Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.
A month ago, I - along with a lot of other Suns fans - was wishing that I could just fast-forward to the end of this season and have done with it.
A lot has changed since then and now I’m almost sad that there are only eleven games to go.
Before the All-Star break, the Suns had been on a losing streak that extended to 15 at the break. It ultimately reached 17 losses after the break but then things started to change. Including those two losses, the Suns are 6-6 following the break. Yes, they’ve been playing .500 ball since then and even putting up some good fights in their losses.
They’ve been fun to watch again and I’m not ready for it to end.
I give a lot of credit for this turnaround to new additions, Tyler Johnson and Kelly Oubre Jr. They’ve not only added talent and energy to the Suns but experience and leadership as well. Although neither are what most people would tend to think of as ‘veteran’ players (this is Johnson’s 5th season and Oubre’s 4th), they both come from teams that were used to winning while they were there. They brought what they learned about winning and a winning attitude from their previous teams to the Suns and it seems to be paying off.
Is it all for real though? Will the turnaround continue?
We’ll be more certain by time the season ends and, hopefully, by then we’ll all be sad to see it go.
Fantable Questions of the Week
Author’s note: This week I decided to ask the guys some non-serious, just for fun questions.
1. The Suns waved ‘bye-bye’ to the playoffs long ago but how do you think this team would do in the NCAA March Madness tournament?
GuarGuar: We would blow every team out in the tournament and win it all. It’s fun to speculate how bad we can actually be, but we or any NBA team are nowhere near collegiate level. It might be fun to send us into the tournament one year though, so we know what it feels like to win a championship!
Sun-Arc: I think the Suns would likely win the tournament, just based on there being more ‘grown men’ and ‘professionals’ on any NBA team.
SDKyle: They’d win the whole thing relatively easily barring some kind of massive disaster. Only a handful of college teams have even one player as good as Kelly Oubre, let alone a second elite wing to match up on Booker while also containing Ayton. The NBA/NCAA gap is pretty large. Maybe a team like Duke or North Carolina could keep it interesting for the first 20 minutes if they played their best, but they just don’t have the size or depth to stand up to even a bad NBA team for a whole 40 minutes.
SouthernSun: I suppose we have to assume they would completely dominate it. These guys are in the NBA. Even the worst of them were usually the best players on their college basketball teams, so sheer talent should give them an overwhelming edge. Maybe Duke gives them a run for their money. Maybe. But I think the Suns would probably destroy most every college team. Perhaps I’m wrong. I’m sure someone in the comment section will point out some reasons why they think this isn’t the case.
Alex Sylvester: They better win the tournament. Hopefully, Ayton actually shows up this go around!
Rod Argent: I agree with the guys but I can’t help but wonder if any of their answers would have been different a month ago when the Suns were on their 17 game losing streak. I should have made this a two-part question!
2. If you could put together a team made up of players that the Suns have traded or released over the past five seasons, who would be on it and do you think it could beat the present Suns team?
GuarGuar: The best starting lineup I can come up with from the past 5 years is Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Marcus Morris, P.J. Tucker and Alex Len. That lineup makes the most sense. Markieff Morris, Trevor Ariza, Gerald Green, Ish Smith, Reggie Bullock, and Tyson Chandler all come off the bench. That team might be pretty good say 5 or 6 years ago... oh wait, most of those guys were on the 48 win team! But they don’t really stand a chance in a series against this current Suns team (when healthy). In a 7 game series I would expect it to be a 4-1 result favoring the current roster. In it’s prime though our current team probably gets worked.
Sun-Arc: I’m choosing from this list (did not include G-league players): Ariza, Anderson, Chriss, Knight, Bledsoe, Chandler, Payton, Ulis, Monroe, Len, House, Harrison, Dudley, Jones Jr, Williams, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Tucker, Teletovic, Leuer, Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Brandan Wright, Gerald Green, Plumlee, Tolliver, Reggie Bullock, Seth Curry.
- Eric Bledsoe, Elfrid Payton
- Goran Dragic, Gerald Green
- P.J. Tucker, Derrick Jones Jr.
- Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris
- Alex Len, Greg Monroe
That team could beat the current Suns team on any given night- but could also lose to them on any given night right now. The PG & PF positions are the only portions that are better than our current team’s.
SDKyle: Going six deep:
Eric Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker, the Morris Bros., Goran Dragic, Alex Len.
Would that team beat the current suns? Sometimes. If we were talking prime Dragic and Tucker then I’d be inclined to say usually yes, but they’re older and diminished now.
SouthernSun: Well this is an interesting question. I’ll choose to answer this as though the idea is creating a team that could beat the Suns right now, and not necessarily a team that would be better off “in the long run.” I’m also choosing not to put a limitation on myself of “did the particular player ever actually play a game for the Suns”, because we’ve traded for and then immediately released some guys.
- PG: Eric Bledsoe/Isaiah Thomas
- SG: Goran Dragic/Austin Rivers
- SF: PJ Tucker/Reggie Bullock
- PF: Marcus Morris/Markieff Morris
- C: Marcin Gortat/Alex Len
In a 7 game series, I assume that team slaughters this current Suns team, going 4 and 1. Maybe Phoenix eeks out a second win against them.
However, despite how bad this team has been this year, if you gave me the choice between the team the Suns currently have and that one moving forward, I’d absolutely take the Suns current team.
Alex Sylvester: Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris and Tyson Chandler with Isaiah Thomas, Brandon Knight, Gerald Green, Marcus Morris and Alan Williams as backups.
I actually think the Suns would win, but it would be close! I might be missing a name or two but I don’t think this roster that I put together is necessarily more talented than what the Suns currently have...which is encouraging.
3. If you were asked to choose a favorite Suns player based on something that is completely unrelated to their basketball skill, who would it be and why?
GuarGuar: I gotta go with Eddie Johnson. His ability to still be positive and funny after watching so so many seasons of the Suns sucking is uncanny. He connects with us by being around for these dark ages of Suns history. I honestly don’t know how he hasn’t ranted on the franchise during a broadcast once. That’s the type of guy you want around in your life. Seems like a really great guy.
Sun-Arc: I am still a huge fan of Nash’s for what he did off the court as well as on it. Big on sustainability and just being an all around great human. Though I will also never forget Barkley’s statements to the media during the 1993 playoffs.
SDKyle: It’s a purely personal thing, but Shaq has been doing business with my Dad since his Orlando days and over the years he’s been really generous with my family hooking us up with tickets and autographed memorabilia and such. I was living in the East Valley when Shaq joined the Suns, and he pretty quickly got me second-row tix behind the Suns bench for a game against the Rockets, and on-court passes to an amateur dunk contest he hosted at the arena. He’s just always been cool to my folks and I and my Dad’s always told me he’s a stand-up guy generally, so even though he’s not exactly a Suns legend he’s a favorite of mine.
SouthernSun: Oh this one’s easy. Tsunami Papi all day baby. He says all right things, he wants to be here, and the kisses up to the crowd? Mwah.
For all time though, I gotta go with the Round Mound of Rebound. Chuck B. The Weight Watcher. Nobody has ever been more entertaining off the court, both as a player and in his later years on TNT. He may be wrong, but he doubts it.
Alex Sylvester: Amare Stoudemire because of his obsession of wine baths and his complete weirdness on social media.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable - GuarGuar, SDKyle, Sun-Arc, SouthernSun and Alex Sylvester - for all their extra effort every week!
27.6 FTAs vs 21.5 FTAs and 80.4% vs 77.5%
The first numbers are post All-Star break and the second are pre-AS break. Before the AS break, the Suns were 24th in free throw attempts but now they are 4th. Before they were 14th in FT percentage and now they are 7th. Since the break, the Suns have also averaged 22.2 points per game on free throws which is 2nd in the NBA. Following the break, 19.5% of the points scored per game by the Suns have come from the FT line, also 2nd in the NBA.
Weekly Book Report
Season - 35.1 mpg, 25.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 6.8 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg, 4.1 TO, 3.2 PF
45.8% FG, 32.8% 3PT, 86.3% FT
This week - 38.0 mpg, 32.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 8.7 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.7 bpg, 5.3 TO, 2.0 PF
44.1% FG, 31.6% 3PT, 78.9% FT
Random Stats: The Suns are 6-6 since the All-Star break. Only eleven NBA teams have better post-AS break records, five other teams also have .500 records and thirteen teams have worse W/L records. Seven of the teams with worse records are in the Western Conference.
Statistics courtesy of NBA.com and/or Basketball-Reference.com.
Utah Jazz vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | March 13, 2018-19
Houston Rockets vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | March 15, 2018-19
New Orleans Pelicans vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | March 16, 2019
Quotes of the Week
”We just became a unit. It took time. You just can’t be a good defensive team in a second — it takes time. Our coaching staff does a great job with the scout and how we play — ball screens and stuff like that.” - Mikal Bridges
”The additions of Kelly and Tyler helped a lot. What everybody sees, they’re just saying. And you’re hearing each other out, you’re coming at each other in a respectful way and know that the end goal is to win and get better.” - Devin Booker
Deandre Ayton - 30.9 mpg, 16.2 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.9 bpg, 1.7 TO, 2.9 PF
- This week - 29.2 mpg, 9.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 0.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.0 bpg, 2.3 TO, 2.3 PF
Mikal Bridges - 28.3 mpg, 8.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.8 TO, 2.5 PF, 34.2% 3PT
- This week - 36.7 mpg, 5.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.7 apg, 2.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.7 TO, 2.7 PF, 11.1% 3PT
De’Anthony Melton - 19.3 mpg, 5.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.4 TO, 2.4 PF, 31.0% 3PT
- This week - 28.9 mpg, 6.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 5.0 apg, 3.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.0 TO, 4.0 PF, 0.0% 3PT (2 DNP-CDs)
Elie Okobo - 17.8 mpg, 5.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.3 TO, 2.1 PF, 27.4% 3PT
- This week - 2.0 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.0 PF, 0.0% 3PT (2 DNP-CDs)
Ray Spalding - 9.3 mpg, 4.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 1.0 bpg, 1.0 TO, 2.5 PF
- This week - 15.0 mpg, 8.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 2.0 bpg, 2.0 TO, 5.0 PF (2 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: 3 reasons this time might be different. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit
Phoenix Suns rookie De’Anthony Melton working his way back after ankle injury. Duane Rankin/Arizona Republic
NBA Daily: Are Brighter Times Finally Ahead For The Suns? Basketball Insiders
Options for Phoenix Suns Interim GM James Jones. Last Word On Pro Basketball
What’s with the defense? Suns’ recent success stems from a few things. Kevin Zimmerman/Arizona Sports
This Week in Suns History
On March 19, 1969, NBA Commissioner Walter Kennedy flipped a coin, Phoenix called ‘heads’ and it turned up ‘tails’. Thus, Milwaukee chose first in the NBA Draft, selecting Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) while Phoenix picked Neal Walk.
On March 22, 2000, Jason Kidd is lost for the remainder of the regular season after breaking his ankle in a 114-93 triumph over Sacramento at America West Arena. The following day the Suns announced that Kevin Johnson was coming out of retirement to help his former team in its time of need. Johnson, 34, whose career average of 9.2 apg ranks fourth in NBA history, had not played since the 1997-98 season.
On March 24, 2017, in Boston, Devin Booker (20) became the youngest NBA player to score 70 points in a game.
The Suns have played 12 back-to-backs this season. They lost all of their first nine second-night games but finished the season with a 3 game second-night win streak (against the LA Lakers, Golden State and New Orleans).
Previewing the Week Ahead
Monday, March 18 - Phoenix Suns vs Chicago Bulls, 7:00 pm AZT
Thursday, March 21 - Phoenix Suns vs Detroit Pistons, 7:00 pm AZT
Saturday, March 23 - Phoenix Suns @ Sacramento Kings, 7:00 pm AZT
The Suns have three games this week, with two at home before finishing with one on the road.
Tonight (Monday) the Chicago Bulls come to Phoenix for their second and final meeting with the Suns this season. That first game was a 124-116 Bulls’ win back on Nov. 21, 2018. Both teams have changed a lot since then so that previous game means little in predicting the results this time around.
One interesting sideshow in this game will how Kelly Oubre Jr. performs against Otto Porter Jr. - the guy he used to play behind when they were both with the Washington Wizards.
I’m predicting a win for the Suns in this one.
Next up are the Detroit Pistons, a team that has been playing well lately. Detroit is 6th in the Eastern Conference playoff standings with little chance of moving higher, but could fall lower with a few too many losses in the final few weeks of the season.
The Suns gave them a pretty good game back in November, taking a one point lead going into the 4th quarter before getting out scored 35-23 in the final frame. I think that the Suns will give them an even better game this time around but it still won’t be quite good enough and the Pistons win.
Finally, the Suns head West to take on the Kings in Sacramento. The Kings had playoff hopes earlier but those are now on life support as they now are a full six games behind the Clippers for the eighth seed with just 14 games left in their season.
The Kings have already won two of the three matchups they’ve had with the Suns this year but I think that the Suns will get a win and even up their season series 2-2.
I predict that the Suns will go 2-1 this week.
What’s your prediction?
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “What is the maximum amount that the Suns should match to retain Kelly Oubre Jr.?”
20.4% - Up to $12 mil per year.
47.4% - Up to $14 mil per year.
25.4% - Up to $16 mil per year.
04.0% - Up to $18 mil per year.
01.4% - Up to $20 mil per year.
01.4% - Over $20 mil per year.
There were 496 votes cast.
This week’s poll is...
How many of their final 11 games do you think the Suns will win?
This poll is closed
3 or less.
8 or more.