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Center of the Sun: Training camp will begin soon... With Devin Booker on the sidelines

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Will he be out the full six weeks to recuperate from surgery?

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

In just eight days, training camp for the Phoenix Suns begins. Unfortunately, the Suns’ rising star Devin Booker will still be recuperating from surgery and may miss training camp, the preseason games and a few regular season games as well.

While this has created a good deal of angst among Suns fans, all is not lost. While Booker will not be able to participate in most training camp activities, he will still be there. You can count on him at least observing, listening to coach Kokoskov, and soaking up everything he can from the sidelines. While that’s not quite as good as actually participating in team practices, with a smart player like Booker, it should still help a great deal when he’s ready to return to the court.

The six weeks estimated recovery time is just that, an estimate. He could be out until Oct. 22, the date of the Suns’ third regular season game against Golden State, or perhaps he could return sooner. As much as I would like to see him return before Oct. 22, I hope that the Suns err on the side of caution and don’t try to bring him back too soon... or let him come back too soon. One thing that I vividly remember former Suns head coach Earl Watson saying about Booker was that he had to be careful with him because his desire to play was so strong that he would play hurt if he could get away with it.

Booker even said, “Lefty buckets coming soon” on Instagram shortly after his surgery and - as the photo on the right below shows — he wasn’t kidding.

How much coach Kokoskov will actually allow Booker to participate in training camp activities is a complete unknown, but there is little doubt that Booker will be there and learning as much as possible whether he’s on the court or on the sidelines. In fact, Booker missing training camp practices might be more detrimental to the other Suns players than to him. Booker already knows his role on the team. Some of the newer players don’t and their roles could change depending on Booker’s presence.

Without a starting-caliber point guard, Booker’s absence could be felt in more ways than just the points that he puts on the board. In a Def Pen article by Paul Headley, he points out Booker’s effect on the three-point shooting percentages of three of his teammates last season, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss. As you can see below, each of them shot threes significantly better following a pass from Booker than from anyone else.

  • Bender: Pass from Booker - 46.2% (Percentage overall - 36.6%)
  • Jackson: Pass from Booker - 38.2% (Percentage overall - 26.3%)
  • Chriss: Pass from Booker - 46.3% (Percentage overall - 29.5%)

Were Booker’s passes setting them up better than anyone else? Perhaps they were just getting easier shots because other teams’ defenses were keying in on Booker as the ball started out in his hands. Maybe a little of both, but the point is that Booker does make other players better when he’s on the court.

With him on the sidelines, who do the Suns plug into his spot in the starting lineup? Last season, it was often Josh Jackson or Troy Daniels which are also the most likely suspects this year, but with Igor’s new offensive and defensive schemes, no one can be certain. The Suns may also not be done with roster changes yet, and a new point guard could still be added... which means that some players presently on the roster could be moved out if that’s done by way of a trade.

All this conjecture might even prove pointless, as it is possible that Booker could be ready to play on opening night. I wouldn’t put that out of the realm of possibility.

In his first two seasons, Booker missed a total of only 10 games (including a few DNP-CDs early in his rookie season). Last season, he missed 28 games (34% of the season) due to injuries and he may start off this season missing a few regular season games due to his hand surgery. Because of last season and the recent news of his surgery, some have even begun to question his durability. I am not one of them, but it is not a concern that should simply be brushed off. Injuries are part of the game and can be the difference between a good season and a bad one for a team.

Before Booker’s surgery, there were many unanswered questions regarding the Suns. Now there are even more, and I’ve posed a few of those to the Fantable this week.


Fantable Questions of the Week

1. Do you consider Booker’s injuries over the past year a fluke or are you concerned that this could be the start of a pattern of injuries that might frequently keep him off the court?

2. If Booker does have to sit out games, who do you start in his place and who backs him up in the rotation?

3. Who becomes the Suns’ #1 scoring option in the starting lineup if Booker is out?

GuarGuar: 1. I definitely still consider Booker’s injuries as a fluke. He never had major injury in his life prior to the NBA. And while they may suck, none of Booker’s injuries should be considered major. The groin injury in Toronto is probably the only legit injury concern in my opinion. Can’t control getting getting kneed in the ribs by Cody Zeller. Can’t control jamming your hand in practice either. What can be controlled is the treatment method. It appears the Suns took a gamble the hand would heal on it’s own and that gamble failed. If Booker had the surgery back in March or during the beginning of the offseason, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. It’s just unfortunate timing.

2. I would probably start Troy Daniels or Mikal Bridges if Booker has to miss games. Floor-spacing is going to be key to Igor’s system, so if we inserted Josh Jackson or T.J. Warren at the two, I feel they would do more harm than good. Troy was okay in Booker’s absence in December last year (we went 3-6 during that stretch if I remember correctly). If Coach Igor feels Bridges is ready, then the obvious choice is probably him given his defensive capabilities.

3. This is a pretty tough question. If Troy or Josh start in Booker’s place, they probably lead the team in scoring. If Mikal starts, Ayton??? Anyone’s best guess really if our starting lineup is Elie Okobo, Mikal Bridges, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Deandre Ayton. Or maybe it’s the magical point guard we all are hoping the Suns trade for!

Sun-Arc: 1. I’m not concerned yet. This seems to be a type of freak injury. Given all the defensive attention he gets this doesn’t surprise me. If something like this keeps reoccurring this coming season, then I’ll be concerned.

2. The choices appear to be Daniels, TJ, JJ, Bridges, or Davon Reed.

Reed isn’t likely ready for a starting role. So let’s throw that out.

Daniels... we’ve seen him start. Wasn’t really all that impressed. He’s a career backup and really is not in the team’s future interest. So I’m going to take him out, even though I suppose he could be played to bump up his trade stock. I don’t think Igor does that. But I’ll give Troy a 10% chance of starting.

TJ has played the two in the past, but I don’t think this is his position in Igor’s system. So I’m going to throw that idea out, even though he has the most NBA experience of any of these choices. I think he’s not quick enough defensively to cover a guard. I’d give this a 10% chance of happening just because he’s got seniority over the other guys.

Bridges would have to outperform JJ to get this job. Which, frankly I think is totally possible because his shooting and defense are both likely NBA ready. He’s actually a few months older than Jackson, so its not like he’s that type of Rookie. He even played some PnR in college, so possible to play with Ayton initiating the offense. I’ll say this is possible. I give MB a 35% chance.

Josh Jackson has also played the two at times. He’s quick enough to guard either backcourt position. He has NBA experience and could be the go-to guy to play the offensive initiator, possibly even working the PnR with Ayton. Defensively, either he or Bridges would be pretty interesting next to Harrison and Ariza. I’ll give JJ a 45% chance.

3. This is where things get pretty ugly. A starting line up of... Shaquille Harrison, Jackson, Ariza, Anderson, Ayton is really interesting defensively but odd offensively. Harrison and Jackson are alright at passing - not great, but decent. All five have good BBIQ. Harrison and Jackson can create for themselves a bit too. In Igor’s motion offense, they’ll all have to pass quite a bit. Ariza and Anderson need to be fed the ball. So a lot of this will come down to Ayton.

Can Ayton be the #1 option on offense right away? Maybe. If he can, that will sure help a lot. If he is and can suck in defenses a lot, though, there are only two guys that can hit from the perimeter in Ariza and Anderson. This is one reason I think Bridges might get the nod here. Another shooter outside with Shaq and Ayton playing the PnR - or at least a type of two man game in the paint could leave three shooters outside with Mikal instead of JJ.

And if Ayton can’t really create or forcefully become the focus of the offense, then it would have to be up to JJ. And we saw, in summer league, what happens when JJ is the main point of the offense and is asked to create. It ain’t pretty.

Can’t say I’m excited to see this team play those first few games without a starting caliber player at either guard position.

SDKyle: 1. I’m not overly concerned about Booker’s injuries yet. None of them have been the kind of debilitating recurring problem that tends to spell trouble. He hasn’t had back surgery or a bad knee injury or anything like that.

Some players do seem prone to weird freak injuries, such as Kevin Love who seems to manage to miss 20 games a year with random broken fingers and such. But until Booker has a track record like that, I’m not wringing my hands too much.

2. As much as I think Ariza won’t have a great year for the Suns, it might make sense to just slot him in there, start Warren at SF and Anderson at PF, and let some combination of Bridges and Reed back him up. If Warren isn’t here by then, then move just start whoever looks better out of Bridges and Jackson at the SF with the other backing up Ariza. It’s a less than ideal situation that we hopefully wouldn’t have to live with for too long.

3. Ayton. Yeah, he’s a rookie. But there’s really nobody else we want doing it. We know what the Suns look like with Warren as the No. 1 option, and it’s ugly. Besides which, we may as well see how Ayton takes to that role in the NBA.

Ideally the roster shuffling isn’t done, though, and we’ll acquire a new player who can score the ball a bit and help alleviate the blow of Booker being out.

SouthernSun: 1. If it were knee/leg injuries then I would be worried, but this is a hand injury. I’m not that worried about it. I believe he will be fine moving forward. I suppose we will see this season. Hopefully it doesn’t become a trend.

2. I’d start Josh Jackson in his stead and have Troy Daniels back him up. Mikal will then back up Ariza, and Warren will back up Anderson. Jackson deserves the start over Mikal or Daniels. Hopefully he’s developed a serviceable three-point shot over the summer.

3. The number one scoring option in Booker’s absence would probably be Ayton, followed by Jackson, if you go by pure talent. This is really a bad situation to be in though... because they’ll need to completely change the game plan from how it will be when Booker’s playing.

Alex Sylvester: 1. I won’t consider Devin injury prone yet. Hand injuries in general seem to happen due to random plays/situations so it’s hard for me to put too much of that on him. If he starts to develop injuries to his legs or even something along the lines of multiple concussions, then I’ll start to feel a different way.

2. I think I’d go with Jackson/Warren/Ariza. I don’t like the weakness of the bench if you remove TJ or JJ from it, but this would be the best short term solution IMO.

3. I think TJ for the short term. If Deandre had half a season under his belt and looked good, I might think otherwise. But TJ has proven he can score 20-plus on any given night.

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


2017-18 Season Highlights

Phoenix Suns vs Dallas Mavericks 10 April 2018 NBA

Alec Peters Career High 36 Points/8 Threes Full Highlights (4/10/2018)

Shaquille Harrison 18 Points/10 Assists/3 Dunks Full Highlights (4/10/2018)

Dragan Bender DOUBLE-DOUBLE vs Mavericks Full Highlights (15PTS 13REB 2AST 2BLK) April 10, 2018


Quote of the Week

”With Igor Kokoskov and his staff coming in, they have new philosophies. They have a very high-level offensive system that I think our fans will really enjoy watching because it’s pretty impressive and has proven to be effective over time. That being said, the pieces have to fit the system and there has to be a role in the system for certain players, and if there’s not a role, we look externally to see if there are players we can bring in to fit the system and play a role better.” - Ryan McDonough (speaking about the trade with Houston)


Interesting Suns Stuff


News & Notes

Phoenix Suns should have been more forthcoming about Devin Booker’s hand injury. Greg Moore/Arizona Republic

Ranking the Best Young Guards In the NBA: Devin Booker. Paul Headley/Def Pen

Suns’ Devin Booker mocks conspiracy theories about his hand injury. Clutch Points

Phoenix Suns: 3 Reasons Why the Development of Josh Jackson is Crucial. NBA Analysis Network

The five biggest boom-or-bust moves of the 2018 NBA offseason. Dan Devine/ Yahoo Sports

Suns GM McDonough elaborates on trading Chriss, current PG situation. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Phoenix Suns Season Preview. Last Word on Pro Basketball

Are the Phoenix Suns really doomed by Devin Booker’s injury? (VIDEO) Katherine Fitzgerald and Greg Moore/AZCentral


Suns History in Video

Phoenix Suns: Story of a Franchise


Suns Trivia

Believe it or not, former Sun and current Net Jared Dudley had 96 blocks in a Suns uniform which ranks him 50th (tied with Mike Bantom) in career block totals for Suns players.


Previewing the Weeks Ahead

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

September 25 - Training Camp opens in Flagstaff at Northern Arizona University.

September 29 - OPEN team scrimmage at Talking Stick Resort Arena, 12 noon.

October 1 - Phoenix Suns vs Sacramento Kings, 7:00 pm AZT

October 3 - Phoenix Suns vs New Zealand Breakers, 7:00 pm AZT

October 5 - Phoenix Suns vs Portland Trail Blazers, 7:00 pm AZT

October 8 - Phoenix Suns @ Golden State Warriors, 7:00 pm AZT

October 10 - Phoenix Suns @ Portland Trail Blazers, 7:00 pm AZT

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

October 15 -- Rosters set for NBA Opening Day (5 p.m. ET).

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


Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was “Acquiring a starting point guard before this season starts is...”

44% - A priority, even if the Suns have to overpay.

56% - Not necessary if the Suns have to overpay.

There were a total of 169 votes cast.


This week’s poll is:

Poll

The Suns should...

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    Play it safe with Booker and not let him return until the full six weeks have past.
    (106 votes)
  • 41%
    Let Booker play earlier if he says he’s healed and ready to go.
    (74 votes)
180 votes total Vote Now