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Center of the Sun: Will the Suns put forth a strong showing in their first 20 games?

The Fantable and I discuss the possibilities at the start of the new season.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

For the Suns and their fans, the 2018-19 NBA season kicks off in 58 days with a nationally televised home opener against the Dallas Mavericks. All of us are anxiously awaiting that day and wondering how well (or badly) our Suns will perform this season. Until then, all we can do is speculate... and that’s exactly what we are going to do today.

The Suns are going to be better this year, but so are many other teams in the West. They’re still very young and are going to need some strong contributions from rookies and second- and third-year players to make significant progress. The Suns have nine players on their roster that fit that description. NINE.

We know what we have in Devin Booker, but the rest of the team is full of question marks. Everyone has high hopes for Deandre Ayton, the Suns’ first-ever No. 1 draft pick, but he has yet to play in a real NBA game. Will Brandon Knight’s play more resemble his 2014-15 performance in Milwaukee (when there was talk of a possible All-Star selection for him) or his 2016-17 performance with the Suns? I think we can all agree that Trevor Ariza is an upgrade for the Suns’ roster, but we have nothing but conjecture regarding how his presence will alter team performance.

They also have a rookie head coach. But Igor Kokoskov does have more NBA coaching experience than any other Suns head coach since Alvin Gentry took over back in 2008. Although he has no NBA head coaching experience, he did an impressive job coaching the Slovenian national team on their way to winning EuroBasket 2017, and he was the head coach of Georgia’s national team for three previous EuroBaskets. He has plenty of experience, but this will be his first year in the driver’s seat on the biggest stage in basketball. Hopefully, he will rise to the challenge.

All that piled together means we’re left with only our own guesses as to how well this team will perform this season.

Since the schedule came out, I’ve been specifically looking over the first 20 games. If the Suns get off to a good start, it would be a great confidence booster and help set the tone for the rest of the season. Last year, they were only 7-13 after 20 games with a fairly weak early schedule. Even taking into account the team drama at the beginning of that season (the firing of Earl Watson after three games and Eric Bledsoe’s “I Dont wanna be here” tweet that led to him being benched and ultimately traded), that was still a poor performance. This season, the first 20 games look tougher than last year so I’m really not very optimistic about the Suns getting off to a good start.

With so many unknowns, it’s difficult to make predictions but that’s we’re going to give it our best with the info that we currently have at our disposal. After training camp begins and we get the chance to watch a few preseason games, we’ll revisit and perhaps revise our predictions. Hopefully, by then we will all have reason to be more optimistic about the upcoming season.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Question #1: What is your prediction on the Suns’ record after the first 20 games this season?

GuarGuar: I predict the Suns to be 9-11 after their first 20 games. It’s a really brutal early schedule, and if we came out of it 9-11, I would be extremely thrilled. If this team has legit playoff aspirations, we need to be around .500 come December, when the schedule lightens up some.

Sun-Arc: After starting 1-7, we have a 7-5 run to finish off the first twenty at 8-12.

I don’t have hopes that this team looks super sharp right away. I’m really worried we lose that first game to DAL too and start 0-8. Somehow, I hope we squeak out that win, because the next seven games are going to be rough. I do think Igor and the team start to figure things out and string some wins together. I feel like I’m being optimistic with the win predictions, but eight is certainly possible.

I can imagine far less wins in this stretch. A pessimistic view would be something like 4-16 with the only “expected” wins against Brooklyn, Chicago and Detroit (assuming we lose opening night) with one upset thrown in there.

SDKyle: I’m going with an optimist outlook: 8-12.

SouthernSun: My optimistic prediction is that the Suns will be 9-11 after 20 games.

Rod Argent: I’m going with 8-12, although I was leaning very heavily toward predicting a 7-13 start based on the high level of competition to start.

Question #2: Individual Game Predictions

Question #3: Which game do you think is most possible to be a big upset victory for the Suns and why?

GuarGuar: I think there’s a decent chance we could pull off the upset over the Lakers in the fourth game of the season. It’s going to mostly likely take some time for LA to gel and we certainly could take advantage and win one at home. I would be pretty surprised if we lost all four games to the Lakers this year. I also think we beat San Antonio at home on Halloween, like we did in the 2014-15 season.

Sun-Arc: We could surprise the Lakers early on before they have their feet under them, though I don’t think we’ll have ours either. We could surprise the Spurs at home on Halloween, but they are always well-coached to start the season, and we may still not have our legs under us. I’ll go with two “upset” victories in a row at home against SAS and OKC. SAS because Igor figures them out a little bit and has our own team figured out a bit more by mid-November. OKC because we always seem to play them tough plus the same two reasons as the SAS upset.

SDKyle: As far as a game that would be a “big upset,” I think it’s the Celtics game. I picked us to lose, because I think the Celtics are a lot better, but I can see the Suns taking that game at home behind a big effort by Booker and a hot shooting night from Brandon Knight.

SouthernSun: I believe the biggest possible upset game the Suns could win against a good opponent during this first 20 game stretch could be the 11/17 game against the Thunder. It’s one of the Suns two games at home after a short two-game road trip, and right before a four-game trip. The Suns actually beat the Thunder last season at one point, with an even worse lineup.

Russell Westbrook will run rampant as always, but the Suns have the right kind of personnel to really work over the rest of the Thunder lineup. Josh Jackson, Trevor Ariza, or Mikal Bridges will be hounding Paul George all night, and I imagine this will actually end up being one of those games where Shaquille Harrison plays extended minutes, with his sole purpose on the court being to make life as difficult as possible for Westbrook.

The Thunder game plan is mostly Westbrook and George going to work and everyone else standing around, so if you can take those two out of the game, you stand a chance. Also, the Thunder aren’t exactly a premier 3-point shooting team, so even if the Suns have a slightly good night from behind the arc, and the Thunder are business as usual, then that could swing things in the Suns favor as well.

Rod Argent: Like GuarGuar, I think the Suns will upset the Lakers in the Oct. 24 game. They have three tough opponents (Portland, Houston and San Antonio) before coming to the Valley, and I think they’ll come in happy for an “easy” game and get surprised by the Suns. Plus, I’m not sold on how well (or how quickly) the new Lakers will gel into a team.

I also think the Suns have a good shot at winning one of the three games with Oklahoma City, especially the Nov. 17 game in Phoenix. They are a very good team, but not one of the elite teams in the West anymore, so I believe that the Suns could get a win on one of those nights.

Many thanks again to our Fantable - GuarGuar, SDKyle, Sun-Arc and SouthernSun - for all their input! (Alex Sylvester did not participate this week.)


2017-18 Season Highlights

Phoenix Suns vs Memphis Grizzlies Full Game Highlights February 28, 2018 2017 18 NBA Season

Devin Booker Full Highlights Suns vs Grizzlies (2018.02.28) - 34 Points, CLUTCH!

Josh Jackson SICK Full Highlights Suns vs Grizzlies (2018.02.28) - 29 Points, 7 Reb, 2 Blocks


Quote of the Week

”I already know how I can help and how I can play with them. I know their strengths and weaknesses just from watching them all season. Hopefully it will be quick building chemistry with them once I get back in, once I get back playing.” - Brandon Knight


Interesting Suns Stuff


News & Notes

2018-19 Phoenix Suns Must-See Matchups. Suns.com

There’s a chance: Bovada gives Suns’ Booker slim odds of winning MVP. Kevin Zimmerman/Arizona Sports

Brandon Knight Returns with Renewed Focus on Leadership. Suns.com

Phoenix Suns: 3 reasons Devin Booker’s extension was a no-brainer. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit


Suns History in Video

1976 NBA Finals Game 5 - “The Greatest Game Ever Played”


Suns Trivia

On April 17, 1989, the Phoenix Suns defeated the Sacramento Kings, 140-85. That 55-point win remains the largest margin of victory in Suns history. Although it is their only 50-plus point win, the Suns have won a total of 12 games by 40 points or more in their 50-year history.


Previewing the Weeks (and Months) Ahead

Aug. 31 - Last day for teams to waive players and apply the stretch provision to their 2018-19 salaries.

Aug. 31 thru Sept. 15 - 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup (China).

Sept. 5 - Last day for teams to issue required tenders to unsigned second-round picks; those players become free agents on September 6 if not tendered.

Sept. 7 - Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 Enshrinement Ceremony.

Sept. 21 - First allowable date for players participating in preseason NBA Global Games to report to their teams (no earlier than 11 a.m. local time).

Sept. 22 - Training camps open for all teams participating in preseason NBA Global Games.

Sept. 24 - First allowable date for all other veteran players to report to their teams (no earlier than 11 a.m. local time).

Sept. 25 - Training Camps open for all other teams.

Oct. 1 - Phoenix Suns vs Sacramento Kings, 7:00 p.m. AZT

Oct. 3 - Phoenix Suns vs New Zealand Breakers, 7:00 p.m. AZT

Oct. 5 - Phoenix Suns vs Portland Trail Blazers, 7:00 p.m. AZT

Oct. 8 - Phoenix Suns @ Golden State Warriors, 7:00 p.m. AZT

Oct. 10 - Phoenix Suns @ Portland Trail Blazers, 7:00 p.m. AZT

  • Home games will be streamed live on Suns.com through the RISE Network.

Oct. 17 - Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks in the 2018-19 season opener!


Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was “Do you think that the Suns still might make a big trade before the season begins?”

15% - Yes.

43% - No.

42% - Only if a great opportunity pops up out of nowhere.

There were a total of 314 votes cast.


This week’s poll is:

Poll

How many wins do you think the Suns will get in their first 20 games?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    More than 10 wins.
    (64 votes)
  • 29%
    9 to 10 wins.
    (120 votes)
  • 38%
    7 to 8 wins.
    (157 votes)
  • 15%
    6 wins or less.
    (62 votes)
403 votes total Vote Now