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Center of the Sun: Perpetually shorthanded Suns finish the week 2-2

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81 games down, one more to go.

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NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

vs Cleveland Cavaliers W (122-113) Full Recap

vs Utah Jazz L (118-97) Full Recap

vs New Orleans Pelicans W (133-126 OT) Full Recap

@ Houston Rockets L (149-113) Full Recap

Going two and two was a good week for the Suns although it was marred by Devin Booker’s injury and the harsh beating the Suns took in Houston. Unfortunately, injuries have played a big part of the Suns’ season although poor roster construction in the beginning made it into an uphill battle all the way. Progress was slow but it did come in small increments.

It’s been a long, long season but the end is almost here. There have been a lot of ups and downs - mostly downs unfortunately - but I think that the team is at least in a better place now than in the beginning. Adversity can either strengthen or destroy at group of people and I think that the Suns are going to be a stronger team after this season ends.

There’s still a lot of work to do to make them a better team but we’ll save discussing that for another day though.

With all but a single game now behind us, I asked the Fantable to take a look back on the past season and discuss the things that they were most pleased with and most displeased with this season. Hopefully, we can hang on to the good, rid ourselves of the bad and move forward to a much improved team in the future.


Fantable Questions of the Week

1. What 5 things about the Suns organization, team and/or individual players were you most happy with this season?

GuarGuar:

  1. Mikal Bridges- Mikal really impresses me as a rookie. This is a guy who looks like he can be a multi-time All-NBA defender throughout his career. His 3 point shooting was up and down, hopefully he corrects his shot during the summer. He really projects like an Andre Roberson with a jumper.
  2. Kelly Oubre trade- I thought the front office did an excellent job acquiring Kelly and his free agency rights for half a season of Trevor Ariza. Whether we lucked into that deal or not (with the whole Brooks situation), this trade may have changed the culture of the franchise.
  3. Deandre Ayton- Even though he didn’t receive the media hype, Ayton had a pretty historic rookie season and I’m really pleased with what I saw from him. He’s a sponge and really developed throughout the season defensively. Hopefully this offseason does wonders for his game.
  4. Devin Booker- Booker took another playmaking and efficiency leap this season, and I’m really stoked about the player he has become. He had a down 3 pt% year, but with an actual point guard next season (hopefully), I expect that number to go back up. The fact he had a 58 TS% while shooting 32.6% from 3 is unreal. His inside game and finishing took a monster leap.
  5. Big wins vs. elite teams- It’s one thing to win 19-20 games in a season with the majority being against other bottom feeders. But this season we have wins over GS, Mil x2, Denver, Boston, Lakers (pre tank), SA, and Sacramento. Also quality dubs in Florida against the Heat and Magic. That shows a lot of promise to me for the future. When the talent came together and were healthy, we were capable of beating anyone. The problem was that was rarely the case.

Sun-Arc: What I was happy about

  1. That the 2018 draft was not like the previous two. As far as Ayton will end up from winning ROY, he looked the part of a #1 pick- especially given the chaos and lack of roster and coaching around him. Bridges will be a guy you absolutely want on the court for at least 36 per night. And I continue to feel that Melton will be a great steal from the second round.
  2. The trades were positives, if for no other reason than we rid ourselves of four players that were frustrating to watch and were possibly locker room problems. We traded Knight, Chriss, Ariza, and Anderson for Oubre, Johnson, and Melton. To me that was a huge win.
  3. A glimpse of identity, for the time being, through the acquisitions of Bridges, Johnson, Oubre, and to a lesser degree Holmes, Josh, and Melton. But all those guys together put together some exciting games and two small winning sprees. It wasn’t much, but at least we looked like an NBA caliber team for around 20 games. That’s better than any other season since “trade-ageddon”.
  4. Booker taking himself to another level. He still has a lot to work on defensively, but he did show improvement there. The offense side of things, though, show he has figured out double teams and how to be unstoppable.
  5. Beating GSW and MIL within a week of each other. Sweeping Milwaukee. And those two win streaks. Part of all that, and what may be part of an upcoming identity: The team never stopped competing. Even now, with five starters injured, they are still fighting in every game. With only Bridges and Jackson left of the players who bring the energy every night, they are still competing. At least, after a 63 loss season the games are not a complete waste of time because the majority of players showed a lot of pride.

SDKyle: The good.

  1. Devin Booker. You can complain about Booker’s attitude I suppose. His facial expressions and body language suck sometimes. He comes off as hypocritical berating teammates for bad defense. But his scoring and playmaking were the only things making this team watchable at times. And his late season high scoring streak was a fun bright spot in yet another very frustrating campaign.
  2. DeAndre Ayton’s scoring. As a rookie, Ayton managed 16 points a game on 61% TS, which is elite efficiency for meaningful volume. He showcased a lot of ability that bodes well for his future as an offensive force.
  3. Mikal Bridges’ defense. Nothing to complain about there. Bridges should be covering other teams’ go to wing scorers for a long time. He can improve, but he will be very very good on the defensive end.
  4. T.J. Warren’s new three ball. I really cant think of another player in his mid-20s that went from having almost no scoring ability beyond 15 feet to shooting over 40% on four 3PAs per game. It’s too bad he missed a huge chunk of the season.
  5. Kelly Oubre Jr. KO really reinvigorated this team when it felt like it might fold and end up with fewer than 15 wins. Regardless of what he ends of commanding in his restricted free agency or if he stays here, he was a nice addition this year.

SouthernSun:

1. Devin Booker’s continued year over year improvement.

  • While Devin didn’t necessarily improve in the main way we all wanted him to (defense), and even regressed substantially in one former area of strength (3 point accuracy), he still took yet another leap as a player. He’s not really got playmaking vision like some other great playmaking guards, but what he does have is a gravitational pull resulting from his scoring prowess, which results in open teammates. Not that they always make the shots off the clean looks he gets them. But still. He scored even more PPG this season, while being incredibly efficient, despite his regression in three point shooting.

2. T.J. Warren’s three point shooting.

  • TJ is still a fairly one dimensional player. He’s a scorer, and that’s it. He does almost nothing else. He’s below average at best at every other NBA skill. However, he’s a pretty dang good scorer. And this season he added another wrinkle to his arsenal of ways to score. 3 point shooting. He was the best 3 point shooter on the team this season. Which would have been hard to imagine in prior years.

3. Deandre Ayton having a very good rookie season.

  • Since you are here reading this, I’m going to assume you are a Suns fan. So you already probably know that Deandre Ayton has had a very good rookie season. 16 and 10 on great efficiency, decent passing vision for a big man, an ability to switch onto the perimeter on defense (even if his rim protection and overall defense isn’t much to write home about). He’s doing most everything I hoped he’d do. He’s been overshadowed by two players who advanced stats say he’s better than, but I’ll leave that alone for now.

4. Mikal Bridges already being a very good defender.

  • Mikal Bridges hasn’t displayed much in the way of offense, asked from being a serviceable catch and shoot three point threat, but what he has done is showcased an incredible ability to rack up steals and disrupt the other team with his go go gadget arms and hustle. I think he will eventually make an NBA All Defensive Team at some point in his career.

5. Richaun Holmes turning out to be a legitimate NBA player.

  • Holmes was acquired from the 76ers over the summer for essentially nothing. He has played his way into the hearts of Suns fans. He gives enormous effort all the time, throws down big jams and has highlight blocks. He’s fun to watch. I’m not sure if he’s going to be around next year, but he is one of the very few bright spots of this season.

Alex Sylvester:

  1. Devin Booker’s progress - Devin made a massive jump in scoring, playmaking, efficiency, and his overall offensive feel for the game this year. On top of that, there were moments where you could tell Devin improved on the defensive side as well.
  2. Kelly Oubre Jr. - His presence, confidence, and fit for this franchise was seemingly perfect.
  3. Ayton’s quiet rookie campaign - It’s hard to say Deandre didn’t impress. His touch around the rim, his mid range game, and his pick and roll effectiveness lead to a historic rookie year.
  4. Igor as a developer - Shoutout to Igor for sticking it out through the year and even showing signs of having an impact on some of the young guys down the stretch like Jackson and Bender.
  5. Underrated pickups - Richaun Holmes was a great under the radar move that was made this summer! Jamal Crawford also provided tons of leadership and will have hopefully made a big impact on these young guys going forward.

2. What 5 things about the Suns organization, team and/or individual players were you most unhappy with this season?

GuarGuar:

  1. Still having no point guard - It really is mind boggling that our front office thought we could “flip the switch” without an NBA point guard on our roster. We were never going to be good with 2 starting rookies and Jamal Crawford manning the position. Truly crazy what the front office subjected Booker, Igor, and Ayton to this season.
  2. Igor’s rotation - I’m a fan of the offensive/defensive concepts Igor had us run this season, but his rotations for most of the year were awful. We ran Jamal Crawford out there way too much and with the wrong players. The Jamal/Jackson pairing was just atrocious for most of this season. We also paired him with Booker and Okobo at times which just made no sense. Hopefully a year’s experience will help Igor next season.
  3. Josh Jackson- JJ has been quite a bit better lately, but his overall season was a big disappointment for me. -1.5 WS and -4.8 BPM for the season are just truly awful impact stats. Once again we were a better team this year when JJ was off the court. Certainly possible he is traded this offseason. His potential is still high though as we see what he can do when he’s clicking offensively. Nice to see his 3pt% rise this year though.
  4. Public image - There’s a bunch of bad teams in this league, but none get roasted as much as Phoenix on a national level. From the goat stories, to James Jones saying our scouting edge is sitting closer to games, we have been a laughing stock to the league this season (along with past years). This really needs to change. The fact that we have Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, yet people view Washington as the better GM job says everything. Robert Sarver is a horrible owner.
  5. Injuries- So many injuries this season that were really frustrating. We never got to see more than a few weeks of consistency. Hopefully our players work on their bodies more this offseason so we can withstand the wear and tear of an 82 game season.

Sun-Arc: What I was not happy about

  1. All five of these answers could include Sarver. But suffice it to say I was unhappy that the league has not stepped in to save our franchise from this nincompoop’s management style.
  2. Never really finding that point guard. Yeah, Johnson was better than what we had thus far, but it was too little too late.
  3. Because we never had a good floor general, it stunted the development of several players including Ayton, Mikal (who should have been hit for open shots far more often), Josh (who felt the need to fill the PG hole and be a second Booker), and the rookie PGs.
  4. That Igor did not live up to his mantra of “conforming your system to the players you have” and never figuring out how to utilize Ayton. He could have won rookie of the year if he had enough touches, given his historically high scoring rate. I was disappointed he wasn’t creative enough to deal with not having a better PG rotation to get Ayton the ball..
  5. A general lack of direction, consistency, and identity. Yeah, I snuck in three more at the end. The identity we saw glimpses of in their two winning streaks. Why didn’t that stick? Injuries alone cannot possibly answer that. This was supposed to be the season we ‘flipped the switch,’ but are left asking the question, “What will the team be next year?” We have no idea. And that is the most disappointing thing of all.

Honorable mention: the lack of health for our young players for yet another season.

SDKyle: The bad.

  1. Igor Kokoskov’s strategic tone deafness. This has been discussed to death, but yeah. Weird rotations and inexplicable late game subs (or lack thereof). An inability to feature Ayton more prominently. Even for a rookie head coach, he was frustrating.
  2. Dragan Bender. He still sucks.
  3. Bob Sarver. He still sucks too.
  4. Josh Jackson’s general lack of development. The other night notwithstanding, he hasn’t been what I’d hoped. Even for his age and experience level.
  5. The season itself. Once again the Suns were out of the national discussion before Christmas. Once again we were talking about the draft lottery barely 30 games into the season. I’m sick of this.

SouthernSun:

1. Devin Booker’s tendency to get injured. Like a lot.

  • Thankfully none of the injuries really seem to be tied to each other, like a recurring one or anythjng. But he still gets injured all the freaking time.

2. TJ Warren’s 3 month long sore ankle.

  • I mean. TJ. It’s a sore ankle. At least that’s what we’ve been told. I’ve never heard of a player being out this long with soreness. I assume this was a tank move. Otherwise it’s just plain weird.

3. Josh Jackson’s inconsistency.

  • I was hopeful for JJ going into this season, and sure, he’s had games where he looked really good, but overall his play has been disappointing. I would not mind at all trying and trading him in a package this summer. JJ + TJ + the MIL pick for Aaron Gordon and I’ll kneel at the alter of Robert Sarver. I promise.

4. The everything about the Suns front office and Robert Sarver.

  • Just everything (including having Larry Fitzgerald in GM interviews for some cockamamie reason). From firing a GM a couple weeks before the season started to paying off city council members for their votes on the new arena deal, to saying it was time to flip the switch but then not forcing James Jones to trade for a point guard until literally like two days before the trade deadline, and when you did it it was Tyler freaking Johnson (who has looked decent, but only in relation to the other utter garbage the Suns possess at the PG spot). Just everything. Boooo. Booooo. Booooo this man. And James Jones. Because you sit closer? Yeah? Is that right? Booooo. Please lord do something good this summer. And hire a competent basketball mind before the draft. Preferably before the draft lottery. And send them to the draft lottery to be the face of the Suns organization and then pretend Robert Sarver doesn’t exist. Hide him in a chicken suit or something whenever he wants to go to any event and just say it’s a tall make-a-wish kid who loves chickens.

5. Jimmer Fredette’s existence.

  • Really Jimmer? You needed to take all those shots when Book was sitting at 59 points? You deserve to be shipped back to China immediately.

Alex Sylvester:

  1. Losing - It’s really frustrating to know this franchise didn’t make any progress in the win column this season.
  2. Point guard - Holy struggle. The combination of depending on 2nd round rookies as well as inexperienced starting point guards was quite the drag to watch. You know it’s bad when Tyler Johnson felt like a massive upgrade over what we had.
  3. Power Forward - This position certainly needs a personnel upgrade over the summer. Dragon Bender ended up being the only PF we have that might have any value going forward.
  4. Impact on Bookers happiness - All the turmoil this season once again will have an impact on Devin and his status with this franchise in the near future. Better nail this summer!
  5. Robert Sarver - Sell the team, thanks.

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


Key Stats

10.8 vs 15.3 turnovers per game

The Suns surprisingly cut their turnovers by almost 30% (29.4%) last week which played a big part in their win against New Orleans. For the week, they ranked 4th in turnovers compared to 29th for the entire season.

Weekly Book Report

Season - 35.0 mpg, 26.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 6.8 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg, 4.1 TO, 3.1 PF

46.7% FG, 32.6% 3PT, 86.6% FT

This week - 21.3 mpg, 16.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 7.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 3.0 TO, 2.0 PF

50.0% FG, 20.0% 3PT, 100.0% FT, 2 DNP-injured

Random Stats: 39-year old Jamal Crawford led the Suns in scoring last week with 24.7 ppg, hitting 52.1% of his field goal attempts, 48.8% of his threes and 100% from the free throw line. His EFG% was 63.5 and his TS% was 68.9.

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


Game Highlights

Cleveland Cavaliers vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | April 1, 2019

Utah Jazz vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | April 3, 2019

New Orleans Pelicans vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | April 5, 2019

Houston Rockets vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | April 7, 2019


Quotes of the Week

“With it being a trying season, fans needed something to hold onto. What better way than (winning) our last home game?” - Jamal Crawford

”When you look around and your guys on your bench are jumping up, cheering for you — it just makes you want to play even harder.” - Josh Jackson


Rookie Report

Deandre Ayton - 30.7 mpg, 16.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.9 bpg, 1.8 TO, 2.9 PF

  • This week - 4 DNP-Injured

Mikal Bridges - 29.4 mpg, 8.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.9 TO, 2.5 PF, 33.7% 3PT

  • This week - 40.2 mpg, 13.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.8 spg, 1.0 bpg, 0.8 TO, 2.8 PF, 41.2% 3PT

De’Anthony Melton - 19.7 mpg, 5.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.5 TO, 2.2 PF, 30.5% 3PT

  • This week - 22.5 mpg, 8.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.3 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.3 bpg, 2.0 TO, 1.7 PF, 25.0% 3PT, 1 DNP-CD

Elie Okobo - 17.9 mpg, 5.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.4 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.3 TO, 2.0 PF, 28.1% 3PT

  • This week - 21.7 mpg, 10.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.8 TO, 1.3 PF, 38.5% 3PT

Ray Spalding - 10.7 mpg, 4.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.7 TO, 1.8 PF

  • This week - 16.1 mpg, 9.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 0.0 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.8 bpg, 0.5 TO, 2.0 PF

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

Suns Ring of Honor member Paul Westphal named to Hall of Fame. Arizona Sports

NBA Daily: Fixing The Phoenix Suns. Basketball Insiders

Phoenix Suns ‘desperately need’ to pick Ja Morant in 2019 NBA draft, Stephen A. Smith says. AZCentral Sports

NBA Refs Make Worst Call Of The Season During Suns-Jazz Game. The Spun

Nervous, Suns fans? There are still ways things can get even worse this summer. Greg Moore/Arizona Republic

How Zion Williamson would fit in with the Phoenix Suns. Clutch Points


This Week in Suns History

On April 9, 1990, the Phoenix Suns sank an NBA record 61 free throws (out of 80 attempts) in beating the Utah Jazz 119-115 in overtime.


Suns Trivia

In their game with New Orleans last week, the Suns had 11 blocks, 12 steals and tied their season low with 7 turnovers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was the Suns’ first game in franchise history with 10+ blocks and steals and fewer than 10 turnovers since the NBA started tracking blocks, steals and turnovers in 1973-74.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Tuesday, April 9 - Phoenix Suns @ Dallas Mavericks, 5:30 pm AZT

Just one final game in Dallas and the Suns’ 2018-19 season will be over.

Just as Deandre Ayton has been sidelined by injury for several games, Mavs ROY front-runner Luka Doncic has missed their last two games with a thigh bruise. Both are listed as “out until at least April 9” so we might not even get to see one last game between the two as rookies.

I really have no idea which team will want this win more but I predict that the Suns will win, get to 20 wins for the season... and fall to 3rd in the reverse standings.

What’s your prediction?


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Should the Suns limit Devin Booker’s minutes or ‘rest’ him for the remainder of the season?”

70% - No. Let him play and give him all the minutes he wants.

26% - Restrict his minutes but don’t shut him down.

04% - Shut him down completely. Don’t risk another injury in a few meaningless games.

There were 112 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Do you want Igor Kokoskov to remain as the Suns’ head coach next year?

This poll is closed

  • 81%
    Yes.
    (168 votes)
  • 18%
    No.
    (38 votes)
206 votes total Vote Now