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Center of the Sun: Suns have winning record in preseason action

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Last week the Suns got a good win, a shockingly bad loss and then an equally shocking win with three starters out for “rest”.

NBA: Preseason-Phoenix Suns at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs Minnesota Timberwolves W (111-106) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ Sacramento Kings L (105-88) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ Portland Trail Blazers W (134-118) Full Recap

If the first three preseason games are any indication of the future, Suns fans should prepare themselves for a wild ride this season... at least early on.

The win against Minnesota was a good but unspectacular win. I was pleased with the way the Suns played but not deliriously happy as there were rough spots that still needed work. It was encouraging that the team managed to pull out a win with three of their main rotation players (Kelly Oubre Jr., Mikal Bridges and Aron Baynes) sidelined with injuries though. Surely the Suns would only get better when they returned... right?

Wrong.

The loss in Sacramento - with Oubre, Bridges and Baynes back in the rotation - was akin to watching a slow motion train wreck. Statistically, the Suns were terrible. As a team, the Kings really weren’t a lot better as they had 4 more turnovers and committed 11 more personal fouls than the Suns but Phoenix just played so badly in that game that Sacramento didn’t have to be at their best to win... and win by 17 points. For the Suns, it was almost a perfect storm of ineptitude

I had no idea what to expect on Saturday night when the Suns were to take on Portland at home but I wasn’t very optimistic as the Blazers have dominated the Suns in the past few years. When I heard that Devin Booker, Ricky Rubio and Deandre Ayton were being held out of that game for “rest”, my first thought was that it was going to be a slaughter. It was but just not the one I - and likely not anyone else - expected.

Minus three starters, the Suns took control early, played one of the best games I’ve seen them play in years and beat Portland soundly. I’ve heard some say that the Blazers had an off night but offensively their stats were mostly better than those of the Kings against the Suns two days earlier. The Suns just played sharp, unselfish team basketball and did it better than the Blazers in that game.

And they shot the lights out from three. They made 24 of 45 attempts from downtown (53.3%) and set a new team record for the most three-pointers made in a single game.

It was beautiful and I hope to see it again and see it often this season.

The Suns still have one more preseason game to play and that comes tonight when Denver comes to TSRA. Hopefully we’ll get a look at everyone tonight and finally see what the Suns’ will look like with all hands on deck.


Fantable Question of the Week

This week, I asked the Fantable for their initial impressions of the Suns following the preseason games. I asked them to put them into three categories:

Q1 - The Good.

Q2 - The Bad.

Q3 - The Ugly.

GuarGuar: The Good: I really like our pace of play this preseason. It looks like we are going to play very fast this year, which is something I’ve been hoping for. The games against Minnesota and Portland were very strong. Ayton and Booker dominated against Minny, while our bench blew out the Blazers’ starters on Saturday. A bunch of positive things to take away from those 2 games.

The Bad: Turnovers. They have been our biggest issue this preseason. Part of it is playing a lot faster, part of it is a completely new offensive system with a new roster. I expect our turnovers to go down as everyone gets used to playing with each other.

The Ugly: The first half of that Sacramento game was absolutely atrocious. Ayton and Oubre had two of the worst games I’ve ever seen from them. We couldn’t make a 3 to save our life. Turnovers were plentiful and an extreme lack of assists. Very ugly game and we got dominated. Fortunately, we bounced back big time against Portland on Saturday.

Sun-Arc: As I write this, there have only been two games - one that seemed pretty good, and one that seemed really bad - Its hard to take away a clear sense of what is and is not working. Plus it is only preseason. I also only witnessed the fourth quarter of the first game- everything else is from highlights, recaps, and box scores. With this small sample size, I’ll try to piece together what I think may be trends. Keep the grains of salt handy.

The Good:

  • Ayton and Rubio worked well together in that first game, and that seems like a positive sign.
  • Rubio, in general, really looks great on offense running a team smoothly and competently.
  • Devin gonna Booker.
  • The rookies may have careers ahead of them. Both Cam and Ty have beautiful looking shots.
  • Jevon Carter can defend at a high level.

The Bad:

  • Dario Saric hasn’t shown up yet.
  • Ayton’s inconsistencies seem to be hanging around.
  • Team defense in general. We have to be shooting super well to win games with defense like this. Second game we didn’t shoot well at all and it wasn’t pretty.
  • Oubre playing like Josh Jackson didn’t help either. Going 0-9 in eight minutes sounds like he was seriously ‘hunting for shots,’ as E.J. once said of Jackson.
  • Kelly wasn’t alone, though. Against SAC, Cam was 1-5, Jerome was 1-6, Saric was 1-5 (also 1-5 in first game), and Kaminsky was 0-4. I’m not sure if this was tired legs or good D by the Kings, but these types of games are what worried me this offseason.

The Ugly:

Under “good” I mentioned Carter’s defense. Unfortunately, the rest of the team doesn’t do much on D. Some are playing decent team defense, but from the little I saw, most aren’t playing much of any defense. Out of position, not rotating, not communicating, leaving our center on an island to guard both PnR players. Hmmm, sounds like the past three seasons.

What was the difference between the first game and the second? Are the Wolves really that bad? We should not hope that is the case. Either way, the coaches really have their work cut out for them because this team cannot be so inconsistent or horrid on defense if they are hoping to win over 24 games.

SDKyle: From what I’ve been able to see....

1. The Good:

Most of the young guys look like high BBIQ players. Sometimes their shots fell and sometimes they didn’t, but it seems like Cam Johnson and Ty Jerome are reasonably mentally prepared to be NBA players. Salty veterans have been delivering as expected in a preseason slate. I don’t find preseason basketball particularly illuminating, because it can create a false sense of confidence in a lower intensity environment. But I’m cautiously optimistic.

2. The Bad:

If you were hoping for some kind of emphatic statement that Ayton is going to be a defensive force this year, you didn’t get that. He looked fine in his fairly limited play, but nothing that was any kind of revelation. Same goes for all the returning guys really. Nothing all that new to report.

3. The Ugly: That second game. Yuck. The less said about it the better.

SouthernSun: This is based on the first two games:

Good: Booker is Booker. A walking bucket. I’m happy he’s actually entering this season fully healthy. Rubio’s passing to Ayton was a breath of fresh air, and the passing in general for the whole team looked crisp and clean. For the first game anyway. When Ayton looks to score, he can he dominant. Bridges looked fantastic defensively, as did Jevon Carter to a lesser extent. Cam Johnson and Ty Jerome both looked NBA ready, particularly Jerome with 12 points his first time stepping on an NBA court.

Bad: Baynes didn’t look especially effective. Oubre looked very rusty his first game back, his defense definitely wasn’t approaching anything close to “defensive player of the year” like he was recently quoted as wanting to be. Rubio’s shooting certainly hasn’t been anything to write home about.

Ugly: The Suns three point shooting was ugly as sin for the entire second preseason game. The third game just started as I type, so we’ll see how it goes this time.

Post third game notes:

Wooohoo! How about the three point shooting this time around? Cam! Dario! Tyler! Frank!

Kelly shook the rust off.

Remember when I listed “flashes of good passing for a big” as one of Kaminsky’s strengths? 8 assists in that third game. Having Kaminsky as the backup PF makes it so the Suns can seamlessly bring him in for Saric without missing too much of a beat. He’s not as good as Saric, but has many of the same strengths, namely shooting and passing from the 4 spot.

Diallo is still behind Frank in the rotation, but we don’t have to freak out when one of Ayton, Saric, Baynes, or Kaminsky has an injury. Diallo looked solid, and provides a different dynamic.

Alex Sylvester: The Good:

Having options: it was fun to see an array of scoring methods and defensive tactics that led to a successful night. Need some floor spacing? Put Kaminsky and Baynes in. Need to play bully ball? Deandre/Aron helps with that. Small ball? Let’s go with Kelly and Mikal at the 3/4. Want to get scrappy? Put Jevon in and see what happens.

Depth: This point has redundancy with my prior but it’s fair to say this early on that this might be the deepest team the Suns have had in years. I feel fairly confident in saying there should be 10 guys on this roster that can be legitimate NBA rotational type players.

Deandre’s Ceiling: In a span of one game, we got to see the potential of what Ricky and Devin will be able to do for Ayton this season. He will need to continue to grow in terms of consistency but in terms of having 20 and 12 potential night in and night out? It’s there.

The Bad:

Early Chemistry: I figured this was going to be the case in the beginning of the season but the balance of the roster early on will be a blessing and a curse. Devin Booker is so accustom to being depended on scoring 30+ every single night that it probably will take him some time to adjust to his new veteran teammates. Same goes for the rest of the roster.

The Ugly:

Shooting: Unfortunately there’s a bunch of what ifs when it comes to this season. What if Devin elevates his shooting percentage from last season? What about Mikal? Kelly? These guys are going to be depended on to take a big leap from beyond the arch in order to hopefully float around league average from deep this year. I have a feeling we’ll see the boys end around the 20th-25th but this could get legitimately bad if the previously mentioned names don’t take a step forward this season.

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


Preseason Highlights

NBA PS Minnesota Timberwolves vs Phoenix Suns Oct 8, 2019

Phoenix Suns Preseason Game #2 At Sacramento Kings (Recap/Highlights)

Portland Trail Blazers vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | October 12, 2019


Quotes of the Week

”I feel like an animal locked in a cage kind of, but I can’t wait until the regular season starts. We’re going to break out for sure.” - Kelly Oubre Jr.

”I want to see how good a scorer he is, and how good a player he has been. And if there are some areas where I can help [Booker] become an All Star, I will try to do that too.” - Ricky Rubio

“[Being a sixth man] was where I made my mark and was able to stay in the league and get paid. My thing was, man, you find a niche and you excel in it.” - Tyler Johnson


Interesting Suns Stuff


News & Notes

Tyler Johnson Talks Role With Suns, Goals This Season. Hoops Rumors

The 5: Burning questions for Phoenix Suns’ rotation ahead of season. Alex Weiner/Arizona Sports

Phoenix Suns: Best and worst case scenarios for 2019-20. Sir Charles in Charge

How Ricky Rubio Spent His Summer Vacation. The Ringer

How the Phoenix Suns Should Define Success in 2019-20. Gerald Bourguet/The Step Back

Deandre Ayton’s Dedication This Summer is Translating to the Court. Suns.com

The Modern NBA Dictionary. The Ringer

(The last article isn’t about the Suns. It’s just a fun read. - RA)


This Week in Suns History

On October 18, 1968, Dick Van Arsdale would score the Suns very first basket at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the Suns would go on to win their very first regular season NBA game as they defeated the Seattle Supersonics 116-107.


Suns Trivia

The Suns franchise record for most three-pointers in a game was 22. In their preseason game in Portland they set a new team record by making 24.

In 1968, the original expansion fee paid to the NBA by group led by Karl Eller, Donald Pitt, Don Diamond, Bhavik Darji, Marvin Meyer, and Richard Bloch (who became president of the Suns) to form the Phoenix Suns was $2 million. In 1987, Jerry Colangelo headed a group that purchased the Suns for $44.5 million. In 2004, another group headed by Rober Sarver purchased the team for $401 million. The Phoenix Suns are presently valued at $1.5 billion.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Monday, October 14 - Phoenix Suns vs Denver Nuggets (preseason), 7:00 pm AZT

Only one preseason game left and this time the Suns face their toughest opponent to date, the Denver Nuggets. The Nugs have won both of their previous games against Portland and the LA Clippers. Those games were also away games for Denver and their average margin of victory was 15.5 points. The have not been without their problems though. The have been below average from three (29.6%) and have averaged fewer attempts from three than all but two other NBA teams (Blazers and Spurs). They’ve also averaged more turnovers per game than the Suns (24.5 vs 22.7). They have been very tough on defense though, averaging 11 steals per game and have held their opponents to an average of 92.5 points per game.

If the Suns play like they did in Portland against the Nuggets, I think they will win. If they play like they did against Sacramento, they will lose. If they play like they did against Minnesota, it’s anyone’s game. With that all said, I think it’s easy to see why I’m giving them a 50-50 chance tonight.


Important Future Dates

October 19 - Last day to waive a player on a non-guaranteed contract and not incur a cap hit.

October 21 - Regular season rosters must be set (17 players maximum including 2 two-way contract players).

October 22 - NBA 2019-20 regular season begins.

October 31 - Last day that teams can exercise team options on the rookie scale contracts of former first-round picks.

December 15 - First day that players signed to new contracts can be traded.

  • The Suns cannot trade Frank Kaminsky, Cheick Diallo, Ricky Rubio or Jalen Lecque until 12/15/19 and Kelly Oubre Jr. cannot be traded until 1/15/20.

January 5 - First day that teams can sign players to 10-day contracts.

January 15 - Last day to sign players to Two-Way contracts.

February 6 - NBA Trade Deadline (3 pm ET).


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Which of the Suns’ rookies are you most interested in seeing play in the preseason games?”

59.4% - Cam Johnson

35.5% - Ty Jerome

02.3% - Jalen Lecque (may not play due to injury)

00.5% - Jared Harper (TW)

00.5% - Tariq Owens (E-10)

01.8% - Norense Odiase (E-10)

There were 217 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

The big win in Portland was...

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Luck.
    (19 votes)
  • 28%
    A sign that the Suns’ bench/supporting cast is better than expected.
    (70 votes)
  • 3%
    A sign that Monty Williams is a really good coach.
    (8 votes)
  • 59%
    A little bit of all of the above.
    (145 votes)
242 votes total Vote Now