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Center of the Sun: Shorthanded Phoenix Suns lose another four games, fall to 19-59

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There were some bright spots this week, just not enough to add up to a win.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

vs Boston Celtics L (102-94) Full Recap

vs LA Clippers L (111-99) Full Recap

@ Houston Rockets L (104-103) Full Recap

@ Golden State Warriors L (117-107) Full Recap

You have to give the Suns a hand for the way they played this past week. Without many of their best players, they fought hard in every game and even though they lost all four, they kept the games much closer than many fans thought they would against some of the best teams in the NBA. It’s been a trying season for the team and fans alike but it’s almost over.

There are just four more games and a little over a week until this season is over for the Suns. At that point, they and 13 other teams will start preparing for next season instead of the playoffs.

If you are a very young Suns fan and don’t really follow the rest of the NBA, you may not realize that there are these games called “playoffs” that many other teams continue playing in after the regular season ends. They are not a myth, they really exist and the Suns used to be a part of them.

Unfortunately, finding a way to get the Suns back into the playoffs seems to have become as difficult as finding Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster or a UFO. Hopefully it won’t be as difficult as finding Bigfoot and Nessie actually flying a UFO... although I’m beginning to wonder which one I’ll actually see first.

One of the many things that the Suns will need to find in their quest to return to the playoffs is a starting point guard. With all due respect to Elfrid Payton, Tyler Ulis and Shaquille Harrison, they aren’t the answer. The answer is out there - somewhere - and there are three ways that they can possibly acquire the point guard that the Suns need: 1) The draft, 2) by trade or 3) through free agency.

Will the Suns find that answer before next season begins?

Your guess is as good as mine but I’ve asked the Fantable to mull over the various possibilities.


Fantable Questions of the Week

The Suns have a pretty wide range of choices to fill in the 2nd and 3rd PG slots (Elfrid Payton, Tyler Ulis, Shaquille Harrison and Isaiah Canaan) but they desperately need a starting caliber point guard next season. What are the Suns’ options for getting someone to fill that hole in the lineup? Draft Luka Doncic or Trae Young with their top draft pick? The name most often brought up as a trade target is Kemba Walker but are there any other potential options that might be available through a trade or in free agency?

Which two of the four potential backup PGs that I mentioned would you prefer that the Suns keep on the roster?

GuarGuar: If we dropped out of the top 2 and Ayton/Doncic were gone, I would totally be okay with drafting Trae Young. While he is almost a sure thing to be a negative defender, I’m a believer in his vision and elite 3 point shooting ability. I feel much more comfortable drafting him because of Josh Jackson. Jackson can defend the top perimeter threat on a nightly basis, allowing us to try and hide Trae for a good amount of games. Doncic would solve our PG problems immediately. A Doncic/Booker/Jackson 1-3 would be really dynamic offensively as all 3 can score at a high level and facilitate for others. It would also be easier to switch everything on defense considering the similarities in height/size. There really aren’t any free agent point guards that we have a shot to grab outside of Fred VanVleet. Fred has been an excellent backup PG for the Raptors, leading the best 2nd unit in the league. I’m not sure if Fred would be an above average starter, but he would certainly hold is own and facilitate for others nicely. I’m not sold going with Fred, but if other options fail he certainly is viable.

Out of the four 2nd/3rd string point guard options, I probably would take Ulis and Canaan. I really love Shaq though and I think he has value as a backup 2 guard if he can work on that jumpshot. I was really impressed with Canaan in his time here, and assuming he gets back to full strength he would be my backup PG. He’s the best shooter out of the 4, and this team needs shooting badly. Ulis has really turned it on in the past month and won me over. He looks healthy and is playing in a great rhythm. Shaq’s defense is a breathe of fresh air, but he is just such a negative offensively I can’t see him running an offense right now. I like him more as a shooting guard (as ironic as that sounds).

Sun-Arc: I have written two fanposts about this subject. The first was on January 10th where I compared Walker, Dennis Schroder, Payton, and Spencer Dinwiddie. The conclusion of those four was Walker was the safe bet and Dinwiddie a gamble, but likely less expensive to acquire.

Then on January 31st, I wrote another fanpost comparing Avery Bradley, Tyreke Evans, Payton, Walker, and Eric Bledsoe (for comparison sake). In this case I put forward the case that if we cannot get Walker, Evans may be the safest choice of who is left and also probably the easiest and cheapest to acquire, as he’s an UFA that is under the radar. Many around here think acquiring Evans is foolish. And it would be if there is a better starting caliber PG available. But look at the comparison from that 2nd post and you’ll see that the 6’-6” Evans is superior to most of these guys in many stat categories including 3pt shooting, defense, rebounding, PER, VORP, WS, and passing. Plus he’s the biggest and strongest of all these guards. So - as a fall back option - he could be easily gotten for an overpay for a season or two that is likely still under $10m/season.

I would love to have John Wall on the team. Rather unlikely to happen.

I would really love to draft Doncic, which would mean the above conversation is moot. But I’m not putting my hopes on getting a top 2 pick in this draft, given our lottery track record.

I would love to have Kemba on the team. Unlikely without taking on Marvin Williams huge contract, which is unsavory.

Those three are best potential candidates for the ‘win-now’ options.

Tyreke Evans is a fall back if we miss out on the above.

Bradley would be a good next choice, but will likely be expensive and require a long-term deal. His play since leaving Brad Stevens’ coaching has not been stellar, so this might be a gamble at what it will take to get him.

Dinwiddie might be gotten. His shine wore off a bit as the season went on. How much of his current shine is real or a product of the Nets’ team? It’s a bit of a gamble, but he’s got the size and tools to be a decent starting PG right now and possibly grow into more.

Terry Rozier is looking good in Stevens’ system too. How much of that would transfer? And would the Celtics part with him? I seriously doubt it.

Those four would be good stop-gap players, though I think the bottom two are serious longshots to acquire this summer. I’m also not sure those last two are starting PG material for a playoff team. I’m not sure any of the four are, actually.

I’m not as high on Trae Young as others. And even if we do draft him, call me skeptical that he’ll be a win-now PG in his first season or two. So, we’d have to take a stop-gap player in the short term if we want to actually start winning more games than our current season, which leads us back to Bradley or Evans, of which (again) Bradley will require big money and four years.

Kemba, if Charlotte were to trade, would be a good stop-gap for one season as his contract expires after next season. And Marvin Williams is a meh PF vet pick up that would be an immediate improvement over Quese and the Dainty one.

As for who I’d keep of the four current backup PGs we have: Easy choice for me with Harrison as one of them. I love Ulis’ game when he plays well, but seems sort of, well, fragile. And he’s so undersized on defense that he gets abused all too often. But for the 2nd of the four I’d have to go with Canaan. I really liked Canaan’s game before the injury.

Semi-realistic conclusion:

  • Draft Ayton, Bagley, JJJ, or Bamba
  • During the draft, trade picks 15&16&32 plus Dudley, Chandler, Daniels, and Quese for Kemba and Williams
  • Go hard after Capela (swing and a miss!) and Aaron Gordon (hit!)
  • Kemba / Harrison / Canaan
  • Booker / Knight
  • Jackson / Warren
  • Gordon / M. Williams
  • Draft big / A. Williams

SDKyle: Kemba Walker is the only PG option out there that I’m especially excited to trade for, as most of the other options have considerably more flaws of various types.

I like Jrue Holiday pretty well, but not his $26 million salary. I’ve soured on Dennis Schroeder and D’Angelo Russell. I like Malcolm Brogdon as a guy to just bring the ball up and then create spacing for Booker with his shooting ability, but he’s already on a contender. I’d take Tyreke Evans if Memphis is ready to talk...

As for the backups, I say keep Ulis and Harrison. Both seem to be well-liked hard workers who are happy to try to contribute in whatever limited way they’re asked to. Payton was a decent rental but I don’t see an upside to keeping him around because he lacks either of the two major things we want out of that spot...defense and shooting.

SouthernSun: The Suns have three options this summer when it comes to acquiring the starting point guard they so need. Three avenues. Draft, free agency, or trade. Draft and trade are the most likely in my opinion.

If the Suns miss out on Ayton in the draft and end up with the second pick, I’m all in on drafting Doncic. He could immediately step into the starting point guard role. I don’t have the same confidence in Young.

If we miss Doncic in the draft, we can always look to free agency, but again, I find this route the most unlikely. The only enticing players are Marcus Smart and Chris Paul, and the latter is extremely unlikely to come here. Avery Bradley is another guard often mentioned, but he isn’t quite the caliber passer the Suns need beside Booker. He’s a good 3 and D player, though. Booker isn’t a good enough playmaker to be the primary one on the court every night.

Kemba is high up on my list of potential trade candidates. The Suns should also kick the tires on trades for Lillard, D’Angelo Russell, John Wall, and CJ McCollum.

As for which of the backups I’d stick with next season, it depends on a few things.

  • Does Tyler Ulis keep up his current level of play for the remainder of the season
  • How Shaq Harrison continues to perform
  • How much Elfrid Payton will sign for over the summer
  • How the Suns medical staff feel about Canaan’s recovery

If Elfrid will sign for 5 mil a year to be the backup, then I’d probably keep him and Shaq. If Ulis continues to play like he is now for the remainder of the season, he may actually be a nice sweetener in a trade package.

Alex Sylvester: The Suns have been significantly lacking in point guard production since the day Eric Bledsoe was benched (for #Timeline purposes). I cannot fault McDonough much for Eric Bledsoe deciding not to want to be hair three games into the year, but it’s certainly done a number on the Suns chances of winning games this season.

As for next year, there are a variety of ways the Suns can address the position. The draft has only one “PG” that warrants discussion for the Suns to take with their first pick (Doncic could very well be a SF with his size (6’8’’/ 228).

However, if the Suns were to select #1 overall, I’d prefer DeAndre Ayton. There’s no way I’d want our starting PG next year to be one of the other 1st rounders we have, so let’s examine the three main free agents I’d target:

  1. Patrick Beverley (UFA): I really like the fit next to Devin Booker, and it’s obvious the Suns need to upgrade their roster defensively. Coming off an injury that led to a short season, Beverley could very well be had for a good price. I could see a one year prove-it deal working or even a three year deal with some team options.
  2. Avery Bradley (UFA): Oh look, another hurt Clipper! Bradley, like Beverley would be an overall good fit for this roster. The reason I have Bradley beneath Beverley is the fear he might cost twice as much. The Suns have been rumored to be interested in Bradley, so this might be a reality. Seen as a SG, Bradley would be able to guard most PG’s with no issue.
  3. Marcus Smart (RA): I am not so high on this considering he’s a restricted FA, but Smart is an intriguing player. I’d be less inclined to want Smart considering his lack of a consistent three point shot (30%), but if Boston were looking to move on altogether, I could potentially get behind this move.

Trades: Kemba Walker would be a great trade target for the Suns, but my absolute dream would be to somehow come up with Damian Lillard. I doubt this is realistic considering Portland’s success of late, but you never know.

Last, I feel that Tyler Ulis and Shaquille Harrison will be on this roster next year. Both will be cheap to keep around, and each have shown some encouraging signs with their play to end the season. Payton was a good risk to take, but I don’t see him sticking around after this year.

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


Key Stats

30.2 minutes, 13.9 points, 6.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 44.7% FG, 34.6% 3PT

Those are Tyler Ulis’ stats for the past two weeks (7 games). His FG and 3PT percentages for that time are significantly higher than his season averages of 38.5% and 28.4% respectively. The slow recovery from off-season surgery and then lingering back problems are over and we’re finally getting a glimpse of the Tyler Ulis that we saw at the end of last season.

Weekly Book Report

4 DNP-Injured

Get well soon, Devin!

Random Stats: The Suns have won only 9 home games this season. The record for fewest home games won in a season is 11 and was set by the 1968-69 Suns team that finished 16-66. Their 15 game losing streak is the longest in franchise history. The previous 14 game losing streak extended over two seasons (1995-96 and 1996-97).

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


Game Highlights

Boston Celtics vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights / March 26 / 2017-18 NBA Season

LA Clippers vs Phoenix Suns - Highlights | March 28, 2018 | 2017-18 NBA Season

Phoenix Suns vs Houston Rockets - Full Game Highlights | March 30, 2018 | NBA Season 2017-18

Golden State Warriors vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights / April 1 / 2017-18 NBA Season


Quote of the Week

”He is what we had hoped. Great defensive player who can never let down with the energy he brings. If you’ve got something you can hang your hat on, make sure you hang your hat on it everyday.” - Jay Triano on Shaquille Harrison


Rookie Report

Josh Jackson - 25.2 mpg, 12.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.9 TO, 2.8 PF, 26.1 3PT%

  • This week - 36.4 mpg, 22.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.0 spg, 0.8 bpg, 3.0 TO, 3.3 PF, 28.6 3PT%

Davon Reed - 10.9 mpg, 2.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.4 TO, 0.7 PF, 32.1 3PT%

  • This week - 14.1 mpg, 5.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.5 TO, 0.5 PF, 33.3 3PT%, 2 DNP-CD

Alec Peters - 10.2 mpg, 2.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.1 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.1 TO, 0.4 PF, 20.0 3PT%

  • This week - 17.6 mpg, 3.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.3 TO, 1.3 PF, 22.2 3PT%, 1 DNP-CD

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


News & Notes

Season Autopsies: Can the Suns’ Devin Booker be the next superstar? Clutch Points

NBA prospect DeAndre Ayton wants to play for the Phoenix Suns. Give Me Sport

Shaq Harrison believes he belongs: With the Suns, he just might. Kevin Zimmerman/Arizona Sports

Suns face crucial summer as they try to escape bottom. Fanrag Sports

NBA Rumors: Alex Len will likely leave the Phoenix Suns in free agency. Sir Charles in Charge

Suns’ former guard Isaiah Canaan making rapid progress after gruesome ankle injury. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Devin Booker has made the jump to NBA superstar. A Sea of Blue

A ‘healthier’ Tyler Ulis playing better ball for Phoenix Suns. Craig Grialou/Arizona Sports


This Week in Suns History

April 6, 1993 – With 1.6 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, the Suns were down by two points after losing a 20-point lead on the LA Lakers. The inbounds pass goes to Dan Majerle who makes a 33-foot three-point basket for a 115-114 win and the Suns’ first-ever season sweep of the Lakers. Majerle jumps on the scorer’s table to celebrate as the cheers last for several minutes.


Suns History in Video


Suns Trivia

Former Suns and present Basketball Hall of Fame inductees Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill and Charlie Scott combined for 24,686 points, 12,000 assists, 6,850 rebounds and 1,696 steals for the Suns.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Tuesday, April 3 - Phoenix Suns vs Sacramento Kings, 7:00 pm AZ time

Friday, April 6 - Phoenix Suns vs New Orleans Pelicans, 7:00 pm AZ time

Sunday, April 8 - Phoenix Suns vs Golden State Warriors, 6:00 pm AZ time

The Suns will play three of their final four games this week and at least one - against the Kings - could be a win. But with so many players on the injured list for the Suns, calling that game as a possible win could still be a stretch so I’ll call it a tossup.

The Pelicans are still fighting not only for their final payoff position but to stay in the playoffs as both the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets are nipping at their heals as they try to fight their way in. I expect the Suns to play hard but I don’t see the possibility for a win.

Normally I’d say that they Suns have no chance to win against Golden State but by the time this game rolls around they may feel as though it’s in their best interests to rest their best players before the playoffs begin. Considering how Sunday’s game against the Warriors went, I’d give the Suns a fair chance of pulling of a win if that were the case... and Devin Booker has recovered enough to play.

My prediction for this week is that the Suns go 1-2.

What’s your prediction?


TankWatch 2018

The Suns remain first in the reverse standings with just four games left to play. Memphis is still in second place but now 2.5 games behind with Atlanta and Orlando in third and fourth at 3.5 and 4 games back respectively. I really doubt that the Suns will win enough of their last four games to fall out of the top three before the end of the season and it’s impossible for them to drop further than a possible tie for 4th with Dallas even if they win all four of the remaining games and Dallas loses all 5 of their remaining games.

In case of a tie, the lottery balls would be split equally between the two teams with a coin flip determining which team would be #1 and get the extra combination. Normally the #1 team would have a 25.0% chance of winning the #1 pick and the #2 team would have a 19.9% chance. If a tie occurs, the team winning the coin flip would have a 22.5% chance of getting the 1st pick and the #2 team would have a 22.4% chance.

None of the top 9 teams in the reverse standings have more than 6 games left to play.

Important Reverse Standings Game Schedule

Monday, April 2: No games scheduled.

Tuesday, April 3: Brooklyn @ Philadelphia, Atlanta @ Miami, Orlando @ New York, Charlotte @ Chicago, Portland @ Dallas, Sacramento @ Phoenix

Wednesday, April 4: Dallas @ Orlando, Miami @ Atlanta, Memphis @ New Orleans

Thursday, April 5: Brooklyn @ Milwaukee

Friday, April 6: Dallas @ Detroit, Charlotte @ Orlando, Atlanta @ Washington, Chicago @ Boston, Miami @ New York, Sacramento @ Memphis, New Orleans @ Phoenix

Saturday, April 7: Milwaukee @ New York, Brooklyn @ Chicago

Sunday, April 8: Dallas @ Philadelphia, Atlanta @ Boston, Detroit @ Memphis, Orlando @ Toronto, Golden State @ Phoenix

There are five 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, “Do you think that the Suns will win any of their final 8 games?”

32% - Yes

23% - No

45% - I hope not... we need all the lottery ping-pong balls we can get.

There were a total of 146 votes cast.


This week’s poll is about the NBA Lottery. Every time the lottery rolls around, there are always some who claim that it is rigged. I’m curious as to how many actually believe that.

Poll

Do you believe that the NBA Lottery is "rigged"?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Yes
    (88 votes)
  • 39%
    No
    (102 votes)
  • 25%
    Maybe
    (66 votes)
256 votes total Vote Now