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Center of the Sun: Phoenix Suns finish a tough week with a big win!

The Suns go 2-2 with a win over OKC that we won’t soon forget!

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2017-2018 Phoenix Suns Media Day Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

vs Atlanta Hawks W (104-103) Full Recap

@ Denver Nuggets L (134-111) Full Recap

@ San Antonio Spurs L (103-89) Full Recap

vs Oklahoma City Thunder W (114-100) Full Recap


It was a tough round of games this week and - as we discussed in last week’s CotS - the schedule is only going to get more difficult as the season goes on. But the Suns played what has to be their best game of the season to get a win against a very strong OKC team last night and gave us a glimpse of what are hopefully things to come. The 16-26 Suns will now have four days off to rest and recuperate before their next game on Friday.

Recuperation may be the most important thing during this precious time off. Isaiah Canaan is probably going to miss at least a week and Marquese Chriss will get time to recover from his injury last night. Injuries are unfortunately a part of the game though and hopefully the Suns will have good luck with that the rest of the season.

We’ve already seen games where one of the Suns’ top two scorers - Devin Booker and T.J. Warren - have sat out due to injury or illness. Booker has missed 10 games this season and Warren has so far missed only one. For the season, the two of them have together averaged 44.4 points per game which is 42.1% of the Suns’ total scoring per game. Following Booker’s return from injury they are averaging 50.8 ppg and 47.5% of the Suns’ total scoring per game in the six games they’ve played together in.

There is no doubt that Devin Booker is the Suns’ #1 offensive weapon but Warren has been a very solid second scoring option even with his lack of a reliable three point shot. His three point shooting (17.7%) remains a problem but he isn’t trying a lot of them (1.6 per game and in the top 50 NBA scorers only LaMarcus Aldridge averages fewer 3pt attempts per game). Warren is averaging 19.6 ppg and is tied with Dennis Schroder for the 30th highest ppg average in the NBA with a higher FG% (49.0% vs 44.5%). Some notable names that rank after Warren in scoring (and FG%) are Eric Gordon (32nd), John Wall (35th), Eric Bledsoe (40th) and Carmelo Anthony (45th).

Before the season even started there were fans calling for T.J. Warren to be traded or demoted to the bench to play the sixth man role (with Josh Jackson starting instead). Even now I still read comments suggesting that Warren be traded and hear talk of how his ultimate fate is to be a sixth man type scorer.

So with all of that in mind, I asked the following question of our Fantable.


Fantable Question of the Week

What is your opinion of T.J. Warren and his future role (or lack of one if you think he should be traded) with the Suns?

GuarGuar: I’ve been very impressed with TJ this year and his growth. Getting him at 4 years/50 mil is pretty good value in my opinion. His defensive improvement and rebounding have been pleasant surprises. While he should start the rest of the season, I still feel though that his future on this team is as a 6th man. He’d be a tremendous value off the bench with his scoring prowess. A lot of his future role depends on Josh Jackson I feel. If JJ develops, then for sure TJ should be 6th man. But if Jackson doesn’t become anything great it’s certainly possible TJ is our starter of the future.

The biggest reason Warren probably shouldn’t be our future starter is his 3pt shooting. We are going to need to surround Booker with multiple 3 point threats in every lineup in the future like Houston and James Harden. I think we are at that point in time where I can firmly say unless TJ goes under massive mechanical changes, he will always be a sub 30% 3pt shooter. You can’t have that on the floor starting if you want to maximize Booker’s potential. We run into the same dilemma with Josh though as his jumper is broke right now as well. It’s an interesting situation going forward. Ryan McDonough’s decision to stack PF/SF depth in the past 2 drafts instead of going with a point guard (Dunn/DSJ/Frank) may come back to bite us eventually. Time will tell what is in store for TJ and his role in Phoenix.

Sun-Arc: I was in the camp that Josh Jackson would likely be starting by now over TJ. But I felt very strongly that TJ should not be traded because he is a scoring savant, which is hard to come by. My reasoning was based on a belief that we had not seen the best of TJ yet, but that JJ would fit better next to Booker.

Clearly Jackson does not deserve to start yet. Rather I’m disappointed in where he is so far. Many ‘experts’ also predicted Josh would be more NBA ready than he has been, so I’m not alone in this. Maybe my predictions will still come to pass, but for now…

Warren has emerged as the clear starter and a possible star in the making. Not as high a star as Booker, in my opinion - but I can now *potentially* see an all-star game in his future. He’s been really dependable, sturdy, aggressive and confident. And I like it. Of course there’s still the issue of him looking better when Booker plays. Yet at the same time, I can see the guy improving even more in coming seasons.

Even having said all that, I can still see the potential for a day when TJ is our spark off the bench, lighting it up while playing 30+ mpg. I could also see him being a long-time starter next to Booker. I could also see him being traded for something valuable in return. Hard to say.

The 3-pt shooting issue should not be ignored. Booker needs more shooting around him than he currently has. But, lets say, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender both become reliable 38% perimeter shooters on 5 attempts per game each. And they play together as the bigs along with TJ, Booker, and a reasonable 3-pt shooting PG. At that point there is enough spacing that TJ could easily be a starter in a pace-and-space system.

What we know is that right now we cannot put JJ and TJ next to Booker, particularly along with Tyson Chandler and Tyler Ulis. More shooting is needed. So will the team build solely around Devin, or will the team attempt to build around the other budding star player? Either way, I really hope we hang on to TJ long term. I’ve loved seeing him improve and look forward to more of it.

SDKyle: I’ve been talking a lot about TJ in the comments sections, in mostly unflattering terms. He’s a good scorer, but he’s a limited scorer because of his inability to hit deep shots with any consistency and reliance on others to create his scoring opportunities. Basically, he does one thing really well: finish at the rim when a teammate finds him cutting there. That’s why though his FG% might look pretty nice, his TS% is lame.

TJ has a future as a roleplayer with the Suns because that finishing ability can definitely be useful, but I’d also trade him at the drop of a hat if the deal would help bring back a quality starting-caliber player. He’s a plus sixth man scorer, but not an elite one.

I have nothing against TJ, but he isn’t a player whose skills demand he play a major role for a winning team and at his age the likelihood he transforms into that guy aren’t really high.

SouthernSun: T.J. Warren is a very good role player. Right now, he has a very high PPG average, but that is simply out of necessity. The Suns simply don’t have anybody currently better suited to play second fiddle to Devin Booker in the scoring department. A large percentage of his baskets are assisted, because he isn’t really that good of a shot creator. The Suns have shoehorned him into this role, but it’s definitely not the best role for him.

Eventually, he will either need to be traded, or brought off the bench as the primary scorer of the 2nd unit. We all expect Jackson to eventually overtake him in the starting lineup, but that seems to be further in the future than we originally hoped, given how raw Jackson has seemed for the first half of this season.

Its hard to say whether it would make more sense to keep TJ and bring him off the bench in the future, or use him in a trade package while his value is perhaps the highest it will ever be. We need some more high level talent around Booker, as well as some more three point shooting, and I’m fairly certain that this is the very best season that TJ will ever have, and it looks likely that he will never become a capable three point threat.

Obviously the Suns need an injection of talent, but they don’t want older veteran talent. There are no superstars available, and the ones that were available in the last year, McDonough chose not to trade for.

I think my preferred route would be to go ahead and trade TJ now in a package for a young fringe all star. One that makes sense is Aaron Gordon. If Orlando pays Gordon the max this summer, they will be capped out with a mediocre team with no real hope of improvement other than Jonathan Isaac, who projects to be a SF or small ball PF just like Gordon. Perhaps they’re fine rolling the dice that Gordon will jump into super-stardom, Elfrid Payton will continue to improve, and Isaac will somehow develop into a player that pushes them into the playoffs in the next couple seasons along with those two, but I have my doubts that they think that’s a reasonable expectation.

My suggested trade would be:

  • Suns send: TJ Warren, Dragan Bender, Suns 2018 1st
  • Magic send: Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Simmons

This gives Orlando some cap relief, as they get a guy who will be locked in on an 11 million dollar a year contract for the 4 years, a young talented (and very raw...) PF who might form an interesting future defensive duo alongside Isaac, as well as a likely mid to late lottery pick.

The Suns get some proven star talent now, a guy who is already essentially what we could reasonably expect a player picked 4th through 8th or so to develop into, who also happens to be hitting 40% of his threes this season shooting 5 of them a game, along with a stop gap SF in Jonathan Simmons who can play ahead of Jackson for a couple of seasons while we wait for him to hopefully become what we expect him to eventually.

The Suns continue the season with a lineup like this:

  • Canaan/Ulis
  • Booker/Daniels/Reed
  • Simmons/Jackson
  • Gordon/Chriss
  • Chandler/Len/Monroe

You can switch Gordon to SF, Chriss to starting PF, and Simmons to backup PF of you prefer. Whatever makes you like this more.

The team should then look to find a trade for a point guard using Greg Monroe’s expiring contract, the Miami pick, and a future Suns pick, but this question was about what should be done with Warren, and he wouldn’t be involved in that future deal.

I played around with the idea of including Elfrid Payton in this deal, but I don’t really see him as the future point guard here, and felt it made more sense to keep this deal fairly small, with both teams sending just two players each.

For anyone who thinks I’m too negative about the team and it’s young players, let me state this. I have faith in Josh Jackson. Chriss has recently given me cause to have faith in him. Bender has not had anything close to a stretch of basketball as good as Chriss’ recent one, which is why I’m including him in this T.J. Warren trade idea. One thing that I don’t have a lot of faith at all in is the Suns ability to be a competitive basketball team next season if they bank their hopes on whoever they draft this summer playing a significant role next season, because we’ve already been witnesses to how long it takes young talent to develop nowadays, with all the top picks coming out at 19 years old.

T.J. Warren is a good basketball player. Currently, Dragan Bender is a really, really awful one, and we have no idea what the player the Suns could pick with their 2018 1st will turn into, but it’s a reasonable assumption that he won’t be ready to contribute to wins for at least a couple years after being drafted. So let’s go ahead and consolidate that 50 cent piece (Suns 2018 pick) and two quarters (Warren and Bender) into a dollar bill (Aaron Gordon).

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


Key Stats

23.2 mpg, 10.0 ppg, 4.9 apg, 2.5 rpg, 1.1 spg, 1.4 TO, 36.4% 3pt shooting

verses

23.8 mpg, 7.4 ppg, 4.1 apg, 1.9 rpg, 1.0 spg, 1.9 TO, 27.4% 3pt shooting

The first set of stats belong to Isaiah Canaan and the second belong to Tyler Ulis. I could list a lot more stats which indicate that Canaan is simply better than Ulis but I’ll spare you that and just say that I couldn’t find any in which Ulis surpasses Canaan. Neither of them are starting caliber point guards but I think that it’s time to give Canaan a shot at the starting PG spot when he returns from his injury. His three point percentage alone should help the starting unit just because defenders will know that they can’t sag off him to help clog the lanes.

Random Stats: The Suns rank in the top 10 in fast break points (7th, 13.9), second chance points (8th, 13.7) and points in the paint (10th, 45.7). T.J. Warren has 21 games scoring 20+ points this season after having 21 in his previous three seasons combined. Marquese Chriss is tied for 36th in the NBA in blocks and is 2nd in his 2016 NBA Draft Class with 1.00 per game.

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


Game Highlights

Atlanta Hawks vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | Jan 2, 2018 | NBA Season 2017-18

Phoenix Suns vs Denver Nuggets - Full Game Highlights | January 3, 2018 | 2017-18 NBA Season

Phoenix Suns vs San Antonio Spurs - Full Game Highlights | January 5, 2018 | 2017-18 NBA Season

OKC Thunder vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | Jan 7, 2018 | NBA Season 2017-18


Quotes of the Week

“He’s going too fast. He’s going faster than he can control right now. That’s the only problem. I like his aggressiveness. We just have to harness it. We’ve said that from the beginning. He plays at one speed and it’s fast. He needs to change that up a bit.” - Jay Triano on Josh Jackson

“I looked back up at my mom and she was kind of like, ‘Sit down and stop jumping. Please stop jumping.’ After the game she came up to me and smacked me in the arm.” - Alan Williams speaking about his Mother’s reaction to his enthusiastic court-side ‘cheerleading’.


Rookie Report

Josh Jackson - 21.9 mpg, 9.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.7 TO, 2.7 PF

  • This week - 25.9 mpg, 14.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.0 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.7 bpg, 1.7 TO, 2.7 PF, 1 DNP-CD

Davon Reed - DNP -CD

Alec Peters - Assigned to NAZ Suns

  • NAZ stats - 35.1 mpg, 18.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.7 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.2 TO, 3.2 PF, 3PT% = 40.8%

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


News & Notes

Suns guarantee contract for guard Isaiah Canaan. Zach Alvira/Arizona Sports

Phoenix Suns’ Alan Williams maintaining enthusiasm throughout knee surgery rehab. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Phoenix Suns at the halfway point: Devin Booker leads the ‘good’; Plenty of keys among the ‘bad’. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Why Suns’ coach Jay Triano benched No. 4-overall draft pick Josh Jackson. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Suns’ Marquese Chriss shuts down Hawks with well-timed block, postgame tweet. Sporting News

Five things to watch from the Phoenix Suns in 2018. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Here Comes the Sun. The Ringer


This Week in Suns History

On January 9, 1972, the NBA’s 2,000,000th point was scored in either the Baltimore/Phoenix or Detroit/Buffalo game.


Suns History in Video

Bonus Steve Nash video!


Suns Trivia

The Suns had 27 turnovers in a win at Minnesota on Dec. 16 while the Wolves had just seven. Via Basketball-Reference, the last time an NBA team won despite committing 20+ more turnovers than their opponent was Atlanta (27) over Seattle (7) on Nov. 26, 2002.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Friday, January 12 - Phoenix Suns vs Houston Rockets, 8:30 pm AZ time

Sunday, January 14 - Bright Side Night! - Phoenix Suns vs Indiana Pacers, 6:00 pm AZ time

This week the Suns get an almost unheard of four days off before their next game on Friday. It comes at a good time as it will give everyone a much needed rest (only the Boston Celtics have played more games than the Suns this season) and allow the team some practice time to figure out how to best integrate newly returned Davon Reed into their rotations. And playing both of their games at home this week is also a plus.

First up are the Houston Rockets on Friday night. The Rockets are presently second in the West but are 2-1 after their main man - James Harden - suffered a hamstring strain a week ago and only 3-7 in their last ten games. Harden is unlikely to return for this game and since the Rockets were struggling a bit even before he went down, I’m going to give the Suns a 50-50 chance of getting a win in Phoenix.

The second game of the week is the Bright Side Night game against the Indiana Pacers. I’m just going to say that I don’t think that the Suns will let down all of those kids going to their first Suns game and give them (and us) a win.

With only two games to play, this light week for the Suns no matter who is the competition. I think that they will go 1-1 but maybe they will get lucky and go 2-0.

What’s your prediction?


Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was, “Should the Suns “tank” this season to get the highest draft pick possible?”

The results were:

22% - Yes.

56% - No.

22% - Maybe, but it’s too soon to say for certain.

There were a total of 188 votes cast.


This week’s poll is about Devin Booker’s chances of getting to the All-Star Game. From the last update on fan voting, he was 9th among guards in the West. It’s unlikely that he will get voted in but only the starting 5 are selected by vote. The remaining 7 players for each squad are chosen by the coaches. Two of the reserves must be backcourt players, three must be frontcourt players and the remaining two can be either. The coaches for each All-Star squad will be those from the teams with the best record in each conference and they are forbidden to select players from their own teams. So the question is...

Poll

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?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Good!
    (69 votes)
  • 45%
    50-50.
    (138 votes)
  • 32%
    Poor.
    (99 votes)
306 votes total Vote Now