clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Center of the Sun: Suns have a rare winning week as they finish on top in 2 of 3 games

New, comments

Their record now stands at 13-51. With 18 games to go, they need 4 more wins to avoid a tie for their worst record ever.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

@ Miami Heat W (124-121) Full Recap

vs New Orleans Pelicans L (130-116) Full Recap

vs LA Lakers W (118-109) Full Recap

I certainly won’t insinuate that anyone should read much into the recent wins but they surely were enjoyable as compared to the alternative. The road to a 13-51 record has worn down all but the most avid Suns fans and last week’s wins weren’t exactly against any league powerhouses. The Heat (28-34) and the Lakers (30-33) still have playoff aspirations but those are growing dimmer as the end of the season grows nearer.

Wins are still wins though so enjoy them whenever you can.

Some fans may be worried that a few extra wins might worsen the Suns’ odds to win the NBA Lottery in May. Even if they somehow manage to win half of their remaining 18 games, that would only give them a 22-60 record. That would at most drop them down to 5th in the reverse standings only if Atlanta (21-42) loses all of their remaining games and Chicago (18-45) - which has won 6 of their last 10 games - wins no more than 3 games for the rest of their season. Neither of those things are likely to happen.

At best (or at worst depending on your point of view), the Suns would likely wind up 3rd in the reverse standings if somehow they managed to win as many as 7 to 9 of their remaining games. As our own Dave King wrote on Feb 19, getting to 18 wins could be possible but, in my opinion, it would likely take a mixture of luck and other teams tanking to improve their lottery odds for the Suns to get more Ws than that. It’s possible but unlikely.

As long as the Suns finish the season as one of the top 3 teams in the reverse standings, they will have an equal 14.0% chance of landing the first pick in the draft with the other two top 3 teams. Passing the Knicks and Cavaliers in wins might be possible but that’s it... and doing so is not likely.

Personally, I’m tired of pinning my hopes to the lottery and the draft. Play to win, Suns, and worry about the lottery later.

Play to win.


Fantable Questions of the Week

1. List all of the Suns’ players under one of the following three categories:

  • Keepers
  • On-The-Bubble players
  • Release, waive or trade them

GuarGuar: Keepers: Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges

These 3 are the only ones I’m tagging as keepers going forward. They all are extremely talented and despite our current record I still think we can build around all of them in the future and have success.

On-The-Bubble: Richaun Holmes, Kelly Oubre Jr., De’Anthony Melton, Elie Okobo

These 4 are the only “role” players I am fine staying around Book/Ayton going forward.

Release, waive, or trade them: T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson, Jamal Crawford, Dragan Bender, Tyler Johnson, Troy Daniels

These guys are in this category because I don’t think they fit well with Book/Ayton and/or they are just bad basketball players. Warren is a great NBA player but he doesn’t fit well with Booker and Ayton because of his lack of defense and playmaking. Josh Jackson has been a bad NBA player most nights and we just can’t have that at this point. I’m fine packaging him in a deal for an established player. Jamal is awful. Bender is a bust. Tyler will probably be a salary dump trade. I love Troy but he must have done something to Igor’s family because for some reason he hasn’t played all year. I’m setting Troy free.

Sun-Arc: Categories (I added a couple)

  • Untradeable: No one, if the right deal is available for a better player.
  • Keepers: Ayton, Booker, Bridges, Warren
  • Bubblers: Oubre, Jackson, Melton, Holmes
  • Dump: Bender (release), Warren (trade)
  • Why waste them(?): Okobo, Daniels, Crawford
  • Wait and see: Johnson

Yes, Warren shows up twice. I think at his contract level he is likely more valuable to us than another team. He’s a darn good player overall, but hasn’t been used right yet. Many, including myself, feel he’s best off the bench- and as Evan has pointed out- he is not good with Booker & Ayton. If we can’t get something really great for him, we keep him. And I think that will work out alright.

Okobo has no trade value, so might as well see how he develops.

Daniels, likewise, might be valuable giving another contract to if he doesn’t get any other offers and if we don’t bring in any other vet shooters. He’s good at that.

Crawford may actually be worth keeping at another vet minimum deal. He seems fairly ageless and helps the team in half of his games. Seems to be a really good vet (finally). Why waste him? But if we put together a significantly better team with better vets, let him walk.

I’m not super high on Johnson, but if he turns into a real plus as a starter next to Booker, Bridges/Oubre and Ayton, I could see letting his contract run out and asking him to stay on a reasonable contract. I seriously hope we have a better starting PG before then, but if we really can’t find anyone else, he might be a good insurance policy.

SDKyle: I want to start this with a preemptive explanation. This is a 12-51 team. Even the three guys I listed as “keepers” aren’t untouchable.

Keepers:

  1. Devin Booker
  2. Deandre Ayton
  3. Mikal Bridges

Bubble:

  1. Kelly Oubre Jr.
  2. Richaun Holmes
  3. T.J. Warren

Best of luck, fellas:

  1. Everyone else.

SouthernSun: Keepers: Ayton, Booker, Oubre, Bridges and Melton.

On the bubble: Warren, Jackson, Holmes and Okobo.

Release, Waive, or Trade them: Bender, Johnson, Daniels, Evans, King, Crawford and Spalding.

Alex Sylvester:

  1. Keepers: Booker, Ayton, Bridges, Holmes
  2. On the bubble: Warren, Oubre, Jackson, Melton
  3. Release, Waive, or Trade Them: The rest

Those in category 2 are solid players but are worth moving in the right deal. Bridges and Holmes make group A based off of their skill sets to compliment Booker/Ayton.

2. What things would the “On-The-Bubble” players need to improve on during the rest of the season for you to move them up to the “Keepers” category?

GuarGuar: Holmes - Great energy guy and we definitely need that on this team, but his overall defense does have to improve. With him it’s about how much is it going to cost to bring him back.

Oubre - Love his swagger and defense, but he has to learn to pass and become more efficient. We can’t have him going 7 for 21 and be a negative playmaker as well. But when Oubre has a great game it’s infectious for the entire team. Like Holmes, how much he will cost to bring back is the big question

Melton - Established himself as a great NBA defender already, and has shown improvements in his offense as the season has gone on. He needs to become at least neutral offensively for me to label him as a keeper.

Okobo - Very raw still but has shown flashes of being a positive offensive player in the future. He’s a guy I’m totally fine keeping as a 3rd string PG to develop going forward.

Sun-Arc: Bubble up needs:

Oubre: Needs to show he has a bit more star quality and keep up the enthusiasm to show he wants to be here and is worth the money. To me, he seems like a keeper already, but the contract to keep him is a question. He’s the first player in a while we’ve seen with personality- and he’s performing. Consistently for the most part. Will he be worth that contract amount? That’s the question.

Jackson: Needs to play hard, play smart, play consistently. I think this guy has it in him to be a really good player on a contending team. Is he a slow learner? Is it we don’t develop players? Is he just not that capable? We need to find out. This season is not enough to know. It will take next season too. But you look at that run we had in December and Josh’s effort was a big part of that (along with Holmes, Melton, and Bridges). I think JJ was in many ways the catalyst. He needs to bottle that chemistry.

Melton: Needs to stay aggressive on both ends and improve his shooting. Still currently my favorite starting PG. He’s got a ways to go, but he’s a rookie PG at 20. His defense is electric. His passing is third best (in AST%) on the team. Johnson will push him, which is good. I am not counting him out to become a starter just yet.

Holmes: Needs to find a way to finish the season strong, and get back that mojo he (and others) showed during that run in December. THAT player was a keeper as a backup and worth some money. The player we’ve been seeing lately… not as much. I still love the guy’s passion. He’s like a bigger, smarter, far less crazy Gerald Green with his fire and desire.

SDKyle: I have nothing against these three guys. They’re all solid NBA players...but they’re all guys who also have to play at their best all the time to be really useful. Holmes and Oubre are both really generic examples of solid backups so it’s hard to label them as confirmed keepers, but they’re both good enough that I wouldn’t want to dismiss them as just trade bait.

There’s really nothing Warren can do the last month of the season to change my assessment. He’s listed in the bubble category because he scores but does nothing else at a high level, and because he’s only once exceeded 65 games in his five NBA seasons. I’m not sure how much of it is freak injuries and how much is tankitis, but he misses a lot of games.

Further, I’d say once again that I don’t think you learn much useful information about a player in the last 15-20 games of a season like this. Any “progress” is usually just fool’s gold mined against checked-out and tanking opponents and opposing benches during blowouts. I fully expect Bender will have a 15 point game down the stretch here. It won’t mean anything.

SouthernSun: I suppose I’ll go bubble player by bubble player

Warren - I don’t want to release or waive Warren. I just want to trade him for a player who plays a position the Suns don’t already have a surplus of. Preferably in a package for a PF or PG. There’s nothing really he can do for the rest of the season that will make me not want that to happen, within reason. So, the only thing that would make me not want that to happen, is if I were allowed to have knowledge of all the possible trades available this summer that involve him, and all of them sucked. In which case, okay, keep him.

Jackson - I’ll refer you to the answer I already gave for Warren.

Holmes - I actually like Holmes. I just don’t think he’s anything the Suns can’t easily replace for a couple million in free agency. However, if he doesn’t cost more than that, I’d be happy bringing him back on the team. As long as it doesn’t somehow hamper the Suns signing another free agent.

Okobo - I simply haven’t seen him do anything that made me think “wow, I sure would hate if he weren’t a Phoenix Sun next season.” So basically, he would need to do something like that over the remainder of the season for me to care one way or the other about him. Maybe have a triple double? Score 30 twice? Average over 9 assists per game for a several game stretch? Something like that.

Alex Sylvester: I think the three SFs who are on the bubble here are good players but we cannot keep all four SFs heading into next year. My gut tells me Warren and Bridges will be around next year. I like Oubre but his situation depends on price and if he’s able to tone down his shot selection. Jackson seems like he’s good as gone, especially with the incident but things can change.

Melton is a prototype player who can hopefully get backup minutes next year to somebody other than Johnson. Best case would be him being your #3 PG next year behind something like DLO/Johnson.

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


Key Stats

40.1 vs 44.1 rebounds per game

That first number is the Suns’ team rebounding average for this season (30th). The second number is their team rebounding average for last season (12th). A four rebound difference between the two seasons might not sound like a lot but when there’s only a 9 rebounds per game difference between the best rebounding team (49.1 - Milwaukee) and the worst (40.1 - Phoenix), every rebound counts.

Why are the Suns worse this season than last? As most fans are well aware of, the Suns basically have no starting caliber power forward this season. Although they really didn’t have one last season either, the Bender/Chriss combo at PF did collectively average 9.9 rebounds per game which is better than any combination of wings playing PF or combined with Dragan Bender or Ryan Anderson when he was here this season.

As happy as anyone is with the Suns’ new center rotation of Deandre Ayton and Richaun Holmes, they are collectively averaging just 14.9 rebounds per game. Last season’s C rotations of Tyson Chandler/Alex Len averaged 16.6 rpg and Greg Monroe/Len averaged 15.5. T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson and Devin Booker are all also averaging fewer rpg this season.

Weekly Book Report

Season - 34.9 mpg, 24.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 6.7 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg, 4.0 TO, 3.2 PF

45.4% FG, 31.8% 3PT, 86.0% FT

This week - 35.4 mpg, 23.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 6.7 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.0 bpg, 4.7 TO, 3.0 PF

39.2% FG, 21.1% 3PT, 96.4% FT

Random Stats: The Suns are shooting 32.7% from three this season. It’s their worst three point shooting season since 2001-02 when they also made only 32.7% of their three point attempts. That team attempted 1,096 threes in all 82 games. This year’s team has attempted 1,886 in only 64 games.

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


Game Highlights

Miami Heat vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | Feb 25, 2018-19

New Orleans Pelicans vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | March 1, 2019

LA Lakers vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | March 2, 2019


Quotes of the Week

”This is an organization that is in a spiral in almost every way.” - Adrian Wojnarowski

”We got the job done by sticking to the game plan.” - Deandre Ayton (following the LAL game)


Rookie Report

Deandre Ayton - 30.9 mpg, 16.6 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.9 bpg, 1.8 TO, 2.9 PF

  • This week - 29.1 mpg, 19.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 2.3 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.3 TO, 4.0 PF

Mikal Bridges - 28.0 mpg, 8.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.8 TO, 2.4 PF, 34.5% 3PT

  • This week - 30.3 mpg, 8.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.0 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.0 TO, 2.7 PF, 25.0% 3PT

De’Anthony Melton - 19.6 mpg, 5.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.5 TO, 2.4 PF, 31.3% 3PT

  • This week - 12.7 mpg, 4.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.3 TO, 0.7 PF, 40.0% 3PT

Elie Okobo - 18.5 mpg, 5.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.6 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.3 TO, 2.2 PF, 27.4% 3PT

  • This week - DNP-CD (x3)

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

Inside the Phoenix Suns’ messy and dysfunctional front office. Kevin Arnovitz/ESPN

Phoenix Suns’ DeAndre Ayton & Big Men Will Dominate NBA Says Ray Allen. Heavy.com Sports

Woj: Suns a ‘concern for the NBA,’ might hire exec next to GM Jones. Kevin Zimmerman/Arizona Sports

Robert Sarver Has Destroyed The Suns - An Open Letter To The Owner. Fox Sports 910 AM

NBA Rookie Progress Report: The Good, Bad and Future of the 2018 Class. The Crossover

Tanking Is Taking Its Toll on Deandre Ayton. The Ringer


This Week in Suns History

On March 9, 2003, three time All-Star “Thunder Dan” Majerle was placed in the Phoenix Suns’ Ring of Honor.


Suns Trivia

Mikal Bridges had 3 steals vs the Pelicans which gave him a total of 100 in 63 career games. This tied him with Suns ROH member Alvan Adams for second in fewest career games needed to reach 100 steals in Suns history. Ron Lee is number one on that list (100 steals in 61 career games). Bridges now has 101 steals for the 2018-19 season.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Monday, March 4 - Phoenix Suns vs Milwaukee Bucks, 7:00 pm AZT

Wednesday, March 6 - Phoenix Suns vs New York Knicks, 7:00 pm AZT

Saturday, March 9 - Phoenix Suns @ Portland Trail Blazers, 8:00 pm AZT

Sunday, March 10 - Phoenix Suns @ Golden State Warriors, 5:30 pm AZT

The Suns get back into the normal NBA grind with four games this week. The first two are at home before a two game back-to-back West coast weekend road trip.

On Monday, the Suns host the team with the league’s best record (48-15), the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks have a bit of a bone to pick with the Suns after losing to them in their first meeting back in November 116-114 on a buzzer beater by the Suns’ resident old man himself, Jamal Crawford.

Don’t expect a repeat of that outcome. The Bucks should win this one easily.

Next up, the Knicks come to Phoenix on Wednesday night. The Suns also beat New York in their first meeting back in December as part of that 4-game win streak that got a few Suns fans a little excited... for a short time. It wasn’t long after that win streak that the Suns started their franchise worst 17-game losing streak. On thing that might have gone unnoticed by Suns fans during that time was that the Knicks were going through an even worse 18-game losing streak. This game is between the teams with the two worst records in the NBA this season and I believe that the Suns will come out winners.

After a couple of days off, the Suns fly out to Portland to take on the Trail Blazers on Saturday night. The Blazers are presently tied with OKC for the 3rd seed in the Western Conference and just one game ahead of Houston. They aren’t going to rest anyone or take the Suns lightly as they know that every win could make a difference in their playoff seed and at least a first round series at home instead of on the road. Chalk it up as another loss for the Suns.

And finally, after a quick flight to the Bay area, the Suns will face the Western Conference leading Warriors on their home court. Golden State has already beaten the Suns three time this season by an average of 17.7 points per game. I don’t expect a different result in this one and neither should you.

I predict that the Suns will go 1-3 this week.

What’s your prediction?


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Which of the Fantable’s fantasy choices for the Suns’ new head coach would you choose?”

27% - Gregg Popovich.

29% - Brad Stevens.

18% - Mike Budenholzer.

11% - Steve Kerr.

15% - Someone else.

There were 119 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

The best player player that the Suns acquire this off-season will most likely to come through...

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    The draft.
    (70 votes)
  • 18%
    Free agency.
    (34 votes)
  • 43%
    A trade.
    (81 votes)
185 votes total Vote Now