since it is impossible to trade Knight, he’ll be here next season. And the only way to get rid of him is to play him next season, IMO. Fun Fact: he’s the highest paid player on the team this season after Greg Monroe, and is owed over $29 mil the next two seasons after this one. So unloading him should be a priority. Or to think of it another way, we need to make him a really useful player, as Rod’s question eludes to.
I believe Knight is not a lost cause. I think coaching issues have been involved but Knight has not helped his own cause. Yet it seemed like our coaches told him to go out and score all by himself, which I actually think was pretty close to what Horny and Watson asked of him. With both coaching situations, the only other truly capable player at the time was Bledsoe, particularly when they had Brandon playing with the bench. But I think he has it in him to become that near-all-star talent he was in Milwaukee before the trade. Whether or not we will have the situation here (surrounding players & coach) to make that happen is the question.
OK - so, lets say McD traded Monroe, Tyson Chandler/Alex Len, Marquese Chriss and picks for DeAndre Jordan and Dennis Schroder. And lets also say, for kicks, McD hires David Fizdale. Now suppose (and, yes I realize this is a LOT of ‘ifs’) Fizdale starts Dennis but understands that Knight needs to play more passively like he did at MIL, and defer to Jared Dudley, T.J. Warren, and Davon Reed off the bench for initial offensive options before he looks for his own shot- and thus the team gets the most out of Knight. IF that all happens, Knight either plays more up to his contract or becomes trade fodder. Either way its good.
If none of the trades happen - yeah, I see knight as the starting PG next season. If Triano (or other coach) understands and commands how Knight should be used, good things could happen. Even with him as a starter. Yes, I do think it’s possible as a positive situation. Just not likely. And if we don’t end up with a good starting PG via trade or draft, maybe Brandon plays his way into a decent trade somehow. Or he doesn’t and we just sit him on the bench for the rest of his days here. Its not ideal, but the season after next he’s got a pretty good expiring contract at the right time where Alan Williams, Dragan Bender, Tyler Ulis, and Chriss would need extensions.
Having said that, I think McD will trade for Schroder or another starting quality PG before the deadline. That will push Knight to the bench, pushing Ulis to 3rd string until a trade or Knight plays his way back to being permanently ‘injured’ on the bench for the rest of his contract. Even if Ryan drafts Doncic or Sexton, I could see them playing behind Schroder or another PG for a couple of seasons until the PG pick is ready to take over. Yeah, that could create another logjam of guards but it’s also more players for another trade, and since two of them would be on rookie deals, its not that big of a financial hit for a season or two (Ulis’ deal goes through 2019-20 only peaking at $1.6m in his final year).
The good news here is there are options. The bad news is none of them look good at the moment except a “maybe/if” trade. I think a positive trade happens and Knight ends up being moved to someone such as Brooklyn, Dallas or another team with cap room that would like to take a flyer on a player who showed all-star talent level. The return may be minimal for us, but I’d like to see Knight get another chance and for us to gain the cap space if we can’t figure out how to get the most out of him.
SDKyle: I think the odds are actually pretty low that McD just sits on his hands and hopes the PG debacle resolves organically, but it might not be DURING the season.
Maybe I’m kidding myself, but I think at some level he must realize that fans are tired of being a couple of years away from being a couple of years away, and a lot of us want to see the organization trying to improve through some means other than the draft.
That said, as I write this the Suns are already 8-16 and I’m pretty sure visions of ping pong balls are already dancing in McD’s head. So it wouldn’t surprise me if McD waits until around draft time or even after to try to pull off a trade, but I don’t think he believes the solution is for Brandon Knight to start the first game of the 18/19 season.
Personally, at this point, I’m ok with that. I’ve already said I would make a play for Dennis Schroder, but I don't think that there are many point guards reasonably available that are a good fit in Phoenix right now. Would the Suns be all that well-served to trade first rounders and more for a Jrue Holiday-esque player? Not particularly.
I’m steeling myself for a long season. I advise all my fellow Suns fans do likewise.
SouthernSun: I've seen this brought up a number of times, and I'm really not sure what McDonough is thinking in regards to this. Knight is McDonough's guy. He reportedly wanted him for awhile before finally trading for him. The more I think there is a fairly good chance that this is exactly what McDonough plans to do. Now, he may swing a trade for a veteran point guard on an expiring contract, which he should definitely do at the very least, but this does seem to make some sense. Especially from his perspective of "be as bad as humanly possible for the rest of the season to go after that pretty pretty draft pick, but try to, if possible, not piss off the fans too much."
Making the fans watch an entire season of Tyler Ulis and Mike James try to be a starting point guard is just horrible. And it's got to bad for player development as well, and the general psyche of the Suns players.
If I had to guess, I'd say McDonough will do something along the lines of what I said above. Find a veteran point guard on an expiring contract to trade for (or one with a really small contract that won't affect the cap much, like Spencer Dinwiddie), wait out the season, make his roster adjustments, trades, and free agent signings over the summer with the intention of Knight taking the starting role next season.
How I feel about that is complicated. For one, I know that Knight has been a huge disappointment here. I was hoping for big things from him, as I'm sure many others were as well. However, in his current state, all he's doing is taking up a roster spot and making 13 million dollars to do it.
I suppose it doesn't make the worst sense to do what I mentioned McDonough probably doing above. Let's keep in mind, Knight is still in his early/mid 20s, was a fringe all star in Milwaukee before that trade, and in the 3 seasons prior to his disastrous stint as our 6th man last year, averaged 18ppg and 5apg, 18ppg and 5apg, and 19ppg and 5apg. Not just a flash in the pan of good play, like a few people on this site try to make it out to be. He's always been an above average three point shooter (you know, one of this teams biggest needs). Not only that, but he appears to not really be a headcase either. I can only think of two things Knight has ever said or done that have rubbed the fan base the wrong way: Saying he didn't see his role changing when asked about Devin Booker's rise, and the rumor that he refused to play after the team shut down Bledsoe for the season last year (which was never more than just a rumor, officially it was back spasms, and nobody here can offer hard evidence saying it wasn't).
As for fit, I actually think the fit for Knight starting next to Booker might not be horrible. Knight can guard point guards better than he can shooting guards, and at least he tries on defense even if he isn't exactly effective. Knight works best as a secondary playmaker, sharing ball handling duties with another ball dominant player, and scoring off the ball. Much like what he did in Milwaukee with Giannis Antetokounmpo. So this might actually be a decent plan.
Would I rather the Suns go get Schroder? Of course I would. But I suppose I could get behind this idea instead of just writing off Knight as sunk cost and a bad contract. But whether this is McDonough's plan or not, he needs to go get this team something resembling a starting point guard to at least be here for the rest of this season, otherwise I fear the detrimental effect it could have on the Suns young players... and on what remains of my sanity.
Many thanks again to our Fantable, GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle and SouthernSun for all their input!
9 30+ point games (so far)
The Suns have played 24 games this season and Devin Booker has scored at least 30 points in 9 of them. Only LeBron James has more 30+ point games this season (10) and only Giannis Antetokounmpo has as many. Booker is presently 13th on the all-time list of Suns players with 30+ point games with a total of 29. With just 6 more he will move past Larry Nance (30), Connie Hawkins (33) and Stephon Marbury (34) and into the top 10. If he can continue getting 30+ point games at this pace for the rest of the season he should end up with 31 for the year and 51 for his career.
46.6 rebounds per game
If you're looking for a team stat in which the Suns actually rank well this season then look no further than team rebounds. The Suns are 4th in the NBA in total rebounds per game, 3rd in offensive rebounds per game (11.6) and 9th in defensive rebounds per game (35.0).
Random Stats: Devin Booker averaged 31.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists in last week's three games. Tyson Chandler and Alex Len averaged 11.5 and 10.5 rebounds per game last week in only 23.3 and 23.2 minutes per game (respectively).
Statistics courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com.
Chicago Bulls vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 28/11/2017
Detroit Pistons vs. Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 11.29.2017
Boston Celtics vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights / Week 7
Quote of the Week
"I know we have a young team but we can’t keep using that excuse every year, just being young. At some point we’ve just got to grow and get better." - T.J. Warren
Josh Jackson - 21.2 mpg, 9.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.9 TO, 2.8 PF
Mike James - 22.7 mpg, 10.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.2 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.7 TO, 1.5 PF
Alec Peters - Assigned to NAZ Suns
Davon Reed - DNP (Injured)
Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.
Bright Side Night is coming again!
Please donate! Help send 1,000+ kids to the Suns home game against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, January 14, 2018! Just get your credit card ready, click on the link below and fill out the form.
The price went WAY down! Just $9 (NINE DOLLARS) will send one deserving kid. $18 sends two. $90 sends 10 and gets YOU free stuff too.
We want to help get as many kids as we can to the game and every donation counts!
News & Notes
Bad Incentives Are Why The Phoenix Suns Keep Riding the Lottery Treadmill. Forbes
Lindsey Smith, Big Sauce, and Cheesesteaks. Suns.com (Video)
Devin Booker putting up All-Star numbers for Suns. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports
As Phoenix Suns return to Boston, a look back at Devin Booker's 70-point night. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports
The 5: Surprising coaching hires in Arizona sports history. Kevin Zimmerman/Arizona Sports
Suns forward Warren leads team by example, not words. Eric Newman/Cronkite News/Arizona Sports
Tyler Ulis: Improved health leads to aggressive play. Fox Sports (video)
Phoenix Suns' Marquese Chriss admits to being out of shape when season began. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports
This Week in Suns History
On December 9, 1993, Kevin Johnson of Phoenix became the 13th NBA player to record 10 steals in a game, during the Suns' 114-95 win over visiting Washington.
Suns History in Video
Devin Booker's career points per game average vs the Boston Celtics is 30.8.
Previewing the Week Ahead
Monday, December 4 - Phoenix Suns @ Philadelphia 76ers, 5:00 pm AZ time
Tuesday, December 5 - Phoenix Suns @ Toronto Rapters, 5:030 pm AZ time
Thursday, December 7 - Phoenix Suns vs Washington Wizards, 7:00 pm AZ time
Saturday, December 9 - Phoenix Suns vs San Antonio Spurs, 7:00 pm AZ time
The Suns have a brutal four games ahead of them this week. Their first two are a back-to-back series on the road against Philadelphia and Toronto.
Philly has the 9th best record in the NBA plus two of the best young stars is the league in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. I just don't see how the Suns are going to come close to containing those two. It could be an interesting game if Booker and especially Warren have good games that night but I think that the Sixers win this one at home.
On the following night, the Suns take on the 6th best Toronto Raptors in Toronto. The Suns have played the Raptors well in the past few seasons but I think that they will be too tired after the Philly game to pull out a win in this one.
On Thursday the Suns finally return home after their six game road trip to face the Washington Wizards. The Wizards have the NBA's 13th best record and the Suns have already beaten this team once in DC. This will be the midpoint in Washington's 5 game road trip and I think that the Suns will have a good shot at getting another win against the Wiz.
And finally the San Antonio Spurs come to Phoenix for a Saturday night showdown. Rumors are that Kwahi Leonard may be back on the court by this game. Not that it really matters as the Spurs have the 5th best record in the NBA without Leonard. But on the plus side, this will be the second game of a back-to-back series for the Spurs and they play the Celtics at home the night before they head to Phoenix. If they have a really tough game against Boston the day before, the Suns might actually have a chance to steal this game.
I'm predicting that the Suns go 1-3 this week.
What's your prediction?
Last Week's Poll Results
The poll was, "Do you believe that Ryan McDonough is the right man to oversee the Suns' rebuild?"
The results were:
15.5% - Yes. Just give him the time to see it through.
55.0% - I'm willing to give him some more time but my patience is beginning to wear thin.
29.5% - No. The Suns need to get a new GM to make #TheTimeline work.
There were a total of 200 votes cast.
This week's poll is about Mike James.
On December 6, Mike James' two-way contract will have to be converted into a standard NBA contract or the Suns will have to release him as a free agent. The problem is that they can't convert his contract without opening up a roster spot by either waiving another player or making a trade that opens up a roster spot by sending away more players than they get in return.
FYI, before you answer the poll question, let me make it clear that I'm asking what you think the Suns WILL do, not what you think they SHOULD do.
What do you think that the Suns will do?
This poll is closed
Let James go.
Waive another player to open up a spot.
Make a trade to open up a spot.
Find a way to trade James that brings back another PG.