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Center of the Sun: Following 2-3 preseason, all eyes turn to the Suns’ regular season opener

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Fans should get ready for what might be a wild ride this season.

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NBA: Preseason-Phoenix Suns at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

@ Golden State Warriors W (117-109) Full Recap

@ Portland Trail Blazers L (116-83) Full Recap

These final two preseason games might have been the best clue as to what to expect from the Suns this season. The win at Golden State was fun to watch, the loss in Portland... painful. We may be in for a bumpy roller coaster ride with no idea as to whether the coaster is going to go up or down — or swerve sharply to the left or right — on any given night. That ride should be smoothed out to a degree when Devin Booker returns but it’s still likely to be a bumpy ride until everyone gets comfortable in Igor Kokoskov’s new offensive and defensive schemes.

And there are still changes on the way which will alter this team before the season actually begins. First up, today is the day that the Suns must get their roster down to 15 players (not counting two-way contracts) so the Suns will have to waive at least two players by 5 p.m. EST.

Or will it be three players getting waived?

As I write this, there is a report that the Suns have offered 18 year veteran Jamal Crawford a veteran’s minimum contract. I don’t see Crawford as the answer to the Suns’ point guard problems and hopefully neither do they. I can see him as a solid backup for Booker though and possibly a better fit in that role than anyone else presently on the Suns’ roster.

At this moment, it has yet to be confirmed.

The Suns are reported to still be trying to acquire a point guard before opening night but a trade between now and then seems very unlikely. It’s possible that they might pick up a point guard that gets waived by another team in the next few days but offering a contract to Jamal Crawford makes little sense if they are also planning on doing that.

I can’t remember a time in the past with so much still up in the air with so little time left before the season starts. Beginning with the firing of former GM Ryan McDonough last Monday, things seem to have become even more unpredictable - and perhaps unstable - than usual in Phoenix. At this point, I won’t even hazard a guess as to what’s next for the Suns. I did, however, ask the Fantable to make some predictions about certain players this season.


Fantable Question of the Week

In my opinion, the Suns have six players that are definitely going to have a large impact on how well they play this season. Someone else - perhaps Mikal Bridges, De’Anthony Melton or Elie Okobo - may step forward and have a larger impact than I expect them to but I’m leaving the rookies off the list for now. Those six are:

  • Devin Booker
  • Deandre Ayton
  • Trevor Ariza
  • Josh Jackson
  • T.J. Warren
  • Ryan Anderson

The question is: What do you expect each player’s stat line to be this season?

GuarGuar: Devin Booker: 25-4-6 (points-rebounds-assists) on a 58 TS%. With the roster as is, we are going to see Booker in a larger playmaking role. He also has a better surrounding cast this season so I certainly see his assist numbers increasing. I’m hoping he increases his efficiency too.

Deandre Ayton: 16-10-2 with 2 blocks per game. Ayton looks like an immediate contributor from Day 1. A stat line like this with an improved Suns record will definitely have him in ROY discussion.

Trevor Ariza: 13 ppg with 40% 3 point shooting. Ariza fills his 3 and D role nicely this season.

Josh Jackson: 13–4-3 with 32% 3 point shooting. JJ won’t have a significant role on offense this year, but I expect his efficiency and playmaking to increase.

T.J Warren: 16-4-1 with sub 30% 3 point shooting. I expect TJ to have less points per game due to his 6th man role, but him to still have a big impact in less minutes. I don’t buy into him being a 3 point threat now though.

Ryan Anderson: 12 ppg with 35% 3 pt shooting at home but 42% 3 pt shooting on the road. Ryno has had massive splits the past few years and I buy into it. If preseason was any indication, he’ll be better on the road this year.

Sun-Arc: My guesses here are per game (not per 36), and will be the season averages. Stats order... (minutes per game) pts, rbs, ast, 3pt%

  • D Booker - (33) 27, 4, 6, 40% (6 attempts)
  • D Ayton - (31) 18, 11, 2, 25% (.3 attempts), 2.5 blocks
  • T Ariza - (32) 13, 5, 2, 37% (6 attempts)
  • J Jackson - (20) 12, 4, 3, 32% (4 attempts)
  • T Warren - (24) 14, 3.5, 2.5, 29% (1 attempt)
  • R Anderson - (24) 11, 4, 2, 38% (6 attempts)
  • M Bridges - (22) 10, 3, 1.5, 38% (4 attempts)

SDKyle: Devin Booker: 26 points, 5.5 assists, 5 rebounds. I also expect Booker to improve his efficiency a bit...58% TS.

Deandre Ayton: 19 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks. Seems like a tall order for a rookie, but I think Ayton playing over 30 minutes a game can get there.

Trevor Ariza: 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists. Ariza is old and probably won’t be asked or expected to do much beyond shoot when he’s left wide open.

Josh Jackson: 12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists. I’m afraid Jackson will be a bit of a drag on offensive efficiency, taking close to 11 shots to get his 12 But he may have good passing chemistry with Ayton that earns him time on the floor. Especially if his defense is solid.

TJ Warren: 14 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist. TJ’s output declines as he becomes a third/fourth option and often comes off the bench. But his efficiency climbs to slightly above league average.

Ryan Anderson: 9 points 3 rebounds 1 assist. Pure stretch guy. Won’t do a heck of a lot else.

SouthernSun: Devin Booker - 26 ppg, 4 rpg, 6 apg, .40 3PFG%

I believe Booker will take yet another step forward this season. I don’t think his rebounding will improve, but that’s mainly because Ayton will be gobbling them up, Anderson is an underrated offense rebounder, and Holmes and Chandler will be getting more rebounds than Len and Bender/Chriss did last season. His points will increase, but not as much as some think (in my opinion). I think Ariza, Ayton, Anderson, and an improved Jackson will all be more deserving of touches and attempts than any player on the Suns last year that Booker played with. His efficiency, particularly his three point percentage, should increase with more spacing provides by better team shooting. His assists will probably go up a bit too, also because of those deserving recipients.

Deandre Ayton - 18 ppg, 10 rpg, 2 apg, 1.5 bpg, .56 FG% ANNNND .33 3PFG%

I think Ayton is going to be a monster, even as a rookie, however I don’t think he’s going to hit 20 ppg just yet. I do think he’ll get close. I believe he’ll be extremely efficient, despite having a tendency to settle for his mid range jumper a little too often (I think he’ll hit it at a high enough percentage that it won’t be a negative). I even think he ventures out to the 3 point line and averages maybe one made three every couple of games on 33% shooting. He will rebound with the best of them. His defense will also be decent at the worst, with only occasional lapses.

Trevor Ariza - 11 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg, 1.6 spg, .37 3PFG%

Ariza will have a slightly larger offensive role with the Suns than he did with the Rockets, but his main impact will still be with his defense and three point shooting.

Josh Jackson - 12 ppg, 4 rpg, 4 apg, 2 spg, 1 bpg, .32 3PFG%

I believe that Josh will actually score about a point less a game this season. Mainly because he won’t have a chance to be the featured first scoring option for two months down the stretch like last season, assuming the Suns don’t take this season. However, I believe his effectiveness will increase. His three point shooting will be a little better, reaching to just a little below league average, and he will rack up at least 4 assists per game, two of which will be lob passes to Ayton every night. He’ll also nab two steals and a block, showing everyone that defensive impact that was one of his major selling points on draft night last year.

T.J. Warren - 14 ppg, 5 rpg, 2 apg

I really think TJ is what he is. I think at the absolute best he reaches the low 30s for three point percentage, but probably not even that. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be a good 6th man for the Suns as their primary scoring option off the bench.

Ryan Anderson - 14 ppg, 5 rpg, 1 apg, .40 3PFG%

I believe that Mr. Anderson will have a resurgent year in Phoenix. He’s healthy, he isn’t currently dealing with the recent suicide of a girlfriend like he had been, Phoenix won’t have to deal with the pesky issue of attempting to win a 7 game series against the Warriors, and they also don’t have a P.J. Tucker or Luc to go along with Ariza, so Ryan will be staying on the floor a lot more than he did last season. He’s on a team that wants him. Melton was a nice icing on the cake that is Anderson, but the Suns traded for him for a reason. And that’s his ability to stretch the floor better than almost any other PF in the NBA. His job is to bomb away and give Ayton as much space around the basket as possible to do his thing. And I think he’s the perfect guy for that. Even if he’s making too much money.

Alex Sylvester: Booker: 24.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5.8 APG on 46/38/88

Most people will assume Devin’s PPG should continue to rise considering his increase the past few seasons, but I expect this year to be a big boost in efficiency and playmaking for Devin.

Ayton: 18.6 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.1 APG with 2.0 BPG on 58% shooting

Deandre will be a force early on and a rest of his career. Averaging a double double his rookie year would put the league on notice as to whose the best rookie in this years class.

Ariza: 9.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.5 APG on 36% 3PG

Ariza won’t be depended on for big numbers, but rather to fill the void of an effective role player off ball that the Suns have lacked for years.

Jackson: 11.9 PPG, 4.7RPG, 2.6 APG on 43%/33% 3PG

Jackson won’t have the luxury of being the #1 option like he was for a big stretch last year, but once again look for a jump in efficiency for JJ as well as improved defensive metrics.

Warren: 14.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.0 APG on 50%/28% 3PG

This stat line is tougher to predict based off of what his role and usage will look like throughout the season. I based my prediction on around 30 MPG.

Anderson: 8.2 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 0.5 APG on 37% 3PG

Ryan will have some monster games as well as a ton of irrelevant games to balance out a decent stat line for a role player.

Summary: Below is a chart in which I averaged our Fantable member’s predictions.

As always, many thanks to our Fantable - GuarGuar, SDKyle, Sun-Arc, SouthernSun and Alex Sylvester - for all their input!


Key Stats

50 rebounds

50 is the total number of rebounds pulled down by Deandre Ayton in five preseason games. That was the third-highest total behind only Andre Drummond (71) and Hassan Whiteside (54) for all NBA players and first for rookies. The only other rookie to finish in the top 20 was Marvin Bagley III (6th), with 41 total rebounds (but in six games rather than five).

Weekly Book Report

Still recovering from hand surgery. His projected return is in one week.

Random Stats: Isaiah Canaan led the Suns in three point shooting in preseason, hitting 50.0% from downtown on four attempts per game. Trevor Ariza was second with 47.4% on 3.8 attempts per game and Ryan Anderson was third with 35.3% on 3.4 attempts per game. No other Suns player averaged higher than 28.6%. A total of six players (Tyson Chandler, T.J. Warren, Deandre Ayton, Richaun Holmes, Isaiah Canaan and Trevor Ariza) made more than 50% of their field goal attempts.

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com and/or Basketball-Reference.com.


Game Highlights

Golden State Warriors vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 10.08.2018, NBA Preseason

Portland Trail Blazers vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 10.10.2018, NBA Preseason


Quotes of the Week

”Book is the best player I ever played with at any level. A great leader. An ultimate scorer. Even a better teammate. He’s the guy. He wants to see his guys around him doing well, so he’s going to teach you. He’s going to talk to you. He’s gonna try to put you in positions that are best for you to be successful.” - Josh Jackson

”You can just feel the difference when he’s (Booker) on the court. It’s just going to get better every day. Every day it gets more and more comfortable with him back on the court.” - Ryan Anderson


Rookie Report

Deandre Ayron - 26.9 mpg, 18.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.8 spg, 2.0 bpg, 2.2 TO, 3.0 PF

Mikal Bridges - 15.5 mpg, 1.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.5 TO, 3.2 PF

Elie Okobo - 14.9 mpg, 4.3 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.3 TO, 1.8 PF

De’Anthony Melton - 8.7 mpg, 5.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.8 TO, 1.5 PF

George King - 7.8 mpg, 2.0 ppg, 0.5 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.5 TO, 0.5 PF

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


News & Notes

Cleared for contact: Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker taking final steps to returning from injured right hand. Duane Rankin/Arizona Republic

Suns meeting with Jamal Crawford, who could help their backcourt needs. Hoops Hype

NBA GMs See Bright Future for Suns Young Core. Suns.com

Phoenix Suns have chance at multiple All-Rookie team selections. Dylan Carter/Arizona Sports

Suns’ Josh Jackson Diary: Getting hyped for the new season. The Undefeated

Robert Sarver Wants the Suns to Win Now, but Can They? The Ringer


This Week in Suns History

On October 19, 1968, the expansion Suns played their first ever regular season game in what would come to be known as at the “Madhouse on McDowell” and also got the team’s first ever win by beating the Seattle SuperSonics, 116-107.


Suns Trivia

Back on opening night for the Suns’ first regular season NBA game in 1968, seat prices at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum ranged from $2 to $5.


Previewing the Week Ahead

October 17 - Phoenix Suns vs Dallas Mavericks, 7:30 pm AZT (on ESPN)

October 20 - Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets, 6:00 pm AZT

It’s the opening week of the regular season and the Suns play two games. The first is at home against Dallas and then they’re off to the Mile High city to face the Denver Nuggets. With Devin Booker’s availability still up in the air, it makes game predictions iffy at best but here goes.

The Mavericks games has been hyped as a Doncic vs Ayton game but it should be a rare occurrence to see the two of them actually matched up on the court. The matchup that I’m most interested in is Deandre vs DeAndre. If Booker is still out, I have to give the Mavs the edge but if Book plays, I’m calling it for the Suns at home.

Next the Suns take on the Nuggets, a team that has looked good in the preseason (4-1) and have already beaten LeBron’s Lakers twice. They’ve made few changes from last year’s team that went 46-36 and just barely missed the playoffs. Booker or no Booker, this one looks like a loss for the Suns.

This week you get with and without Booker predictions. With Booker, I think the Suns will begin the season 1-1. Without Booker, I expect them to end the week 0-2.

What’s your prediction for this week?


Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was “In the first 3 preseason games, the Suns overall performance was...”

01.2% - Better than I expected.

41.4% - What I expected.

57.4% - Worse then I expected.

There were a total of 169 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Signing Jamal Crawford would be...

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    A good move.
    (116 votes)
  • 16%
    A bad move.
    (50 votes)
  • 46%
    Just rearranging deck chairs.
    (146 votes)
312 votes total Vote Now