Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.
We all know that the Suns aren’t a good basketball team but they just can’t seem to catch a break this season either. Devin Booker’s re-injured hamstring is just the latest thing.
As the announcers said, it doesn’t look good but hopefully it’s not too serious. Regardless of how badly it’s strained, Devin needs to stay off the court until he’s fully healed this time. Former Suns head coach Earl Watson said that he had to keep a close eye on Devin because he loved playing so much that he would play hurt if he could get away with it. Igor Kokoskov needs to learn this lesson as well and make sure that Book doesn’t come back until he’s 100% healthy.
Without Devin Booker, the Suns’ chances of winning any given game drop from slim to virtually zero.
After moving exclusively to the “Point Book” starting lineup - Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Trevor Ariza, T.J. Warren and Deandre Ayton - they looked like they were going to be a more competitive team. Unfortunately, that left the bench weaker than ever and further exposed their lack of quality depth. And as we’ve seen, injuries virtually kill any chance of them winning or even staying competitive against average NBA teams. Against the NBA’s best, it’s a recipe for a blowout loss.
The need for a quality point guard has been evident all season long but it’s doubtful that problem can be adequately addressed during the season. Put more plainly, the Suns aren’t going to get a star or near-star-level point guard this season. Yes, even with all the rumors about Washington possibly moving on from John Wall, they’re unlikely to make that happen before the February 7 trade deadline - if at all - and that will be too late to salvage tis season.
For the Suns, the best moves right now might be smaller ones that could at least add some better bench players. Although Warren has played well at PF, that’s not his natural position and the Suns really have no other good options there that are actually power forwards. Even adding a third center might help as it could allow Igor Kokoskov a little bit more freedom to experiment with Ayton and Richaun Holmes together on the court. Both of them can hit threes if given the opportunity so it wouldn’t necessarily create a spacing issue with them together on the court.
The Suns have two open roster spots and they must fill one of them by the end of the day on Dec. 12. They can either find a trade that brings in more players than go out before then or possibly just sign a free agent or G League player to a minimum contract to fill the empty spot. No one will be satisfied if they don’t bring in a PG but if they could find a reasonably productive backup PF or C to add, I would be happy.
Until then, expect more losses to add up as we wait on Booker to heal and return to the court. With him out, the Suns have little to no chances of avoiding more embarrassing losses.
Fantable Questions of the Week
Three separate questions this week.
1. The Suns now have two open roster spots and have to fill at least one of them before the end of the day on December 12. Trevor Ariza can’t be traded before Dec. 15. What is your best guess as to how the Suns will fill that empty roster spot?
GuarGuar: I really don’t have much of a feel for how the Suns are going to fill these roster spots. We basically let Shaq Harrison go for nothing, similar to letting DJJ go last year for nothing in order to sign Mike James for a couple weeks. We also let Danuel House go and he’s playing solid rotation minutes for the Rockets right now. This front office keeps making the same mistakes over and over again. It’s really frustrating. It wouldn’t surprise me if we called up someone from the G-league and gave them a contract for the remainder of the season. I have lost all hope that we will trade for a good point guard this season. Very frustrating time to be a Suns fan.
Sun-Arc: If we have to fill a roster spot, my guess is we would use it on someone from the Northern AZ Suns on a minimum deal for a few days until December 15th. That would keep our flexibility open in a number of ways and we would be taking a flyer on (yet another) young G-league player. This would mean that if we do want to make a trade after December 15th, we could drop this player for very little money and it wouldn’t matter. We would also not be hurting our cap room in the off season.
Juwan Evans has been pretty damn good guard for the NAZ team, averaging 17.1, 3.6, 4.0 and shooting 38% from three. He seems to be the team’s main option on offense and has the highest assist average (outside of Melton and Okobo). The other player is our two-way contract, George King, even though he is another wing. He has averaged 16.4, 5.9, 2.8 and shooting a crazy 48%(!) from three. And his shot chart approaches something you’d see out of HOU.
SDKyle: No idea. They’ll sign some dude who just cleared waivers maybe. There are guys like Mario Chalmers floating around. My guess is something like that. I don’t expect anything too exciting to result.
SouthernSun: My best guess is that a trade is coming. It’s got to. I don’t see how it couldn’t be. Everyone who isn’t fooling themselves understands the need for a good point guard on this roster.
Alex Sylvester: The trade avenue seems to make the most sense for the Suns to fill their roster void. There has been speculation about a Fultz and now a Frank Ntilikina trade potentially looming so it appears the Suns are looking to take on a low-risk move on a PG. If that’s the case, they could take on another player while acquiring said PG.
Otherwise, they could look to sign a minimum deal to fill out the bench.
2. A lot of fans think that Ariza will be traded after Dec. 15. What is your opinion?
GuarGuar: I think there’s a good chance we might deal Ariza during the trade deadline in February, I don’t think Ariza has been as bad as most people think, but he’s been a disappointment thus far. With that being said, we’ve been much better this year when he is OFF the floor. Personally I’m pretty fine keeping him to give Booker spacing, because if we insert Josh Jackson into the lineup, I feel like we’re taking 2 steps back with what kind of offensive system Igor is trying to establish. This is of course assuming JJ continues to shoot the ball poorly. I don’t think we could get much for Ariza (high second rounder at best). The biggest issue I see with trading Ariza is the image and message it sends to the rest of the league. What happens when we trade Ariza to a contender and he starts playing much better because it’s a different culture? The exact same reaction when Tyson started playing for the Lakers. Why did the Suns let this guy go and all that hogwash. I want the free agent we signed to finish out his one year contract. Earn the 15 million. Don’t let him take the easy way out. Send a message.
Sun-Arc: As with all trades it really comes down to the details. Ariza has not come close to living up to his contract with his play on the court. The question is whether he is helping the team in other ways than stats. Is the recent improvement in play quality and effort in some way due to his work ethic? Is he holding players accountable? I can’t answer those questions, but hopefully the team knows. Either way he is, still, an NBA quality player- something we are in short supply of. So trading him for, say, Fultz (as some have advocated for) could be a very bad idea. Ariza for Terry Rozier could be a really good idea. To me its a question of value to the team- both in the short-term and long-term.
SDKyle: I think it’s likely Ariza will be traded because his contract is expiring and he potentially bring some value to a fringe playoff team, which gives him two potential reasons other teams might be interested despite his high salary. He’s not providing the Suns with whatever they expected to get from him, so there’s not much reason to keep him around.
SouthernSun: I’m not so sure that Ariza is traded. Mainly because of the trade I expect to happen by December 12th. I don’t think the Suns want to give up their cap space this coming summer. Ariza is a big expiring. If the Suns can find a way to make a trade for a starting point guard without giving up one of their big expiring contracts, I expect them to do so. Ryan Anderson and picks for Wall. Get it done. Please.
Alex Sylvester: think he’s gone. I don’t see him getting traded that day, but by the trade deadline seems to be a guarantee at this point.
What’s the purpose of keeping him around all year? Hopefully the Suns don’t have to go the buyout route… there has to be a market for his services.
3. Point Book has been quite good. If the Suns can’t swing a trade for a reasonably good point guard, should they try to trade for some upgrades for the second unit instead? Why or why not?
GuarGuar: I don’t really know what kind of trades we could make to upgrade the second unit at this point in the season. Personally, I think we can just upgrade the unit by changing up the lineup and substitution patterns. Troy Daniels should be getting some run. He can shoot, and this team sucks at shooting. Igor also needs to learn how to stagger the starters some. One of Book/TJ/Ayton should be on the floor at all times. They are our big three. It really isn’t complicated and I’m shocked Igor hasn’t adjusted his rotations to stagger these guys a little more. We can kick the tires on Markelle Fultz I guess to be the backup PG for the rest of the season. Maybe if we trade for him we just sit him out the rest of the season and try to fix him behind closed doors. The big problem with him would be his contract. Just a thought.
Sun-Arc: The team needs help in a lot of places. PG is the obvious hole that needs to be filled, but there are other areas as well. We don’t really have a (playable) power forward, even though TJ and Ariza have been doing a pretty good job of holding that down. Still, someone that could slow down players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis, and Kevin Durant would be really nice to have. And, as Rod mentions, our bench could really use some help. Here again, I point to weighing the value to the team. If we can’t get a PG on Dec 15th, maybe we should wait till the trade deadline. And even then, we will want to keep cap space for the offseason to a degree. I would not take on a long term deal on a mediocre player, for instance. And with the massive hole at PG, I feel we should be keeping options open to prioritize that problem.
SDKyle: I’d like to start by saying I don’t really accept the premise that Point Book has been “quite good.” It has been an improvement vs. letting a G-League quality player run the show, but that’s not exactly proof of concept in my book (unavoidable pun).
That said, I’m all for the Suns trying to improve the roster in any way possible. PG is the most glaring need just as it has been since Eric Bledsoe left town, but as I write this response the Suns are 4-18. That record speaks very clearly to the reality that this team needs a ton of improvement beyond grabbing an average NBA point guard. If the Suns can only reasonably add some good bench players so that our second unit is less of a weakness, I support that.
SouthernSun: Point Book has been better than the other trash options the Suns have. But it still hasn’t translated to winning basketball games. Contrary to popular belief, Point Book resulting in the team being better than they were early this season doesn’t mean Point Book is good. It just means he’s the best thing on the roster currently to slot at point guard. He should be playing shooting guard, and the Suns should trade for a starting point guard.
But if they are unable to figure out a trade for a good point guard, and decide to make the mistake of moving forward with Booker at point, then yes, trade for bench upgrades, because this team needs more good players. The bench is horrendous.
Alex Sylvester: I wouldn’t try to upgrade the second unit, rather I’d look to upgrade the PF position.
You could trade Ariza/slide TJ to the three now that he can shoot threes and get a PF that compliments the team. I’ve heard the name JaMychal Green and it makes a lot of sense.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable - GuarGuar, SDKyle, Sun-Arc, SouthernSun and Alex Sylvester - for all their input!
42.2% FG, 32.5% 3P, 72.1% FT
Those are the Suns averages last week. They are worse than their season averages across the boards and would rank them dead last in FG%, 27th in 3PT% and 27th in FT% compared to the league season averages. For the season, the Suns rank 16th in FG% (45.7), 25th in 3PT% (33.9) and 14th in FT% (77.2).
Weekly Book Report
35.3 mpg, 23.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 6.7 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.1 bpg, 4.1 TO, 3.5 PF
43.9% FG, 31.3% 3PT, 84.2% FT
This week - 29.5 mpg, 16.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.7 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.3 bpg, 3.0 TO, 2.7 PF
38.0% FG, 23.5% 3PT, 70.0% FT
Booker is out indefinitely following re-injuring his hamstring.
Random Stats: The Suns have played two of the 12 scheduled back-to-back sets this season and are 0-2 in the first game and 0-2 in the second game. The Suns are 3-0 when making at least 14 three-pointers. In their four wins, the Suns are averaging 14.3 three-point makes per game on 46.3% shooting. In losses, they average 9.4 three-point makes per game on 31.2% shooting.
Statistics courtesy of NBA.com and/or Basketball-Reference.com.
Indiana Pacers vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 11.27.2018
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Los Angeles Lakers vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 12.02.2018
Quotes of the Week
”We want to be one of those teams competing for a playoff spot. I feel like it’s wide open right now with a lot of people sitting around the eight, nine, 10 range in wins. And we let a couple close ones slip away. But recently, we’ve been fighting very, very hard compared to the beginning of the season.” - Devin Booker
”When [Devin Booker] is handling, it’s different when [Elie Okobo] is handling, or [Jamal Crawford] so we have to be flexible as a team and we have to turn it into our strength. Right now we have three packages. It depends on who is running the offense.” - Igor Kokoskov
Deandre Ayton - 31.7 mpg, 16.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.8 bpg, 2.0 TO, 3.0 PF
- This week - 29.3 mpg, 12.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.5 spg, 1.3 bpg, 1.3 TO, 3.8 PF
Mikal Bridges - 21.5 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.8 TO, 2.3 PF, 33.8% 3PT
- This week - 22.2 mpg, 4.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.5 TO, 2.0 PF, 20.0% 3PT
Elie Okobo - 18.3 mpg, 6.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.2 TO, 2.1 PF, 32.4% 3PT
- This week - 30.1 mpg, 10.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.0 bpg, 2.0 TO, 2.3 PF, 45.5% 3PT
De’Anthony Melton - 9.1 mpg, 2.2 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.2 bpg, 0.7 TO, 1.5 PF, 27.3% 3PT
- This week - 6.2 mpg, 1.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 1.0 PF, 33.3% 3PT
George King - Assigned to NAZ Suns
- NAZ stats - 35.4 mpg, 16.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.6 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.5 bpg, 4.0 TO, 2.8 PF, 47.5% 3PT
Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.
Bright Side Night Returns!
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 point guard compendium: 15 potential trade targets. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit
How to Improve the 4-17 Suns? Coach Kokoskov’s Got a List. New York Times
How bad is it? The Suns have their worst start in franchise history. The Heat Index/AZCentral Sports
Igor Kokoskov running specific playbooks for different Suns PGs. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports
Analyzing the Release of Isaiah Canaan. BBall Index
The Five Most Interesting Teams in the NBA in Week 7. The Ringer
This Week in Suns History
On December 9, 1993, Kevin Johnson of Phoenix became the 13th NBA player to record 10 steals in a game, during the Suns’ 114-95 win over visiting Washington.
Back in 1969, then Suns President Richard Bloch called “heads” during the coin flip that decided whether it would be Phoenix or Milwaukee that got to draft Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) with the first pick in that year’s draft.
It came up “tails”, the Suns lost the coin flip and Alcindor went to the Bucks.
But don’t blame Bloch for calling heads! The decision on what to call was made beforehand by the Phoenix fans by way of an Arizona Republic poll.
Previewing the Week Ahead
Tuesday, December 4 - Phoenix Suns vs Sacramento Kings, 7:00 pm AZT
Thursday, December 6 - Phoenix Suns @ Portland Trail Blazers, 8:00 pm AZT
Friday, December 7 - Phoenix Suns vs Miami Heat, 7:00 pm AZT
Only three games for the Suns this week but they end it with another back to back, this time starting the road and finishing at home. Following that, the Suns will get a two day break between games for the first time since November 15 and 16.
The Suns begin the week at home against the 11-11 Sacramento Kings. These aren’t the “Kangz” of old so no one should expect it to be an easy game. Even if they weren’t much improved, there are no “easy” games for the Suns this season. Defensively, the Kings aren’t much better than the Suns (22nd vs 29th) but their offense is 2nd in pace, 5th in EFG%, 1st in three point percentage and 8th in points per game. I hate to do it but I’m calling this one another loss for the Suns.
On Thursday, the Suns head to Portland to take on the 13-9 Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard (9th) and C.J. McCollum (25th) are still one of the best scoring backcourt duos in the NBA (48 points per game combined). Jusuf Nurkic is averaging a double-double (15.2 ppg, 10.5 rpg) and as a team they rebound at a far better rate than Phoenix (49.8 vs 39.8). This should be loss number two for the Suns this week.
The Suns return to Phoenix on Friday for what should be their easiest game of the week against the 8-13 Miami Heat. Easiest doesn’t mean easy though, especially with Booker likely out. While the Suns will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Heat should be well rested after having two days off before starting their six game Western Conference road trip in Phoenix. The Heat haven’t been very good offensively this season (25th in OffRtg) but play solid defensively (10th in DefRtg). I predict another loss for the Suns.
It’s most likely that the Suns will go 0-3 this week with a slim chance of a win against Miami (if Booker returns for that game).
What’s your prediction?
Last Week’s Poll Results
The poll was “Who would you rather see getting Isaiah Canaan’s minutes?”
46% - Elie Okobo
27% - De’Anthony Melton
21% - Troy Daniels
06% - No one.
There were a total of 335 votes cast.
Devin Booker needs to rest until he’s completely healthy but...
What do you think are the Suns’ odds of winning another game with Booker sidelined?
This poll is closed
1 in 10.
1 in 50.
1 in 100