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Center of the Sun: Phoenix Suns now 14-24 after a 2-1 week

To tank, or not to tank... that is the question (for the Fantable).

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Happy New Year Suns fans!

And welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

vs Memphis Grizzlies W (99-97) Full Recap

@ Sacramento Kings W (111-101) Full Recap

vs Philadelphia 76ers L (123-110) Full Recap

The Suns have been playing pretty well recently but - as some have been quick to point out - their schedule only gets tougher as the season goes on. According to PlayoffStatus.com, the portion of the schedule already played was ranked only 24th in difficulty (11th in the Western Conference) and the remaining strength of schedule rank for the Suns as the 2nd toughest in the NBA and 1st in the West.

Ouch.

But at the moment the Suns are fairly far from the bottom of the barrel and not really contending for one of the highly coveted top five picks in this year's draft. That could (and likely will) change as the schedule gets progressively more difficult but what if it doesn't? The Suns are one of the bottom 10 teams record-wise and at least seven of those other teams (excluding the Lakers and Nets which do not own their first round draft picks this year) will start thinking about tanking themselves to get the best odds possible on obtaining that #1 pick in the lottery this year.

To tank, or not to tank... that is the question.

Seriously, the Suns are presently 10th in the reverse standings and - with 38 games played this season - the time to make that decision is quickly approaching. There are a lot of super prospects in the top 5 or 6 spots in the draft and unless the Suns get lucky in the lottery they might miss out on all of those. The team has started to play well enough that they could even wind up drafting in the 10-14 range with their own pick.

If you look at the following chart, I think you may agree that a deliberate tank may not be necessary. As the Suns’ remaining schedule gets more difficult, the schedules of most of the other teams on the list get easier... and in some cases, much easier.

Every fan wants a high draft pick but there could be a cost if tanking is the way you get one. I think that a deliberate tank job by the front office could hurt not only the development of the young players we already have but create some bad feelings between players and management. The Suns might not actually need to tank this year but they still have a decision to make concerning their approach to the rest of the season.

Will they let the team play to win and take whatever spot in the draft they get at the end of the season or crank up the old tank again to make sure they get one of the top 5-6 draft picks?

And that question leads us to our Fantable question of the week.


Fantable Question of the Week

Should the Suns go with the flow and let the team win as many games as possible this season or step in at some point and attempt to tank for a higher draft pick in June?

GuarGuar: The Suns should absolutely not consider tanking at this point in the season. Wins off the backs of our youth shows the development we are looking for. I understand this draft is loaded (so was last year) and I love Ayton, Doncic, and Trae Young as much as anyone. However, tanking right now when we have been playing much better would be terrible. Devin Booker has turned into a true star player this season, and benching him and/or intentionally limiting his minutes would not go over well. If we dive in the standings organically, then I would be for tanking in late March/April. We don’t have good lottery luck anyways, so at least we can avoid that feeling of major disappointment.

I’d be very satisfied if this young core got us 30+ wins this year because it shows the internal growth. Wins like Memphis the other day (led by Booker/Chriss) are what we should be looking for. Seeing our youth deliver wins in meaningful games is a great sign for the future. The hardest part of the rebuild is over. We found our generational superstar in Devin Booker. Now it’s about adding pieces around him. That can be done in the draft, but it also can be done through trades and free agency. If we make a run for the postseason this season, we could cash in our assets this summer to set up that playoff team. Winning off our youth should indubitably be the priority right now.

#HelpBooker doesn’t necessarily have to be through tanking and gaining a high pick in the draft.

Sun-Arc: This is a great and timely question. I’m torn on this, as Rod appears to be. The pro-tank and anti-tank crowds are restless, and for good reason- the team is on a dangerous path where they look as if they will not draft top 5 but also miss the playoffs.

Let’s look at where we are and how the tank has played out in the draft thus far:

  • Devin Booker (13th) looks like a bonafide star in the making.
  • T.J. Warren (14th) looks to max-out as a really good role player/second-banana.
  • I’m still high on Josh Jackson (4th) turning out to be good, but I don’t see a star in the making.
  • I’m also high on Dragan Bender (4th) turning out to be a good player - but a star he will never be.
  • I’m not really high on Marquese Chriss (8th) turning out to be good. He could still surprise me, but I just don’t feel he has the IQ to make it work on the NBA - not as a starter anyway.
  • Tyler Ulis (32nd), Davon Reed (34th), and Alec Peters (57th) may turn out well. I have high hopes for Reed, but not so much for Ulis or Peters at this point. Though both may turn into decent/good role players off the bench.

The plan has been to have a few losing seasons and get multiple top 5 picks, build them up as assets to trade for a star, attract a star FA, or build the young guys into a contender. Tanking like this means you need to draft 2-3 stars along the way to be successful, as GSW, PHI, and WAS have. Problem is we only have one star so far - so it hasn’t worked. It appears to me we have just one star- though several of the other players we have acquired could be good in making trades, plus we have a lot of picks and great cap flexibility. All this give us options.

Three possible paths:

Tank: Trade away Troy Daniels, Tyson Chandler and/or Greg Monroe for picks and/or young prospects. Waive any fodder that comes back. Go for that next top 5 pick as this seems like a strong draft. There are two PG’s, two C’s, a SF and a PF that could be possible stars. We really need a C & PG, but PF Bagley and SF Porter wouldn’t hurt at all either. But I do think the continual tanking/losing definitely will stunt the growth and happiness of the players we keep so it’s a gamble.

Make a move before the deadline: Trade away anyone not named Booker, TJ, JJ, and Bender plus picks as necessary for Dennis Schroder/Kemba Walker plus a good young center (could we trade for…? Steven Adams, Clint Capela, Willie Cauley-Stein, DeMarcus Cousins, Kelly Olynyk, Hassan Whiteside) that could help moving forward. Screw tanking - get wins the rest of the way and build the team up as we can. We have many picks, including SIX for the 2018 draft (four are 2nd round) plus the MIL, the 2nd MIA, and all of ours each year. Its possible to do. Maybe.

Make no moves: Keep the team as-is. Probably waive Monroe or trade Tyson. But otherwise stand pat. Finish the season and find out more about what our young players are made of. In this scenario we just go with the pick we end up with (#8 or so). At the draft or during the summer we could start making big moves in trade or FA.

For the past couple of seasons I’ve been unabashedly pro-tank. I still like the #1 option of getting a potential star. But I really am worried about the negative repercussions.

Of these options, right now I’d like to see #2. I think this team’s players (and the fans!) are ready for an injection of talent. I don’t like the idea of throwing in the towel for another season. But the price has to be right too. Can’t totally gut the team for a couple of fringe all-stars.

If the trades are not there, or opposing teams just want too much for players like Schroder, then go with #3. Build this team up as much as you can. Alan Williams and Davon Reed are coming back, so there is work to do. Jay Triano seems up to the task. Let’s see where this team ends up. If we get the 13th pick, so be it. That’s progress of a sort.

SDKyle: The Suns should absolutely be playing to win. The time for tanking is over. I've gotten into plenty of back and forth shoving matches on this subject in the Bright Side comment sections, and I'm not sure how much more strongly I can make this point: there will always be another crop of tantalizing young talent that will convince some people we need to tank "just one final year." Enough.

When the Timberwolves make the playoffs this season, the Suns will officially own the second-longest active playoff drought. When I used to meet basketball fans and say I was a Suns fan, they'd react with "Oh man, that's cool. I wish my team was as good as them."

Now the reaction is typically like "Oh...sorry. Well, Booker is good, right? Didn't he score like 70 points or something once?"

This team needs to shed the losing attitude and adopt the mindset that they can compete. I really believe that if they do that (and we make some good offseason moves, including a good coaching hire) that the Suns won't need to keep digging for the next big thing in the draft lottery. More wins and the continued emergence of Booker as a bonafide marketable superstar will fuel success, including free agent interest. Let's all move on from talking about the draft in November and start looking forward to talking about the Suns in the playoffs, even as a low seed.

SouthernSun: The situation has become somewhat interesting. A month ago, I fully expected the Suns to finish as a bottom 5 or 6 team. Lately, that's looking less likely. With the addition of Canaan, Bender and Jackson playing a little better, the emergence of Troy Daniels as a legitimate scorer off the bench, and Alex Len continuing to play fairly well, I could see the team rising up to 10th or perhaps even later in the reverse standings, depending on how they handle the tough stretch they have ahead of them.

The Suns are currently projected to have somewhere around the 6th to 9th pick. If they continue to play well, the Suns own pick could lose more and more value. It might be time to consider actually trading the Suns 2018 1st, before it loses more value.

I am adamantly against trading productive players like Daniels, or shutting down Booker or Warren late in the season, in an attempt to tank for a better draft pick.

If a teams players know the team is willfully doing things to lessen it's chances of winning games, it's bad for chemistry, and bad for development. Players check out. There is simply no reason to play hard or give it your all if the front office is actively working against the effort the players are expected to give, in order to have a better chance at drafting at player who could presumably take their place. I hope that fans can understand that.

If the Suns don't have a chance at a franchise altering talent in the draft, which I don't think they do at this point, then they should look to use their picks now to improve.

The Suns will not be able to trade anything to move into the top 3 or so of this draft. The teams there will not be taking the 11th pick, the 15th pick, and Marquese Chriss for a top 3 pick.

So, I have come to the conclusion that, barring the Suns falling flat on their faces in the next couple weeks, trades should be looked at to obtain some youngish players who can help improve the team in both the long and short term.

Players like Dennis Schroder, Aaron Gordon, Myles Turner, Andre Drummond, or perhaps even Anthony Davis (though he is even more of a long shot than some of those others).

If the Suns could find a way to go into this off-season with, say, Devin Booker, Dennis Schroder, and Aaron Gordon, they could probably attract some pretty decent free agent interest. Perhaps even a DeMarcus Cousins. Or at least be able to fill out the roster around those three with productive players.

Going into next season with something like...

  • Schroder/Canaan/Ulis
  • Booker/Daniels/Reed
  • Warren/Jackson
  • Gordon/Bender
  • Len/Williams

(Plus a productive free agent or two)

...would have me pretty excited for the future.

Obviously, nothing is guaranteed, but if the team made some moves to get one or two of those guys using their substantial cache of assets, I would be a lot more optimistic than if they simply stood pat, and took a couple more young question marks at 10 and 15 this June, to add to the rest of their stable of young question marks.

And we have a consensus! Many thanks to our Fantable, GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle and SouthernSun for all their input!


Key Stats

53.7 ppg vs 44.3 ppg

Devin Booker (30.0) and T.J. Warren (23.7) averaged scoring 53.7 points per game last week. For the season they are averaging 44.3 ppg combined.

30-52

That's what the Suns' current win/loss percentage indicates as their final record. As previously mentioned, the Suns are facing the 2nd most difficult schedule for the rest of their season so that outcome seems unlikely. But that still might happen when you factor in unexpected wins that may come late in the season against teams that are making a real effort to tank for draft position and/or teams that have a lock on a playoff spot and are resting their stars.

Random Stats: For the season, the Suns rarely rank in the top 10 in major statistical categories but one that they do is rebounding. They are 6th in total rebounds per game (45.3) and 5th in offensive rebounds per game (11.2). Following the loss to the Sixers, the Suns are now 8-1 in games where T.J. Warren scores 25 or more points.

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com and PlayoffStatus.com .


Game Highlights

Memphis Grizzlies vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | Dec 26, 2017 | NBA Season 2017-18

Phoenix Suns vs Sacramento Kings - Full Game Highlights | December 29, 2017 | 2017-18 NBA Season

Phoenix Suns vs. Philadelphia 76ers Full Game Highlights


Quotes of the Week

“What’s crazy about that play is that I didn’t know that was the rule. We went over it one day in practice, and I thought coach was crazy.” - Devin Booker on the last second play against the Memphis Grizzlies

"Both of us are just natural scorers but in different ways. Teams usually have one really good defender and sometimes they put it on me, sometimes they put it on him (T.J. Warren), and the other player gets to attack. It's a good 1-2 punch." - Devin Booker


Rookie Report

Josh Jackson - 21.6 mpg, 9.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.7 TO, 2.7 PF

  • This week - 11.3 mpg, 5.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.3 TO, 1.0 PF

Alec Peters - Assigned to NAZ Suns

  • NAZ stats - 34.6 mpg, 18.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.5 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.2 bpg, 0.9 TO, 3.1 PF, 3PT% = 40.4%

Davon Reed - Assigned to NAZ Suns (DNP)

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


Last Chance to donate to Bright Side Night!

Please donate! Today (Jan. 1) is the final day to do so.

Help us reach our goal of sending over 1,500 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.

Make a donation!

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

Sixers attempt to restrict Devin Booker, challenge Suns to beat them elsewhere. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Phoenix Suns' Marquese Chriss controlling emotions, becoming productive player. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Suns Game Day: For first time in a long time, it's defense first for Suns. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Devin Booker will have input in Suns' decisions going forward. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Suns’ Jackson falls to 11th overall pick in SI.com NBA mock redraft. Tom Kuebel Arizona Sports

Where Jay Triano's 'Rim' play came from and how it worked for Suns. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Suns coach Jay Triano exploits little-known rule to win game on 'secret' play. DJ Dunson/Yahoo! Sports

Empire of the Suns NBA Draft Big Board 2.0, Part III: Meet Mikal Bridges. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Agent Rich Paul on dealing with Suns before Eric Bledsoe trade: ‘It’s business’. Kevin Zimmerman/Arizona Sports


Suns History in Video


Suns Trivia

Every Suns fan knows about the infamous "coin flip" that cost the team the opportunity to draft Lew Alcindor (aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) but younger fans may have no knowledge of the other coin flip that gave them the rights to sign former Suns great Connie Hawkins. Hawkins had been unjustly "blackballed" by the NBA early in his life but eventually sued the NBA and was allowed into the league. The NBA wanted to strengthening its newest teams (Seattle, Chicago, Milwaukee and Phoenix) so it was decided to award the rights to Hawkins to one of them. The Bulls, because of their early success, and Bucks, because of Alcindor, were eliminated from consideration. That left Seattle and Phoenix... and in 1969 the Suns won that coin flip.

Phoenix Gazette columnist Joe Gilmartin called the acquisition of Hawkins, "the greatest comeback in coin-flipping history."


Previewing the Week Ahead

Tuesday, January 2 - Phoenix Suns vs Atlanta Hawks, 7:00 pm AZ time

Wednesday, January 3 - Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets, 7:00 pm AZ time

Friday, January 5 - Phoenix Suns @ San Antonio Spurs, 6:30 pm AZ time

Sunday, January 7 - Phoenix Suns vs Oklahoma City Thunder, 6:00 pm AZ time

It's a busy four game schedule for the Suns this week starting at home against Atlanta. The Hawks are dead last in the standings but aren't a sure win for the Suns by any means. The beat Washington by 14 less than a week ago and can be a bothersome team on any given night. But the Hawks are just 3-15 on the road and the Suns have the day off before this game so I'm calling it a win for Phoenix.

After the Atlanta game, the Suns have to fly to Denver to take on the Nuggets the following night. Back-to-backs are difficult enough without adding in the thinner, high altitude air in the Mile High City. Add to that the fact that the Nuggets will have had three days off before this game and I have to give the win to the Nuggets in this one.

On Friday the Suns take on an old nemisis - the Spurs - on their home court. You all know that the Spurs are - again - one of the best teams in the West and the NBA. The last time the Suns faced the Spurs they were without some of their key players. This time, most of them should be back (although they have been resting Kawhi Leonard on certain nights) and I doubt that the Suns will somehow miraculously pull a win out of... ummm, the air... in San Antonio.

Finally, the Suns return to Phoenix for their first game of the season against the new look OKC Thunder. The Thunder are a very good team but they rely heavily on their starters and have one of the weakest benches in the NBA. To unite Paul George and Carmelo Anthony with Russell Westbrooke they basically traded away their depth. Their bench is 29th in points and assists per game as well as 28th in rebounding and minutes per game. The only way I can see that the Suns get a win in this game is to somehow force the Thunder to play their bench more than they want to which means getting some of their starters in foul trouble... quickly. Unfortunately, OKC's starters are the 4th best team in the NBA in NOT fouling so I doubt that stratagy will work. Chalk this up as another loss for the Suns.

This is going to be a tough week for the young Suns and I think that they will go 1-3.

What's your prediction?


Last Week's Poll Results

The poll was, "If the Suns could trade for ANY single player in the NBA, who would you want to pair with Booker?"

The results were:

18% - Kawhi Leonard.

39% - Anthony Davis.

35% - Giannis Antetokounmpo.

07% - Another player.

There were a total of 99 votes cast.


This week's poll is...

Poll

Should the Suns "tank" this season to get the highest draft pick possible?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Yes.
    (42 votes)
  • 55%
    No.
    (105 votes)
  • 21%
    Maybe, but it’s too soon to say for certain.
    (41 votes)
188 votes total Vote Now