clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Center of the Sun: Suns prepare for a busy Week Five

The Suns’ 7-4 record is the 5th best in the West but the coming week will be a big test for them.

2019-20 Phoenix Suns Media Day Photo by Barry Gossage NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers L (123-115) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Atlanta Hawks W (128-112) Full Recap

With just two games on the schedule, it was a short but not easy week for the Suns. They gave the Lakers a good game but fell short against one of the NBA’s best. The Hawks didn’t go away easy either which reinforces the fact that the Suns can’t afford to take any game lightly. Every game is going to be a unique challenge and the only easy nights are those that they aren’t actually playing.

Fans might have lamented the scarcity of games last week but that won’t be a problem this week. The NBA schedulers were actually kind to the Suns in giving them only two games last week as now they will be facing five games in the next seven days.

Consider this coming week as the NBA version of hell week. Two back-to-backs with overnight trips in between and three away games in one week is a challenge for any team. Unlike last week, fatigue will quickly become a factor.

After three days off, the Suns will be well rested for their first game but that’s against one of the top teams in the league, the Boston Celtics. Thankfully, they should be a bit tired as they will be playing the Suns on the second night of a back-to-back themselves but don’t expect them to not be a challenge. They’re a very good team and they will likely have a big chip on their collective shoulders after losing a close one to the Kings 100-99.

Following that Monday night game, the Suns have to fly out to Sacramento to face those Kings again themselves. After that game they get a day off before facing New Orleans at home. They then get another day off before playing back-to-back games on the road against Minnesota and Denver.

It will be a tough week that will test this young team.

Will they be up to it? I don’t know about you but, for the first time in a long while, I’m looking forward to seeing how they meet this challenge instead of dreading a tough stretch of games.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - Mikal Bridges has been catching some heat from fans because his offensive production is down compared to last season. What’s your opinion of Bridges’ overall play so far this season?

GuarGuar: I was obviously very high on Mikal coming into this season and I’ve been disappointed for the most part. His jumpshot is really what gets me mad. He has very little offensive value if he can’t shoot a good % on a solid amount of attempts per game. I’ve seen Twitter threads about how he has like 5 different releases. His best release is when he keeps his motion quick and compact. When you have such long arms like does, the slower and elongated the motion the worse it is. Whenever he’s wide open he brings out this long motion with a hitch and the results haven’t been good. His release at Villanova was near perfect, I’m so disappointed that he changed it. Sometimes I feel like he’s too concerned about making the right play instead of getting a little selfish and attack the basket. Hopefully he turns it around.

Sun-Arc: Mikal is disappointing from the standpoint of no apparent second year leap. He made progress during his rookie season, and it seemed poised to continue improving. But I’m not sure there isn’t some areas of progress for him. Depends on what you are looking at. For instance, his minutes per game have decreased by a third, down to under 20 mpg. He didn’t even play under 20 mpg any season in college. So maybe he’s adjusting to this new role.

He hasn’t looked like he’s made a progressive leap using the eyeball test. But there are several advanced stats that have actually increased, such as all rebounding numbers (from 6.0 to 10.8 TRB%), steals (2.5 to 3.5 STL%), blocks (1.3 to 1.6 BLK%), DRtg (115 to 100) and DBPM (.0 to 4.0). His PER and shooting are about equal or only slightly lower except for his really poor 3pt shooting all around. He seems to be finding his role a bit better in the past couple/few games, so maybe its just a matter of time. I don’t want to make much of it until 20 games in.

SDKyle: He’s playing his brand of defense, and that’s good...but man is his performance on offense disappointing. The Suns are basically playing 4 on 5 on offense with Bridges.

His usage is at rock bottom. He’s shooting a terrible percentage. He has 12 assists all season. His offense is below replacement level.

This isn’t to say that Bridges doesn’t bring any value to the team because I think he does...but for a guy many people had labeled “untouchable” last season and who was getting comparisons to all-star wings, this is very disappointing so far. He probably needs to step it up soon or he may actually risk becoming a trade chip as the team tries to shore up some other positional weakness later this year.

SouthernSun: Let’s not pretend that Mikal was really good at all offensively last season anyway. So being even worse this season is pretty bad. He’s fantastic defensively, but he’s just so bad on the other end. If he can increase his three point accuracy, that at least makes him playable, but with Oubre being better defensively this season than last (or at least locked in more often), and Cam being better defensively than we thought he would be, and already much better offensively than Bridges, it makes it difficult for Bridges to get minutes over those two, though shortening the rotation has helped that for now.

I could see him being traded in a package at the deadline for an impact player if he doesn’t turn it around in the next couple of months.

Alex S.: I think he’s been up and down, but it’s hard to put blame on him given the inconsistent minutes and usage.

The one thing that sticks out that is fair to criticize is when I see Mikal go up on a catch and shoot three, I don’t have faith it’s going in right now. Not necessarily because he’s not a good shooter, but with his shooting motion looking junkier as well as the apparent low confidence it makes it tough to believe in his shot right now. When I look at Cam shoot, Tyler shoot, Devin shoot, even Kelly shoot etc there’s no hesitation in their motion and they get their shot off relatively quickly.

I think Mikal is going to need to find a way to get his shot off quicker. But the defense and active hands are still there!

Q2 - I have heard some people say that Cam Johnson could become the next Kyle Korver (42.9% 3PT shooter for his career). What’s your opinion of this player comparison?

GuarGuar: The intriguing thing about Cam is his size. The Korver comparison is cool from a 3 point shooting standpoint, but their size doesn’t matchup. Cam also puts the ball on the floor a lot more. Jason Kapono is a guy that he kind of reminds me of. But Kapono never had big usage in Miami or was the solid team defender Cam has shown to be. I don’t want to throw out Klay Thompson because Klay is obviously one of the best players in the world. But, a poor mans Klay Thompson is not the worst comparison for Cam. The dude is a machine!

Sun-Arc: Kyle Korver is a pretty good comp for Cam. CJ is starting to lock in with his shot, and I could see him raise his percentages just based on how beautiful and quick his shot is - and he’s already shooting over 40% from deep. I think Cam’s overall IQ is higher than Korver’s, but maybe not quite as quick on getting clear off screens. Not sure yet. He hasn’t been much of a plus with his time on the court as of yet.

The team has a higher ORtg with him off the court thus far. By more that 20 pts, per BB-ref.com. Opponents are also scoring slightly more with him on the court. So he’s got a ways to go to be really helpful.

SDKyle: In my initial confusion about the Cam Johnson draft I labeled him a poor man’s Kyle Korver. That may be harsh, but I think the general comparison is apt. They’re both reasonably tall three point specialists. Not sure Cam will have Korver’s longevity, but not many do.

SouthernSun: Kyle Korver and JJ Redick are pretty good comps for Cam. He can get his shot off really fast, and he’s tall enough that he can see over most anyone who would be asked to guard him. He’s been better defensively than I expected. Not “good”, but certainly not awful. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by his play so far.

I think of him as like a taller JJ Redick with slightly better defense, which honestly is a heck of a player.

Alex S.: I kind of see a lesser Peja Stojakovic. In terms of size, position, and skillset this is the closest I could come up with. The ceiling that Cam could reach would resemble the career that Peja had. I don’t think he’ll be quite as good considering I don’t see Cam being a #2/3 option on this Suns roster at any point but I’ve been impressed with his ability off the dribble and his overall feel for the game. Korver is an obvious comparison for any sharpshooter that comes out of the draft so I tried to think of someone different to spice it up.

Q3 - I’ve heard very little criticism of Monty Williams’ coaching. If you had to pick something to be critical of, what would it be?

GuarGuar: Monty has checked basically every box I had to start the year. So I’m really getting thin when trying to find a critique early this season. If I have to go with something I would say he can get a little too conservative with guys in foul trouble, especially with Booker. He’s been very by the book (no pun intended) when it comes to dealing with guys in foul trouble. Booker was clearly in his hot zone vs. Philly in that 3rd quarter, but picked up a ticky tack foul for his 4th. Monty sat him for a while after. We won the game, but that’s something that could easily bite us in the future. Especially with the inconsistency of our bench this year. Then again, Booker picked up 2 fouls early vs. Atlanta but Monty subbed him back in with time left in the first quarter. So maybe it isn’t much of a thing anymore.

Sun-Arc: Overall, I feel Williams has done an excellent job. The team is far surpassing my expectations in every way. Though if I have to… my criticism of Williams would be two fold:

Offense: that he hasn’t found a way to get more players involved consistently on offense. After the Atlanta game he said he needed to get Dario Saric more involved, for instance. And what does it mean with Ayton coming back eventually? Hard to say. Overall, though, he’s getting players open and moving the ball and they have a winning record.

Defense: That early season buy-in was so exciting. But their defensive rating has dropped each week. We are currently sitting at 11th, which is WAY higher than I thought it would be during preseason - but why is it dropping and how low will it go? I can clearly see a different energy by the entire team on defense in the past 10 days. Its palpable. That gritty defensive team we had at the start is now allowing teams to score quite a bit more. The offense has gotten better, sure. But wouldn’t it be great to have both firing at a high level? Still, like I said, we are winning games and there is very little to complain about.

SDKyle: This is a tough one. My main concern going into the year was he’d fail to use Ayton as much as he could on offense, since the knock on Monty in New Orleans was he struggled to make effective use of AD in his system. That hasn’t been a factor so far.

I guess if I had to nitpick something it would just be that his substitution patterns lack a lot of consistency, but that isn’t a big deal when it’s working. It doesn’t feel like it did with Igor, like the coach was flailing blindly for some magic lineup.

As long as the Suns keep winning I’m not really going to criticize Monty.

SouthernSun: I have no criticisms of Monty’s coaching whatsoever. He’s been fantastic. I’m actually really curious to find out if anybody else is unhappy with anything he’s been doing.

Alex S.: That’s tough. Maybe playing this small of a rotation so soon into the year? It’d be ideal if we could see 10 guys on the court on a consistent basis just to promote long-term health of our roster but this isn’t a huge deal to me.

It’s hard to come up with anything right now considering the success of the team 11 games into the season.

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


Key Stats

21.6

That is the average fouls committed per game over the last two weeks (5 games) for the Suns. If that was their season average, it would rank 11th. Their average for the entire season is 25.0 fouls per game which is 29th. For the season, the Suns have also averaged sending opponents to the free throw line 27.9 times per game (27th) but in the last two weeks that has dropped to 22.4 which would be 10th if it was their season average.

Random Stats: The week before last, 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. In the past week they improved to 36.5 ppg (16th), shot 43.6% from the field (17th) and 42.9% from three (tie-5th).

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


Game Highlights

Los Angeles Lakers vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | November 12, 2019

Atlanta Hawks vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | November 14, 2019


Rookie Report

Cameron Johnson - 16.5 mpg, 8.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.2 bpg, 0.7 TO, 1.7 PF, 41.7 3PT%

Ty Jerome - DNP - Injured

Jalen Lecque - Assigned to NAZ Suns

Jared Harper - Assigned to NAZ Suns

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


Injury Status Report

Ty Jerome (ankle) - Expected to be out until at least Nov. 29.

Deandre Ayton (suspension) - Expected to be out until Dec. 17.


Quotes of the Week

”Being able to play off Ricky, play off a guy like Baynes coming for dribble handoffs, it makes it a lot easier, conserves your body and it looks good while we’re playing out there.” - Devin Booker

”When they blitz us, I think we have the shooting around him (Booker) that can make teams pay.” - Monty Williams


News & Notes

Report: This summer the Lakers, among others, were hoping Suns would buy out Aron Baynes. Yahoo! Sports

The Phoenix Suns are back; this team has playoff DNA. Sir Charles In Charge

NBA Rookie Power Rankings. CBS Sports

How Devin Booker is making the leap to NBA superstardom. Gerald Bourguet/The Step Back

The Suns are shooting threes at historic rates, and it’s working. Alex Weiner/Arizona Sports

Quentin Richardson reveals Steve Nash took a pay cut so he could sign with Suns in 2004. Clutch Points

How Aron Baynes went from role player to star for the Suns. Ricky O’Donnell/SBNation

Suns Dedicated to Using G-League to Grow and Develop Young Players. Suns.com


This Week in Suns History

On November 23, 1994, Wesley Person hit for 19 points to lead 10 double-figure scorers in Phoenix’s 140-109 home win over the LA Clippers. The Suns became the third team in NBA history to have 10 different players score in double figures in the same game.


Suns Trivia

Former Sun Amar’e Stoudemire was the first ever player drafted straight out of high school to win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award for the 2002–03 season. Stoudemire did not start playing organized basketball until he was 14 and only played two years of it in high school. He grew up in Lake Wales, Florida and was a big fan of Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Monday, November 18 - Phoenix Suns vs Boston Celtics, 7:00 pm AZT

Tuesday, November 19 - Phoenix Suns @ Sacramento Kings, 8:00 pm AZT

Thursday, November 21 - Phoenix Suns vs New Orleans Pelicans, 8:30 pm AZT

Saturday, November 23 - Phoenix Suns @ Minnesota Timberwolves, 3:00 pm AZT

Sunday, November 24 - Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets, 6:00 pm AZT

The Suns start off the week at home tonight against the 10-2 Boston Celtics. The Celtics rank 1st in OffRtg, 9th in DefRtg and 1st in NetRtg. They also commit the fewest turnovers per game in the NBA. This will be a very tough game for the Suns but Boston will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back on the road. They will likely be tired but also angry after losing to the Kings yesterday. I think the anger will win out over the fatigue so I’m calling this one a Celtics’ win.

Following the Celtics game, the Suns head immediately out on the road for their second game of the season against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. The Suns handled the Kings fairly easily in their first matchup (124-95) but I expect them to be a little fatigued in this one and the Kings will still be riding the high they got from their Sunday win over the Celtics. I still expect a Suns win but not by such a large margin this time.

On Thursday the Suns will be back at home for their third game of the week against the new look New Orleans Pelicans. The Pels will still be without the coveted No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson but still have plenty of offensive weapons to throw at the Suns. They’re 7th in OffRtg but, unfortunately for them, they’re also 29th in DefRtg. Unless the Suns have a poor shooting night, I call this a win for Phoenix.

Saturday night the Suns will be in Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves. The T-wolves are a solid team that ranks 16th in OffRtg, DefRtg and NetRtg. Yes, they’re basically as average as average can be in the NBA but that isn’t a bad thing. They aren’t a top team but they aren’t a bad team either... but they can be either one on any given night. Karl Anthony Towns is still their best player but Andrew Wiggins seems to be finally figuring things out and turning into a dangerous player himself. It should be an exciting game to watch and a close one but I’m giving the Suns the edge and calling it in their favor.

And finally, what could be a very tired Suns team will fly to Denver for a rematch with the Nuggets in the thin air of the Mile High City. The Suns lost a close one in overtime to the Nuggets earlier this season. The Nuggets are still good and, unlike the Suns, they won’t be playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Unfortunately, I have to pick Denver to win this one.

I’m predicting that the Suns go 3-2 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 “So far, Monty Williams has...”

89% - Exceeded my expectations as the Suns’ new head coach.

10% - Met my expectations as the Suns’ new head coach.

01% - Not met my expectations as the Suns’ new head coach.

There were 429 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

When Deandre Ayton’s suspension is over...

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    He should be put back into the starting lineup.
    (81 votes)
  • 22%
    Aron Baynes should still start and Ayton should come in off the bench.
    (64 votes)
  • 48%
    I’ll leave it up to Monty Williams to decide whether Ayton or Baynes should start.
    (136 votes)
281 votes total Vote Now