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Center of the Sun: A disappointing winless week for the Phoenix Suns

Jackson, Chriss and Bender... how good could they be in the future? The Fantable gives their opinions.

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Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

vs Houston Rockets L (112-95) Full Recap

vs Indiana Pacers L (120-97) Full Recap


After an 0-2 week, the Suns are now 16-28 with 38 games left to play in this season and just 12 to go before the February 8 trade deadline. Yes, in case you haven’t heard (or had forgotten), the trade deadline comes a full week before the beginning of the All-Star break this year. That shortens the in-season trading period by about a week and as of yet we have no real indications as to whether the Suns will be big, small or non-players in the trade market.

As we see virtually every day here in the BSotS comments sections, fans are divided as to what they think that the Suns should do. Should they let go of some of their accumulated assets and try to significantly strengthen the team at mid-season or wait until after the draft, go fishing in this summer’s free agent pool and then work on that big trade if they can’t land a big fish?

I’m not going to try to tell you that I know what the Suns will or should do but if they decide to go the trade route, some of the assets that they are going to have to move are players. We all know that Devin Booker is off the table. Almost no one really wants to trade T.J. Warren but most fans also seem to agree that if the right trade proposal came along that they would be willing to part with our second best player.

Part of the reason behind that is because - although Warren is a very good player - he may have reached his ceiling. If he could add a reliable three point shot to his offensive arsenal then it would be a whole new ballgame but... well, he’s averaging only 1.5 three point attempts per game and hitting only 19.0% of those. He may eventually develop a long range game but it’s doubtful that it’s going to happen anytime soon.

But the Suns have other, younger players that could be included in future trades that we really aren’t quite as sure as to what their ceilings may be. Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender are three young Suns that we have high hopes for as playing big parts in rebuilding the Suns’ franchise. So far, they have shown flashes of what they could become but they are all still far from becoming franchise cornerstones.

If we were to include one of them in a trade, what type of player might we possibly be giving up if we do so before they reach their potential ceilings? And what might we expect from them if they never rise above their floors? Both trading or not trading any of them at this point involves a certain amount risk.

With that in mind, I asked the following question of our Fantable.


Fantable Question of the Week

What you think are the ceilings and floors for Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender and what is your level of faith that they may eventually reach those ceilings?

GuarGuar: Josh Jackson

  • Ceiling: Andre Iguodala
  • Floor: Archie Goodwin

I might be the most confident in Jackson reaching his ceiling out of him, Chriss, and Bender (this does not mean I am confident in it happening though). Jackson clearly needs to add strength and a serviceable jump-shot. The biggest reason Jackson is struggling right now to me is he plays at one pace. And that pace is ultra fast. I don’t know if this is still the case but around Christmas time I found a stat which measured player Pace. Josh Jackson led the entire league in pace, which is pretty amazing. Booker was 4th in that stat back when I checked. The difference is Booker is very under control when pushing the pace, while JJ is a true wild man. Once Jackson learns the game speed and slows it down some, I think he’ll be fine. We’ve already seen some improvement recently.

Marquese Chriss

  • Ceiling: unknown
  • Floor: complete bust

Chriss is so raw and has so much untapped potential I still don’t know what he is truly capable of being. The past 2 weeks he has been fantastic which is a great sign. A lot of people like calling Bender the unicorn on this team, but if you ask me it’s Chriss. He can score both inside and out, rebound, good rim protection, and has shown glimpses of being a serviceable facilitator. Maybe a better shooting Draymond Green (but much less facilitating and overall defense) is a possible ceiling for Chriss. I’ve always preferred Chriss as a player to Bender and still do. There’s so much there with Chriss to work with.

Dragan Bender

  • Ceiling: A taller and better facilitating Trevor Ariza
  • Floor: A better defending but less offensively skilled Channing Frye

Bender has the highest floor to me, because he already has two good NBA level skills in Defense and 3 point shooting. The reason his ceiling is so limited to me is because he doesn’t really offer anything else. His facilitating is fine, his handle is bad, he is a very poor rebounder, and anything inside the 3 point line he is horrible offensively. Trevor Ariza would be a great outcome for Bender in my opinion. He was a key piece on that Laker championship team and is a very serviceable starter. Bender will never be a star. But he can be a solid ultra role player on a good team.

Sun-Arc: Josh Jackson

Ceiling: Scottie Pippen

Pippen was also a stringy 6’-8” small forward with a variety of skills and oodles of athleticism. And if you look at his rookie numbers: 7.9 pts, 3.8 rbd, 2.1 ast, 1.2 stl, 1.7 to, .466 eFG% they look a lot like JJ’s (9.4 pts, 3.7 rbd, 1.2 ast, 1.0 stl, 1.7 to, .422 eFG%. And Pippen was two years older in his rookie season.

Other comparisons of Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, and Andre Iguadala are interesting as well. (Rookie seasons comparison)

JJ’s shooting numbers are slightly lower than most, though Butler’s are even worse, if you can believe it. So he’s another potentially good 6’-8” wing comparison. But something about the way Josh moves reminds me of a young Pippen.

Floor: I think we are looking at it

I can’t think of anyone that is not very good that JJ reminds me of. I think he will improve, especially defensively. But I could image a scenario where he doesn’t shoot over 45,30,70 which is pretty scary.

Marquese Chriss

Ceiling: Antonio McDyess

McDyess didn’t have a great career, but he was pretty close to a top performer for a few years, including one year as a Suns player. He topped out at 21.2, 10.7, 2.0, 1.5, 2.3, 2.8 to, .500 eFG%. I could see Chriss doing that at some point. The scary issue here is McDyess had six good seasons and then his play fell off a cliff. McDyess had a slightly better rookie season, but was also two years older than Chriss.

Floor: Tyrus Thomas

I think this comp, which BSotS’ Dave King and others have used, is potentially accurate.

Dragan Bender

Ceiling: Toni Kukoc (or Andrei Kirilenko)

I hate to use other foreign white dudes as the comp here, but their games really seem similar. Particularly Kukoc, who was not super athletic- though AK47 was more lanky to my memory. Bender just doesn’t seem as comfy in his body, but maybe he’ll get there. Anyway, if you look at their rookie stats, they were not super impressive. Toni, a 25 year old rookie had 10.9 pts, 4 rbd, 3.4 ast, 1.1 stl, .4 blk, 2.2 to, .453 eFG%. Compare to Bender’s 2nd season of 5.7 pts, 3.1 rbd, 1.2 ast, .3 stl, .6 blk, 1 to, .511 eFG% as a guy that just turned 20, and its not too far off. Bender has a LONG way to go to reach the Toni ceiling- but let’s hope its possible. Toni’s best season was impressive at 18.8, 7.0, 5.3, 1.1, .3, 2.8, and topped out at .546 eFG%. Toni averaged .335% from 3 for his career (AK only averaged .310%), and it looks like Bender could very well beat that.

Rookie comparisons with Kukoc & Kirilenko.

Floor: Andris Biedrins

Again, I’m going with someone Dave used as a negative comp for Bender. I think it fits. 6’-11” guy with some pretty good gifts that looked promising in his 4th & 5th seasons, but not great. And did not average anything great in his NBA time. His 18 year old Rookie stats of 3.6 pts, 3.9 rbd, .4 ast, .4 stl, .8 blk, .4 to, .577 eFG% are not too different from Bender’s. His second season was much of the same. The second season comp also fits. But AB didn’t shoot 3’s, so it isn’t perfect.

One note about Dragan - his skill set is more unique than these guys. His shooting looks potentially better than any of them - at least from 3 (currently 38% this season). Both he and Chriss could become very unique players in the league. Or be out of the NBA in a couple of seasons. Hard to say.

SDKyle: Josh Jackson

  • Ceiling: Jimmy Butler
  • Floor: Trevor Ariza

I’m disappointed in how JJ’s rookie season has gone, but I still think he’s too much a combination of talent and energy to end up as much worse than slightly above average. I have fairly strong faith that he can still end up as an all-star caliber player and a crucial part of Booker’s supporting cast, if not his co-star.

Marquese Chriss

  • Ceiling: Rudy Gay
  • Floor: a more athletic Brian Cook

Chriss is still basically mostly upside, failing to do very much of anything with consistency and stoking debate as to whether he should be getting this much playing time. His pure athleticism will be enough to keep people intrigued awhile even if he never puts it all together. I have little faith he actually hits his ceiling, but as a late bloomer he might still have a decent career.

Dragan Bender

  • Ceiling: Toni Kukoc
  • Floor: I don’t have a great floor comp for Bender, he’s an unusual player.

I’ll be the first to say that I set unfair expectations of Bender once the Suns picked him, because I was desperate for him to be a star. He’s got some legitimate ball skills, but somehow manages to not actually be that productive. I don’t have a lot of faith that Bender reaches his ceiling, but he can still become a solid NBA player.

SouthernSun: Josh Jackson

  • Ceiling: Andre Iguodala
  • Floor: Nic Batum

I believe that the floor of a fully developed Josh Jackson will probably be Nic Batum without a three, but with more athleticism. An average starter perhaps. On the other hand, his ceiling as basically a clone of Andre Iguodala is tantalizing. I see Jackson eventually making it to that level, but I don’t think there’s much of a chance that he will ever live up to some of the comparisons bandied about after we drafted him (Kawhi, Jimmy Butler), mainly because those guys are too good at shooting and overall scoring. Those weren’t supposed to be Jackson’s strengths. His strengths were supposed to to be above average facilitating for a wing, and hard nosed defense, both of which we have seen a fair amount of flashes of so far in his rookie season. I think his ceiling is star level impact as a super role player/complimentary piece, much like Iggy. I have a lot of faith in him getting to that level, so I’ll put his chances at 60%.

Marquese Chriss

  • Ceiling: Serge Ibaka
  • Floor: Bench rotation player

Chriss probably has the highest floor of the three. He is already a suitable bench big man, due mainly to his athleticism and ability to hit the three at around a league average percentage. I believe that Chriss has a ceiling of something along the lines of above average starter. I don’t really see star potential in him, but I do think there’s a 45% chance or so that he actually realizes his potential as an above average starter. If I had to compare that ceiling to a player, I’d say it’s Serge Ibaka, though with slightly worse defense overall, and perhaps eventually a slightly better three ball. A blocking machine with a decent three point percentage.

Dragan Bender

  • Ceiling: Andrei Kirilenko
  • Floor: Bench rotation player

Bender has had some good games lately. Well. Let me rephrase that. Bender had a good game lately, and then followed it up with a sub par game, that many of his most rabid supporters misclassfied as a good game. But for Bender, sub par is improvement. So yay. He did a fair job replacing Chriss in the starting lineup against the Rockets, but he got absolutely schooled by Chris Paul on pretty much every possession he guarded him, which, honestly, I guess I can’t blame him for.

But anyway, back to the question Rod has asked. Bender has a floor as a bench big who plays passable defense, with a nice ability to be able to switch onto wings and guards occasionally and not be completely embarrassed (barring them being Chris Paul caliber players), and shoot the three with a respectable percentage. So at least we can say that he probably won’t be a complete an utter bust, though one has to ask, what do you consider “bust” for ask 4th pick? I kind of have to say that his floor would need to be labeled a bust.

His ceiling is probably around the same level as Chriss, but with perhaps a bit more impact. If he can develop into a fringe all star caliber super role player (like Jackson), I think that would be considered a plausible ceiling for him. He’ll never be a star (probably not even as much of a star as I expect Jackson to become), but Andrei Kirilenko is a good comparison to what his ceiling probably is. As of now, he appears to be trending to become something akin to a more mobile Channing Frye who is more versatile on defense, which would, in my opinion, be disappointing for a #4 overall pick. As for whether he reaches his AK47 ceiling, I’d put the odds at about 30%.

Rod Argent: I’m going to add a few of my thoughts too this time. I largely agree with what everyone has said but with Bender I think his ceiling might be more of a Boris Diaw type. I always liked Diaw but I also always felt as though he had the talent/skill to be a much better player than he was... which is kind of the way I feel about Bender. But hopefully he will top out as a Lamar Odom type which was the ceiling that former Suns coach Earl Watson thought Bender could reach.

Many thanks to our Fantable, GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle and SouthernSun for all their input!


Key Stats

105.3 vs 96.0

Injuries played their part in it but this past week the Suns averaged a full 9.3 fewer points per game than their season average (105.3). When your defense is ranked 28th and you’re already giving up an average of 112.3 ppg to your opponents (and 116.0 last week), that really hurts your chances of even staying in a game.

Random stats: Tyson Chandler now has 10,003 career rebounds. Since his DNP-CD in the Atlanta game, Josh Jackson has made 46.7% of his three point attempts on 3.8 attempts per game and made 72.7% of his free throws (2.8 FT attempts per game).

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com, ESPN.com and Basketball-Reference.com.


Game Highlights

Houston Rockets vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | Jan 12, 2018 | NBA Season 2017-18

Indiana Pacers vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights / Jan 14 / 2017-18 NBA Season


Quotes of the Week

“We’re trying to win games. That’s why I’m pissed off after a loss, so are the players and everybody else. I don’t think it’s good to develop an ‘Oh, we’re building’ attitude. Underground that’s what we’re doing but we’re still going to try to win every game. I just think it’s a real important thing as we develop that we develop a competitive attitude as well.” - Jay Triano

”I think Booker is an amazing talent that is mature beyond his years. But he needs some help. He could be a superstar and wants to put in the work.” - Dan Majerle

“We know how talented our guys are. We show flashes of being really, really, really good, but we just got to string some of those games together and just try to be really consistent.” - Josh Jackson


Rookie Report

Josh Jackson - 22.1 mpg, 9.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.7 TO, 2.7 PF

  • This week - 30.1 mpg, 21.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 2.0 TO, 1.0 PF, 33.3 3PT%

Davon Reed - 4.8 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 1.0 PF

Alec Peters - 11.4 mpg, 2.8 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.3 TO, 0.3 PF

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


News & Notes

Devin Booker’s turnover rate not linked to time at point guard. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Phoenix Suns rookie Josh Jackson always challenging himself. Kynan Marlin/Arizona Sports

Former Rocket Isaiah Canaan happy for opportunity with Suns. Houston Chronicle

Bickley: Surging Phoenix Suns providing new hope for the future. Dan Bickley/AZCentral Sports

Phoenix Suns playing themselves out of high lottery pick: ‘It’s not OK to lose’. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Appreciating the gravity created by Suns forward Dragan Bender. Kevin Zimmerman/Arizona Sports


This Week in Suns History

On January 18, 1971, Phoenix forward Paul Silas set a franchise record with 27 rebounds in a 118-99 win over the Cincinnati Royals.

On January 20, 1970, Cincinnati’s Tom Van Arsdale and Phoenix’s Dick Van Arsdale become the first brothers to play in the same All-Star Game. Dick scored eight points for the West team, while Tom scored five for the East, which won the game 142-135 at Philadelphia.


Suns History in Video


Suns Trivia

Devin Booker and T.J. Warren each scored 25+ points in three straight games from Dec. 29-Jan. 2, the first Suns teammates to score 25+ in three straight since Charles Barkley and Dan Majerle did so in three straight from Jan. 17-22, 1995. (Basketball-Reference)

During the Indiana game, Tyson Chandler became the 40th player in NBA history to surpass 10,000 career rebounds with a total of 10,003. Of the 40 players with at least 10,000 career boards, 22 are currently Hall of Famers. There have been four Suns players to reach 10,000 career rebounds: Shaquille O’Neal (13,099), Charles Barkley (12,546), Paul Silas (12,357) and Shawn Marion (10,101).


Previewing the Week Ahead

Tuesday, January 16 - Phoenix Suns @ Portland Trail Blazers, 8:00 pm AZ time

Friday, January 19 - Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets, 7:00 pm AZ time

Another two-game week for the Suns but with both games on the road this time.

First up is a trip to Portland for their third matchup this season. The Blazers have won both meetings between the two teams and are presently sitting in the #6 slot in the West with a 22-20 record. The Blazers probably should win this game but I have a feeling that the Suns are due a win against them so I’m going with a win for the Suns.

After a couple of days off, the Suns head back to the Mile High City for another game with the Nuggets. The last game there was on the second night of a back-to-back and the Suns lost by 23 points after running out of gas in the second half. I think that they will be better prepared (and better rested) this time and bring a win back to Phoenix with them.

Another light week for the Suns but one they can’t afford to take lightly. I think they could possibly go 2-0 this week or at least 1-1... if everyone is healthy again.

What’s your prediction?


Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was, “What do you think the odds are that Devin Booker will be chosen by the West’s All-Star team coach to be one of the 7 Western All-Star team reserves?”

The results were:

23% - Good!

45% - 50-50.

32% - Poor.

There were a total of 306 votes cast.


This week’s poll is

Poll

Which of this season’s Western Conference "cellar dwellers" will make it back to the playoffs first?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    Phoenix Suns
    (104 votes)
  • 32%
    Los Angeles Lakers
    (70 votes)
  • 1%
    Sacramento Kings
    (4 votes)
  • 8%
    Dallas Mavericks
    (18 votes)
  • 10%
    Memphis Grizzlies
    (22 votes)
218 votes total Vote Now