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Center of the Sun: Phoenix Suns finish the week at 19-52, now #1 in reverse standings

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Thank you very much, Memphis.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

vs Cleveland Cavaliers L (129-107) Full Recap

@ Utah Jazz L (116-88) Full Recap

vs Golden State Warriors L (124-109) Full Recap

Well, we’re far enough into the season that I doubt that anyone still secretly hopes to see the Suns suddenly “click” and start playing mostly enjoyable basketball for the rest of the season. It kind of happened last year following the All-Star break and we still might see a bit of that again when Alan Williams finally returns later this week but probably on a much smaller scale... if at all.

Once again we’re mostly looking forward to the lottery and the off-season with all our hopes focused on what the Suns’organization might do to get this train-wreck of a team back on the tracks. And hopefully on the tracks to... somewhere. These past few years the Suns’ have reminded me of a toy train set that I got for Christmas when I was 5-6 years old. I loved that train set at first but just watching it endlessly travel in circles got old pretty fast.

Suns’ fans deserve more than a toy train that goes round and round but never really gets anywhere.

Changes need to be made. This team needs to show some progress next season. Some new players need to be added (and not just through the draft) and some need to be cut loose either in trades or by... other means. At the moment we have two players - Devin Booker and Josh Jackson - that I think are definitely part of the future in Phoenix but we are going to need much more than that to actually get anywhere.

There are many things to be fixed and this week I’ve asked the Fantable a few questions about how they would get started on accomplishing this. There are certainly more things that need to be addressed than what we will cover today but we’ll get around to those next week.


Fantable Questions of the Week

For these questions, I first told the Fantable members this: “We’re going to pretend that I am Robert Sarver. Before the team is even out of the showers following their final game, I fire Ryan McDonough and name YOU as the new GM shortly afterward.” After that, they come face to face with some of the questions that will need to be answered. As the owner, I will not interfere with any of their decisions.

1. Who do you hire as your new head coach?

This is the lottery sim that we’re using for the following questions. Unfortunately, the lottery balls were unkind to us again and we dropped to 5th in the draft. Hopefully this won’t actually happen in the real lottery drawing but you all know that it can so we’re going to start out from the ‘worst case’ lottery scenario point of view.

2. If the Suns were to fall all the way to 5th following the lottery, who do you think will be drafted by the first four teams and who would you draft at #5?

3. I honestly don’t see any way of using the 15th and 16th picks to trade up and get another top 10 draft pick but - other than that - what would you do with those two picks?

GuarGuar: 1) I would hire Monty Williams as the head coach this summer. He got the most out of that 2014-15 Pelicans roster (which was AD and mediocrity) and has tons of NBA experience. The year after he left NOLA they fell apart drastically and it’s taken until NOW for them to get back to that level (and that’s with a much more talented roster). I think he would be a phenomenal “stepping stone” coach for us like Mark Jackson was for the Warriors. We need to take this step by step. And the next step is becoming a contender to make the playoffs. I think Monty Williams is one of the best available coaching options to make that step.

2) Dropping to 5th after this bombshell of a season would be unbelievably awful. I can’t even fathom it. If the unthinkable did happen though, I would select Trae Young or Michael Porter Jr. (assuming he is healthy). The ideal player after Ayton/Doncic would be Jackson Jr. for me, but I can’t see him dropping to 5th. MPJ and Trae I think are the two next best talents, and we still are in take “Best Player Available” mode. I would not take Bamba as the last thing this team needs is another project big man. Trae/Booker is definitely a negative defensive backcourt, but Jackson guarding the top perimeter option every night makes me feel somewhat better about it. The Blazers have made it work with Dame/CJ on defense, so I’m hopeful we could make it work with Trae/Book.

Mini Mock of first 5 draft picks:

  1. Dallas- Ayton
  2. Orlando- Doncic
  3. Atlanta- Jackson Jr.
  4. Memphis- MPJ
  5. Phoenix- Trae Young

3) My stance for a while has firmly been on just draft with our own pick this summer, and trade the other first(s) for an established player. Packaging the 15th and 16th (if Mil conveys) would be a very attractive package to rebuilding teams. I certainly think if we packaged a TJ Warren or some salary it could net Kemba Walker (who’s contract is ending soon). This is assuming we draft Ayton or Jackson Jr. I don’t know if Charlotte is committed to a rebuild just yet (they should be though), and Kemba has stated his love for the Hornets. But if he is available this summer, I would certainly go after him.

Assuming I draft Trae Young, I would do a different trade for sure. Not exactly sure what kind of big man is available in a trade but that’s what I would target.

Sun-Arc: 1. Stephen Silas is still my #1 option. He is the son of the great player and coach Paul Silas (who was an assistant coach of the Suns at one point). Need more reasons? Ok- he was an assistant under Don Nelson at GSW and learned his offense, then coached under Steve Clifford at CHA to learn his defense. He was also the runner-up to Mike D’Antoni for the HOU job. He’s still young, at 44, and hungry. (For more on Stephen Silas, click here.)

Igor Kokoskov, Ettore Messina, or David Fizdale - in that order - would be my backup options.

Draft:

  1. DAL – Ayton
  2. ORL – Doncic
  3. ATL – JJJ
  4. MEM – Porter
  5. PHX - Bagley

My big board top five order would be Ayton, Doncic, Michael Porter, Bagley, JJJ – so whomever is at five of those players would be my pick.

I agree that the teams picking in the top 10 would not trade their pick for the 15 & 16 picks. But possibly- maybe- a team like Charlotte (#10) or the clippers (#11) would. Not saying I would do this for sure. But let’s say I thought Mikal Bridges or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had star potential and I wanted to ensure I could get that player, this might just be a possibility because those two teams could probably use another pick and may feel 10-11 is not that different than 15-16. We don’t need so many young players, so it could be worth it.

On the other hand, as GM I might want to trade/drop several of the young guys we currently have (Bender, Peters, Ulis, Chriss, and Reed) and use the picks to see if I can get lucky in the draft. I liked some of the dark-horses that Evan and others have pointed out that can be had lower down (Zaire Smith, Jontay Porter, Devonte Graham, and Issac Bonga for instance- though there is a good chance either of the last two could be had with pick #32).

Or possibly just draft BPA with every pick we have and stash or trade the others after summer league if necessary.

It all depends on what I could get for what we have to fill in better players around Booker and Jackson. If I have 8 really solid roster players I would use the picks and let them develop slowly behind the other players- you know… like a normal team would.

SDKyle: 1. I understand perfectly why others would disagree, but I’m still going David Fizdale. He’s young, but not a virtual coaching novice like Earl Watson. He’s won championships as an assistant and knows how to draw up an offense. He’s not a sure thing by any means, but I think he could be a great fit.

Mock draft:

  1. Dallas - Luke Doncic. Doncic seems like the pick Cuban would like.
  2. Orlando - Deandre Ayton. The Magic would be fools to pass on this franchise talent at #2.
  3. Atlanta - Marvin Bagley. The Hawks go for Bagley, trusting that his size and hustle translate to the NBA.
  4. Memphis - Michael Porter Jr. The Grizzlies try to talk themselves out of it, but can’t resist the allure of this potential scoring machine.
  5. Phoenix - The Suns get a consolation prize in Jaren Jackson Jr., a rim protector with range and star potential.

2. I think he may be right on the borderline of being available at #5, but I love Jaren Jackson Jr. at that spot. JJJ projects as a plus player at both ends of the court, with a decent degree of NBA readiness and some fairly developed skills. Chriss and Bender should start getting really nervous if he’s the pick.

3. I’m in favor of packaging the other first-rounders with a Tj Warren or Chriss or Bender to try to acquire a legitimate starting point guard. I definitely don’t want the Suns to use those picks just to load up the NAZ roster or fill up the end of the bench even more.

SouthernSun: I would hire Fizdale as the head coach. The man has tons of respect across the league, would help with free agent negotiations, and do miracles for the Suns player relations and respectability around the NBA. We need all the help we can get in that category. He also has a good relationship with the Suns current VP of basketball operations, so we actually may have a change of getting a meeting with him, unlike nearly every other qualified candidate. So there’s that.

1. Dallas - Ayton

  • Screw you Dallas. For this, and for beating the Suns in that game in 13/14 at the end of the season that knocked the Suns out of the 8th seed and kept them from the playoffs. But I understand. They have a good young point guard, and pairing him with Ayton is a dream come true for them.

2. Orlando - Doncic

  • Now that Ayton is off the board, the second best prospect in the draft will almost certainly be chosen here. Orlando traded away their floppy haired former point guard to the Suns for an expired pizza coupon, so now they have a glaring need at that position.

3. Atlanta - Jackson Jr.

  • Atlanta has point guard and power forward covered with two pretty good young players, so they go center here. Atlanta isn’t used to losing for extended periods of time, so I expect them to take a high floor player at this slot. Enter Jaren Jackson Jr.

4. Memphis - Porter Jr

  • Memphis goes here with something they’ve needed for pretty much their entire grit and grind period. Kind of sad that they finally get it after that’s over. A player who projects to be a premier perimeter threat who can stretch the defense out for Gasol, but can also score in a myriad of other ways.

5. Phoenix- Bagley III

  • As GM of the Suns, with the other highly touted prospects all but gone, I take the extreme versatility and huge talent upside of Marvin Bagley III. He can do it all (except defend, but hey... Suns). Realistically, the Suns need a point guard, a center, or a power forward. And i really don’t think either of those is more pressing than the other. In this situation, with the Suns dropping to 5th, I think it’s necessary to take best player available, and that is simply going to be Bagley (Sorry Trae, I don’t trust you).

As for the 2018 MIL and 2018 MIA, which in this case would be the 15th and 16th picks, I’m trading those for whatever sort of players I can get. No way am I bringing in more than one significant rookie this summer. This is already the youngest roster in the NBA. It’s time to go in another direction. I mentioned some deals last week. With the Suns drafting Bagley, I’d probably see about trading for Kemba to start ahead of Payton next season. Perhaps package both picks together in a trade for another point guard of note.

And Alex Sylvester is back for a second week as a guest member at the Fantable.

Alex Sylvester: 1) Quite possibly the most important (and toughest) part of the offseason; head coach of the Phoenix Suns. My choice? David Fizdale.

Reason: Is there a specific as to why I like Fizdale? Not necessarily. But Fizdale has respect around the league and seemingly meshes well with players that he coaches. I would rather delegate x’s and o’s to assistants and get a leader of men that will not be afraid to push our young core to its limit.

With the lack of a solidified HC candidate on the market, this would be my first choice. David has taken on big personalities before, and I’d love to see what he could do with a young roster. No problem if we go with Bennett as well.

2) Considering our position at 5, I have to go Michael Porter Jr. Booker needs a co-star offensively and I don’t believe Josh Jackson will ever be that. MPJ has the talent to be a top-3 pick easy, but his injury will have him slide to the Phoenix Suns at 5.

Draft:

  1. Dallas: DeAndre Ayton
  2. Orlando: Luka Doncic
  3. Atlanta: Marvin Bagley III
  4. Memphis: Jaren Jackson Jr
  5. Phoenix: Michael Porter Jr

I cannot fathom another season of Dragan Bender/Marquese Chriss starting at the 4, so this or Marvin Bagley would be my choice. Bagley went to Atlanta at 3 though, so Porter Jr will do the job!

3) I would offer TJ Warren on top of picks 15 and 16 to try to get the best possible player available on the market. You’d have to get a borderline all-star type talent or a legitimate young player in order to make this move, but I would do my best to make a move this way.

The Suns can’t continue to take on too many young players, so three lottery picks is not an option for me. However, if I can leave the draft with MPJ and Sexton (move 15/16 and a player for SAC #7)? I’d take it.

Summary: We’re going to try to follow up on this next week with some more questions and answers about how everyone would re-tool the Suns through free agency and trades. But as for now, here’s where everyone stands.

GuarGuar:

  • Head Coach: Monty Williams
  • Top Draft Pick (#5): Trae Young

Sun-Arc:

  • Head Coach: Stephen Silas
  • Top Draft Pick (#5): Marvin Bagley III

SDKyle:

  • Head Coach: David Fizdale
  • Top Draft Pick (#5): Jaren Jackson Jr.

SouthernSun:

  • Head Coach: David Fizdale
  • Top Draft Pick (#5): Marvin Bagley III

Alex Sylvester:

  • Head Coach: David Fizdale
  • Top Draft Pick (#5): Michael Porter Jr

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


Key Stats

13.0 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.7 blocks, 2.7 turnovers

Those wouldn’t be bad stats for an NBA power forward but, unfortunately, those are the combined season averages for Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss. Added to that are field goal percentages of 38.3% (Bender) and 40.5% (Chriss). As for their advanced stats... all of their offensive, defensive and net ratings fall in the bottom 20% of all NBA forwards. If you throw in Jared Dudley’s season averages it doesn’t move the needle much on those combined numbers but no one was expecting to need much from Dudley this season.

Something needs to change at the power forward position for the Suns before next season begins.

Weekly Book Report

14.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.0 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.0 bpg, 4.5 TO, 3.0 PF, 14.3% 3pt, 1 DNP-Injured

Probably the worst week of the season for Devin Booker but in at least one of the two games he played in he was trying to play with an injured shooting hand.

Random Stats: Josh Jackson was the Suns’ leading scorer last week with 24.0 points per game. Only five Suns players - Elfrid Payton, Marquese Chriss, Shaquille Harrison, Dragan Bender and Alex Len - have played in all 8 games this month.

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com and LandofBasketball.com.


Game Highlights

Cleveland Cavaliers vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | March 13, 2018 | NBA Season 2017-18

Phoenix Suns vs Utah Jazz - Full Game Highlights | March 15, 2018 | 2017-18 NBA Season

GS Warriors vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | March 17, 2018 | NBA Season 2017-18


Quote of the Week

“People have been asking me why come out and play if there’s only one month left and the playoffs are not a possibility. It’s because I’m a player. I’m a basketball player. That’s my job title and that’s what I want to do.” - Alan Williams


Rookie Report

Josh Jackson - 24.1 mpg, 12.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.8 TO, 2.8 PF, 27.1 3PT%

  • This week - 31.6 mpg, 24.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 2.0 spg, 0.7 bpg, 2.7 TO, 2.0 PF, 50.0 3PT%

Davon Reed - 9.3 mpg, 2.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.3 TO, 0.8 PF, 37.5 3PT%

  • This week - 5.0 mpg, 1.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.0 PF, 00.0 3PT%, 1 DNP-CD

Alec Peters - 8.2 mpg, 2.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.2 bpg, 0.1 TO, 0.3 PF

  • This week - 3.8 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.0 PF, 00.0 3PT%, 2 DNP-CD

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


News & Notes

How Alan Williams’ return can energize the Phoenix Suns. Real Sport

Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough: Team will conduct ‘wide-ranging’ coaching search. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Phoenix Suns’ Alan Williams: ‘I just want to get out there and play’. Craig Grialou/Arizona Sports

The Journey of Newest Sun Shaquille Harrison. Suns.com

Phoenix Suns: 5 players to watch in 2018 NCAA Tournament. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit


This Week in Suns History

On March 19, 1969, NBA Commissioner Walter Kennedy flipped a coin, Phoenix called ‘heads’ and it turned up ‘tails’. Thus, Milwaukee chose first in the NBA Draft, selecting Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) while Phoenix picked Neal Walk.

On March 22, 2000, the Phoenix Suns lost Jason Kidd for the remainder of the regular season after he broke his ankle in a 114-93 triumph over Sacramento at America West Arena. The following day the Suns announced that Kevin Johnson was coming out of retirement to help his former team in its time of need. Johnson, 34, whose career average of 9.2 apg ranks fourth in NBA history, had not played since the 1997-98 season.


Suns History in Video


Suns Trivia

Former Sun Larry Nance still leads the Suns in all-time career blocks (970), blocks in a single season (217), career blocks per game (1.93), single season blocks per game (2.65) and is second to Shaquille O’Neal (2.60) in career blocks per game in the playoffs (1.89)


Previewing the Week Ahead

Tuesday, March 20 - Phoenix Suns vs Detroit Pistons, 7:00 pm AZ time

Friday, March 23 - Phoenix Suns @ Cleveland Cavaliers, 4:30 pm AZ time

Saturday, March 24 - Phoenix Suns @ Orlando Magic, 4:00 pm AZ time

Another three games for the Suns this week, including a back-to-back on the road in the East.

Tuesday night the Suns face the Detroit Pistons at home for their final meeting of the season. Detroit has had it’s own share of losing lately but still have a very slim chance to make the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. It’s extremely unlikely that they make it and their 2-8 record over their last 10 games leads me to believe that they know that too. They’re still a better team than the Suns so I have to give them the edge although neither has much more than pride to play for now.

After a couple of days off, the Suns head to Cleveland for a quick rematch with the Cavs on Friday. I don’t expect the outcome to be any different this time around so chalk up another loss for the Suns.

And in less than 24 hours the Suns take on the Orlando Magic in Orlando. This game I would normally call a toss-up between the two but with the travel and lack of time between games I expect to see a very weary Suns team take the court against an Orlando that is well rested after a day off before the game. The Suns could surprise me but I’m calling this another loss for them.

It may be getting monotonous but once again I’m predicting a winless 0-3 week for the Suns.

What’s your prediction?


TankWatch 2018

As you can see, the Suns are at least temporarily 1st in the reverse standings due to the fact that they have lost two more games than the Memphis Grizzlies (both teams have 19 wins). There is now a four game separation between the 1st and 7th teams in the race for the bottom with #8 Chicago and #9 New York so far back that they will very likely wind up somewhere in the 6th-9th range when the season ends. Everyone else still has a fair chance of ending the season with one of the top 5 spots but I’d say that the #1 spot is down to just 4 contenders, Phoenix, Memphis, Atlanta and Orlando.

No team has more than 13 games left to play.

Important Reverse Standings Game Schedule

Monday, March 19: Memphis @ Brooklyn, Chicago @ New York, Detroit @ Sacramento

Tuesday, March 20: Toronto @ Orlando, Dallas @ New Orleans, Atlanta @ Utah, Detroit @ Phoenix

Wednesday, March 21: Memphis @ Philadelphia, Charlotte @ Brooklyn, New York @ Miami, Denver @ Chicago

Thursday, March 22: Memphis @ Charlotte, Philadelphia @ Orlando, Utah @ Dallas, Atlanta @ Sacramento

Friday, March 23: Phoenix @ Cleveland, Minnesota @ New York, Brooklyn @ Toronto, Milwaukee @ Chicago, Atlanta @ Golden State

Saturday, March 24: Chicago @ Detroit, Phoenix @ Orlando, LA Lakers @ Memphis, Charlotte @ Dallas

Sunday, March 25: Cleveland @ Brooklyn, New York @ Washington, Boston @ Sacramento, Atlanta @ Houston

There are four tank battle games this week (highlighted by bold print). The results of those games will create larger shifts in the reverse standings than the other games.


Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was, “I’ve been a fan of the Suns for...”

The results were:

03% - Under 5 years.

11% - 5 to 10 years.

29% - 10 to 20 years.

35% - 20 to 30 years.

14% - 30 to 40 years.

08% - Over 40 years.

There were a total of 237 votes cast.


This week’s poll is..

Poll

If the Suns do drop to 5th in the draft lottery, who do you hope the Suns can draft at #5?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Trae Young
    (30 votes)
  • 45%
    Marvin Bagley III
    (144 votes)
  • 26%
    Jaren Jackson Jr
    (86 votes)
  • 14%
    Michael Porter Jr
    (46 votes)
  • 4%
    Other
    (13 votes)
319 votes total Vote Now