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Center of the Sun: Another winless week for the 18-39 Phoenix Suns

Perhaps new acquisition Elfrid Payton and recent steps forward by Josh Jackson and Dragan Bender will help turn things around.

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Denver Nuggets v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

@ Los Angeles Lakers L (112-93) Full Recap

vs San Antonio Spurs L (129-81) Full Recap

vs Denver Nuggets L (123-113) Full Recap

It was another very rough week for the Suns and just a few days ago I honestly thought that the Suns would let the NBA trade deadline quietly pass without making much noise. And the trade of a single second round draft pick for a player that another team seemed eager to move was barely worth notice outside of the local sports media, especially considering the major restructuring moves that were made by the Cavaliers. In the overall scheme of the trades made at the deadline, it was a small thing. But for the Suns who have been starved for a starting caliber point guard for the entire season, it was a fairly big thing.

Elfrid Payton isn’t a star but he really doesn’t need to be, not for this team, not right now. He just needs to be that starting caliber point guard that the Suns needed... which is very much what he looked like against Denver. He was one assist away from getting a double-double in his debut with the Suns and not getting that DD wasn’t really any fault of his. His new teammates often weren’t expecting or weren’t ready for some of his lightning quick passes which left him with only 9 assists. As BSotS’s own Dave King asserted, “(Payton)... could easily have doubled that number had the Suns been ready for each pass.”

It was just one game so I’m not letting myself get too excited but for once the Suns actually looked like a pretty good basketball team without Devin Booker on the court.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing what they look like with Booker back - and healthy. With only two games left before the All-Star break, we might see Payton and Booker together before then - but I’m not at all certain we’ll see a fully healthy Booker until after the AS break.

But for now, Payton is a breath of fresh air for a team (and a fanbase) that was in dire need of one. Can he be more than that? Is he only a stop-gap measure for the Suns or can he eventually become part of #TheTimeline?

There are many as of yet unanswered questions regarding Elfrid Payton so I asked the Fantable for their thoughts on him.

Fantable Question of the Week

What are your thoughts on the Suns’ acquisition of Elfrid Payton?

GuarGuar: So this is what it feels like to be on the good side of a trade! I got to give McDonough credit, this was a really good trade. Our point guard situation was absolutely dreadful, and getting a young talent like Elfrid Payton for just a 2nd rounder is great value. We will basically get a 2 month test trial with him to see if there is anything there that he can offer us in the future. He might not be a future starting point guard for us, but a 6th man role is certainly possible. I will be most interested to see if we can tap into that defensive potential coming out of college. It wouldn’t surprise me if he racked up a few triple doubles in the next couple of months.

The fit with Booker could be weird though, as he isn’t a good shooter and hasn’t shown to be a good defender yet in the NBA. He can’t be worse than TylerUlis or Josh Gray though, that’s the positive! Elf can also take some pressure off Book so we don’t wear him down as the season winds down. There’s been a good history of players leaving the Magic and having breakout years. Hopefully we can get that out of Elf! No risk, possible high reward.

Sun-Arc: I have been really fascinated with Payton since he was drafted. A tall, athletic PG who passed quite well and was supposed to be a good defender. The problem is he has disappointed for the most part.

Why has he not lived up to the hype? I have no idea. Was he in a bad situation? Orlando has been about as big a tire fire as the Suns since 2014 when he was drafted (The T.J. Warren draft, to put it in perspective). The Magic have made some huge mistakes including trading Dario Saric for Payton and then choosing to stay with Payton and trade away Victor Oladipo for Serge Ibaka. Payton has also not been surrounded by great players.

Aaron Gordon has really come into his own this season, but wasn’t much help prior to that. Victor O was also not all that great in Orlando. Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier are decent players, but not much above average. So he didn’t have much to work with there. And maybe Oladipo’s story is indicative of the team’s inability to develop players? Victor has certainly done well since leaving Orlando so maybe Payton could too.

Here’s why that may not come to pass: Orlando has had coaches that emphasize defense (Skiles and Vogel). Yet Payton has consistently been a really horrid defender with his time on the court. Do we really expect Triano is going to get that much more out of him with the final 26 games of the season to know whether Elfrid should be kept on-board? I know I don’t expect it. That’s not necessarily a knock on either of these men (Triano or Payton). Its just not a lot of time for anything. On the other hand, I’ve seen better defense out of several players under Jay. I also don’t feel Skiles or Vogel are all that great as coaches. Not that I want to stay with Triano as our head coach either.

Given everything I’ve said, here’s where I end up:

  1. Elfrid has potential, some of it may be untapped.
  2. His being traded here may be a good change of scenery and coaching for him. But because of the short amount of games left in the season, I don’t think he will emerge as anything but another stop-gap move and we probably won’t be able to fully assess his potential with the team.
  3. As bad as he has been on defense, he HAS to be better than Ulis on defense.
  4. I think he will likely be more effective on offense than Ulis - both in terms of finding cutters and shooters (Book, Troy, and Bender) and in scoring at the rim. Ulis has been blocked more times at the rim this season than any player I can remember seeing recently. And Elfrid is really elite at ppp at the rim. Plus passing has never been a weakness for him. He’s also excellent in transition.
  5. His size (6’-4) at the PG position will be a very welcome change of pace for us.
  6. There was no reason to not make the trade. One of our 4 second round picks for a player with his potential is a great move. It lets us check him out and keep him, possibly not as a starter but as a backup. We will likely still need to find our starting PG, but the move didn’t hurt our flexibility of doing that this summer.

Lastly, I posted this in a thread, but if you missed it, it is well worth a read. You can see what the writers and fans on SB Nation’s blog for the Magic think about the trade and Elfrid in General.

SDKyle: I like the acquisition of Elfrid Payton. The Suns needed a competent point guard much more than they needed another second-round draft pick, and Payton (for all his faults) is an enormous upgrade over Tyler Ulis and the G League squad.

He’s not a long-term solution in my opinion. After checking him out more extensively the last couple of days, I think he’s a solid man defender but very weak against the pick and roll. He has fairly active hands and can generate steals.

Offensively, he is capable of knocking down open perimeter shots at a decent rate, but is not a strong shooter generally. He can finish around the basket pretty well and is therefore capable of scoring efficiently despite being a poor FT shooter. He does a decent job taking care of the ball, and he’s a willing distributor if not a particularly gifted one.

For what he cost, this was an easy call. He might not be a player we’re still talking about in the future, but Payton should at least make the remainder of this season more watchable.

SouthernSun: I like the acquisition of Payton. I don’t see how anybody wouldn’t. I’m certainly not over the moon about it or anything, but it is a solid low risk move that makes the team slightly more watchable for the remainder of the season.

If Payton happens to play out of his mind for the rest of this season, looking like a great fit next to Booker, then I could see him potentially being kept on board, re-signed to a decent contract this summer. However, I doubt that happens.

Elfrid is basically an average point guard. Nothing to write home about, but certainly not an awful player. He’s great going to the rim, and he’s a solid playmaker, but he’s not much of a 3 point shooter (his high percentage this season is on very few attempts per game), and despite for some reason having a reputation for being a good defender, his defense has been putrid this season.

I don’t see him as the long term answer at point guard for the Suns. If the Suns draft a center, I would feel much more comfortable with the Suns using a substantial portion of their assets to trade for a good established guard who’s either significantly better than Elfrid, or fits better next to Booker (defense and three point shooting).

Elfrid was a solid pickup for a 2nd rounder, especially for a team with entirely too many draft picks in the coming draft, and no real point guard on its roster.

I hope Elfrid proves himself to be better than I expect him to be over the next couple months, but I’m not holding my breath.

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

Key Stats

15.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.8 apg, 53.8% FG, 51.9% 3PT, 87.5% FT, 67.3% eFG, 69.3% TS%

Those are Dragan Bender’s stats over the last 5 games. He got his career high in scoring (23 pts) against Denver in what was also one of his best all-around games (23 pts, 8 rebs, 4 ast, 2 blk, 1 stl) in what was his 100th game played in the NBA.

Weekly Book Report

3 DNP - Injured

Random Stats: T.J. Warren is 25th in field goal attempts per game this season and 5th in FG% among those 25 players. The four players above him in FG% are Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant.

Statistics courtesy of and

Game Highlights

Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers - Full Game Highlights | February 6, 2018 | 2017-18 NBA Season

San Antonio Spurs vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | February 7, 2018 | 2017-18 NBA Season

Denver Nuggets vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | February 10, 2018 | 2017-18 NBA Season

Quote of the Week

”He made the guys on the floor with him better.” - Jay Triano on new Suns PG Elfrid Payton

Rookie Report

Josh Jackson - 23.2 mpg, 11.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.7 TO, 2.8 PF

  • This week - 36.2 mpg, 16.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.3 spg, 2.7 bpg, 1.7 TO, 3.3 PF, 9.1 3PT%

Davon Reed - 7.6 mpg, 1.5 ppg, 0.3 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.3 TO, 0.8 PF

  • This week - 9.2 mpg, 2.0 ppg, 0.3 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.3 TO, 1.3 PF

Alec Peters - 9.1 mpg, 1.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.3 TO, 0.2 PF

  • This week - 6.5 mpg, 1.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.0 PF, 1 DNP-CD

Statistics courtesy of

News & Notes

Elfrid Payton Shines in Suns Debut.

How Suns’ free-agency plans could impact Elfrid Payton’s future. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Bickley: Suns facing a pivotal offseason after extinguishing the Valley’s patience. Dan Bickley/AZCentral Sports

Phoenix Suns drop in Forbes’ rankings of NBA franchise value. Kynan Marlin/Arizona Sports

Phoenix Suns’ Marquese Chriss: I’m disappointed in myself. Craig Grialou/Arizona Sports

This Week in Suns History

On Sunday, February 15, 2009, the West defeated the East 146-119 in the 58th NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix, AZ. The Suns were represented by Amar’e Stoudemire (starter) and Shaquille O’Neal (reserve). O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were named co-MVPs.

Suns History in Video

Suns Trivia

Elfrid Payton, LeBron James and Ben Simmons are the only three players in the NBA to rank in the top 25 in assists, steals and field goal percentage this season.

Previewing the Week Ahead

Monday, February 12 - Phoenix Suns @ Golden State Warriors, 8:30 pm AZ time

Wednesday, February 14 - Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz, 8:30 pm AZ time

It’s a short week this time with just two games before the annual All-Star break and it starts with a bang as the Suns head West to take on the Golden State Warriors. Whether Devin Booker has healed up enough to play in this game or not, you have to count it as a loss for the Suns. The best that I think we can hope for is that it doesn’t turn into another really big loss.

On Wednesday the Suns head to Salt Lake to play the Jazz for the third time this season. The Suns won the first game way back in October but were beaten badly in their second matchup just 10 days ago. With Booker possibly healthy for this game and the addtion of Elfrid Payton, I’m not really certain about how this one will go but I’m giving the edge to the Jazz.

I’m predicting that the Suns go 0-2 this week and wind up with an 18-41 record at the break.

What’s your prediction?

Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was, “With 3 days left before the trade deadline, what do you think the Suns will do?”

The results were:

10.5% - Make a big trade.

42.5% - Make a small trade/trades.

47.0% - Make no trade/trades.

There were a total of 200 votes cast.

This week’s poll is...


Do you think Dragan Bender plays better as a power forward or a center?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Power forward.
    (24 votes)
  • 47%
    (83 votes)
  • 39%
    He can play both.
    (69 votes)
176 votes total Vote Now

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