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Center of the Sun: Who are these guys? Suns win 3 of 4, including the best in the East and the West

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The Phoenix Suns had a tough year, but they are surging and really enjoying the game more than any time in Booker’s career.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

vs Milwaukee Bucks W (114-105) Full Recap

vs New York Knicks W (107-96) Full Recap

@ Portland Trail Blazers L (127-120) Full Recap

@ Golden State Warriors W (115-111) Full Recap

Last week was rather surreal for Suns fans. Not only did they win 3 of 4 games but gave out L’s to the number one teams in both the Eastern and Western conferences.

Yes, the Phoenix Suns did that. The same Suns that only two weeks ago were on a franchise record 17 game losing streak. The same Suns that looked as though they were headed for their worst season record in team history.

Those Suns.

Somehow things have just started to click for them and they are 5-2 since the last loss of that 17-game streak. They still have those moments that make you think “here we go again” and let other teams get the better of them but they are finally learning how to fight back. Or perhaps it’s more appropriate to say that they have learned that they can fight back AND fight their way back into ballgames after a bad streak happens.

I think that they’re actually confident that they can beat anyone now and having that kind of real confidence goes a long way.

Will it persist? That is yet to be seen. The Suns also went 5-2 back in December before going on a horrendous 2-24 stretch. Fool me once... you know the rest.

The Suns have 14 games left to show us who they really are and who they could be in the future.

Don’t let your fans down, Phoenix.

It truly is time to rise.


Fantable Questions of the Week

1. Do you believe Kelly Oubre Jr. can be an important part of the Suns’ core moving forward?

GuarGuar: Yes I do believe Kelly can be a part of the Suns core going forward. He’s brought incredible energy and solid defense in his short tenure here. He has shown to be a dynamic scorer at times, and I’m really impressed with his ability to get to the free throw line consistently. That’s a really underrated skill in his game. He actually wants to be here, and that’s something we should absolutely take notice of. He fits our core, has great chemistry with the guys already, and complements Devin Booker well.

Sun-Arc: Oubre, playing at the level we’ve seen since coming over from the Wiz, can be an important part of any team’s core. What I wonder is whether or not he will continue this level once he has acquired this summer’s contract. He’s saying the right things about wanting to stay here and he genuinely seems like he enjoys playing with the team. But is the rise in play quality due simply to a change of team? Hard to say.

Looking at his quality of play while with the suns on BB-ref.com, he is fifth in PER, sixth in VORP, sixth in 3pt%, and seventh in eFG%. He’s also eighth in ORtg (105) and fourth in DRtg (113) for a negative differential of -8. And in ALL of those statistical categories, he performs better than Josh Jackson. If you look again at all those stats, he’s not in the top 3 for the team in any of them, which- on this team- is kind of alarming.

Yet there are some areas where he is in the top three such as points per 36, STL%, & BLK%, and we’ve all seen the impact he provides on swarming defense. Yet it is energy and passion that make the most impact. He almost always has a positive impact on the game. At this point he is a clear improvement over TJ and JJ. He’s also a better fit playing with Ayton and Booker than the other two. It is for all of these reasons I would attempt to keep him as long as the salary is not too high.

SDKyle: It depends on how you define “core.” Do I think he could be an important contributor and fan favorite? Sure. He’s already a bit of a fan favorite and is probably one of our three or four best players right now. Do I think he’ll become an indispensable part of the same “core” we talk about Booker and Ayton belonging to? Not really, no...Oubre’s ability to impact the game just isn’t that high.

SouthernSun: I definitely believe Oubre can be an important part of the Suns future. Whether he’s starting or not. What I can envision for him, for now, is probably being the starter at SF next season, with Bridges coming off the bench for both him and Booker. He’s a good defender, he can create offense, and he’s always giving his all and hustling. Sort of like how Melton and Holmes do, except Oubre actually has skill to go along with his heart. I’m not exactly sure what Oubre will end up being. A fringe all star? A decent starter? A good backup? Considering the lack of actual NBA caliber players on this roster, the fact that he will almost certainly be one of those three things means he can absolutely be part of the Suns future, and they should certainly keep him this summer.

Alex Sylvester: Absolutely.

Oubre has the energy and the physique/skill set to fit in with this group moving forward. I’m hoping he’s shooting more than normal to up his value for RFA so if he can tone down the amount of shots he puts up, I could see him being an amazing piece for this team.

Even if his shot isn’t falling, he’s able to provide energy, athleticism, length, threat of floor spacing, and more to this team.

2. How much is too much to pay to keep Oubre in Phoenix?

GuarGuar: The absolute maximum I would give Kelly is 4 years 60 million. That’s more than we are paying T.J Warren. 15 a year is pricey but I think it’s worth it to bring him back and have consistency. I would try to get him at 10 mil/year though. Hopefully no other team gives him a ridiculous offer that puts us in a tough situation.

Sun-Arc: A 4-yr/$48 mil deal seems right to me. Close to TJ’s contract level. I might pay up to $15 mil/year depending on how the rest of the offseason works out.

SDKyle: More than $12 million is probably too much. I think of myself as an Oubre realist. As refreshing as his high effort and generally good attitude are, he is nothing special as an NBA wing at all. He’s not as good a defender or shooter as Bridges, a rookie. He’s not a good passer, and is a fairly average rebounder. His scoring hovers on the lower edge of league average efficiency. In other words, Oubre’s likely place on this team long-term is as the first wing off the bench. A seventh man, even.

Overpaying for average talent is a great way to cap your team out at average. I’d be happy to offer Oubre an early 3-year $30 million deal. If some other team really wants to follow the Heat and Nets down the overpay path and give Oubre a $45 million contract, then I say good for him but the Suns shouldn’t bite.

SouthernSun: I think 14 million a year would be about the highest I’d go for Kelly. But honestly, my bet is that he sticks around Phoenix for something along the lines of 10 or 12 million a year. He really seems to like it here. God knows why.

Alex Sylvester: I’d say anything north of 20 million annually for 4+ years is beginning to push the limit.

I think a fair deal ends up being anywhere from 4/50-4/75 depending on his value to other teams.

3. If the Suns make re-signing Oubre a priority, is T.J. Warren likely to be traded?

GuarGuar: Yes TJ should be on his way out if we re-sign Oubre. TJ is probably a better player than Kelly, but he doesn’t complement Booker/Ayton well at all. Having the 3 of them on the floor together just doesn’t work nearly as well as Book/Oubre/Ayton. And that’s not TJ’s fault, he’s a great player. But he doesn’t fit this team for what we need right now at the 3/4 position. I’d absolutely try to deal Warren and Jackson if we re-sign Oubre.

Sun-Arc: I love TJ. But, honestly, Oubre is just a better overall player right now because of his two-way play. Problem is, TJ is our best perimeter shooter (by %) this season. Removing him means we likely get even worse at shooting. If Daniels walks too, our best current perimeter shooting player would be Bridges at around 34%. Yikes! So some of whether we let TJ go, for me, requires picking up some shooters as well. Otherwise, I think for the time being having TJ leading the bench squad in shooting can work well. But at matching contract amounts, I would look to move Warren to see what can be gained in return.

SDKyle: Probably. If the front office envisions Bridges as the starter and and doesn’t think either Warren or Oubre is a solution at PF (and they aren’t), then keeping Warren while signing Oubre to a long-term eight-figure deal makes little sense. A team like this spending $22 million plus a season on some bench SFs? That’s not something I think makes a lot of sense given the glaring needs elsewhere.

SouthernSun: I believe that one of Josh Jackson or TJ Warren will be traded this summer in a package for either a PF or a PG. It just has to happen. We gave all of them a test run this season. All the small forwards got plenty of minutes. Now it’s time to cut bait on at least one of them. I’m not positive it will be Warren. But it will definitely be one of them. If not, then whoever the GM ends up being this summer is either really really stupid, or really really bad at managing a basketball team.

Alex Sylvester: For sure.

The money Warren requires should be utilized into a starting point guard for next season. There would need to be another made move to do this, but we can’t have that much money tied up into small forwards next year. Maybe swing Warren for draft capital and a rotational player and/or move Jackson if a good deal presents itself.

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


Key Stats

32.8% vs 39.7% vs 31.0% three point shooting

The Suns are ranked dead last in the NBA in three point percentage (32.8%). In losses, their percentage from three is an anemic 31%. In their rare wins, they’ve hit their threes at a much higher percentage (39.7%). That percentage is so good that it would rank the Suns second in the NBA if it was their season average.

In overall field goal percentage, the Suns rank a middle-of-the-road 16th (45.7%). They shoot 44.9% from the field in losses and 48.5% in wins.

Weekly Book Report

Season - 35.0 mpg, 25.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 6.7 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg, 4.0 TO, 3.2 PF

45.9% FG, 32.8% 3PT, 87.10% FT

This week - 36.1 mpg, 30.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 6.8 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.3 bpg, 4.5 TO, 3.3 PF

50.6% FG, 45.8% 3PT, 100% FT

Random Stats: For the season the Suns have averaged 22.3 free throw attempts per game (21st) and made 78.2%. Last week they averaged 27.3 FTAs per game (5th) and made 80.7%

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


Game Highlights

Milwaukee Bucks vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | March 4, 2019

New York Knicks vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | March 6, 2019

Phoenix Suns vs Portland Trail Blazers Full Game Highlights | March 9, 2018-19

Phoenix Suns vs Golden State Warriors - Full Game Highlights | March 10, 2019


Quotes of the Week

”A lot of times, if I don’t pass, people think I’m just trying to chuck, but sometimes, I think I have the open shot, but it’s not the right read. That’s something I have to grow and get better on.” - Kelly Oubre Jr.

”What I say is just kind of fill in the gaps. These guys are so young and talented, I’m just trying to be able to fill in where I fit in. I don’t want to take too much control or try to dominate the basketball, I want to spread it around and let these guys make plays and do what they do.” - Tyler Johnson


Rookie Report

Deandre Ayton - 31.0 mpg, 16.6 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.9 bpg, 1.7 TO, 2.9 PF

  • This week - 31.4 mpg, 17.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.83 apg, 0.3 spg, 1.0 bpg, 0.5 TO, 4.0 PF

Mikal Bridges - 27.9 mpg, 8.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.8 TO, 2.4 PF, 35.0% 3PT

  • This week - 26.1 mpg, 9.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.8 apg, 2.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.5 TO, 2.5 PF, 45.5% 3PT

De’Anthony Melton - 19.0 mpg, 5.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.4 TO, 2.3 PF, 31.3% 3PT

  • This week - 7.7 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 0.5 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.5 PF, 0.0% 3PT (2 DNP-CD’s)

Elie Okobo - 18.1 mpg, 5.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.3 TO, 2.2 PF, 27.4% 3PT

  • This week - 1.7 mpg, 2.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.0 PF, 0.0% 3PT (3 DNP-CDs)

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

Phoenix Suns: Tyler Johnson providing stability to backcourt situation. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit

Kelly Oubre Jr. wants to stay with the Phoenix Suns the ‘rest of my career’. Duane Rankin/Arizona Republic

How do the Phoenix Suns Return to Relevance? Clutch Points

The NBA’s Second-Half Heroes. The Ringer

Draft Notes: The Nashification of the NBA. The Stepien


This Week in Suns History

On March 14, 2007, the 49–14 Suns met the 52–10 Dallas Mavericks in a match-up where both teams were fighting for the top seed in the Western conference and Nash was going for his third consecutive MVP award against Dirk Nowitzki. Though the Suns won the game in double overtime (129-127), the Mavericks would finish with the West’s top seed at 67–15, and Nowitzki would narrowly win the MVP award ahead of Nash.


Suns Trivia

Troy Daniels ranks 5th for the Suns in All-Time career 3-pointers made per game average with 2.0 per game although he has averaged only 18.06 minutes per game as a Sun. At the end of the 2017-18 season, he was 3rd on this list with 2.3 three-pointers per game while averaging 20.5 minutes in 79 games. This season he has averaged only 12.9 minutes and played in only 37 of 68 games.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Wednesday, March 13 - Phoenix Suns vs Utah Jazz, 7:00 pm AZT

Friday, March 15 - Phoenix Suns @ Houston Rockets, 5:00 pm AZT

Saturday, March 16 - Phoenix Suns @ New Orleans Pelicans, 4:00 pm AZT

The Suns play three of their remaining 14 games this week, starting with one at home before another back-to-back set on the road.

After a much needed two days off, the Utah Jazz come to Phoenix for the Suns’ only home game this week. The 37-28 Jazz will be a tough but not insurmountable challenge for the Suns, especially if starting PG Ricky Rubio is still on the injured list. But a win is still a long-shot for the Suns and I’m calling this one a probable loss.

On Friday, the Suns head to Houston for their second matchup with the Rockets. They lost that first meeting 118-110 and I really don’t expect a different outcome this time around. It should be an interesting game though as in the previous game the Suns’ starting lineup was Okobo, Booker, Bridges, Jackson and Ayton and they only played three men off the bench (Oubre, Holmes and Crawford).

The Suns’ final game of the week will be against the Pelicans in New Orleans. Another second night game of a back-to-back set on the road. The Suns are 0-2 against the Pels so far this season but star guard Jrue Holiday recently suffered a lower abdominal strain which might keep him out of this one. He’s listed as being out until at least March 16 (the day of the game) and I suspect that the lottery bound Pelicans won’t play him unless he’s back to 100% by then. If Holiday is out, I give the Suns a good chance at adding another win. Even if he’s back, I think a combination of rust, the minutes limits on Anthony Davis and that the Pels will also be playing on the second night of a back-to-back set should work in the Suns favor and get them a W.

I predict that the Suns will go 1-2 this week.

What’s your prediction?


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “The best player player that the Suns acquire this off-season will most likely to come through...”

38% - The draft.

18% - Free agency.

44% - A trade.

There were 185 votes cast.


This week’s poll is about Kelly Oubre Jr. He will be a restricted free agent at the end of this season and looking for a new contract. Other teams may make him offers that the Suns will have to match to keep him.

Poll

What is the maximum amount that the Suns should match to retain Kelly Oubre Jr.?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Up to $12 mil per year.
    (101 votes)
  • 47%
    Up to $14 mil per year.
    (235 votes)
  • 25%
    Up to $16 mil per year.
    (126 votes)
  • 4%
    Up to $18 mil per year.
    (20 votes)
  • 1%
    Up to $20 mil per year.
    (7 votes)
  • 1%
    Over $20 mil per year.
    (7 votes)
496 votes total Vote Now

Note: Assume that the contract will be 3-4 years in length.