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Center of the Sun: Suns winning ways continue through Week Two

At 4-2 the Suns are presently in a four-way tie for 4th in the West.

Phoenix Suns v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs Utah Jazz L (96-95) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ Golden State Warriors W (121-110) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ Memphis Grizzlies W (114-105) Full Recap

I invite you all to remember this quote from ESPN who had Phoenix ranked 26th in their power rankings before the season began: ”The Suns had a head-scratching summer.

It’s pretty obvious now that the only head-scratching thing about the Suns’ summer was why so many seemed to think it was head-scratching. I do admit that trading T.J. Warren and the 32nd pick in last year’s draft for “cash considerations” (and cap space) was selling low on TJ but James Jones had other moves he wanted to make and those required some cap space to get underway. He needed to move Warren quickly and did.

Let’s face facts. I like Warren and he can score the ball but offered little else to a Suns team that was overloaded at small forward... and he hasn’t exactly taken the NBA world by storm in Indiana. And was anyone really expecting that 2nd round draft pick to turn into a difference making player?

But that and all of the other offseason moves that Jones made are all old news and all of the head-scratching going on now is being done by opposing teams trying to figure out how to stop the Suns on the court.

It’s still way too early to know just how good this Suns team is but it’s obvious that they are good. We’ve seen enough bad teams in Phoenix in the past few years to be able to recognize the difference between good and bad basketball. They pass the eye-test and have the stats to back that up.

As the season goes on and more and more games are played, the true level of this team will become clearer and clearer. Are the playoffs once again within reach for Phoenix? Only time will tell so strap yourselves in and enjoy the ride, Suns fans.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - Defense! Do you believe the Suns can continue to be a good defensive team or is their early season success on that end just a fluke?

GuarGuar: I do believe we can continue to be a good defensive team. However, I don’t think we will be as good as we’ve been the first 6 games. The communication and energy have been there so far. Ayton was committed in his 1 game played. Booker has been very dedicated on that end of the floor. Saric, Oubre, Rubio, and Mikal have been the big disruptors though, forcing a ton of turnovers. I hope it continues!

Sun-Arc: I am beginning to believe in this team, the players, and particularly Monty Williams. Having a top 10 defense this year was never on my radar in the offseason, and now it seems plausible. Yet, in all things with this team I’m waiting until 20 games in to see how sustainable it is. I’m hopeful it is not a fluke, and I feel the same way about their offense as well. In both cases, I believe opposing teams will be able to scout the team and plan better schemes against them. By 20 games in we should know whether Monty can out-coach the opposition and if the players can keep executing at this level.

SDKyle: I don’t see why they couldn’t if they stay dedicated to it. Man defense can be limited by your physical abilities, but team defense is mostly just about coordination, dedication and awareness. It’s a long season so we’ll have to see, but it’s certainly encouraging so far.

SouthernSun: I believe the team can definitely be a good defensive team, though I imagine that will lessen a bit once Ayton returns, while the offense gets a little better. Let’s say that now they are around 10th in both areas with Baynes starting. Once Ayton returns, they could be 5th or 6th on offense and 15th on defense. If I had to bet I’d guess they wind up being 8th on offense and 14th on defense, by the end of the season (unless they have a massive drop-off at some point). I don’t think it’s a fluke so far, but everyone is exerting a lot of effort on that end now, and I imagine they will wear down a little. If losses pile up for a bit at some point, that may also result in tempering their effort a little.

Hopefully the foul calls lessen soon. Supposedly as the team prove themselves to be a gritty defensive team, the refs will catch on. But all the fouls might be the result of a bunch of not necessarily overly athletic guys trying really hard on defense. Which, okay fine.

Alex Sylvester: Yes and no.

Yes from the standpoint that the talent this team has on the defensive end is night and day in comparison of last year. The most underrated defensive piece this team has currently is Dario Saric. He’s a very smart, timely defender and can hold his own in the low post. Aron Baynes is a force underneath. Kelly Oubre Jr./Ricky Rubio have active hands and can create chaos in a half court set. Even Devin has shown strides on the defensive end!

That being said, is it fair to say we can expect this level of effort during an 82 game season? Probably not. I don’t see these numbers fading dramatically over the next couple of months but I don’t think this team will end in the top 10 in terms of defensive ratings.

Q2 - It’s still very early in the season but has what you’ve seen so far convinced you that the Suns might be playoff contenders this year?

GuarGuar: I think it’s a combination of a lot of good teams falling back and us playing the solid basketball that we have. Before the season, it looked like if we wanted to make the playoffs we would be competing down to the wire with the Kings, Pelicans, and Warriors for the 8 seed. All 3 of those teams look out of the race already for different reasons. So assuming Minnesota starts losing like they should (they’ve played a really easy schedule so far), the 7 and 8 seed spots come down to us, Portland, and Dallas. 3 teams for 2 spots is a much better scenario than most of us were expecting a couple weeks ago.

Sun-Arc: As I alluded to in the first question, I am far from convinced at this point- but I am much more hopeful of it than I was a couple of weeks ago. They might be playoff contenders because several of the questionable teams (OKC, MEM, NOP, and SAC) all look like western conference bottom dwellers. If we outperform them, along with GSW, that would put in that 7-10 range, which appears to be our destination at this time. To make the playoffs we’d have to outperform both Dallas and Portland, which may or may not be easy. My fear is our players and team regress more to what was expected of them this season and we are more firmly in the 10-13 range. I will say this, however; If they can keep up this level of play, even if we are the 8th seed, we’d likely be an 8th seed no team wants to see in the first round.

SDKyle: It certainly has convinced me that they MIGHT, though not that they WILL. I’m certainly encouraged by their early play, and by the fact that I now think the Warriors will miss the playoffs and open up another spot. The West is wide open this year...there are about 11 teams I think all have a legitimate chance to get in...the Suns included.

SouthernSun: It’s still so early, so I don’t feel comfortable making a prediction like thi- Oh what am I saying. YES! The Suns are making the playoffs and we will swim in the sorrow of Kings, Mavericks, and Pelicans fans. Jevon Carter’s effort is never going anywhere, even if his 3 point shot stops falling as much. Kaminsky is just as good as I felt he could be on this team in this role, Kelly is playing his part perfectly, and Devin hasn’t even really gone full Devin Booker on a team yet. As soon as Devin hits his stride, and the Suns get Ayton back to provide another wrinkle to this offense and a bit more depth, they will look even better.

Alex Sylvester: Two main things to me: balance and the West being more top heavy than we thought.

Balance is crucial because you can’t expect two guys on your team to carry the weight of the team for a full season. Having games where Devin can take over, Baynes can chip in 24/12/7, Kaminsky going off from the bench, Oubre being the #1 option, and Deandre taking over when he gets back is what really impresses me so far. This is so refreshing considering the past three seasons have been the Devin Booker show and nothing else to bank on.

In regard to the West, there are some teams that immediately jump out as playoff ‘locks’ barring some major injuries. LAC, LAL, DEN, UTAH, HOU should be playoff teams with 99% certainty. POR is somewhere around 80% for me (if Nurkic were healthy it’d be a lock to me). So that leaves two spots open for the Suns, Mavericks, Spurs, and Wolves to potentially fight over.

Steph’s injury as well as the Warriors inability to defend a 5th grader has knocked them out of the picture for me altogether.

Can the Suns push for a 7th/8th spot? My odds went from about 1% to maybe 20%. That’s an amazing feeling.

Q3 - Other than the Suns, what team in the West has been the biggest surprise (positive or negative) so far?

GuarGuar: I expected Sacramento to regress some, but not nearly to the extent that they have. They legitimately have looked awful so far, and it’s concerning because their player core is the same. Luke Walton has them playing really slow, which makes no sense considering how great they were playing fast last year. No complaints from me though, as it benefits us for them to be bad!

Sun-Arc: I’m not going with GSW as a disappointment, because I figured they’d be in for a huge drop off. I could say that DAL is surprising me, but Rick Carlisle has often proven to be a very capable coach. I could say LAL because I didn’t have them in the top four of the west- but most people expected them to be top 3. Instead I’ll go with the boring approach and say the Spurs, with their totally under the radar approach- yet again. They are #2 in the west right now with all-around solid play. I expected them to be 6-8 seed, but so far are really taking care of business in the most Spurs way possible. We’ll have to see where all four of these teams end up. My guess is GSW and DAL may end up around 10th, with LAL and SAS competing for the 3-5 spots. We all keep waiting for the spurs to fall apart, but they keep themselves formidable- for 20 years running now. That is the most boring “spur-ize” so far to me.

SDKyle: So far for positives it’s gotta be the Wolves, right? They haven’t played a super tough schedule, but they’re 4-1 after having played only one home game. They just won in blowout fashion without KAT, and have a top 10 defense right now.

This isn’t to say they’re going to sustain this because they likely won’t, but I think if KAT and Teague stay healthy that team is definitely in the playoff mix.

SouthernSun: Kangz. Last season was apparently a fluke, because we the Kings have fallen back down to earth. Bogdon isn’t a player worth being sad about not having. Fox lacks shooting. Ariza makes too much money to be a listless cardboard cutout on the court. Bagley isn’t as good as Ayton. Buddy is good, but he’s only 2 years younger than Ricky Rubio, so it’s not like he’s some future superstar.

Alex Sylvester: The Kings and Pelicans were two teams I highlighted preseason that could come up way short of expectations and they are currently living up to that claim.

So I’m going to give Minnesota my vote for this question for the positive and I’ll still give the Kings my vote for the negative. Shoutout to KAT for being such a monster! Luke Walton… good luck trying to survive the entire season.

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


Key Stats

37.5% 3-point percentage

Last week the Suns were 16th in 3-point percentage with a respectable but not great 34.6%. During last week’s three games, they hit 40.4% from three to increase their season average from three to 37.5% and move up to a tie for 7th (with New Orleans). The Suns are also 7th in the NBA in true shooting percentage at 57.8%.

Random Stats: Frank Kaminsky is leading the Suns in getting to the free throw line with 4.7 ft attempts per game and making 82.1% of his FTs. Dario Saric is leading the Suns in rebounds per game with 6.5 in 27.3 minutes per game (8.6 rpg per 36 minutes).

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


Rookie Report

Cameron Johnson - 13.3 mpg, 6.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.8 TO, 2.5 PF, 35.7 3PT%

Ty Jerome - DNP - Injured

Jalen Lecque - Assigned to NAZ Suns

Jared Harper - Assigned to NAZ Suns

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


Game Highlights

Utah Jazz vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | October 28, 2019

Golden State Warriors vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | October 30, 2019

Memphis Grizzlies vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | November 2, 2019


Quotes of the Week

”We didn’t have one comment or one conversation about anything that related to him (Booker) being a better defender. I think he just wants it.” - Monty Williams

”You know, everybody tries to improve culture, but we have good guys. So that’s where our culture starts. It’s not about me implementing some day-to-day ritual. It’s about having good guys, and we have that, and that helps our culture.” - Monty Williams


News & Notes

Suns Awaiting Decision On Ayton Appeal. The Tribune

Devin Booker shedding ‘empty stats’ label with defensive effort during Suns’ surprising start. CBS Sports

Williams: Suns’ Devin Booker doesn’t need convincing to play defense. Matt Layman/Arizona Sports

Suns are NBA’s youngest, lightest team for 2019-20 season. Arizona Sports

The Phoenix Suns Are Hot, And They Don’t Look Like A Fluke. FiveThirtyEight


This Week in Suns History

On November 7, 1992, the Suns celebrated their 30th Anniversary season by moving into the America West Arena (now Talking Stick Resort Arena).

On November 10, 1990, the Suns routed the Denver Nuggets 173-143 to tie a record held by the 1959 Boston Celtics for the most points scored in a non-overtime game. The Suns had 107 points in the first half, breaking the mark of 90 set by the Nuggets three days earlier in a 161-153 loss to San Antonio. Suns Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons also picked up his 700th career coaching victory, becoming only the seventh coach in the history of the league to reach that mark.


Suns Trivia

Talking Stick Resort Arena opened on June 6, 1992 as the America West Arena. It remained AWA until it was renamed US Airways Center in 2006. In 2015 it was again renamed Talking Stick Resort Arena.

TSRA is currently the 4th oldest active NBA arena. It’s original construction cost was $89 million. Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum (The Madhouse on McDowell) which housed the Suns from 1968 to 1992 was constructed at a cost of $7 million in 1965.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Monday, November 4 - Phoenix Suns vs Philadelphia 76ers, 7:00 pm AZT

Thursday, November 7 - Phoenix Suns vs Miami Heat, 7:00 pm AZT

Sunday, November 10 - Phoenix Suns vs Brooklyn Nets, 6:00 pm AZT

Tonight, The Suns face the last undefeated team in the NBA... the 5-0 Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers will be without their extremely talented man in the middle, Joel Embiid, as he sits for the final game of his 2-game suspension for a “fight” with Minnesota Timberwolves star, Karl-Anthony Towns. Beating the Sixers sounds like a tall order - even without Embiid - but maybe not as much as you might think. Philly did beat the Blazers Saturday night without him but the Blazers were also without Jusuf Nurkic, Hassan Whiteside, Zach Collins and Pau Gasol for that game and only lost by a single point. The Sixers are a very good team but I believe that the Suns have at least an even chance of getting a win at home in this one.

After a two day layoff, the Miami Heat come to Phoenix. The Heat are also sporting a better record (5-1) than the Suns and will be tough challenge. They are playing well with new addition Jimmy Butler and are well coached. I’m giving the Suns a slight edge because they will be playing at home after two days rest while Miami will be playing their second game on a Western road trip following what will likely be a tough game for them in Denver on Tuesday night.

Finally, the 2-4 Brooklyn Nets come to town on Sunday following another two-day layoff for the Suns. Even with Kyrie Irving’s high powered scoring (30.5 ppg), the Nets aren’t winning a lot. There defense has been weak (19th) and they turn the ball over a lot (29th). Expect Kyrie to get his but in another losing effort against the Suns.

I’m again predicting that the Suns finish this week with a 2-1 record but this time with a 50-50 chance of going 1-2.

What’s your prediction for this week?


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 “Do you think Deandre Ayton will win the appeal of his 25-game suspension?”

15% - Yes.

25% - No.

60% - Yes but the suspension will only be reduced a few games.

There were 464 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

If Deandre Ayton had not missed 5 of the first 6 games...

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    The Suns would be 6-0.
    (107 votes)
  • 39%
    The Suns would be 5-1.
    (123 votes)
  • 18%
    The Suns would still be 4-2.
    (56 votes)
  • 7%
    The Suns would be 3-3 or under .500.
    (22 votes)
308 votes total Vote Now