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Center of the Sun: Phoenix Suns finish the week at 19-49

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Following three more losses, the Suns will face an even tougher group of foes this week.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

@ Miami Heat L (125-103) Full Recap

@ Oklahoma City Thunder L (115-87) Full Recap

@ Charlotte Hornets L (122-115) Full Recap

Four weeks and fourteen games to go in what might turn out to be the second worst season in Suns history. Unfortunately for the Suns and their fans, that has already happened twice in the last six years. When the Suns finished the 2012-13 season with a 25-57 record, that was then the second worst record in Suns history. In the 2015-16 season, they surpassed that all too recent record by finishing 23-59 and created a new “second worst record” just three years later. Last season they came close but only managed to finish with the third worst record in Suns history at 24-58.

Are you depressed yet?

While this season has been another disappointment in what has become a long line of disappointing seasons, we have seen the continued rise to stardom of Devin Booker and gotten a good look at what looks to be another piece of the puzzle that hopefully leads back to winning ways in Josh Jackson.

We’ve also not seen what we had hoped for from some of the other young players that were touted as part of #TheTimeline. For that hashtag to ever be more than a catchy phrase, we are going to need a lot more than just Booker and Jackson to rely on.

The Suns have a lot of decisions to make this off-season and they need to get them right. The biggest questions on most Suns fans’ minds right now probably center on the upcoming NBA draft and who will be the Suns’ head coach going forward. Questions of what the Suns should do in free agency also loom on the horizon although they don’t seem quite as pressing as the other two. But one of the first free agency questions that the Suns will need to deal with is Elfrid Payton becoming a restricted free agent.

The Suns needed a starting caliber point guard all season long until they basically got Payton from Orlando for free. He’s done well in Phoenix but he’s not the “star” player that many would prefer. But most would agree that he’s at least worth keeping as a reserve point guard if a better option does present itself but his being a restricted free agent this summer complicates things a bit. Plus the Suns still have Brandon Knight who will return to the team next season.

With those thoughts in mind, I posed the following questions to the Fantable.


Fantable Questions of the Week

1. Elfrid Payton has been a welcome addition to the Suns but he is going to be a restricted free agent this summer. Do you think that there will be much of a market for him in free agency and how much would be too much for the Suns to pay to keep him on the roster?

2. Should the fact that the Suns still have Brandon Knight under contract for two more seasons factor into whether the Suns try to keep Payton and/or how much they are willing to pay to keep him?

3. Speaking of Brandon Knight, what do you think his role with the Suns will be next season?

GuarGuar: 1) Elf started out playing great for us but over the past few games he has definitely struggled. His defense hasn’t improved since coming over from Orlando, and that is the skill that we really needed to see something out of. I’m totally fine bringing back Elf as a backup, he would be a top backup PG in the league for sure. I doubt Elf garners that much interest in free agency. I’d probably be willing to give him 6-7 million a year for a few years. Something extremely team friendly. He definitely is not the long term answer at point guard, but can definitely fill in for now (or if someone gets hurt).

2) Knight should definitely factor into the Elf decision, as I think management views Brandon as a part of our future still. That being said, Knight is better suited as a 2 guard rather than playing point. An Elf/Knight 2nd unit backcourt would probably be good, and bring out the “best” of Brandon. Elf is a willing passer and we know Knight loves to chuck. That being said, if we can get Knight’s contract off the books this off-season we need to do so. I doubt it though.

3) Knight’s been around the team a lot more recently and everything McDonough has stated makes it seem like he is part of our team next year. No reason to think Knight is gone anytime soon as his contract is a doozy. The only hope I have that Knight can get back to Milwaukee level, is the fact that Earl Watson was his coach... and we know how awful at Xs and Os he was. He should be our backup PG/SG next season, and I can’t imagine him being worse than last year.

Sun-Arc: 1) I don’t think the market will be huge for Payton, particularly given his first 3.5 seasons in the league. He’s playing a bit better now, which may help his case. Though even with his improvements here, most teams would consider him an average or lower starting point guard. As a backup, he might be too expensive for nearly any team. Therefore, most teams aren’t looking for a PG of his (tweener ability) caliber. I’d think we could get him for under $9m/year. Having said that - heck, he might be the best we can get and it may very well be worth spending more if we want to keep him here. If he keeps playing as he has been, could be worth $10m for 3 seasons. I’d certainly try to keep the fewest seasons guaranteed possible. But, again, we really someone at least at his ability. And if he’s the best we can get, give him what he wants within reason.

2-3) Knight’s situation should only factor into the Payton decision if we get a ‘messiah’ coach who knows how to get the best of BK. Otherwise I think Knight becomes Booker’s backup (who, when you think about it, could be a well balanced combo with Harrison). I don’t want Knight acting as the primary ball-handler unless we flame out completely on acquiring a starting PG. But even then I would think Booker would be the primary ball handler and have BK be a catch-and-shoot player where he’s at his best. But that’s not ideal for Booker.

Unlike a lot of people, I think Knight can be a good player. I think the coaches here didn’t know how to handle him. Jeff Hornacek seemed to tell him “go fast!” And he did play fast, out-of-control-fast. Watson had no clue and probably told him “go do your thing”, so Knight did the same thing as with Jeff. I think he is best off-ball, and could be a pretty darn good replacement for Daniels - quite possibly as a much more effective microwave catch-and-shoot scorer. Put him next to Harrison, JJ, Bender, and (say) JJJ or Williams and he might just be really effective with a limited usage%. He’s a career 36% 3pt shooter and topped out at over 40% with a 18 PER, so if he has a limited role perhaps he can really help the team.

Having said all that, I don’t think he’ll be tradable until his contract is an expiring one and possibly even through that season. Sucks, but if he can stay healthy and live up to my fantasy laid out above, at least his contract would not be completely dead weight.

SDKyle: 1) I’d be ok with offering Payton a deal in the $8 million range. He’s an above average backup PG who is capable of starting without being embarrassing, so that seems fair. I don’t think the market for him will be very strong... he just hasn’t established that he’s much more than what I described.

2) From a practical standpoint, the Brandon Knight situation clearly impacts the Payton situation and every contract situation the Suns face. The Suns must assume that Knight will be difficult to get rid off except in exchange for an equally bad contract, and the franchise can’t afford to have $65 tied up in bench players.

3) My guess is that Knight will enter the season as the Suns’ presumptive starting PG, or at least the first guard off the bench. That may sound bad, and it is, but my hope is that whoever is coaching will be a lot better than Watson or Triano and figure out a way to minimize Knight’s deficiencies. Whether that’s splitting his ball handling with Booker, or playing him mostly as a SG, or maybe by some miracle rehabilitating him as a player... something.

SouthernSun: 1) As of now, I doubt there’s a very big Payton market this summer. Of the teams with cap space (Mavericks, Lakers, Hawks, etc.) most of them already have their young talented PG of the future in place. Elfrid doesn’t really do one of the main things expected of a point guard in today’s NBA, which is be able to shoot threes at a moderately successful rate. Despite his percentage, we all know that Payton is all poor three point shooter. He only makes wide open attempts that the defense beg him to take. He’s not really all that good on defense either. He’s a decent facilitator, and he’s very good going to the rim (though for some reason during his Suns tenure he seems to get blocked every other play, perhaps due to the distinct lack of players who can shoot threes and create space on the roster). He basically is what he is. I don’t see him getting a whole lot better, and we’re seeing exactly why Orlando traded him for basically nothing. The max the Suns should pay to keep him is something along the lines of 6-9 mil per year.

2) I’m really not sure about whether that should factor into their decision to keep Payton or not. I have a few ideas. See below.

3) The Suns have several options they could do with Knight.

  • A. Get rid of him and stretch his contract out into a lesser cap hit.
  • B. Trade him as salary filler alongside extra picks for an equivalent salary in return, but perhaps a more useful player.
  • C. Play him with the intention of building up his trade value.
  • D. Play him, see if for whatever reason the injury helped his head, and see how he looks next to Booker. Knight was awful for the Suns last year. However, that was mainly in a role coming off the bench with players such as rookie Bender, rookie Ulis, and Len. Not really world beaters. Probably the worst bench in the league, or close to it (minus the baffling consistency of Alan Williams). That’s not his role. He should not be the only scoring option on the court. If you do that to him, you set him up to fail.

Knight has played his best basketball while playing next to a primary playmaker. Bledsoe for two months year before last, and Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee. He can be a tertiary playmaker, a last few seconds bailout iso specialist when the play breaks down, or a spot up shooter. He actually excels at each of those things. He might actually look like a decent player next to the new all star level version of Booker. He can share playmaking duties with him like he did with Eric Bledsoe when they were averaging a combined 40/10/10 through November/December in 15/16 until Bledsoe went down.

I’m curious to see how they handle it. Contrary to the unfounded belief that Knight is some sort of malcontent, I have only seen positive from him for quite some time. He’s at games, jumping off the bench, cheering on teammates, and is actually smiling some. He’s handled this whole situation with a lot of class.

I’m not saying that the Suns should definitely give him another chance, however, I wouldn’t be completely upset if it happened. As long as they significantly improve another position with a youngish veteran this summer.

And we have a guest member at the Fantable this week, Alex Sylvester.

Alex Sylvester: 1) Initially once Elfrid was picked up by the Suns, I was under the impression that his capability as an ‘actual’ rotational PG in the NBA could potentially flourish with Booker as a running mate.

Since his arrival, I’ve been quite impressed with what Payton brings to the table. He doesn’t seem to do anything great, but he’s somewhat respectable in all areas of his game. He could still improve with his shot / defensive awareness (as do the rest of the Suns).

I can’t see him being a hot commodity for other teams around the league, considering how strong the PG play is on other teams, as well as money being tight. If I’m the Suns, I could see 7-8 million annually getting the job done.

2) I think it should factor a bit, but the Suns can not afford to go into next season with a terrible PG rotation, as they did post-Bledsoe trade. If Knight can contribute and crack the rotation next year, that’s great! But don’t bank on it.

3) I think Brandon Knight can become a better Troy Daniels. My hope has always been for Warren to become the 6th man with JJ starting, and I don’t think it’s reasonable for the Suns to assume Brandon will be 100% ready to take on a serviceable role, especially considering his poor play pre-injury.

I still believe that he can make a difference off the bench, and this roster is desperate for shooting. I’d love to see Knight average 10 a game off the bench while shooting 38~% from deep.

If he can become that, you might be able to look into trades to a contender as well! Daniels would also make a good expiring to a contender.

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


Key Stats

74 points, 16 rebounds, 20 assists, 7 steals, 2 blocks, 50.0% FG, 60.9% #PT

Those are the combined stats from Dragan Bender, Troy Daniels, Shaquille Harrison, Davon Reed and Tyler Ulis from the Charlotte game. All scored in double figures. On a night with three key players (Booker, Warren and Jackson) sidelined with injuries, these guys all stepped up their games and gave the Suns a chance to get a win near the end. Other players also had a good night but these were the real surprise performances of the evening. If the Suns could get something akin to that kind of production consistently from players that we haven’t come to expect it from, perhaps the path back to being a winning team may not be as long as we’ve feared. It’s a big ‘if’ but still something to keep an eye on.

Weekly Book Report

30.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.0 bpg, 3.0 TO, 4.0 PF, 44.4% 3pt, 1 DNP-Injured

Random Stats: Devin Booker’s season average of 25.33 point per game is 5th in all-time single season ppg averages for Suns players. It also ties him with Russell Westbrook for the 8th highest ppg average in the NBA this season.

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com and LandofBasketball.com.


Game Highlights

Phoenix Suns vs Miami Heat - Full Game Highlights | March 5, 2018 | NBA Season 2017-18

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights / March 8 / 2017-18 NBA Season

Phoenix Suns vs Charlotte Hornets Full Game Highlights / March 10 / 2017-18 NBA Season


Quotes of the Week

”I’ve never in my life played any game – I don’t care if it’s Monopoly – trying to lose.” - Tyson Chandler (on tanking)

”I’m not going to lie. It’s hard to stay motivated for games sometimes going through a season like this. But like I said, as a professional and as a man you have a certain standard for yourself. So you try to keep that standard and even elevate it.” - Troy Daniels


Rookie Report

Josh Jackson - 23.8 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.7 TO, 2.8 PF, 26.1 3PT%

  • This week - 21.2 mpg, 4.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 3.0 TO, 1.0 PF, 20.0 3PT%, 1 DNP-Injured

Davon Reed - 10.1 mpg, 3.13 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.3 TO, 0.9 PF, 42.9 3PT%

  • This week - 15.2 mpg, 7.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.3 TO, 1.0 PF, 57.1 3PT%

Alec Peters - 8.6 mpg, 2.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.2 bpg, 0.1 TO, 0.3 PF

  • This week - 6.5 mpg, 4.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.5 PF, 40.0 3PT%, 1 DNP-CD

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


News & Notes

Suns GM: 2018 NBA Draft class has multiple players with star potential. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Phoenix Suns’ Troy Daniels believes putting in the work isn’t optional. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Oh, the Places You’ll Go to Tank NBA Games. Danny Chau/The Ringer

Fixing The Phoenix Suns. David Yapkowitz/Basketball Insiders

Suns still ‘fighting,’ but fall to lottery-bound Hawks late. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports/USA Today


Suns History in Video


Suns Trivia

Most 30-point performances this season (games played):

  • Anthony Davis - 25 (58 games)
  • LeBron James - 24 (64 games)
  • Russell Westbrook - 23 (65 games)
  • Devin Booker - 22 (52 games)

Previewing the Week Ahead

Tuesday, March 13 - Phoenix Suns vs Cleveland Cavaliers, 7:00 pm AZ time

Thursday, March 15 - Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz, 6:00 pm AZ time

Saturday, March 17 - Phoenix Suns vs Golden State Warriors, 7:00 pm AZ time

Another three games for the Suns this week, two at home and one on the road, and not an easy game in the bunch.

Tuesday night LeBron & company make their yearly visit to the Valley. Cleveland isn’t the Eastern Conference powerhouse team it once was but still more than a match for the Suns. They’re presently 4th in the East but are also in a dog fight with Indiana and Washington to determine seeds 3-5 in the Eastern standings so it’s doubtful that they will be giving LeBron any games off for “rest” any time soon. Chalk this one up as a loss for the Suns.

On Thursday the Suns head out to Salt Lake City for their final game of the season series with the Jazz. The Suns are 1-2 against the Jazz this season but I expect them to end up 1-3. They’re 8-2 in their last 10 games and in a very tough fight with the Clippers and Nuggets over the 8th playoff seed in the West, with a fair shot of one of those three also moving up to 7th if the Spurs keep slumping (they are 2-8 in their last 10 games). There’s no way they take this game lightly and very likely no way that the Suns can pull off an upset.

And finally the Suns return home for a Saturday night drubbing by the Warriors. Yes, the schedule makers saved the worst for last this week. If anyone needs me to explain why the Suns have virtually no chance at winning this game, you haven’t been following the NBA - at all - for quite a while.

My prediction for this week is that the Suns once again go 0-3.

What’s your prediction?


TankWatch 2018

The race for the bottom is still tight with only a 3 game separation between #1 and #7 but #8 Chicago has fallen to 5 games back of the #1 spot and are in danger of falling to 9th if the Knicks continue to lose. Memphis is still in the lead with the Suns in second place but that’s only due to the difference in the number of games played that gives the Suns a tiny .006 better winning percentage. No team has more than 16 games left to play.

Important Reverse Standings Game Schedule

Monday, March 12: Milwaukee @ Memphis, Sacramento @ OKC.

Tuesday, March 13: OKC @ Atlanta, Toronto @ Brooklyn, Dallas @ New York, LA Clippers @ Chicago, Orlando @ San Antonio, Cleveland @ Phoenix.

Wednesday, March 14: Milwaukee @ Orlando, Miami @ Sacramento.

Thursday, March 15: Charlotte @ Atlanta, Philadelphia @ New York, Chicago @ Memphis, Phoenix @ Utah.

Friday, March 16: Boston @ Orlando, Brooklyn @ Philadelphia, Dallas @ Toronto, Sacramento @ Golden State.

Saturday, March 17: Atlanta @ Milwaukee, Dallas @ Brooklyn, Charlotte @ New York, Cleveland @ Chicago, Denver @ Memphis, Sacramento @ Utah, Golden State @ Phoenix.

Sunday, March 18: None.

There are three tank battle games this week (all highlighted by bold print), all of which will create larger shifts in the reverse standings than the other games.


Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was, “Who is #1 on your draft time ‘wish list’ for the Suns?”

The results were:

85% - Deandre Ayton

08% - Luka Doncic

01% - Jaren Jackson Jr.

03% - Michael Porter Jr.

02% - Marvin Bagley III

01% - Other

There were a total of 231 votes cast.


This week’s poll is actually about you and how long you have been a fan of the Suns.

Poll

I’ve been a fan of the Suns for...

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Under 5 years.
    (8 votes)
  • 11%
    5 to 10 years.
    (26 votes)
  • 28%
    10 to 20 years.
    (68 votes)
  • 35%
    20 to 30 years.
    (83 votes)
  • 13%
    30 to 40 years.
    (33 votes)
  • 7%
    Over 40 years.
    (18 votes)
236 votes total Vote Now