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Center of the Sun: Suns extend losing streak to 10 with another winless week

With just 28 games remaining, can the 11-43 Suns avoid ending this season with their worst record ever?

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

@ San Antonio Spurs L (126-124) Full Recap

vs Atlanta Hawks L (118-112) Full Recap

After losing both games this past week, the Suns extended their current losing streak to ten, their second 10-game losing streak of the season. They’ve fallen to 11-43 with only the New York Knicks (10-41) currently below them in the the standings.

Following the loss to Atlanta, Devin Booker spoke about the Suns possibly becoming comfortable with losing. ”It’s been a common theme here for the past couple of years. We need to break it. The city deserves more. Everybody supporting us deserves more.”

I doubt there are many - if any - Suns fans that would disagree with him but it’s doubtful that the losing will end this week as Phoenix faces another very tough weekly schedule with games against Houston (30-22), Golden State (37-15), Utah (30-24) and Sacramento (27-25) on the horizon.

Many fans have already turned their eyes away from the court and toward the draft, with visions of Zion Williamson wearing purple and orange in their minds but many others are still hopeful that the Suns will do something before the trade deadline that might help right the ship and help ‘flip the switch’ from losing to winning. While it’s unlikely that switch could actually be flipped through a mid-season trade/trades, any move that at least pushes the needle in the direction of winning would be welcome.

The NBA trade deadline is this Thursday, Feb. 7 at 3 p.m. ET. While the Suns’ most obvious need has been at point guard, the absence a true power forward has proven to be equally troubling. The Suns have mostly played one of their many wings at PF this season, both in the starting lineup and as a PF backup. While they’ve often performed well on the offensive end, it has hurt them defensively and especially on the boards.

Will they attempt to address either of these shortcomings before the trade deadline? I truly believe that the answer is ‘yes’ but the real question is whether any attempt succeeds, not whether one is made. The bottom line is results. No one - especially the front office - gets a participation trophy at this level.

In my opinion, the Suns’ best chance to address the point guard issue at the deadline depends on what New Orleans decides to do with their disgruntled star, Anthony Davis.

They could decide to blow it all up and put their other prime asset, Jrue Holiday, on the market as well. I think this is unlikely to happen at the deadline. There’s really no rush to move Holiday and they could very possibly find the best deal for him this summer rather than at the deadline if they do decide to start a full rebuild.

They could also wait until this summer to deal Davis but the Lakers want him badly and are likely to keep upping their offers for him as the trade deadline draws closer. Lonzo Ball has already been reported as being part of the Lakers’ trade offers and he has stated that he would rather wind up in Phoenix than New Orleans which leaves the door open for the Suns to get involved as a third team facilitator.

This sounds like the most likely way for the Suns to benefit at the deadline. The idea of somehow helping the Lakers may turn the stomachs of some Suns fans but does anyone really believe that what Lonzo Ball wants or doesn’t want is going to be a deal breaker in a possible LAL/NO trade? I look at getting involved as a third team as a way that the Suns could profit from at trade that’s going to improve the Lakers whether Phoenix gets involved or not.

If a deal between LAL and NO gets done at the deadline, diverting Ball to Phoenix would be a plus for the Suns... as long as it doesn’t cost too much.

The only other options that might be available aren’t that appealing. As New York has decided to blow up its team after trading away Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas for Dennis Smith Jr., rumors that the Suns might be looking at trading for Knicks PG Frank Ntilikina have surfaced again. Other than his size (6’6” with a 7’1” wingspan), I don’t consider him an upgrade over either De’Anthony Melton (6’4”, 6’8” wingspan) or Elie Okobo (6’3”, 6’8” wingspan).

Getting involved as a third team in an LAL/NO trade might also make it possible for the Suns to address their other pressing need for a true power forward by getting Nikola Mirotic as part of the deal. Mirotic would be something of a gamble as he is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season but his size (6’10”, 250 lbs), rebounding (8.3 rpg) and three point shooting (36.8%) would be a welcome addition and worth the risk him possibly walking at the end of the season.

The Suns need to take some risks. If they don’t, they may be taking an even bigger risk in the future.

No one wants Devin Booker to follow in fellow Kentucky Wildcat Anthony Davis’ footsteps.


Fantable Questions of the Week

The NBA trade deadline is almost here and the Suns are still looking for a point guard. Three names have come up as the Suns’ most likely trade targets in the past few days: Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball and Frank Ntilikina.

1. What would you consider to be the positives and the negatives for each player if the Suns acquire one of them?

GuarGuar: Jrue Holiday. Positives: Defense, Playmaking, scoring, experienced veteran. Negatives: Injury history

Jrue is by far my favorite option for us to acquire at the deadline. He is the “perfect fit” next to Booker and Ayton when dreaming of a player. He can set the tone on both ends of the floor and do all the little things it takes to win. I don’t think the Pelicans are shopping him though, and if they were it would be for a hefty price. But I would certainly be willing to give up a ton to acquire Jrue.

Lonzo Ball. Positives: Playmaking, defense, potential upside, rookie contract. Negatives: Scoring/shooting, pick and roll, injury history.

I was a big fan of Lonzo during draft time in 2016 and I still very much am. He’s a really good at contributing to winning basketball. His defense is VERY good for such a young point guard, and his playmaking is spectacular. He obviously has terrible shooting percentages right now, which I think are mainly mental (specifically FT%). His playmaking would drastically help Ayton in my opinion. And his defense next to Booker would be great. Between Ball/Bridges, we could hide Booker on the weakest 1-3 player on each team and not be punished. He’s still on a rookie contract which is great for us if we are trying to also make a splash in free agency. He very much still has all-star player upside.

Frank Ntilikina. Positives: Everything defense. Negatives: Everything offense

I’m absolutely against acquiring Frank for this team. We basically have him in Melton already. No need to trade for a guy who got BENCHED BY THE KNICKS. Frank wouldn’t solve anything, and we need to stay as far away from him as possible. If you want him as your backup point guard, ok we can talk. But as a starter? No No No.

Sun-Arc: I’m going to list the three players in my order of preference. And here is a BB-ref.com comparison of their current seasons.

A. Jrue is pretty much the dream at this point. Shooting is often considered his biggest weakness, but he has a higher 3pt% than the other players mentioned. Age is the only other downside, but I think his experience is a huge plus. There are three skills we would love to have in a PG: Defense, 3pt shooting, and passing. Jrue is best at all of four of these guys. If you can get Holiday, you do it.

B. Lonzo Ball could be a total nightmare in some ways (FT% and dad), but his passing and defense would be very welcome. Fun fact: his DBPM and DRtg are better than Jrue’s. If he can continue to improve from 3 (and the damn FT line), he could be a great addition to the team, as long as his dad stays in LA.

C. Ntilikina hasn’t really panned out yet as an NBA player. And at this point, I’m not sure it will. He may be a career backup PG at best. His AST% and 3PT% are at the bottom of these four guys, as is his rebounding and points production. His PER is half of the next lowest on this list. I’d stick with Melton over Frank.

SDKyle: Jrue Holiday is a legitimate above-average starting PG who does everything pretty well. He’s a good distributor who takes care of the ball, can score, and is a decent defender. His biggest downside is just that he’s locked in through 2021 at almost $26 million, and can exercise a player option through 2022. That’s not horrible, but it does significantly reduce the Suns’s salary flexibility, so it’s worth mentioning.

On the positive of even that point, though...he’s locked in for a minimum two seasons. Not a “rental.” He’d be a great addition.

Lonzo Ball is a very good defender who is extremely switchable because his 6’6 stature and 6’9 wingspan allow him to guard wings as naturally as the point. He has excellent instincts in the transition game and makes some truly brilliant outlet passes at times.

He still needs to figure out the halfcourt before he becomes a really effective floor general, and his shooting (particularly his FT shooting) is horrible. You can’t have a primary ball handler who shoots FTs only as well as Andre Drummond.

If Ball can figure out how to be moderately efficient on offense he’d be a good add...but that is a big if right now.

I struggle to point to much that’s positive about Frank Ntilikina other than that he’s under 21. Is he a good distributor? No. Is he a good defender? Eh...not really, no. Is he a good scorer? God no.

I’m not interested in Ntilikina. He’s still young but from where he’s starting it seems like his ceiling is as a marginal bench guard. May as well stick with Melton and Okobo.

SouthernSun: Jrue Holiday - Jrue is a prime target that I would be very excited for the Suns to obtain. He is at the height of his basketball prime, is an elite defender, a pretty good playmaker, and a decent scorer. He can function well as both a shooting guard and a point guard, and would fit perfectly alongside Devin Booker. The only negative I can think of is that he’s 28 and will not be a part of the Suns future in 5 years. But at some point we have to stop constantly thinking about the future and making moves with only long term benefit. And honestly, getting a player of Jrue’s caliber to fill a position of such obvious need would do wonders for this young group, and help turn around the losing culture that the Suns have allowed to develop over the years.

Lonzo Ball - Lonzo wouldn’t be quite as exciting an acquisition as Holiday, but he is a very intriguing player. He would immediately be the best playmaker on the team, and one of the best defenders, even though he struggles at all offense outside of passing. He would also be someone that would be considered a core piece of the future. He wouldn’t pay nearly as many immediate dividends as Jrue, but he would provide some boost in the Suns play. Ayton would certainly find himself set up for shots a lot more often, as would the rest of the Suns players. He’s a project, but not as much of one as the next guy on the list. This is the middle of the road choice. Toeing the line of win now and win later.

Frank Ntilikina - There are no positives. Everything is negative. He’s a complete project, isn’t much better than the trash the Suns already have at the point guard position, and shouldn’t even be considered.

Alex Sylvester: Jrue - The positives with Holiday are that he’s an incredibly complementary piece to Devin Booker, he has veteran presence as well as playoff experience, and he could be a monumental piece in changing the culture of the franchise.

The negative is that it will take a large haul in order to acquire him.

Lonzo - The positives with Lonzo are that once again he’s a very complementary piece to Devin Booker, his defensive upside is tremendous, and his facilitating is top notch. On top of that, it would take less of a trade package to get him rather than Holiday

The negative is his overall shooting is incredibly poor, and it would need to develop rather quickly to ensure his long-term fit with the franchise.

Frank - The positive is in theory that Frank would fit well next to Devin and it would be cheap to acquire him.

The negative is simply he’s another project, which the Suns can’t afford to bank on.

2. Although Ntilikina is the name that has been identified as a possible Suns’ target, with Dennis Smith Jr. now on the Knicks roster Emmanuel Mudiay may also be expendable. Should Mudiay also be considered as a possible trade target?

GuarGuar: I really don’t want Mudiay either if he’s available. We need proven talent. Guys who have proven themselves to be effective NBA point guards. Mudiay isn’t a great fit next to Booker and is still pretty raw in every aspect of his game. He’s very inconsistent. He certainly could be an impact point guard one day, but I’m tired of acquiring guys who could “one day” be very effective. I want someone who is very effective RIGHT NOW. Jrue or Lonzo at the deadline. Kemba in free agency. One of these 3 NEEDS to be acquired before next season starts.

Sun-Arc: Emmanuel Mudiay: The early returns on Mudiay are not good. He may be the best PG the Knicks have tried out this year (along with Ntilikina, Burke, and now Smith Jr), but not enough to make me want him on the Suns. EM’s defense is pretty bad and his scoring is just ok on a really bad Knicks team. He’s only shooting 3’s at 30.8% and his passing is so-so as well. Of the three skills I said we want in a PG, he is only decent at two of them. Would he be an improvement over Melton? I’m not so sure.

SDKyle: I’d only be interested in acquiring Mudiay if the price was pretty low...like the Bucks pick and change or something. He’s not a bad passer (though not a really good one either) and he can kinda score. But he’s a bad defender and at almost 23 he’s not young enough that you can expect him to reinvent his game. He’s also got a pretty checkered injury history.

It’s worth exploring the possibility, but he’s not good enough to make a big investment in.

SouthernSun: Emmanuel Mudiay is better than Frank I suppose. He’s certainly not the ideal target, but I’d probably rather have him on the floor than Melton or Okobo. He’s worth a kick of the tires. He probably wouldn’t cost the Suns much to get. Maybe the Milwaukee pick? Maybe? Perhaps a couple of 2nd rounders and Troy Daniels. He’s a low risk, low to moderate reward target.

Alex Sylvester: Mudiay shouldn’t be a target as there’s no point in this part of the season to acquire a point guard without any hope that he could fill the role of a starting PG next year. We saw what happen with Payton last year, so there’s no need to replicate what took place last year.

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


Key Stats

117.4 vs 104.2

The first number is the Suns’ offensive rating for the two games last week. The second number is their OffRtg for the entire season. The Suns made 41.0% of their three point attempts last week (their season average is 33.4%). Their field goal percentage was 52.8% (season average of 45.8%).

Weekly Book Report

Season - 34.8 mpg, 25.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 6.8 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg, 4.0 TO, 3.2 PF

46.1% FG, 32.6% 3PT, 84.7% FT

This week - 41.5 mpg, 35.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 8.5 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.0 bpg, 5.0 TO, 1.5 PF

58.7% FG, 43.8% 3PT, 90.0% FT

Random Stats: For the season, the Suns are 5th in percentage of points scored off turnovers at 17.2%. Suns opponents average 27.1 free throw attempts per game. Only two NBA teams (LAC and Philadelphia) actually average more FTAs per game than the Suns regularly give up. The Suns only average 21.2 FTAs per game.

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


Game Highlights

San Antonio Spurs vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 01/29/2019

Devin Booker Full Highlights 2019.01.29 Suns vs Spurs - 38 Pts, 7 Assists!

Full NBA Game Highlights - Atlanta Hawks vs. Phoenix Suns | Feb 2, 2019

Devin Booker Full Highlights 2019.02.02 Hawks vs Suns - 32 Pts, 10 Asts, 8 Rebs!


Quotes of the Week

”I always say you can’t get comfortable with losing and I think we’re comfortable with it right now.” - Devin Booker

”On this level, the little things make you pay. We can’t just play hard. We have to play well.” - Igor Kokoskov


Rookie Report

Deandre Ayton - 30.8 mpg, 16.3 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.8 spg, 1.0 bpg, 1.8 TO, 2.8 PF

  • This week - 32.9 mpg, 13.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.0 bpg, 3.0 TO, 2.0 PF

Mikal Bridges - 27.2 mpg, 8.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.7 TO, 2.3 PF, 36.6% 3PT

  • This week - 35.6 mpg, 18.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.5 apg, 3.5 spg, 0.0 bpg, 2.0 TO, 2.5 PF, 66.7% 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 - 18.6 mpg, 6.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.6 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.3 TO, 2.3 PF, 30.1% 3PT

  • This week - 25.4 mpg, 7.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 6.5 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.0 TO, 2.0 PF, 28.6% 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

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


News & Notes

In midst of another 10-game skid, Devin Booker believes Suns are ‘comfortable’ with losing. Duane Rankin/Arizona Republic

Phoenix Suns: 5 trades team should make before deadline. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit

Opinion: Lonzo Ball to Suns could be key to Lakers landing Anthony Davis. Duane Rankin/Arizona Republic

Is It Time For Phoenix Suns To Go All-In On Acquiring A Point Guard? The Runner Sports

With Devin Booker’s clock ticking, Suns need to swing for fences. Dan Bickley/Arizona Sports


Suns History in Video

On February 10, 2016 there was a small problem on the Suns’ bench during the Suns/Warriors game.


Suns Trivia

In his rookie season, Deandre Ayton is averaging 10.56 rebounds per game. Only 13 times in Suns’ history have players finished a season averaging 10 or more rebounds and only a total of 7 Suns’ players have accomplished it so far.

Paul Silas (3 seasons), Shawn Marion (3 seasons), Charles Barkley (2 seasons), Neal Walk (2 seasons), Curtis Perry, Connie Hawkins and Maurice Lucas are the former Suns with 10+ rebounds per game season averages. Shawn Marion was the last Suns player to do so in 2006 (11.84 rpg) and Paul Silas had the best ever single season rebounding average for the Suns in 1971 with 12.53 rpg.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Monday, February 4 - Phoenix Suns vs Houston Rockets, 7:00 pn AZT

Wednesday, February 6 - Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz, 7:00 pm AZT

Friday, February 8 - Phoenix Suns vs Golden State Warriors, 7:00 pm AZT

Sunday, February 10 - Phoenix Suns @ Sacramento Kings, 4:00 pm AZT

Four games this week with no back-to-backs... thankfully. This week’s schedule is tough enough without adding in having to play on consecutive days.

The Suns start out the week at home tonight against the Houston Rockets. James Harden is leading the NBA in scoring with 36.3 ppg and is third in assists with 8.1 per game. In January his scoring average went up to 43.6 ppg and he shows no signs of slowing down. The Suns aren’t likely to cramp his style nor win this game.

Things won’t get much easier on Wednesday when the Suns head to Utah. There are rumors that Utah is trying to put together a trade with Memphis before the deadline that would bring Mike Conley to the Jazz for Ricky Rubio (and other players). If such a deal is near completion, the Suns might get lucky and see Utah hold out some players for this game. If they do, the Suns might have a chance. If they don’t, expect another Suns loss.

On Friday, the Suns host the Golden State Warriors. How big this loss will be will be determined by which players (if any) that the Warriors decide to rest.

And finally the Suns will head out to Sacramento for a Sunday afternoon match-up. The last time they faced the Kings was on Bright Side Night in Phoenix and the Suns managed a 115-111 win. I’m sure they haven’t forgotten that and won’t take this game lightly. They are just 1.5 games out of the 8th seed in the West and fighting for that final WC playoff spot. I doubt that the Suns get a win here either but it is the most likely game of the week for them to do so.

I hate to say it but I believe that the Suns’ losing streak continues and they go 0-4 this week.

What’s your prediction?


This week’s poll is about the Suns’ final record this season. They are on pace to finish 17-65 which would be their second worst record ever and the only time they have finished with less than 20 wins since their 1st season as an expansion team in 1968-69.

Poll

The Suns will...

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    Finish this season with at least 17 wins.
    (95 votes)
  • 50%
    Finish this season with 16 or fewer wins.
    (95 votes)
190 votes total Vote Now