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Center of the Sun: Suns now 3-12 as they head out on four-game Eastern Conference road trip

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The Suns are facing four games in seven days this week... aren’t road trips supposed to be fun?

San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

@ Oklahoma City Thunder L (118-101) Full Recap

vs San Antonio Spurs W (116-96) Full Recap

vs Oklahoma City Thunder L (110-100) Full Recap

Not only did the Suns win a game last week, it was the first week of the season that they didn’t suffer at least one 20-plus point loss. And even though they were 1-2, they were only outscored by a total of seven points combined (324 to 317). Prior to last week, the Suns were getting outscored by their opponents by an average of 39.75 total combined points per week.

It’s probably not coincidence that this occurred following Ryan Anderson’s banishment to the far end of the bench, Trevor Ariza’s two game absence due to personal reasons and rookie Mikal Bridges’ increase in playing time and his insertion into the starting lineup. 18-year vet Jamal Crawford’s minutes and impact on the court have also increased recently and more of Richaun Holmes’ seemingly boundless energy has been a breath of fresh air since the Suns and Tyson Chandler parted ways.

If only Devin Booker was back to playing at his best.

Booker doesn’t look as though he’s been 100 percent since the hamstring injury and has admitted that is the case. He probably should sit out a few more games to try and get back to his best but with him the de facto point guard on a team with no real other options at point, I’m sure he already knows how badly that could turn out for the team.

Even though Booker’s scoring has been off lately, his distributing has been a big plus that no one else on this team can duplicate. Thus, the lack of a true starting point guard has turned into an even bigger problem. Booker probably needs to sit out a few games to complete his recovery but that would effectively create two voids in the Suns’ offence as they have no one to replace his scoring or playmaking.

Over and over again, the lack of a starting caliber point guard keeps rearing it’s ugly head. As much as it hurts the team, don’t expect the problem to be resolved soon. I’m fairly certain that a trade would have already happened if other teams weren’t asking for a king’s ransom for players that would only be a marginal upgrade from the point guards that the Suns already have. For a real starting point guard, I wouldn’t doubt that the Suns are being asked to give up a Billy King-style ransom.

Hopefully, the opportunities for trading for a PG will get better as the trade deadline approaches. Until then, I’m afraid that Devin Booker and the Suns will have to hobble along the best that they can.


Fantable Questions of the Week

This week I asked the Fantable for their general opinions on the performance of three of the younger Suns, Mikal Bridges, Elie Okobo and Richaun Holmes. We will periodicaly continue with evaluations of the Suns’ players as the season goes on.

1. Mikal Bridges

GuarGuar: I love Mikal Bridges. I really do. He plays hard and actually knows how to play basketball and the details within the game. He’s a winning player. That’s the best way I can describe him. Just look at the on/off numbers of Mikal this season. He drastically improves our perimeter defense and is a really good floor spacer. He’s honestly probably the 4th best player on this team… RIGHT NOW. He’s a great fit next to Booker and Ayton. He’s what we want Josh Jackson to be. And it hurts, but that’s the truth. Bridges looks like a young Ariza right now and I’m so excited to watch him develop. He better keep starting.

Sun-Arc: I loved this kid before the draft and I love him now. So mature, works really hard, versatile on both ends, smart, and is a guy that can make the main cogs look better. He’s got a ways to go still, but from what I’ve heard about him, he’ll put the work in. Before the draft I created a spreadsheet based on position- and Mikal was the BEST of everyone we looked at. Check it out here.

I will say, however, that in comparison to some other rookie wings he’s doing just ok statistically. If you want to see how he compares to rookies Miles Bridges, Huerter, Divicienzo, and Bates-Diop, you can see that on BB-ref.com here. What you’ll see is that he’s tops in points per-36 and steals, second best in PER, and okay on three-point percentage among them, though under average league-wide. He’s lowest on rebounds and assists, though- which is something for him to work on. His defensive advanced stats are decent so far, particularly considering how awful the team is on defense. The eye test shows he’s pretty good at it.

Though he’s not statistically as high as Miles Bridges (and two years older too), I’m not worried about him. From what I’ve seen I think he’s going to be a great companion player to Book and DA. He’s a starter in this league, IMO.

SDKyle: I really like Bridges. He hustles, he can shoot, and he creates problems for opposing players on defense. He’d be more effective on both ends if he were heavier and stronger, but I think he likely will get a bit of both.

I do think it’s fair to question whether he’ll ultimately be “worth” the steep price we paid for him, but so far it’s hard to complain too much about him as he’s been one of the brighter spots for this club overall.

SouthernSun: I absolutely love Mikal Bridges right now. He’s shown to already be a capable NBA player. Solid defender. Good three-point shooter. Pretty much exactly as advertised, plus a little more. He’s had some nice finishes around the rim as well that impressed me. If the Suns weren’t paying Ariza $15 million and needing to keep his trade value as high as possible until the very moment it becomes Dec. 15, I’d recommend Bridges replacing him in the starting lineup.

Alex Sylvester: Mikal is a winner; he’s proven this through his time with Villanova and he’s proving it with his presence on the court.

There’s a stat (credit Evan Sidery) that states, “In 57 minutes, Booker/Ayton/Bridges have the following: 121.3 OffRtg / 84.8 DefRtg / plus-36.5 NetRtg”

As many posters on this site have clamored for, this man needs his minutes! The more experience he gets and the more he plays alongside Booker/Ayton, the more comfortable he’ll get and we’re bound to see more consistency as well.

It appears that Trevor Ariza will be moved around the trade deadline to a contender so let Mikal work his way up from 15 minutes to 30 minutes a night gradually. I’m a big fan of his game.

2. Elie Okobo

GuarGuar: Okobo hasn’t really seen enough time to really make an assumption about what type of player he can become. In his limited minutes though, he has played very hard and had some solid offensive outings. I wish he lowered the arc on his jumper a tad. Sometimes it’s nice to have a sky ball, but majority of the time it can hurt you. His finishing around the rim needs work too. But in terms of raw talent, Elie definitely has it. I’m all for him getting some time in the G-league to develop and get big minutes.

Sun-Arc: Again - I liked Elie as a prospect a lot and felt he might have starter material. I’m not seeing that yet. But we might. He’s got a range of skills, shooting ability, seems to relish team-ball yet also knows how and when to look for his own shot. At this point I could see him being a Patty Mills type player- but maybe he’ll show us more than I think he will.

Again - I’ll point to a comparison with other rookie PGs that I considered at No. 31: Brunson, Melton, Shamet, and Aaron Holiday (though he’s only played 16 minutes and Melton only 33). Ellie is the best in points, assists, rebounds, and free-throw percentage (with the second-most attempts) – all per 36. He’s second highest in ORtg, but worst in DRtg. So, there is improvement to do, but he is showing some serious skills.

SDKyle: Okobo strikes me as a guy who will develop into a solid backup or spot starter in the NBA eventually. I don’t think he does anything exceptionally well and I don’t think he really has a natural feel for the PG position. That said, he certainly wasn’t bad value at #31 overall.

SouthernSun: Elie Okobo looks like he may be a decent NBA player someday. That won’t be this year. Probably won’t be next year either. But he’s got some skills. He doesn’t do anything exceptionally well right now. I think he may be the Suns future backup point guard, though my favorite role for him would be as trade sweetener.

Alex Sylvester: Elie has talent, there’s no doubt about it. How much talent is the real question!

Can he become a quality starting PG? Is he a backup?

This is what the next two years will be for Okobo… trying to figure out what his long term fit is with this team. Ideally, he can be in a limited role this year and the Suns are able to acquire a true starting PG so he’s eased into additional responsibility.

Otherwise, we might screw him up if management rushes him into a role too big for his skillset. I like his size, his speed, the fact that he’s lefty, and he can score. He will need to improve defensively, but so do 13 other guys on the roster.

3. Richaun Holmes

GuarGuar: This difference between Chandler and Holmes has been pretty massive. Richaun can actually move laterally and gives us a TON of energy. He’s not a decent shot blocker too. Energy can be contagious. We saw this with Big Sauce. Holmes has proven to be a very quality backup center. His offensive rebounding is very good and has created a good amount of second chance points. I’m honestly kind of shocked he wasn’t our backup center on opening night. I guess seniority rules, even if you aren’t good anymore. Hopefully his aggressiveness can rub off on Ayton!

Sun-Arc: I was skeptical of his ability to earn playing time, but I was wrong. He’s playing with energy, heart, and most of the time with brains. He’s 10th in minutes but 4th in rebounding. Per 36 he’s only behind Ayton (if you discount Tyson’s time with the team, which I do). He’s also 4th on the team for PER and steals (per 36). He’s working hard out there. Is he starter material? Only when absolutely necessary - kind of like Bender playing at all. He reminds me a bit of Miles Plumlee’s first season with us. He’s effective, but not great. But I love him as a backup.

SDKyle: I actually don’t have a ton to say about Holmes. He’s a hustler backup big... an improvement over Tyson Chandler but nothing to get all that excited about. He’s a 25-year-old fourth-year pro still fighting for time on one of the NBA’s worst teams. He could easily be a journeyman, and will probably be in the NBA another seven years and play for four more teams.

SouthernSun: Richaun Holmes is a big ball of energy and I like it. He just runs around everywhere and tries to deter every shot he can and gets called for a bunch of fouls but hey, whatever. He’s a fine backup big. I like what he does out there, and occasionally he has a fun dunk. I think he and Ayton are a pretty good center combo. I’m not sure whether he will he a Sun past this season, but I wouldn’t mind bringing him back on a cheap deal.

Alex Sylvester: I love me some Richaun Holmes. I compared him to Montrezl Harrell with less skill the other day, and that’s okay!

Holmes is pure energy when he’s out on the court, and that’s exactly what this team needs. He’s going to have stupid fouls every game, but he’ll counter by making multiple hustle plays, working hard on defense, and being a beast in the paint.

He’s the ideal backup center to Deandre Ayton. Ayton plays with more smoothness and control. Holmes is the ‘hair on fire’ type player.

He should stick around this franchise for a few years, he’s already one of my favorites.

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


Key Stats

7.3 assists per game

Devin Booker may not be putting up the scoring numbers we had hoped for this season (22.7 ppg) but he’s made a leap forward in his assist rate. He has averaged 7.3 assists per game for the season and 10.0 apg in last week’s three games, a marked improvement over his 4.7 apg rate last season and he’s presently tied with James Harden for ninth in assists this year. According to Basketball-Reference.com, his assists have resulted in 216 points (18 points per game) in the 12 games he’s played in. That adds up to an average of 40.7 points per game that he is directly or indirectly responsible for. Last season that combined figure was 35.9 ppg.

Weekly Book Report

36.2 mpg, 22.7 ppg, 3.28 rpg, 7.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.1 bpg, 4.5 TO, 3.4 PF

42.5% FG%, 33.3% 3P%, 84.8 FT%

This week - 37.8 mpg, 16.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 10.0 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.0 bpg, 3.7 TO, 3.0 PF

35.4% FG%, 33.3% 3P%, 88.9 FT%

Random Stats: In the last two games - with rookie Mikal Bridges starting - the Suns defensive rating was 102.5. For the season, their DefRtg is 112.0. For the season the Suns are making 34.2 percent of their three-point attempts. In their last two games, they hit 45 percent of their threes. Also over the last two games, Devin Booker got the first back to back double-double games of his career.

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


Game Highlights

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 11.12.2018

San Antonio Spurs vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 11.14.2018

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 11.17.2018


Quotes of the Week

”I’m a step slow right now, so getting everybody else involved is kind of my go-to right now.” - Devin Booker

”Book is Book. We’re asking for a lot and he’s giving a lot.” - Igor Kokoskov


Rookie Report

Deandre Ayron - 32.7 mpg, 16.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.8 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.7 bpg, 2.1 TO, 2.7 PF

  • This week - 33.4 mpg, 17.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.3 bpg, 2.7 TO, 3.0 PF

Mikal Bridges - 19.7 mpg, 7.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.9 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.4 bpg, 0.9 TO, 2.2 PF, 37.0% 3PT

  • This week - 27.1 mpg, 11.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.7 spg, 1.7 bpg, 1.7 TO, 4.3 PF, 36.4% 3PT

Elie Okobo - 15.1 mpg, 6.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.0 TO, 2.1 PF, 26.9% 3PT

  • NAZ stats - 33.8 mpg, 18.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 9.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 2.5 TO, 4.0 PF, 26.3% 3PT

De’Anthony Melton - 10.6 mpg, 2.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.5 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.0 TO, 1.8 PF, 25.0% 3PT

  • NAZ stats - 36.0 mpg, 18.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 7.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.8 bpg, 4.5 TO, 3.5 PF, 25.0% 3PT

George King - Assigned to NAZ Suns

  • NAZ stats - 35.9 mpg, 16.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.5 bpg, 3.5 TO, 2.8 PF, 46.7% 3PT

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


Bright Side Night Returns, January 8, 2019!

We are proud to announce the FOURTH annual Bright Side Night, where our community sends deserving and underprivileged children from the Valley to a Phoenix Suns game!

It’s $9 per ticket. No extra fees or charges.

Fill out the one-page form to select the number of tickets you want to donate, and how you’re going to pay.

You will get a confirmation email directly from the Suns about the ticket donation

Click this link to donate: Suns.com/Brightside

And there’s something in it for you too... in addition to the good feeling you’ll get for helping out some deserving kids! For more details, just click on the link above.


News & Notes

Phoenix Suns: What’s behind Devin Booker’s slow start? Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit

In wake of a rough start, Josh Jackson looks to light at the end of the tunnel. Dylan Carter/Arizona Sports

Suns’ Igor Kokoskov wants patience with expectations for Deandre Ayton. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Phoenix Suns: 3 Reasons Why They Should Start Mikal Bridges. NBA Analysis Network

Suns point guards have the most responsibility, face the most criticism under Kokoskov. Duane Rankin/Arizona Republic

What Should Phoenix Suns Do Next With The Struggling Josh Jackson? The Runner Sports


This Week in Suns History

On November 23, 1994, Wesley Person scored 19 points to lead 10 double-figure scorers in Phoenix’s 140-109 home win over the LA Clippers. The Suns became the third team in NBA history to have 10 different players score in double figures in the same game.


Suns Trivia

The 1979-1980 Phoenix Suns starting five - Walter Davis, Truck Robinson, Alvan Adams, Don Buse and Paul Westphal - were all former All-Stars. Cooperative team play (four players finished the season with over 300 assists) propel the Suns to their best regular season record (55-27) and the Western Conference Semifinals.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Monday, November 19 - Phoenix Suns @ Philadelphia 76ers, 5:00 p.m. AZT

Wednesday, November 21 - Phoenix Suns @ Chicago Bulls, 6:00 p.m. AZT

Friday, November 23 - Phoenix Suns @ Milwaukee Bucks, 6:30 p.m. AZT

Sunday, November 25 - Phoenix Suns @ Detroit Pistons, 2:00 p.m. AZT

The Suns have a hectic, four-game road trip to the East this week. At least none of them are back-to-backs.

Tonight the Suns start off their East coast swing in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. Don’t expect the Suns to get any of that love from the Sixers, especially not from Joel Embiid. With new acquisition Jimmy Butler, the Sixers are looking even more like a top Eastern Conference contender and I doubt that the Suns can do more than hopefully keep the final score reasonably respectable. Count this a a loss for the Suns.

On Wednesday the Suns will face the Chicago Bulls, the most likely game of the week fo them to get a win. The 4-13 Bulls also struggle to put points on the board (they’re 29th in scoring, the Suns are 30th) and on defense as well (Bulls 26th in DefRtg, Suns 28th). I’m betting that the Suns get their first win on the road in Chicago.

Friday night the Suns face another of the top Eastern contenders when they go up against the 11-4 Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks have the second-ranked offense in the NBA, the fourth-ranked defense and a net ranking of No. 1. No chance for the Suns in this one.

In their final game of the week, the Suns play the 7-6 Pistons in the Motor City. While the Pistons’ offense hasn’t always been firing on all cylinders this season (24th in ORtg), their defense is ranked ninth in the NBA. If the Suns can play with the defensive intensity they’ve shown lately AND have a good shooting night, this could be another potential win on the road... but I’m not counting on it. Call it another loss for the Suns.

This week, I think the Suns will go 1-3.

What’s your prediction?


Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was “How many games will the Suns’ current losing streak (now at three games) get to before it ends?”

20% - It ends at 3!

32% - 4 to 6 games.

35% - 6 to 10 games.

13% - More than 10 games.

There were a total of 236 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Should Mikal Bridges remain in the starting lineup after Trevor Ariza returns?

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    Yes.
    (213 votes)
  • 13%
    No.
    (34 votes)
247 votes total Vote Now