Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.
To me, the most maddening thing about the Suns this season has been their tendency to let other teams build sizable leads in the first half and then spend the rest of the game trying to play catch up. This is obviously not a recipe for success in any sport and the Suns have done this all too frequently this season.
The Suns are a very young team that is going to make a lot of mistakes as they learn but effort and hustle should be there every single minute of every game. We saw it during their four game win streak. We saw it even in a few of their close losses. We need to see it all of the time.
In the Charlotte game, we saw what a difference it makes when you come to the game ready to play. Even with Devin Booker out for the majority of the game, the Suns put in the effort for the full 48, kept it close and had a chance for a win at the end. The fact that they lost shouldn’t take away from that.
Loses are tough to handle but they can come due to lack of effort just as easily as lack of talent... and the Suns have talent. They aren’t by any stretch of the imagination one of the most talented teams in the league but they have enough to make sure that most teams should have to work all game long to get wins rather than being able to coast for long stretches in the second half while the Suns try to play catch-up.
If they do nothing else for the rest of this season, the fans deserve to at least see a team that comes to play hard all game long every night.
Fantable Questions of the Week
1. Rookies Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and De’Anthony Melton are starting and getting plenty of minutes this season. Have you seen any signs that the dreaded “rookie wall” may be affecting any of them yet? If not, do you think this could turn into a problem as the season goes on?
GuarGuar: I haven’t seen any signs of a rookie wall yet with any of our guys. I think with Ayton his nightly effort/attitude is more inconsistent than anything. And that has nothing to do with a “rookie wall”. In fact, aside from the Clippers/Sixers games Ayton was having a superb stretch. It will be interesting to monitor Deandre’s energy level going forward though, since this typically would mark the end of a college season. His conditioning has been an issue at times too going back to summer league and beginning of the season. Mikal and Melton always bring top notch energy and effort, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Sun-Arc: I’m not seeing the rookie wall hitting Ayton. Quite the opposite. He seems to be getting stronger. He was in meh shape to begin the season, so this is a positive development. At just under 32 mpg average, he’s doing quite well, especially considering he’s been averaging more than that lately (around 34 mpg).
Bridges is difficult to gauge. He always gives a lot of effort, but I think he may be having a hard time keeping up with the rigors of being a rookie based on his poor shooting numbers of late. He needs to add a lot of strength in the offseason as well, which will help him be ready for the high rookie minutes he is playing, averaging 26 mpg.
Melton definitely does not seem to be in shape to be getting over 20 mpg. His play has slumped a bit, especially after the first five minutes of playing time. Not keeping up with opposing guards as well as he did in his first 8 games or so. Averaging just over 20 mpg, it seems fairly clear his year off last season is catching up to him.
Its quite possible the 4-4 run the team had gassed some of the players because the effort has not been sustained. Hopefully they all are able to get over any wall they encounter, because we really need them all to be successful.
SDKyle: I don’t think these guys are hitting the “rookie wall” so much as they’re just struggling to find consistency, as much of the team has been doing all season. Ayton’s whole year has been characterized by impressive 18 point 12 rebound outings followed by games where he only attempts 6 shots. Bridges goes cold as a shooter at times, but is otherwise reasonably consistent. Melton is just in a position where he wasn’t likely to succeed. He might one day be ready to run point in the NBA, but that day hasn’t arrived.
And yes, this all is a problem for the Suns and will continue to be a problem.
SouthernSun: I have a fairly low opinion of De’Anthony Melton. I don’t think he’s played well enough for him to visibly hit any sort of wall. He’s a decent defender and better than Okobo I guess? Hooray.
Mikal has potential to be a pretty good player in the future. But he already hit a wall. Offensively anyway. It’s hard for defense first players to hit a wall though I guess. He’s been mostly hot garbage on offense. For like almost the whole season. But he’s good enough defensively that he starts on a team filled with non-NBA players. That’s good I suppose.
Ayton has been pretty consistent. Only the occasional hiccup where he has a crappy game. Even when he isn’t giving 100% he’s still a double double machine. I’m expecting him to eventually go through a rough patch for a week or two, but it wouldn’t totally surprise me if his rough patch isn’t even all that rough. I expect him to be better conditioned next year, hopefully the team will be better and he’ll have even more to play for...
Alex Sylvester: That’s a hard question to answer because I operate under the belief that all rookies go through a rough patch, whether it be a few games or half a season.
It seems Melton and Bridges are both going through a bit of a rookie wall right now. Fortunately, both still have major upside defensively so it’s not as though they’re completely useless without their offense.
2. There’s no way that the Suns avoid the Lottery this year and will likely wind up with a top 5/6 draft pick. Would you prefer to keep the pick or trade it? (and why)
GuarGuar: It really bothers me that every year we are talking about the draft in December/January. But that’s the reality of our team with how bad we’ve been the past few years. I think this draft is very similar to 2016, where it was Ben Simmons and then a major drop off. I think this draft class is Zion Williamson being a superstar, and then a MAJOR drop off. For context, Mikal Bridges would probably go 3-5 in this draft class. So with that being said, if we don’t land #1, I absolutely want to trade the pick for an established lead guard. Could be used as one of the main pieces in a trade for Bradley Beal or Jrue Holiday, two guys I would absolutely pursue if they became available during the deadline or offseason.
Sun-Arc: I would much rather they trade the pick for a top-end PG (meaning top 10-12) that we know we can keep long-term. Outside of that, I’m not for trading it unless the return is super high. Some people are itching for a PF, but I feel like we could get someone to fit the bill without giving up this high pick. And I wouldn’t trade the pick for a PG that isn’t worth it (Cory Joseph for instance) who doesn’t move the needle. For me, the value really has to be there.
Keeping the pick and possibly drafting Ja Morant is enticing but we need to win now more than pick up another rookie in the draft. Still, IF the team felt Melton can hold out another season and give Morant time, maybe that works? I dunno. Not convinced. I like option #1 where we somehow use the pick to get someone like Jrue Holiday or Scary Terry. As much as some people feel Rozier is overrated, I still think he’s worth that pick if we can keep him long-term.
SDKyle: I’d prefer to trade the pick. Even if I the draft lottery odds hadn’t been altered under the new rules, I’d still say trade it. The Suns need an impact star or near-star caliber player to pair with Booker and a hopefully improved Ayton to get the Suns to the playoffs next year. They don’t need to draft another 19/20 year-old wing who can totally be pretty good by 2022. Time for this franchise to put some chips down and play instead of just folding pre-flop.
SouthernSun: Oh, I absolutely want the Suns to trade that pick. The last thing I want on the Suns is another rookie next year. Obviously it would be ideal to slap a #1 protection on it, but realistically, if you can trade that pick for an all-star player under 30 years old right now, preferably a point guard, you do it immediately. This very instant. Whether it has any protections on it or not.
Alex Sylvester: I would prefer them to trade the pick top 1 protected.
It’s easier said than done, but the summer should allow for more players to be available. The biggest need is star power, so acquiring that piece will require parting with this years pick.
3. Devin Booker isn’t going to be voted into the All-Star game but what do you think his chances are of being selected as a reserve player?
GuarGuar: Booker’s chances rely on how many guard spots are actually selected. If it’s 5, I don’t think he gets in. If it’s 6, I think he has a solid shot. Russ, Dame, Curry, and Harden are all locks. DeRozan 90% gets in too (although Booker has been better this season), so if it’s only 5 guard spots I think that’s it. If there’s another spot (like last year), it’s between Booker, Klay, and Conley. Booker theoretically should be ahead of those guys (especially Klay), but I don’t know what the coaches are thinking when selecting reserves.
Sun-Arc: Booker should be an all-star this season based on how well he’s playing. But the west is just stacked for guards. League wide for guards, he is 4th in pts/game, 11th for assists, but way down the list for rebounds and other stats including shooting %. That doesn’t help his case, since so few watch the Suns because we suck.
He’s fifth in FTA for guards, and 8th for 3PA per game. But no one looks at those stats, nor how closely he’s guarded in making his shots.
I hope he’s selected for reserves, but I think that is fairly unlikely given he (still) has to contend with Curry, Klay, Dame, CP3 (hello, China!), Westbrook, and now Jamal Murray (who has been killing it lately and is playing for the surprising Nuggets), and the underrated Jrue Holiday - ALL in the west. Murray and Holiday won’t be in the mix- but that still leaves five prior all-stars that will be selected ahead of Book. Maybe Booker will be the sixth. I’d say his chances are below 50/50 because: Suns.
SDKyle: He’s a fringe candidate. Booker is respected around the NBA, but so are the likes of DeMar DeRozan, Damian Lillard, and Chris Paul who he might be competing with for that spot. I’d love to see him get it, I think he’s deserving, but it might not happen this year.
SouthernSun: Booker will not be selected as a reserve because there are too many good/great guards in the West, and the Suns continue to be a dumpster fire who nobody likes.
Alex Sylvester: I think they’re pretty slim.
Considering it looks like Luka Doncic (seriously?) and Derrick Rose (seriously?) are more than likely to be voted in, there’s already two spots unavailable.
Add in the fact that the Suns are clearly the worst team in the west? Doesn’t help Devin’s chances.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable - GuarGuar, SDKyle, Sun-Arc, SouthernSun and Alex Sylvester - for all their extra effort every week!
That is the average number of points that the Suns down by halftime in their first three games last week.
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 - 29.4 mpg, 21.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 5.3 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.0 bpg, 3.5 TO, 3.3 PF
46.6% FG, 37.5% 3PT, 79.4% FT
Random Stats: The Suns were 4th in the league in steals last week averaging 9.0 a game. Rookies Elie Okobo (57.1%) and De’Anthony Melton (50.0%) were the best three point shooters for the Suns last week. T.J. Warren continued his hot three point shooting hitting 47.1% of his attempts and Josh Jackson made 44.4% of his shots from three.
Statistics courtesy of NBA.com and/or Basketball-Reference.com.
GS Warriors vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 12/31/2018
Philadelphia Sixers vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 01/02/2019
LA Clippers vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 01/04/2019
Charlotte Hornets vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 01/06/2019
Quote of the Week
”There’s still over half a season left – and it’ll be a very long season if we keep coming out and playing like this. If we have the aspirations and dreams of being a playoff team, it starts now. Even if that’s building for next year, the year after that, it starts every single day. We have to bring it.” - Devin Booker
Deandre Ayton - 31.3 mpg, 16.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.9 bpg, 1.8 TO, 2.8 PF
- This week - 31.7 mpg, 16.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.8 TO, 3.0 PF
Mikal Bridges - 26.4 mpg, 7.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.7 TO, 2.3 PF, 33.8% 3PT
- This week - 30.4 mpg, 5.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.8 bpg, 0.3 TO, 3.3 PF, 22.2% 3PT
De’Anthony Melton - 20.3 mpg, 6.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.6 TO, 2.54 PF, 34.4% 3PT
- This week - 23.0 mpg, 7.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.8 apg, 2.0 spg, 0.8 bpg, 1.5 TO, 3.3 PF, 50.0% 3PT
Elie Okobo - 18.4 mpg, 6.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.5 TO, 2.4 PF, 30.5% 3PT
- This week - 12.7 mpg, 5.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 1.5 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.5 TO, 1.8 PF, 57.1% 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
Five things the Suns should address through the second half of the season. Duane Rankin/Arizona Republic
Wishes The Phoenix Suns Need Granted This New Year. The Runner Sports
Josh Jackson stuck in crowded wing group, background of Suns’ rebuild. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports
Phoenix Suns: 5 New Year’s resolutions for 2019. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit
The Ringer: A Devin Booker experiment that would mimic Harden. Logan Newman/Arizona Sports
Deandre Ayton is just getting started. The Step Back
This Week in Suns History
On January 9, 1972, the NBA’s 2,000,000th point occurred in either the Baltimore-Phoenix or Detroit-Buffalo game. (Records back then weren’t kept precisely enough to determine which game it it actually occurred in.)
Devin Booker’s 37 points against the Philadelphia 76ers on January 2 was the 50th game of his career in which he scored 30 points or more.
Previewing the Week Ahead
Tuesday, January 8 - Bright Side Night! Phoenix Suns vs Sacramento Kings, 7:00 pm AZT
Wednesday, January 9 - Phoenix Suns @ Dallas Mavericks, 6:30 pm AZT
Saturday, January 12 - Phoenix Suns vs Denver Nuggets, 7:00 pm AZT
Just three games this week, two more at home with an away trip squeezed in between.
On Tuesday, it’s the Bright Side Night matchup between the Suns and the Sacramento Kings! The Kings have been on a four game losing streak and will have a game with Orlando tonight (Monday) before hopping on a flight to Phoenix. They will be tired and the Suns will be rested. I believe that the Suns won’t let all the Bright Side Night kids in the stands down and will win this one.
Following the Kings game, it’s the Suns’ turn to catch a late night flight to Dallas for the third game between the two teams. The Suns have won the previous two games, both played in Phoenix. With it being the second night of a back-to-back for the Suns, I’m not counting on them getting win number three against them in their house.
Finally, the Suns get two days of rest before the Denver Nuggets return to Phoenix. The Nuggets are still the #1 team in the West and have had few problems in defeating the Suns in their previous two games. I doubt they will have many in this one either.
This week I believe the Suns will go 1-2 with a small chance of going 2-1 if the probably weary Suns can put together a strong showing in Dallas.
What’s your prediction?
Last Week’s Poll Results
Lat week’s poll was “Out of their final 45 games, how many do you think the Suns will win?”
08% - 10 or less.
38% - 11 to 15.
41% - 16 to 20.
13% - Over 20.
This week’s poll is about a potential mid-season trade for a point guard. The Suns have lots of wings and one of them will likely have to be included in any trade for a quality point guard.
Which of the Suns’ wings would you LEAST want to give up in a trade for a point guard?
This poll is closed
Kelly Oubre Jr.