clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Center of the Sun: After the All-Star Break it’s time for the Phoenix Suns to get back to business

New, comments

Hopefully, Devin Booker’s win in the Three Point Contest won’t be the only good Suns news this week.

NBA: All Star Saturday Night Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

@ Golden State Warriors L (129-83) Full Recap

@ Utah Jazz L (107-97) Full Recap

At least I can say that last week got better as it progressed. Starting with a really ugly loss to the Warriors, we next saw the return of an at least mostly healed Devin Booker in Utah where he played his first game with newly acquired point guard Elfrid Payton in a fairly competitive game against the red hot Jazz and then Booker won the Three Point Contest during the NBA All-Star weekend.

It certainly could have been worse... much worse.

Although I’m sure all Suns fans were very happy to see Booker win the three point title, there are still 23 games left for the 18-41 Suns to play this season. And not a lot of those first 59 games were pleasant to watch - which most definitely didn’t make Suns fans very happy - so enjoy that good feeling from Booker’s win while you all can.

No one really expects the Suns to win many more games this season. They are presently tied with the Atlanta Hawks with the worst record in the NBA and face a very difficult remaining schedule. It’s truly a sad state of affairs when a franchise’s fans are more eagerly looking forward to the draft lottery and draft night than the next game on the schedule.

But could the expected losses become at least a little more watchable now? The loss to the Jazz certainly was. And might the Suns actually perform better than expected with the return of a fully healthy Devin Booker to pair with Elfrid Payton in the Suns’ backcourt?

I asked the Fantable for their opinions and expectations of the Suns when they finally return to the court following the All-Star break.


Fantable Questions of the Week

1. With a healthy Devin Booker and Elfrid Payton on the court together, do you think the Suns will be a significantly better team after the All-Star break?

2. What do you predict the Suns’ final record will be?

GuarGuar: With a healthy Book and Payton on the court together, I don’t know if we see a significant difference in the Win/Loss column. However, the Suns will be 10 times more watchable and I can’t see us losing by 40+ points again this year with both on the court. Booker took 14 3-point shots in his first game with Elf. It would be great to see him take 10+ a game (like Stephen Curry/James Harden) so maybe getting that true pass first point guard is what Booker needed. I’m excited to see the two gel and whether this is the backcourt of the future. It’s been a breath of fresh air finally having a quality NBA point guard on our roster. Hopefully Elf breaks out like other Magic players did once they left Orlando!

23-59 is my guess for our final record. There should be games where Booker just goes Booker and carries us to victories. Hopefully we see good development from #TheTimeline

Sun-Arc: My definition of ‘significantly better’ in this case is being competitive in nearly every game for at least 40 minutes. We had that against Denver (2/10-L) and previously against Dallas (1/31-W), Milwaukee (4/22-L), Denver (1/19-W), Oklahoma City (1/7-W), Atlanta (1/2-W). That is six out of 20 games in 2018. And we only won four of those 20. If we could be competitive in 80% of our games after the ASG, I would consider that significant improvement.

But I really don’t know if they will be that much better. Payton will definitely help. He’s looked good in his first two games here. But I think there will be ups and downs with him. I think he will mesh reasonably well with Booker, but won’t affect wins much. I sincerely hope we don’t lose any more games by over 25 points. Right now that’s my benchmark, which is pretty sad.

I predict the final record will be 23 wins. We play the LA Clippers (twice) , Memphis, Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando, Sacramento and Dallas. Those are potentially 8 winnable games. I think we could win 5 of them - or maybe 4 of them - but also gain a surprise victory along the way.

Based on last season’s results, 23 wins would be good for 2nd in the reverse standings. Atlanta has come on a bit stronger lately. And while Orlando is really bad, they may not catch us. Our biggest speed bump to the #1 slot going into the lottery appears to be SAC.

SDKyle: Significantly better? I guess it depends on how you define that, but not really. The Suns have the league’s worst defense and number 28 offense, and adding Payton doesn’t suddenly take them to a top 20 team or something. He’s a solid NBA player but I’m not convinced he’s much more than an average starter overall, and maybe not even that depending on his consistency level. Booker’s return is a boost, but even when he was healthy and playing fantastic the Suns still sucked. Personally, I’d say the Suns are now marginally better than they were a month ago.

I’m downwardly revising my estimate to 24, mostly because I do expect some strategic tanking from the Suns. It doesn’t thrill me, but history says they’ll do it. The final stretch is brutal anyway, with only a few games the Suns wont be heavy underdogs in. The losses will pile up.

SouthernSun: I believe the Suns will be significantly better with Devin Booker and Elfrid Payton playing together. However, I don’t really expect that to translate to wins necessarily. Elfrid gives effort on defense definitely, but he’s not a “good” defender. Devin is sort of in the same boat, except for he doesn’t seem to always even put in the effort. And with no really defensive stoppers behind those two, opposing teams can score on the Suns at will. But, I’ve really liked what I’ve seen so far in the one game they played together. I assume they’ll look even better as they become accustomed to one another.

I think the Suns will end up going 24-58. Elfrid is actually going to add a win or two, because without him I wasn’t sure the Suns were a lock to win another game this season. Jackson’s come to life in the new year. Dragan Bender has looked a tad less dainty. Elfrid is dishing beautiful passes Suns fans haven’t seen the like of for years. Book is gonna Book. I’m excited for the off-season and seeing what these guys can do with some other good talent added around them, but for now, the rest of this season is only going to be slightly less horrendous and hard to watch than it was prior to Elfrid’s arrival. But he’s made it a little bit better.

Win/Loss Summary: It seems as though everyone agrees that the Suns will win only 5 or 6 of their remaining 23 games which falls below their .305 W/L percentage for the season so far. Even trying to be a little optimistic and predicting that the Suns will at least keep their percentage at .305 for the rest of the season only equals out to 7 wins and a 25-57 season record.

How many of the last 23 games do you think that the Suns will win? Give us your opinions in the comments section and/or through the poll at the end of the article.

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


Key Stats

35.1 mpg, 20.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 8.7 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.3 bpg, 4.0 TO, 3.0 PF, 57.1% FG, 50.0% 3PT, 83.3% FT

Those are Elfrid Payton’s stats for his first three games with the Suns. In his third game - his first playing alongside Devin Booker - he got his first triple-double as a Sun with 13 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds.

Weekly Book Report

28.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 0.09 spg, 0.0 bpg, 2.0 TO, 2.0 PF, 42.9% 3pt, 1 DNP - Injured

Random Stats: Devin Booker has scored 1066 points (so far) this season with 23 games left to play. Tom Chambers holds the Suns’ team record for the most points scored in a single season with 2,201 during the 1989-90 campaign. Booker is already tied for 19th on this list with Paul Westphal for his 1,726 point total in 2016-17.

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com and LandofBasketball.com.


Game Highlights

Golden State Warriors vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights / Feb 12 / 2017-18 NBA Season

Phoenix Suns vs Utah Jazz - Full Game Highlights | February 14, 2018 | 2017-18 NBA Season


Quote of the Week

”He’s been gifted minutes early in his career. There’s a lot of teams where early draft picks don’t even get to play. There are some coaches that believe you figure the league out your first year and then play the second year.” - Jay Triano on Marquese Chriss


Rookie Report

Josh Jackson - 23.5 mpg, 11.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.7 TO, 2.8 PF

  • This week - 33.7 mpg, 15.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.0 TO, 3.5 PF, 33.3 3PT%

Davon Reed - 8.0 mpg, 1.3 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.3 TO, 0.9 PF

  • This week - 10.2 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 1.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 1.0 PF, 1 DNP-CD

Alec Peters - 9.1 mpg, 1.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.2 bpg, 0.1 TO, 0.2 PF

  • This week - Assigned to the NAZ Suns

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


News & Notes

Elfrid Payton’s first impression with Suns is both encouraging, concerning. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Booker Dedicates Championship Performance to Suns Fans. Suns.com

Phoenix Suns at the All-Star break: Devin Booker headlines the ‘What went right’. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Three former Suns players named as finalists for Basketball Hall of Fame. Tom Kuebel/Arizona Sports

Suns news: Is Elfrid Payton Phoenix’s answer at point? Can they find it in the NBA Draft? Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Former Phoenix Suns star Amar’e Stoudemire joins the BIG3 league. Kynan Marlin/Arizona Sports

Can Phoenix Suns unlock the mystery that is Marquese Chriss? Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Phoenix Suns’ point guard spot: Anybody got a scorecard? Vince Marotta Arizona Sports

Ten things I like and don’t like, including the NBA tank battle. Zach Lowe/ESPN


This Week in Suns History

On February 22, 1977, Alvan Adams recorded a triple-double with 47 points, 18 rebounds and 12 assists against the Buffalo Braves. He is one of five players in NBA history (along with Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Russell Westbrook and Vince Carter) to have as many as 46 points and 16 rebounds in a triple-double performance.


Suns History in Video


Suns Trivia

Devin Booker is shooting a career-high 38.3 percent from three-point range and making 2.7 three-pointers per game. His 2.7 treys per game are second-most in Suns history, trailing only Quentin Richardson’s 2.9 in 2004-05 (Richardson also won the Three-Point Contest that season).


Previewing the Week Ahead

Friday, February 23 - Phoenix Suns vs LA Clippers, 7:00 pm AZ time

Saturday, February 24 - Phoenix Suns @ Portland Trail Blazers, 7:00 pm AZ time

Only two games for the Suns following the All-Star break this week. Unfortunately they are back-to-back but at least they are both home games.

First up, the Clippers come to Phoenix for their third match of the season. The Clippers have won the first two but this will be the first game between the two teams since the Clippers traded away Blake Griffin for Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley, and the first since the Suns acquired Elfrid Payton. The Clips are 5-2 since the trade but 4 of those 5 wins came against teams with losing records. This game will also be the second game of a back-to-back on the road for LA - they play Golden State on Thursday - so I’m actually going to predict a win for the Suns in this one.

On Saturday the Suns face of against the Trail Blazers for the fourth and final game between the two teams this season. Portland has beaten the Suns in all three of the previous games but they will also be playing on the second night of a back-to-back on the road this time. The will come in after facing the Jazz in SLC on Friday night so I expect both teams to have tired legs and the Suns just might be able to squeak out another win... although I doubt it.

I’m predicting that the Suns go 1-1 this week with a very slim chance of going 2-0.

What’s your prediction?


Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was, “Do you think Dragan Bender plays better as a power forward or a center?”

The results were:

14% - Power forward.

47% - Center.

39% - He can play both.

There were a total of 176 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

How many of the last 23 games do you think the Suns will win?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    More than 10.
    (13 votes)
  • 17%
    8 to 10.
    (84 votes)
  • 54%
    5 to 7.
    (264 votes)
  • 26%
    Less than 5.
    (127 votes)
488 votes total Vote Now