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Center of the Sun: Suns face an easier schedule following the All-Star break

Whether an easier schedule will bring more wins is debatable, though.

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Clippers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

@ LA Clippers L (134-107) Full Recap

There are exactly 50 days and 23 games left until the end of the Suns’ 2018-19 season.

Thank God.

This season has been a supreme disappointment. Expectations weren’t high going into it but, in retrospect, the ones we had then seem laughable now. I have no expectations going forward which is perhaps a good thing.

The Suns are on a 15 game losing streak, which ties their worst ever string of losses... which occurred last season. I hope that streak will come to an end this Thursday in Cleveland against the 12-46 Cavs.

I hope that the Suns will play hard for the rest of the season and use the adversity they’ve faced this year to pull them together instead of letting it break them apart.

I hope that the front office doesn’t throw in the towel and start playing for draft position instead of wins.

I don’t expect these things, but I do still hope for them.

If the Suns’ win/loss percentage remains consistent over their final 23 games, they should finish this season with a record of 15-67. That would be their worst season ever, falling below even their first season as an expansion team when they were 16-66. Tankathon.com ranks the Suns’ remaining strength of schedule as 27th in the NBA and 14 of their 23 remaining games are against sub-500 teams but that probably doesn’t make much of a difference as all 14 of those sub-500 teams still have better records than the Suns.

Perhaps it will lead to fewer blowout losses and maybe even a few extra wins as some of those teams shift their tanking efforts into a higher gear down the stretch. The Suns obviously don’t have to tank but hopefully they don’t decide to sit healthy players toward the end. It may sound like a reasonable way to limit the opportunities for players to get injured in meaningless games but the players want to play, not sit on the sidelines and watch. It’s doubtful that a few extra wins will significantly alter the Suns lottery odds so let them play and let them play to win.

The fans deserve better than watching the team fight for better lottery odds instead of wins for the rest of the season.


Fantable Questions of the Week

1. Past performance projects the Suns ending this season with a 15-67 record. If they actually play to win (instead of actively tanking again), do you think that they can beat that projection?

GuarGuar: Assuming everybody is healthy, I certainly think it’s possible we surpass the current 15 win projection. This team has shown it’s capable of playing decent basketball for short stretches, and honestly I would be surprised if we didn’t have at least one more to finish the season. Looking at the schedule, the absolute best possible record I see us finishing with is 21-61, and that is probably a big stretch. We really need to see this team come together and try and finish the season strong.

Sun-Arc: Impossible to predict the final record with this team. I do not think they will “strategically rest” players this season. I think they will play to win. Doesn’t mean they will win many/any. I think they could beat the 15 win projection quite easily, but a lot of things have to change for that to happen. People have to get healthy. They have to find the consistent mojo they displayed during that run in December. And they have to want it. I’m not sure any of those things will happen.

SDKyle: I think the Suns can surpass 15 wins, but not by much. I’d say best possible scenario at this point is 18 wins, and if I were forced to guess I’d say 16. What a disaster.

SouthernSun: Here is my best possible prediction for the Suns the rest of the season:

  • Thu, Feb 21 @ Cleveland L
  • Sat, Feb 23 @ Atlanta L
  • Mon, Feb 25 @ Miami L
  • Fri, Mar 1 vs New Orleans W
  • Sat, Mar 2 vs LAL L
  • Mon, Mar 4 vs Milwaukee L
  • Wed, Mar 6 vs New York W
  • Sat, Mar 9 @ Portland L
  • Sun, Mar 10 @ Golden State L
  • Wed, Mar 13 vs Utah L
  • Fri, Mar 15 @ Houston L
  • Sat, Mar 16 @ New Orleans L
  • Mon, Mar 18 vs Chicago W
  • Thu, Mar 21 vs Detroit L
  • Sat, Mar 23 @ Sacramento L
  • Mon, Mar 25 @ Utah L
  • Wed, Mar 27 vs Washington L
  • Sat, Mar 30 vs Memphis L
  • Mon, Apr 1 vs Cleveland W
  • Wed, Apr 3 vs Utah L
  • Fri, Apr 5 vs New Orleans L
  • Sun, Apr 7 @ Houston L
  • Tue, Apr 9 @ Dallas L

Okay, I was going to try and be optimistic about this, but I just can’t. Back in the happy times, before the season started, I would have given the Suns a good shot at beating any sub-500 team they went up against. But now, we simply have too much evidence suggesting they’re going to get punched in the mouth in the first quarter by a crappy team playing without its best player, make a spirited comeback to within 10 points as the other team gets complacent, and then the other team will kick it up a notch in the 4th and bury them.

The Suns will win a maximum of 15 games this season. The only way they will win more games than that is if the teams they win against are in just uber tanking mode. I’m talking playing their 10 day contract guys and rookie second round picks for extended stretches of time. And even then the Suns still aren’t guaranteed to win those games, because that’s essentially what 50 percent of the Suns rotation is anyway.

Alex Sylvester: They could beat 4 wins the rest of the way, but sadly I don’t know if they will.

From the little I’ve watched over the past two weeks, the team seems to be going through the motions. It’s getting to the point where you might be forced to fire Igor one year in, and that’s going to be a terrible look. I hope this team can at the very least win 15 games, and it’s so sad that it’s gotten to this point.

2. A lot of fans want to move on from Igor Kokoskov when the season is done and bring in a new head coach. What is your opinion?

GuarGuar: Even if Igor turns out to be a really bad coach, firing him now or after this season is an atrocious move to make. We already have a reputation of firing coaches/executives at weird times/too early, so to do this to Igor would give us an extremely bad image. It’s also unfair to Igor, as he’s had to coach a pretty awful roster that doesn’t complement each other at all. His offense is clearly guard oriented and we haven’t had a point guard or anything close to one this season. I like Igor’s offensive schemes and the system he is trying to run (for the most part). What’s bothered me the most about him this year is his rotations, especially the overplaying of 38 year old Jamal Crawford. We might not have many NBA quality players on this team, but the ones we do have aren’t being utilized optimally (especially Booker).

Sun-Arc: I’m really on the fence about Igor. At first I was excited he was the choice. Then I was really disappointed by his rotations, schemes, and lack of effort the team has showed most nights. But that run in December really was a sight to behold, and the schemes/rotations have slightly improved. Some hate his mild manner, but I like the steady hand that doesn’t give in to the whining of young players. He’s mostly held players accountable, particularly given the roster he was handed.

I think there is a chance he could end up being a really good coach. If improvements are made in the offseason and he has a second and steady training camp/pre-season (unlike this season’s) with more time to work with the young guys, he could end up being a great choice. That’s a lot of “ifs”, though.

I also think the bigger problems are Sarver and the culture of losing Igor has been dealing with. If Igor is fired, does anyone really think a top-end coach will be hired in his place? I don’t. Any proven NBA head coach will want some level of control and to be paid decently - two issues that have chased away coaching suitors during Sarver’s tenure. Mike Budenholzer comes to mind.

Stay with the devil you know or go with another first time underpaid head coach? The latter sounds like pinning one’s hopes on the next drafted teenager to somehow save this team. I’m tired of that mindset and tired of the turnover. I lean towards keeping him.

SDKyle: I’m sympathetic to Kokoskov in that he wasn’t given much support from the front office, but has he really shown us any compelling evidence he deserves to stay? Questionable rotations, apathetic play... he doesn’t seem to gel very well with key pieces of our roster, namely Booker and Ayton. He’s arguably doing less with more than Triano did.

I want to want to give him more time, but at the end of the day it’s hard to argue too hard that he deserves to stay after a sub-20 win season.

SouthernSun: Is there someone decent available? With head coaching experience? Who wants to coach the Suns? It would seem like career sabotage. The last several guys who coached the Suns all now are no longer NBA head coaches. Granted, none of them (with the slight exception of Triano sort of) were NBA head coaches before coaching the Suns either.

Maybe they could get somebody with more personality than a piece of wood? Maybe make them co - Head Coach or whatever? Like Stan Van Gundy?

I’d like to think that the Suns front office knows what’s needed more than I do, but the scary thought I have is, I’m not sure they do.

Alex Sylvester: I mean, yeah.

Igor is a nice guy, but I don’t see this team responding to him. This group needs a strong voice whose willing to get under the skin of some of our young guys.

This culture is toxic. I have no doubt in my mind that this group has the talent to win nearly 30 games, but they simply don’t put in the effort or care enough to make that happen.

It’s a combination of ownership/front office/coaching to change the culture, but unfortunately for Igor the coach is the easiest to move on from.

3. What should the Suns do about filling the General Manager spot?

GuarGuar: All indications that I’ve seen point to James Jones being named the permanent GM. We haven’t even replaced the scouts that left with McDonough, so is it actually reasonable to expect us to replace the GM spot? I’m not sure exactly how I feel about James Jones, and whether he can be a good GM. I’d prefer a proven guy like David Griffin, who Dave King brought up the other day. He would be a great hire, however him and Sarver have a beef. I’ve never felt great about James Jones since he said that we wouldn’t be judged on wins and losses this season. That didn’t sit well with me. And he was a part of the McDonough front office for over a year, so he is part of the problem why we haven’t had a point guard in two years. Two years! I would be surprised if Jones is let go this offseason.

Sun-Arc: I guess this question is very much in the same vein as the question about Igor. Is James Jones and Trevor Buckstein worth keeping? My answer is the similar as well. I don’t trust Sarver’s management acumen to make a good decision. Whether he keeps these guys on or hires someone else, seems like it will end up being the wrong decision either way to me just because the decision is his.

SDKyle: I’m okay with rolling with James Jones a little longer. Would I prefer an experienced exec? Yes. But I don’t think it will happen.

SouthernSun: David Griffin would be great. Maybe bring in Kevin McHale or some other respected guy with some semblance of experience. But yeah, I’m going with David Griffin.

Alex Sylvester: I’m on record saying the moves Jones have made are solid. But it’s the moves he hasn’t made that might make the Suns move on.

Look, it’s not reasonable to think he would be able to fix all the glaring problems during the middle of the season. But the Suns cannot afford to go another offseason striking out on glaring weaknesses. Can Jones make a splash this summer? I’m not sure to be perfectly honest.

I’d rather grab an experienced GM who’s willing to part with half the roster to work towards a better culture personally.

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


Key Stats

48.4% FG

That is average field goal percentage of the Suns’ opponents this season. It’s 29th in the NBA (only Cleveland is worse at 49.1%). Only the Golden State Warriors have a team FG% that is higher for the season than what the Suns average giving up to opposing teams every night. The Suns’ opponent’s Effective Field Goal Percentage (54.6%) is also 29th. Only two teams (GSW and Milwaukee) have a higher EFG% than what the Suns average giving up per game.

The Suns are also 29th in opponent’s points off turnovers (19.7), opponent’s second chance points (15.0) and opponent’s points in the paint (52.6) and 28th in opponent’s fast break points (16.5).

Weekly Book Report

Season - 34.7 mpg, 24.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 6.7 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg, 3.9 TO, 3.3 PF

46.0% FG, 32.5% 3PT, 84.8% FT

This week - 32.8 mpg, 10.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.0 bpg, 3.0 TO, 3.0 PF

20.0% FG, 0.0% 3PT, 100.0% FT

Random Stats: The Suns do have one very good defensive stat. They are 2nd in the NBA in steals per game (9.0). While the Suns are 11th in scoring fast break points (14.7), they usually give up more than they score (16.5, 28th). The few positives that they have are almost always nullified by the negatives.

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


Game Highlights

Phoenix Suns vs LA Clippers - Full Game Highlights | February 13, 2019

Deandre Ayton Full Highlights 2019 Rising Stars Challenge - 15 Pts, 8 Rebs, 5 Asts!

2019 NBA 3 Point Contest - Devin Booker - 1st Round


Quotes of the Week

“I don’t think he even realizes how hard it is to stop him down there. When he’s aggressive, it gives our team another gear and another way to score the ball.” - Richaun Holmes (speaking about Deandre Ayton)

”I know I can do more in this league.” - Deandre Ayton


Rookie Report

Deandre Ayton - 30.9 mpg, 16.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.9 bpg, 1.8 TO, 2.8 PF

  • This week - 29.1 mpg, 20.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 2.0 PF

Mikal Bridges - 27.9 mpg, 8.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.8 TO, 2.5 PF, 35.2% 3PT

  • This week - 26.6 mpg, 5.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.0 TO, 4.0 PF, 0.0% 3PT

De’Anthony Melton - 20.5 mpg, 5.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.7 TO, 2.6 PF, 31.2% 3PT

  • This week - DNP (Injured)

Elie Okobo - 18.9 mpg, 5.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.6 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.4 TO, 2.3 PF, 27.6% 3PT

  • This week - 15.3 mpg, 4.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.0 TO, 1.0 PF, 50.0% 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 (assigned to NAZ Suns)

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


News & Notes

’I’ll Be the Alpha’: Suns Rookie Deandre Ayton’s Desire to Take on a Leadership Role. The Crossover

The history of the Phoenix Suns at NBA All-Star Weekend. Cole Bailey/Arizona Sports

5 NBA Teams With The Most Losses Since The 2013-2014 Season. Fadeaway World

  • (Believe it or not, the Suns actually aren’t No. 1 on this list!)

Former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo stays optimistic. Tom Kuebel/Arizona Sports

Tanking doesn’t always work in the NBA, just ask the Phoenix Suns. ClutchPoints

Deandre Ayton says he still has more to show as the Suns get set for All-Star break. Duane Rankin/Arizona Republic


This Week in Suns History

On February 22, 1977, Alvan Adams recorded a triple-double with 47 points, 18 rebounds and 12 assists against the Buffalo Braves. He is one of five players in NBA history (along with Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Russell Westbrook and Vince Carter) to have as many as 46 points and 16 rebounds in a triple-double performance.


Suns Trivia

No Phoenix Suns players have been selected for the NBA All-Star game in the past seven years. In the previous seven years, Suns players were selected to play in 6 of the 7 All-Star games. Steve Nash (5 times), Amare Stoudemire (4 times), Shawn Marion (twice) and Shaquille O’Neal (once).


Previewing the Week Ahead

Thursday, February 21 - Phoenix Suns @ Cleveland Cavaliers, 5:00 pm AZ

Saturday, February 23 - Phoenix Suns @ Atlanta Hawks, 5:00 pm AZ

The Suns have two games this week and both are on the road against teams that - along with the Suns - are in the bottom five in the standings. If the Suns are ever going to break their current losing streak, this is the week to do it.

First up on Thursday night are the 12-46 Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland has managed to win 3 of their last 7 games but those were against pretty bad Knicks, Bulls and Wizards teams. The Cavs actually have worse defensive and net ratings than the Suns (30th vs 29th in both) but a slightly higher offensive rating (26th vs 28th). I think that the Suns will get a win and end their losing streak in Cleveland.

Next, the Suns head to Atlanta. The Suns have already lost once to the Hawks in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago when the Hawks’ 2nd year power forward John Collins torched them for 35 points and 16 rebounds.

If everyone is healthy for this game and Kokoskov throws something different at Collins defensively, I think the Suns have a 50-50 chance of getting a win. ... If.

I’m predicting that the Suns end their losing streak and go 1-1 this week, with a fair chance of going 2-0.

What’s your prediction?


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “The Suns’ biggest problem has been...”

30% - No good point guard.

05% - No good power forward.

02% - No good coach.

12% - No good general manager/front office.

51% - No good owner.

There were 332 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

The Suns’ weaker strength of schedule for the rest of the season should result in...

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    More wins.
    (92 votes)
  • 25%
    Fewer blowout losses but not more wins.
    (62 votes)
  • 37%
    Nothing significant.
    (92 votes)
246 votes total Vote Now