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Center of the Sun: Suns end Week Three tied for second in the Western Conference

For three weeks in a row the Suns have won 2 of 3 games.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs Philadelphia 76ers W (114-109) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Miami Heat L (124-108) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Brooklyn Nets W (138-112) Full Recap

Three weeks into the season and the Phoenix Suns are 6-3. That’s a .667 WINNING RECORD.

Seriously, how many fans expected the Suns to get off to this good of a start? Not many. Sure many were hopeful but until we saw it happen, few of us really believed it would. There were all sorts of things that we could point to as obstacles in the way before the season started... so many new players, a new coach with a new offense to learn, chemistry might be slow to develop, could these guys actually learn to play passable defense, etc., etc., etc.

Well, even after unexpectedly losing Deandre Ayton to a 25-game suspension after the first game, the Suns - and James Jones - have managed to silence many of their doubters.

This team plays hard and, most importantly, they play right. They play as a team and fight as a team and win.

If you’re a Suns fan and you don’t find this team entertaining, I have no idea what might actually amuse you.

No team is perfect though and the Suns are no exception. The Suns’ bench has been under performing lately and has caused some anxious moments... such as when they almost let the Nets back into last night’s game after giving up most of a 20-point lead. Against better teams, that won’t do. It seemed as though Monty Williams has grown a bit concerned about it as well as he went to what was a 9-man rotation for most of the game instead of 10 as he had been doing.

It’s concerning but not something I’m going to lose sleep over. That’s part of the coaching staff’s job.

For now, let’s just sit back and enjoy watching good Suns basketball. It’s long overdue and no fans of any other team deserve it more than Suns fans.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - A couple of months ago, we all made predictions as to the Suns’ Win/Loss record through the month of November. They were:

  • GuarGuar: 9-9
  • Sun-Arc: 7-11
  • SDKyle: 7-11
  • SouthernSun: 9-9
  • Alex Sylvester: 9-9
  • Rod Argent: 10-8

After what we’ve already seen of the team, what are you’re predictions through November now?

GuarGuar: I didn’t see us starting 5-2 like we did, and if you told me it was without Deandre Ayton I would have said you’re on crack. I’m writing this on Saturday before the Brooklyn game, but as of right now I’m still very confident in this squad. When they lock in on defense we are a very tough team to beat. I’m changing my 9-9 prediction to 12-6 if we beat Brooklyn. 10-8 if we lose to Brooklyn. I really hope we can close out this long homestand strong.

Sun-Arc: 11-7, with losses to LAL, BOS, MIN, DEN in that stretch.

I think there will be a bit of a drop off in quality of play. There will be a bit of a struggle through the rest of November, but we’ll still come out of the month well above .500.

SDKyle: I’ll actually swap my original prediction and go with 11-7. There are only a couple of games that seem like probable losses, a couple 50/50 games, and some the Suns probably should win. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the team responds to the road back-to-back in Minneapolis and Denver. Looking for them to at least beat the Wolves.

SouthernSun: Okay, I’m going to go with 11 and 7. The Suns have some depth issues on the offensive end, but the bench is pretty good defensively. And while the bench is little starved for offense, the starters have been fantastic. Booker, Baynes, and Oubre have been pretty consistent, and Rubio is flirting with a triple double every night (even if he’s shooting horribly, which we sort of expected anyway). Saric has been pretty ho hum, but he just needs to start hitting his threes and get into a rhythm. He’s actually been fairly impressive defensively to start the season. I think the Suns will narrowly hold onto a winning record during this stretch.

Alex S.: I’m happy to say that we’re all on pace to be wrong! So looking at the schedule now with how the Suns are fairing currently, I believe this team will be 11-7 after 18 games. I think they’ll go 3-1 the rest of the homestand (8-4 overall) and then proceed to win 3 of their next 6. Worst case scenario I see 10-8, best case being 13-5.

Rod Argent: I’m actually going to stick with my original 10-8 prediction. I’d like to go higher but next week (Nov. 18 - 24) the Suns are going to have a stretch of five games in seven days (three on the road) with two back-to-backs with overnight trips in between those games. I believe that fatigue will take it’s toll and could cost the Suns in a game or two that I’d otherwise predict them to win.

Note: Everyone’s predictions were made before the Suns/Nets game.

Q2 - Zach Lowe recently said in an article, “Right now, Booker is an All-Star.” Do you agree?

GuarGuar: Devin Booker has been an All-Star-level player since his 3rd year in the league. If he were in the Eastern Conference he would have been one for the past two seasons. So yea, I think he’s a superstar. I’m obviously very high on who he is as a player right now and can be in the future. To see his efficiency spike like this to start the year is a great sign. His level of effort on defense has been night and day this season too. Really hope he keeps it up.

Sun-Arc: He may be playing at an all star level (though less so in the Miami game), he will not make the all star game. I think there are too many good players in the west that have dibs on those spots to allow him in this year. People (even nationally) will say he was snubbed, and because of that he’ll get the nod next season. Maybe.

SDKyle: Booker making the all-star team was one of my pre-season fantable predictions, so I’m not going to bail on it now. He’s probably not going to shoot 50% from deep all year, but if he’s still flirting with 50/40/90 in a couple of months and still in the top 15 in the league in scoring, I don’t see why he shouldn’t be all-star.

The only hang-up becomes roster space because there are many other deserving guards in the West, especially since most everyone is now classifying Doncic as a SG. Harden, Doncic, and Lillard clearly all belong, Mitchell as well. Booker does too, but is the league and are the fans ready to embrace him ahead of Westbrook?

And if they are, will it matter on a roster that also presumably has to make room for two other do-everything wings in LeBron and Kawhi?

He should make it.

SouthernSun: Yes, Booker is an all star right now. I agree. But he’s been one for three years. His efficiency is at an all time high right now. He may be scoring a little less, but he has been very good doing it. He’s been playing team ball, but when they’ve really needed him most nights so far, he’s stepped up to take over, and it’s worked out more often than not.

Alex S.: 100%. Considering you can take off the three former Warriors (KD/Klay/Steph), you automatically have room for three more All-Stars. I think Luka/Donovan/Devin are going to be All-Stars this year, and I believe it makes sense for all of them to become an All-Star together. Devin is playing incredibly efficient offense at a high usage rate while performing better on the defensive end as well. As long as the Suns can stay in the playoff hunt, he should get in with no questions asked.

Q3 - Are you concerned with the play of the Suns’ bench players lately?

GuarGuar: I am concerned with the bench play from the Philly and Heat game. Only Tyler Johnson has been consistent this entire season. It looks like we desperately need Ty Jerome back. Whenever we don’t have Rubio/Booker on the floor (like 5 minutes a game), it turns into a disaster. No offense is being generated. Jevon has been great defensively but he’s not a guy who can run an offense. We need them to step up, especially since it looks like Ayton is going to be suspended the full 25 games.

Sun-Arc: Damn tootin’ I’m concerned with the bench play! Kam, Cam, and Carter can’t hit a shot to save their lives lately. Mikal is in a sophomore slump. The only saving grace has been Tyler Johnson, the 20-million dollar man. Having said that, Carter and Cam are shooting over 35% from deep, which would have been best on the team last season as an average except for Warren and Daniels - so there’s that. Yet we basically got Cam for his shooting and 35% isn’t super hot.

Brandon Clarke (also available at #11, in case you forgot), for comparison, is only shooting 29% from three and has only attempted 7 of them. Yet all his advanced numbers are positive and higher than Cam’s, even though Cam is on a better team. He’s rebounding, passing, defending, and doing everything better than Cam except shooting, and he can play both forward positions solidly. Right now it looks like he may have helped us out more than Cam. But time will tell. Cam looks like a really smart and poised player. Just limited physically. Looking at his shot, it looks like it will only be a matter of time before it starts dropping.

Carter and Kam really need to be the players we saw in the first couple of games. That takes so much pressure off of everyone else. Was it a mirage? Both are doing a little of the other things we need of them (defense and passing, respectively), but we sure miss their shooting. I didn’t expect it out of Carter, but- like Cam- we kind of got Kaminsky for his shooting. Both are providing fairly empty calories to the team when they aren’t moving the ball well or making shots to space the floor. Thus they become sort of the celery of the basketball world. We need more kale out there (shout out to Keith and Idaho Sun!)

SDKyle: Yes and no. Yes in that I’m sorta concerned the bench isn’t very strong, no in that there’s no element of surprise in the fact that Frank Kaminsky has not continued to play like Kristaps Porzingis.

I think Ayton’s absence is really skewing things right now. Guys are taking on more of an offensive role than they will when he returns, and none of them are as dynamic as Ayton. I think when he returns things will normalize a bit, and the bench’s shortcomings won’t seem as pronounced.

SouthernSun: The Suns have some depth issues. Their bench is pretty good defensively (thanks, Jevon Carter and Mikal Bridges), but pretty bad offensively. Frank Kaminsky has fallen off after a strong start, and has become almost timid. He’s unwilling to shoot threes very often over the last couple of games, and he’s supposed to be one of the guys off the bench who can score. I certainly don’t expect Carter or Bridges to do much of that. Cam Johnson is a rookie. Tyler Johnson hasn’t been as good as I wanted him to be. This team needs Ayton back, but they also probably need one more bench piece. A competent scoring guard would be wonderful. Maybe Ty Jerome proves to be that when he’s healthy, but I won’t hold my breath.

If these problems persist, but the team still remains afloat and around .500 going into December, I could see a trade happening. And that doesn’t necessarily mean only upgrading the starting unit. It could mean finding some extra bench help. Or it could mean upgrading the starting unit, but in turn also upgrading the 2nd unit because one of the starters is now pushed to the bench. For instance, if they traded Tyler Johnson, Frank Kaminsky, and draft compensation (say, Suns 2020 1st top 3 protected) to Cleveland for Love, that pushes Saric into a bench role.

Then you have:

  • Rubio/Carter or Jerome
  • Booker/Mikal
  • Oubre/Johnson
  • Love/Saric
  • Ayton/Baynes

Which is pretty solid on all fronts, aside from being a bit thin in the backup PG department still.

Alex S.: Yes to an extent. I think Frank’s unwillingness to pull from deep is starting to concern me, and Mikal’s offensive performance has been underwhelming. Jevon is starting to become who we should expect and that’s a defensive pest who can chip in a couple threes every other game or so. Tyler Johnson will be the most steady piece off this bench until Aron eventually goes back to being a backup 5! (I don’t see the Suns benching Ayton nor starting both guys together).

I still believe this unit is very solid as well as leaps and bounds better than last season. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see how they perform the rest of the homestand.

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


Key Stats

28.1

That’s how many assists per game the Suns are averaging as a team and they are No. 1 in the NBA. Last season they averaged 23.9 and finished 20th. The Suns are also 1st in field goal percentage at 47.5%, 4th in three-point shooting at 38.4% and 5th in points per game at 116.8.

Random Stats: Devin Booker is hitting 54.5% from the field, 53.2% from three and 92.9% at the line while averaging 25.8 points per game. Last week the Suns’ bench averaged only 30.7 points per game while shooting 39.3% from the field and 26.8% from three, all ranked 24th in the NBA compared to other benches.

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


Rookie Report

Cameron Johnson - 14.5 mpg, 6.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.6 TO, 1.6 PF, 40.9 3PT%

Ty Jerome - DNP - Injured

Jalen Lecque - Assigned to NAZ Suns

Jared Harper - Assigned to NAZ Suns

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


Game Highlights

Philadelphia 76ers vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | November 04, 2019

Phoenix Suns vs Miami Heat Full Game Highlights | November 07, 2019

Phoenix Suns vs Brooklyn Nets Full Game Highlights | Nov 10, 2019


Quotes of the Week

”I mean, from day one, coach has talked about setting the tone on the defensive end. Guard your position, guard your man. That’s really what we’ve done. Nothing is going to come easy.” - Frank Kaminsky

”I’ve talked to some players [saying] you guys are playing really physical and it is better playing physical, picking up fouls, than teams not feeling you at all.” - Devin Booker


News & Notes

Aron Baynes is the glue holding the Suns together without Deandre Ayton. Gerald Bourguet/The Step Back

‘It Doesn’t Just Happen’: How Jevon Carter Turned Himself Into The Phoenix Suns’ Biggest Surprise. Brendon Kleen/Forbes

Phoenix Suns: 4 reasons why the new-look Suns will make the playoffs. Sir Charles In Charge

Ricky Rubio is proving the Suns right for taking a chance on him in free agency. Clutch Points

The Phoenix Suns are legitimately good … and could be a playoff team. Gerald Bourguet/The Step Back

There’s nothing special about the Phoenix Suns. Mike Prada/SBNation


This Week in Suns History

On November 14, 1997, Phoenix’s 140-139 quadruple overtime win against the Portland Trail Blazers was the ninth quadruple OT game in NBA history and the first since Golden State defeated New Jersey 150-147 February 1, 1987. Four more 4OT games have happened since.

On November 17, 2000, Jason Kidd tied the NBA record for turnovers in a game when he turned the ball over 14 times in a 90-85 loss to New York. John Drew of the Atlanta Hawks committed 14 turnovers at New Jersey on March 1, 1978.


Suns Trivia

During the 2010-11 season, the Suns played in 9 games that went into overtime, an all-time team high for overtime games in a single season. The following season (strike shortened to 66 games) they had their only season with no OT games played. Since joining the NBA as an expansion franchise in 1968, they have averaged 4 overtime games per season.

During the 1986-87 season, the Suns played in 3 consecutive overtime games within a 4-day period and won all three. Win No. 1 was over the LA Clippers (128-123) on April 4, 1987, win No. 2 was over the Dallas Mavericks (118-110) on April 6, 1987 and win No. 3 was over the Seattle Supersonics (127-125) on April 7, 1987. Larry Nance and Walter Davis combined to score 183 (49.1%) of the 373 total points scored by the Suns in those three games


Previewing the Week Ahead

Tuesday, November 12 - Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers, 7:00 pm AZT

Thursday, November 14 - Phoenix Suns vs Atlanta Hawks, 7:00 pm AZT

Just two games this week but the first, on Tuesday night, will be a huge challenge as the LA Lakers come to town. The Lakers are presently tied with Denver at the top the Western Conference standings at 7-2. They recently beat the Miami Heat (who beat the Suns by 16) by 15 points but then lost at home to the Raptors by 9. With LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the court for them, it’s going to be a very tough game for the Suns. I can convince myself that the Suns have a chance at a win but I can’t quite convince myself that they’re likely to get one. As much as I hate doing it, I’m calling this one a Lakers win.

After a night off, the Suns will face an easier opponent in the Atlanta Hawks. Easier doesn’t mean easy win though as the San Antonio Spurs found out about a week ago when the Hawks beat them 108-100 in Atlanta. The Hawks are young and unpredictable though as they followed up that win with consecutive losses to the Bulls and the Kings... also in Atlanta. Even though they also took the Blazers to OT before losing in Portland last night, I still think it’s safe to call this one a win for the Suns.

I’m predicting that the Suns go 1-1 this week.

What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

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).

February 14-19 - NBA All-Star break.


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “If Deandre Ayton had not been suspended for 5 of the first 6 games...”

35% - The Suns would be 6-0.

40% - The Suns would be 5-1.

18% - The Suns would still be 4-2.

07% - The Suns would be 3-3 or under .500.

There were 308 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

So far, Monty Williams has...

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    Exceeded my expectations as the Suns’ new head coach.
    (383 votes)
  • 9%
    Met my expectations as the Suns’ new head coach.
    (42 votes)
  • 0%
    Not met my expectations as the Suns’ new head coach.
    (4 votes)
429 votes total Vote Now