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Center of the Sun: A winless week for the Suns leaves them 11-37 for the season

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Wins in the two close games could have easily made it a 2-2 week but... you know what they say about horseshoes and hand grenades.

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

@ Indiana Pacers L (131-97) Full Recap

@ Toronto Raptors L (111-109) Full Recap

@ Charlotte Hornets L (135-115) Full Recap

@ Minnesota Timberwolves L (116-114) Full Recap

It was another painful week for Suns fans. Four losses on the road, two blowouts and two last second losses by two points. I’m honestly not sure which hurt the most but I’m leaning toward the close losses. I hate getting getting my hopes up only to have them dashed in the end.

A few days ago, my fellow BSotS staff member Keith M. Scheessele wrote an article about the Suns’ rookies doing karaoke at the 2019 Jump Ball Gala. While the rooks did an okay job (I may be exaggerating a bit), the feature act should have been James Jones and/or Robert Sarver doing the 1965 Beatles classic, “Help!”

In case you’ve forgotten how it goes (or have somehow never heard it), the opening lyrics are:

  • Help! I need somebody
  • Help! Not just anybody
  • Help! You know I need someone
  • Help!

It seems like it could be an appropriate theme song for the Suns to me. There are so many problems with this team that a lot of help is needed. The good news is that a lot of those needs (a point guard, a real power forward, stronger defense, etc.) are obvious. The bad news is that fixing those things isn’t going to be as easy as pointing them out.

With the trade deadline (Feb. 7) swiftly approaching, time is running out to do anything this season. Unless an unexpected trade opportunity pops up as the deadline approaches, perhaps the best thing for the Suns to do is just to experiment with different lineups and rotations for the rest of the season.

With that in mind, I asked the Fantable what lineup/rotation changes they thought the Suns should try before this season ends.


Fantable Questions of the Week

1. The Suns current starting lineup of Melton, Booker, Bridges, Warren and Ayton obviously has flaws. With only the players currently on the roster, what lineup and rotation changes would you make to attempt to fix them?

GuarGuar: There’s a couple issues with the current starting lineup (writing this after Charlotte game, so if it changes Sunday, be aware). Melton is a complete liability on offense next to Booker. He has to be able to shoot better than he has. His playmaking is also pretty inconsistent on a game to game basis. He isn’t good at getting the ball to Ayton. TJ Warren is also a poor fit in the starting lineup next to Booker and Ayton. While TJ has turned into a very good floor spacers, his tunnel vision and horrific defense make him a negative on the court next to Book/Ayton. I believe Warren has the worst net rating of all our wings in a Booker/Ayton lineup. Analytically speaking, our best lineup would be:

Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson, Kelly Oubre, Deandre Ayton

That lineup has an identity. Booker and Ayton surrounded by pesky, long, athletic guys who each have their own strengths. I don’t know how T.J. Warren would take a demotion though. And that is a big factor, given the locker room issues of the past.

Sun-Arc: I would change out Warren to play off the bench and insert Oubre as a starter. As Evan Sidery recently pointed out, Warren is not a good fit next to Ayton and Booker, but Oubre is. We need more defense in that starting line up (obviously), and KO can handle the offensive end nearly as well as Warren.

The other side of that coin is that TJ will likely be better playing alongside Josh Jackson off the bench. JJ can cover for TJ’s defense better and help set him up more where Tony becomes the primary scorer. That may also help JJ to stay efficient as the secondary scorer off the bench.

Some have been calling for JJ and Oubre to replace TJ and Bridges, but I strongly disagree. Bridge’s defense has been very necessary next to Booker - something advanced stats say Mikal is better at than Jackson so far. And I also think JJ is a better fit next to TJ than he is next to Booker.

SDKyle: I don’t really have a problem with the starting lineup. All those guys are starting for good reason except for Melton, who is starting because our beloved former GM decided not to procure a decent PG during the offseason and our current one has decided that there’s just not enough utility in trying to get one now.

The only real change I’d make would be the one that’s already sorta begun... to give Oubre starter minutes off the bench and play Jackson fewer than 20. I might also legitimately consider giving Daniels a little more time. Yeah he’s garbage on defense, but he might at least make the games more fun to watch while we lose.

SouthernSun: First off, Oubre deserves to start. I don’t think there should be any more questions about that. Bridges doesn’t. He’s a good enough defender, and be racks up steals, but so is Oubre, and one of them actually has an offensive game. Unless you’re rolling out three superstar scorers, you can’t have a Melton AND a Bridges in your starting lineup, in my opinion. Another possibility would be to replace Warren with Oubre, but I don’t think it makes as much sense as replacing Bridges, and I think Warren would take it worse than Bridges.

So, my lineups would be:

  • Melton/Okobo
  • Booker/Daniels
  • Oubre/Bridges
  • Warren/Jackson
  • Ayton/Holmes

Warren would come out fairly early for Jackson, and then when Booker sits Warren would come back in that very moment. Never let any unit be out on the court with any less than two of Booker, Warren, or Oubre. Those are the Suns main wing scorers (and really the only scorers outside of Ayton). Daniels is nice as a three point threat, and Jackson is a good defender and decent facilitator for a SF, but neither are going to carry a unit offensively for even a small stretch. Or at least they shouldn’t be put in a position to have to try.

This team so very badly needs a PF good enough to make having Warren come off the bench something that doesn’t seem ridiculous, and a point guard good enough that a rookie with almost no offensive game isnt the unquestioned starter. The point guard need is probably more glaring, but both are important.

Alex Sylvester: My lineup would be Melton, Booker, Bridges, Oubre, Ayton.

I am intrigued putting Jackson in the starting five instead of bridges, but he is ball dominant as well as an energy boost off the bench. If you’re inserting Oubre into the starting lineup you want that energy off the bench.

TJ has shown remarkable improvement this year, but his play style long-term doesn’t seem appropriate for a starting lineup that will be predicated on defense surrounding Booker and Ayton.

2. Fans still want to see the Suns make a trade (or trades) to improve the roster before the deadline. Would you do it even if it only results in a relatively short-term fix?

GuarGuar: This season is so far lost and down the drain, that unless you are getting a complete steal, there’s really no reason to trade for a stop gap guard for a few months. Now if it’s for a player who we could potentially re-sign if they fit (like Oubre), then that’s a different story. But at this point, I think it’s important for this current core of players to find their groove and develop chemistry.

Sun-Arc: No short term fixes at this point, please. Melton is not great at distributing or shooting yet, but he’s been really good as a rookie, particularly on the defensive end. This comparison between Melton, Beverley, Conley, Smith Jr, Sexton, and Trae Young shows how Melton is excelling defensively (best DRtg & DBPM) and partially holding his own offensively. He leads the pack in defensive categories (which is amazing on its own), but is also 2nd in TRB% of the group and third in AST% and BPM per 100 possessions. He also has a better 3pt% and FT% than Trae Young.

I would rather have Kemba Walker starting than Melton any damn game this season. But I don’t want to give up any major assets for a short-term rental, particularly one that is an UFA. I might do it if it were D’Lo Russell only because I think we would have the best chance of keeping that one particular PG because of his relationship with Booker. But otherwise, at this point if we cannot acquire a true long term solution I’d hold pat for free agency.

SDKyle: I’d feel hypocritical switching my stance to what is effectively pro-tank after 4 years of anti-tanking all over Bright Side. I feel like the culture of this team is broken. How can it not be after all this losing? A couple of weeks ago there was talk that the Suns had turned the corner and were on the way to going maybe as good as .400 in the second half. Now we’ve again been blown out in two of our last three, with our close loss coming against a team resting its two best players.

In my experience it gets easier and easier for players to mail it in the closer the end of the season gets. I don’t think we can afford to send the message that the status quo is okay.

That said, I’m not saying the Suns need to go out and get horribly ripped off... make a commonsense move. Ultimately I think it’s a moot point though... this FO has basically signaled that it’s not looking to make a meaningful move.

SouthernSun: I hate myself for saying this... but I probably wouldn’t trade very much for a stop gap point guard at this point. Beginning of the season, sure. But it’s halfway over. The Suns are hopelessly far back from even having the possibility of making a playoff run. If you can get Jeremy Lin for a 2nd round pick or something like that, then sure. But no 1st rounder should be traded for a mediocre player for the second half of this season. It’s already over. I also wouldn’t do something like trading the Suns 1st for Mike Conley. He’s old and the Suns 1st has a lot of value I imagine. Perhaps I’d give up the MIL 1st and a future Suns top 5 protected 1st for him. Just not this year’s.

That’s not to say I don’t want the Suns to trade their 1st rounder, I just don’t want them to trade their 1st rounder for someone over 30. 28ish and under, sure thing.

DLo would be a long term answer, so he’s an option, but I doubt the Nets are looking to trade him now. I’m intrigued with the Dennis Smith Jr idea. I wouldn’t be against that either, but not for the Suns own 1st rounder.

Something like Josh Jackson for DSJ makes sense for both sides probably. Might be worth a shot. Or Bender, Okobo, MIL 1st, Suns 2nd for DSJ. Contrary to what I’ve seen some say here on BSotS and heard on the Solar Panel, I do think that DSJ is a clearly better player than Melton, and he absolutely should and would start over him immediately.

Another option would be holding onto Jackson and cashing in on TJ Warren’s possibly high value right now.

TJ Warren, Dragan Bender, Elie Okobo, and the MIL 1st for DSJ and Wesley Matthews

This gets the Suns more cap space this coming summer, and replaces T.J. Warren with a slightly sturdier player to pretend to be a power forward, and gets the Suns an upgrade at PG.

As for immediate stop gaps that might improve the team but aren’t long term solutions, I really think the only kind of one that makes much sense is sending out a 2nd round pick or two for a slight upgrade at point guard. I’ll bring up Jeremy Lin again. He’s probably available for a couple of 2nd’s. T.J. McConnell might be had for Troy Daniels and a couple of 2nd’s as well. The Suns should be making extremely liberal use of any and all 2nd rounders from here on out. I don’t want them drafting in the 2nd round and bringing in anymore “What if’s” for the next like 5 years. This roster is already 75% “What if’s.”

Alex Sylvester: I think with the competitiveness in nearly every game excluding a few, there isn’t a lot of urgency to make a trade just to “make a trade quote. If I were James Jones, I’m only making a trade if it makes a positive impact for next years team, so a point guard or power forward that you could retain or is under contract for multiple years.

If it got to this situation, you more than likely would part ways with TJ. If you think about it, this might be the best time to do that while his value is at the highest it’s ever been. I’m not necessarily advocating for it, but if it makes sense then why not?

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


Key Stats

71.4%

That was the Suns’ free throw percentage last week. It was 26th in the NBA for that period of time and well below their season average of 77.9% (12th). That stat hurts even more condidering the Suns were 4th in free throw attempts last week averaging 29.8 per game. For the season they are 25th with 21.0 per game. Getting to the line more often doesn’t help if the team percentage is going down. And, unfortunately, the Suns sent their opponents to the line more frequently last week as well. Suns opponents averaged 32.0 free throw attempts per game last week (30th). This was already a weakness as their season average is 27.7 per game (29th).

Weekly Book Report

35.0 mpg, 24.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 7.0 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg, 3.8 TO, 3.4 PF

45.0% FG, 32.0% 3PT, 83.3% FT

This week - 33.1 mpg, 22.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 7.5 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 3.8 TO, 3.3 PF

43.7% FG, 26.9% 3PT, 76.0% FT

Random Stats: T.J. Warren has made 77 three point shots so far this season. He needs just 3 more to surpass the number of three point shots he made in his first four seasons combined.

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


Game Highlights

Phoenix Suns vs Indiana Pacers - Full Game Highlights - January 15, 2019

Toronto Raptors vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 01/17/2019

Phoenix Suns vs Charlotte Hornets Full Game Highlights | 01/19/2019

Phoenix Suns vs Minnesota Timberwolves Full Game Highlights | 01/20/2019

And for those few hopeful folks still on Bender Island...


Quote of the Week

”I would love to stay here, man. I don’t like to move around. I’ve been moving around enough in my life. I want a place to call home for a very long time. I’m here now and I’m trying to make the best out of this opportunity. The city loves me, management loves me and I just continue to show that love back.” - Kelly Oubre Jr.


Rookie Report

Deandre Ayton - 30.8 mpg, 16.4 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.8 spg, 1.0 bpg, 1.8 TO, 2.8 PF

  • This week - 28.5 mpg, 13.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 0.7 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.3 bpg, 1.0 TO, 2.3 PF

Mikal Bridges - 26.4 mpg, 7.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.7 TO, 2.4 PF, 34.9% 3PT

  • This week - 28.8 mpg, 8.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.5 apg, 2.0 spg, 0.8 bpg, 1.0 TO, 3.0 PF, 38.5% 3PT

De’Anthony Melton - 20.7 mpg, 5.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.7 TO, 2.6 PF, 31.6% 3PT

  • This week - 16.1 mpg, 3.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.8 apg, 0.8 spg, 1.0 bpg, 1.3 TO, 2.5 PF, 25.0% 3PT

Elie Okobo - 17.8 mpg, 6.1 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 2.4 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.4 TO, 2.4 PF, 30.1% 3PT

  • This week - 13.9 mpg, 4.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.8 TO, 2.3 PF, 22.2% 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: 5 trade possibilities for Troy Daniels. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit

Kelly Oubre bringing energy, defense — and style — to Suns. Daily American

Suns trade rumors still involve point guards, which shouldn’t be surprising. Duane Rankin/Arizona Republic

Not about the PGs: ESPN’s Arnovitz provides a brief rant on the Suns. Kevin Zimmerman/Arizona Sports

Phoenix Suns: 3 players most likely to be traded before deadline. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit

Suns impossible to get a read on without a real point guard. Dan Bickley/Arizona Sports


This Week in Suns History

January 22, 1968, the NBA Board of Governors granted franchises to the cities of Milwaukee and Phoenix.


Suns Trivia

Kelly Oubre was 10 years old when Hurricane Katrina forced his family to make an abrupt move from New Orleans to the Houston area. ”It was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life. Homeless, having to sleep in your car, hotels, things like that. But my dad, he pushed us through. He was a real soldier.”


Previewing the Week Ahead

Tuesday, January 22 - Phoenix Suns vs Minnesota Timberwolves, 7:00 pm AZT

Thursday, January 24 - Phoenix Suns vs Portland Trail Blazers, 7:00 pm AZT

Friday, January 25 - Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets, 7:00 pm AZT

Sunday, January 27 - Phoenix Suns @ LA Lakers, 7:30 pm AZT

Another four games for the Suns this week beginning with two at home then it’s back to the road again this weekend.

After facing the Timberwolves in their den this past Sunday night, they come to Phoenix for a quick rematch on Tuesday. Unfortunately, this is likely to be the easiest game of the week but I like the Suns’ chances in this one after the close loss they suffered in Minnesota with both Ayton and Holmes out for the game.

On Thursday night, the Trail Blazers will be in town for round two of their season series with the Suns. Without Booker and Warren, the Suns got hammered in the first game 108-86. You might also remember it as the first game of Ayton’s professional career that he began on the bench. That Booker, Warren and Ayton should all be back in the starting lineup for this one shouldn’t give you any false sense of hope. That game was over early (34-9 in the first quarter) before the Blazers’ starters even broke a sweat. They’re 3rd in the West right now won’t be above kicking the Suns (again) when they are down.

The Suns will have to face the Nuggets in Denver on the following night. The Suns shocked the Nuggets 102-93 in Phoenix two weeks ago but I don’t see it happening again... especially not in Denver on the second night of a back-to-back. Count it as another loss.

Finally, the Suns head to LA for their third game of the season against the Lakers. The Lakers won both of those games by 18 and 24 points. LeBron James played in both of those games but he has missed the Lakers’ last 13 due to injury and LA has gone 5-8 during that time, including a loss to 9-38 Cleveland. It’s very possible that he could return before this game though. If he’s out, the Suns might have a chance but if he’s back you should count it as another loss.

I believe the Suns will go 1-3 this week.

What’s your prediction?


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Do you still think that the Suns might make a trade for a point guard before the trade deadline?”

03% - Yes.

36% - Yes, but only if they find a great deal at the deadline.

61% - No.

A total of 345 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Which losses do you hate the most?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    The blowouts.
    (104 votes)
  • 8%
    The last second losses.
    (15 votes)
  • 32%
    A loss is a loss... I hate them all.
    (56 votes)
175 votes total Vote Now