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Center of the Sun: Suns win two of three to raise season record to 11-33

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The young Suns played very well in a week with Devin Booker sidelined.

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NBA: Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

vs Sacramento Kings W (115-111) Full Recap

vs Dallas Mavericks L (104-94) Full Recap

vs Denver Nuggets W (102-93) Full Recap

What a week. Bright Side Night was a big success as the Bright Side community helped send over 3,300 deserving kids to the Suns/Kings game and the Suns found a way to win two of three games without Devin Booker. The Suns also won those games with defense, something that was once thought extinct (or at least on the endangered list) in Phoenix.

Will they keep up that defensive effort in the weeks to come? Let’s hope so because one other thing that the Suns have needed - a starting point guard - seems to have been put on the back burner until the off-season.

When questioned about the Suns’ point guard situation on Tuesday, Vice President of Basketball Operations James Jones indicated that it would most likely be solved in free agency rather than through a mid-season trade. That’s not what many Suns fans wanted to hear but it might turn out to be the best option in the long run. Trades always involve players going out as well as coming in and to get more than a stop-gap point guard back in a trade, the Suns would have to part with at least one quality rotation player as part of the deal. As the Suns don’t actually have an excess of those, successfully adding a quality point guard through free agency would be the best way to improve the roster without possibly weakening it in another area.

There will be several free agent options during the off-season in enticing one of the better point guards into signing with Phoenix. In the two tables below are all of the free agent point guards (unrestricted and restricted) that should be available this year.

Unrestricted

Kemba Walker and Ricky Rubio are the headliners of this list and neither will come cheap. The trick would be convincing either to sign with the Suns over their current teams though. And there will almost surely be other suitors that will be doing their best to sell them on coming to their teams instead.

Restricted

This group has some interesting - and younger - options that could also cost the Suns less in salary. Being restricted however means that their present teams could decide to match whatever offer that the Suns make and leave the Suns empty handed.

Either way, the Suns will have to be prepared and move quickly. Simply choosing the best player to pursue might also not be the best option for the Suns. They will have to weigh the likelihood of being able to sign each play into the equation as well. With UFAs it will strictly be a matter of their interest in playing for the Suns but with RFAs they will also have to attempt to add in how determined their current teams are to keep them. Things will happen fast once free agency begins and if they choose the wrong player to concentrate on in the beginning, their second, third and maybe even fourth choices may be gone before number one makes up his mind (or his present team decides whether to match the offer or not).

Not acquiring an upgrade at point guard during this season has been extremely frustrating. However, at this point in the season, De’Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo have progressed enough that a trade for anyone that would be only a short-term solution seems... pointless. One of the duo might even end up being good enough that failing to acquire that “point guard of the future” this off-season might not really be a failure.

Time will tell on that but the progress that Melton and Okobo make between now and the beginning of the off-season will definitely play a role in whatever free agency decisions the Suns make.

2019 Free Agent tables courtesy of Spotrac.com.


Fantable Questions of the Week

1. On Bright Side Night, James Jones indicated that the Suns would most likely look for a point guard in free agency or the draft rather than through a trade. I don’t believe that what he said shuts the door on a possible trade near the deadline but it probably does negate the possibility of a trade for a ‘stopgap’ point guard. What are your thoughts on his comments?

GuarGuar: I don’t really look too much into these comments. The past has shown they typically don’t have much meaning. For instance, him and McDonough said they weren’t going to use all 3 draft picks during the last draft, they wanted to limit the incoming youth. Off-season happens and we bring in 4 rookies. It’s probably unlikely we bring in a point guard through trade anyways. If we were able to, it probably would have happened back in October. I’m really not a fan of drafting a point guard, I feel we need an established vet/star at this point in our rebuild. Free agency seems like the best option.

Sun-Arc: Jones’ comments are a mixture of desperation and realism. Sounded to me like he was exasperated from being shut out on trades for point guards and he is resigned to attempting to find one in free agency. I agree with others that he still could make a trade before the deadline or at the draft. Free agency may be our best bet because teams may not want to make a deal with the Suns at this point. The question is whether free agents may want to.

SDKyle: I resigned myself after Thanksgiving that the Suns weren’t going to make any meaningful point guard acquisition this season, so Jones’s comments didn’t surprise me. They did strike me as oddly naive for a man who has been around the NBA so long, though... so much so that I assume he was just making a lame excuse to cover for the fact that the organization just doesn’t consider it “worth it” to upgrade that position during an already lost season.

SouthernSun: I think it’s pretty delusional for the Suns to think that next summer, after almost assuredly posting one of the worst records in the league, they will be able to lure a top free agent point guard to Phoenix. Many other teams will have cap space, and almost all of them will have won more games the previous season than the Suns will have. It sounds nice to say “but look at all the young talent the Suns have, and they got another top pick coming too! Who wouldn’t want to come here!?” However the reality is that that’s a similar situation to what the Suns were looking at this past summer, and they would have been lucky to even get Marcus Smart to come.

Unless a trade is made this season to improve the team and win more games and make this team look less like hot garbage, or a trade is made on draft night that turns that shiny new draft pick into an all star player as opposed to yet another question mark, the number of high end free agents the Suns can get will probably be pretty small, if any at all.

If the Suns go into free agency without making a trade to consolidate some assets into win now talent, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them only be able to sign over the hill vets again for too much money (i.e. Chandler, Dudley, Ariza).

Maybe, just maybe they can get Russell to sign here due to his relationship with Devin, but he’s playing really well and Brooklyn has the option to match any offer.

I said this a couple months ago, but I’m mentally preparing myself for a best case scenario (if the Suns don’t make any trades to make themselves more appealing to free agents) of bringing in Terry Rozier and Thaddeus Young next summer. And that’s a pretty ho hum best case scenario. And it’ll probably be worse than that.

But woohoo! Tank, tank, tank! Lottery, lottery, lottery! Losing culture, losing culture, losing culture!

Alex Sylvester: I’m glad that they aren’t highly interested in a stopgap PG. There should be no urgency to make a move out of desperation simply to try to win a couple more games and appease the fan base. What should be the only focus is getting the starting point guard for next years team, whether that be at the deadline or during the summer.

It is weird that Jones doesn’t seem intrigued by the idea of acquiring the PG through trade. Are we going to go into the summer with the mindset of overpaying the best FA PG available? It seems like it with the comments he made.

2. Michael Carter-Williams is a name that has come up recently as a possible 10-day contract target for the Suns. What do you think of the idea of offering him a 10-day contract?

GuarGuar: I’m totally not in favor of signing MCW. He’s really bad and doesn’t fit with Booker at all. Melton and Okobo are playing well right now, and it’s much more important to me that they develop. If emergency situations arise, we always have Crawford and Point Book. MCW doesn’t add anything positive to this team.

Sun-Arc: MCW would be interesting to give a try out. I’ve never been really high on him, but at this point… why not? Well, I’ll give you a couple of answers why not.

  • First, there’s a reason why his minutes have dropped every season for the last three. He never improved and he’s never stuck to any of the six teams he’s played for, which is disconcerting. Is he a head case? A locker room cancer? Or just not that good? Do we want to find out for ourselves? Not really.
  • Is he a long-term fit next to Booker? He has really good size, he’s only 27, is known for defensive ability as well as passing. So far so good. But his shooting is abysmal, with an average of 25% from 3. His USG% is also pretty high, at near 24%- but higher when he was successful. And then there is the entire issue about his mental state. I would argue that Melton is at least as NBA worthy as MCW is, but already on the team. Feels like this could work against us to bring in MCW.

SDKyle: I’m neutral. He’s not a good player, but a ten day contract is virtually risk-less. So sure, bring on MCW. Or don’t. Whatever.

SouthernSun: I’m close to the point of just not caring whether the Suns do anything at all for the remainder of the season. And MCW doesn’t really get me excited at all. But hey, he’s probably better than the rookie drafted in the 2nd round the Suns have backing up the other rookie drafted in the 2nd round. So what the heck.

Alex Sylvester: Gross.

3. If the Suns do ride out the season without acquiring a point guard, who would be your number one free agent PG target this summer?

GuarGuar: I voiced my opinion very loudly during the off-season Fantables that I wanted us to really go after trading for Kemba Walker. I stand by the feeling that he’s the best target to go after in free agency this summer. Perfect fit for this system and next to Booker. He’s a fantastic shot creator, and solid facilitator. He’s cooled off a bit the last month or so, but man he was absolutely dominating for the first part of the season. He definitely would elevate us to the next level.

Sun-Arc: Irving, Walker, Rozier, Russell, Rubio, and Beverley. I would tend to think Irving and Walker are not available - but their teams might not be able to match a really high offer. Those two would be my top targets, for sure. But with all the teams out there jockeying for the best FA’s, we could lose out on them and other PG’s if we ignore the next tier.

Rozier, Russell and Rubio (the three R’s) would be next on my list. All have flaws and none are worth the max, but that’s what it might take to get them. Is that worth it? Hard to say. Rubio has experience and familiarity with Igor. He’s a pretty good fit next to Booker, too. However, will Rozier or Russell end up being better overall? All three are meh shooters. Russell is a meh defender but slightly better at scoring- though needs the ball more than the others.

I’m not interested in Beverley because of the lack of long-term fit. In my opinion he’d be yet another vet that comes here just to ‘dog’ it. No thanks.

My number one target would be Kemba Walker. I can’t see Irving coming here, but I can imagine Walker getting pretty tired of the poor supporting cast he has in Charlotte (who is over the cap with the player options that WILL be cashed in by the players). Rubio would be my second - but that would have to be right after midnight on free agency opening and only if Walker says “no F-ing way” to the Suns. If he strings us along, I’d go talk to Rubio straight away just in case. And like James Jones, my comments are a mixture of desperation and realism.

SDKyle: Kemba Walker, Tyreke Evans and D’Angelo Russell are all guys I’d take a long hard look at. All have flaws that you can make an argument against on, but they’re all players who would improve the team and who might listen to offers from the Suns. I wouldn’t go overboard on Evans given his poor performance this season, though.

SouthernSun: The number 1 target would be Kemba Walker. But he’s not coming, because the Suns suck at playing basketball, and haven’t really shown much to make anyone think they’re trying hard not to suck anymore. So the number 1 target then becomes Russell by default. Followed by Malcolm Brogdon. Then Terry Rozier. The one I think most likely to be a Sun next season is Rozier. Because the other players will have better options, and the Suns will probably be desperate enough to throw big-ish money at him.

Alex Sylvester: I can’t remember all of the FAs off the top of my head but I think DLo would be my guy. Kemba is a great player but he’ll more than likely double what any other guard will get on the market, and who knows how his body will hold up.

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


Key Stats

36.7 vs 52.0

Those numbers represent the number of points in the paint that the Suns gave up to opponents last week (2nd) versus their season average (28th). The Suns also averaged 13.0 steals last week (2nd and up from their 9.2 spg season average) and 8.0 blocks per game (3rd and way up from 4.9 bpg season average).

101.7 Defensive Rating

That was the DefRtg for Suns last week. It was 4th in the league for that stretch of games and far better than their 112.0 DefRtg (28th) for the season. Their offensive rating last week was down only slightly from their season rating (103.0 vs 104.2) even with Booker out for all three games.

Weekly Book Report

35.2 mpg, 24.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 6.9 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.2 bpg, 3.8 TO, 3.4 PF

45.2% FG, 32.6% 3PT, 84.3% FT

This week - DNP - Injury

Random Stats: In his 13 games with the Suns, Kelly Oubre Jr has averaged 13.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks in 25.7 minutes per game and has shot 37.0% from three. In last week’s games, he led the Suns in scoring with 22.0 ppg, grabbed 5.7 rpg, dished 2.7 apg, 2.3 spg, 1.0 bpg and hit 41.2% of his three point attempts in 30.8 minutes per game.

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com and/or Basketball-Reference.com.


Game Highlights

Sacramento Kings vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 01/08/2019

Dallas Mavericks vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 01/09/2019

Denver Nuggets vs Phoenix Suns Full NBA Highlights | 01/12/2019


Quotes of the Week

”I don’t really care about any type of attention I’m not getting. I just want to win. When you win, that’s how you get your attention. With team success comes individual accolades. We definitely need some wins. I am not complaining about anything. I just want to come out here and get W’s.” - Deandre Ayton

”I love it, man. I’m having so much fun out there with the guys, just having fun at practice, having fun at shootaround. But we’re all serious, focused and locked in on trying to get better, so that’s all I can ask for.” - Kelly Oubre Jr.


Rookie Report

Deandre Ayton - 31.0 mpg, 16.6 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 2.1 apg, 0.8 spg, 1.0 bpg, 1.8 TO, 2.9 PF

  • This week - 26.6 mpg, 15.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.7 spg, 1.7 bpg, 1.7 TO, 3.7 PF

Mikal Bridges - 26.1 mpg, 7.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.7 TO, 2.3 PF, 34.6% 3PT

  • This week - 23.0 mpg, 4.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.7 spg, 1.0 bpg, 0.7 TO, 2.3 PF, 60.0% 3PT

De’Anthony Melton - 21.3 mpg, 6.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.7 TO, 2.7 PF, 32.4% 3PT

  • This week - 29.6 mpg, 5.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 8.0 apg, 3.3 spg, 1.7 bpg, 2.7 TO, 4.0 PF, 14.3% 3PT

Elie Okobo - 18.4 mpg, 6.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.4 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.5 TO, 2.4 PF, 31.3% 3PT

  • This week - 19.4 mpg, 7.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.0 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.5 TO, 2.5 PF, 40.0% 3PT

George King - 5.9 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.0 PF

  • This week - DNP

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


News & Notes

Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker to donate $2.5 million to Suns Charities. ABC 15 Arizona

Is Kelly Oubre Jr. Worth Re-Signing For The Phoenix Suns? The Runner Sports

The Suns are one of the worst — again — but they might just be onto something. Greg Moore/Arizona Republic

Phoenix Suns: Kelly Oubre Jr. proving to be a great fit. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit

Deandre Ayton ain’t mad at Luka Doncic. Marc J. Spears/The Undefeated

Devin Booker’s back added to long list of injuries for young Suns star. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports


This Week in Suns History

On January 18, 1971, Phoenix forward Paul Silas set a franchise record with 27 rebounds in a 118-99 win over the Cincinnati Royals.

On January 19, 2016, Devin Booker scored 32 points in a 97-94 loss to the Indiana Pacers. It was the first game in his NBA career in which he scored 30 or more points.

On January 20, 1970, Cincinnati’s Tom Van Arsdale and Phoenix’s Dick Van Arsdale become the first brothers to play in the same All-Star Game. Dick scored eight points for the West team, while Tom scored five for the East, which won the game 142-135 at Philadelphia.


Suns Trivia

Devin Booker started this season 25th on the list of the Phoenix Suns All-Time Points leaders. The 770 points he scored this season have already moved him up to 18th on that list, passing Truck Robinson (19th), Clifford Robinson (20th), Goran Dragic (21st), Jason Kidd (22nd), Clem Haskins (23rd), Grant Hill (24th) and Eric Bledsoe (25th). His career total is now 4,890 points. Another 274 points this season will move him up to 17th passing Charlie Scott (5,163).

Passing Neal Walk (6,010) for 16th is possible but unlikely as that would require Booker to score a total of 1,121 points (29.5 ppg) over the remaining 38 games of this season.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Tuesday, January 15 - Phoenix Suns @ Indiana Pacers, 5:00 pm AZT

Thursday, January 17 - Phoenix Suns @ Toronto Raptors, 5:30 pm AZT

Saturday, January 19 - Phoenix Suns @ Charlotte Hornets, 3:00 pm AZT

Sunday, January 20 - Phoenix Suns @ Minnesota Timberwolves, 5:00 pm AZT

This week the Suns will start and finish a four game road trip... possibly with Devin Booker still sidelined. But the Suns seemed to learn how to play - and win - without Booker last week. He should return sometime this week but so far there is no timetable for his availability.

Getting a win in Indiana on Tuesday night is a tall order, probably too tall for the suddenly scrappy young Suns. If they can keep up the kind of effort they had against Denver for the entire game, they could keep it close enough to have a shot. It’s more likely that the Suns start this road trip out with a loss against a strong Pacers team though.

Thankfully, the Suns will have a day off before facing what could possibly be an even tougher test in Toronto on Thursday. The Raptors lead not only the East this season but the entire NBA in wins. The Raptors will however be on the second night of a back-to-back of their own after playing the Celtics in Boston on Wednesday night. If Boston makes life difficult for them in that game (double OT would be my preference), who knows what might happen but the odds are that the Suns wind up with another loss.

On Saturday, the Suns will be in Charlotte for a rematch with the Hornets who handed them a 119-113 loss in Phoenix on Jan. 6. Booker left that game early in the first half with the back spasms that have kept him sidelined since then. Whether Booker is back for this one or not, I think that the Hornets will see a different team than the one they faced then and the Suns get their first win of this road trip.

After the Charlotte game the Suns will have to hop right on their plane for a trip to Minnesota to face the T-wolves the following day. The Suns won their first matchup in Phoenix 107-99 on Dec. 15 but I doubt that they can do it again on the road. If -and it’s a big if - they can put the Hornets away early and keep from playing their starters extended minutes the night before, they might have a chance. Don’t count on that happening though and expect tired legs to carry the Suns to another loss.

This week I believe the Suns will go 1-3. If Booker returns and they can keep up the defensive intensity that we’ve seen lately, they might steal another win on the road but predicting 2-2 is still a stretch at best.

What’s your prediction?


Last Week’s Poll Results

Lat week’s poll was “Which of the Suns’ wings would you LEAST want to give up in a trade for a point guard?”

40% - T.J. Warren.

18% - Josh Jackson.

33% - Mikal Bridges.

08% - Kelly Oubre Jr.

A total of 285 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Do you still believe that the Suns will make a trade for a point guard before the trade deadline?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Yes.
    (11 votes)
  • 36%
    Yes, but only if they find a great deal at the deadline.
    (125 votes)
  • 60%
    No.
    (209 votes)
345 votes total Vote Now