clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Center of the Sun: Suns lose first preseason game to Jazz, rematch tonight

New, comments

The Suns have 3 more preseason games before the Dec. 23 regular season opener against Dallas.

Phoenix Suns v Utah Jazz

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz L (119-105) Full Recap

The loss to the Jazz in the Suns’ first preseason game wasn’t disappointing but the absences of Chris Paul, Jae Crowder and Dario Saric were. According to Kellan Olson of Arizona Sports, their absences aren’t anything fans should worry about though.

As for Crowder, he likely sat because he was late getting to camp due to a personal issue he had to deal with and wasn’t yet up to speed on Monty’s offensive and defensive schemes. Crowder’s first full practice with the team (Wednesday) was just a few days before Saturday’s game.

Tonight we will hopefully get a look at the expected starting five in action at least for a while. In the first game, the Suns’ bench outscored the starters 54-51. I don’t expect that to happen very often when the starters are at full strength but it speaks well for the offensive strength of the bench.

What I’m sure we’re all anxious to see is the Chris Paul Effect though. It’s pretty obvious that the Suns’ bench is going to be deeper and better than last season’s but how much better will the starting unit be? The guys that are going to be playing 30+ minutes per night, game after game, are the ones that will make or break this season, not the guys averaging 15-20 minutes off the bench.

Hopes are high but they’re still just hopes until the games are played and we see whether those are justified or not. Perhaps tonight we’ll get to see a full strength starting unit against the Jazz and get a better idea of just how realistic those hopes are.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - Optimism is running at a 10 year high for Suns fans. There’s a lot to be optimistic about but what nagging worries about this season do you have running around in the back of your mind?

GuarGuar: I don’t think the “hype” will get to our players’ heads. I do worry that there could be a longer adjustment period than expected and we don’t get off to the start we envisioned. Injuries and Covid issues are definitely the main thought in my mind. Would suck to have players out for weeks at a time due to Covid. Teams that honor protocol the best this season will probably be very successful.

Sun-Arc: I’m a worry-wart. I admit it. After the past 10 seasons I’m more than once-bitten and thrice shy. Here’s the short list of my worries:

1. Chris Paul staying healthy. We basically bet the house on this guy being very productive. If he misses significant time, or just never gets healthy on the court, this team will not make the playoffs, in my opinion. So I’ll constantly be worrying an injury will be coming around every corner.

2. Who fills in for CP3? We now have zero actual point guards behind Chris Paul (demonstrating how we really are betting on his health). I don’t like Point Book for long stretches either within game or several games as he has shown it wears him down and causes injuries. If both he and CP3 are out, we be in serious trouble.

3. The Bench. As I’ve stated in threads, nearly all the top players on this team haven’t changed (Book, Ayton, Bridges, Cam, Saric) plus two for sure starters (CP3, Crowder) - so that leaves three spots for a battle between Carter, Payne, the Rookie, and any new guys. Those non-starter new guys are career bench players, with the only three that have really played are Nader, Galloway, and Moore - and all three are kind of an unknown quantity/quality for our team until they actually play and IF/when they actually play. Can they push Carter-Payne out of the rotation? If not, we have pretty much the same bench we had last season, which wasn’t so good. And at that point, we have to hope Saric and the little dudes can recapture Bubble Magic. If they can’t, and/or the new bottom end guys don’t pan out, this will be a familiar problem.

4. The Rookie. Will he earn playing time? If his defense in space hasn’t improved, or he cannot hit NBA threes at a consistent rate (say, 30+%) I don’t see him getting playing time. Maybe, over the course of the season, he improves and we start to see him more. But I’m worried we took a player that can’t contribute right away, and the FA bigs we have are not high-end bench players that can replace Ayton and/or Saric.

5. If the first three items occur - particularly #1, does Book really start to get antsy? And what happens with Booker’s patience if CP3 has a season-ending injury around mid-way both seasons?

6. Defense, shooting, other injuries (Ayton), etc.

As I said, I’m a worrier.

SDKyle: Ah, a great question for a realist like myself.

I don’t have a major concern about this roster on paper. I’m not going as far as some people and crowning us the Lakers’ equals, but this roster healthy will be firmly in the playoff picture.

Health is an issue for every team every year, but we’re really counting on CP3 to stay healthy. The chances of this team making noise in the playoffs fall off the face of the earth if he’s not around.

SouthernSun: I’m probably one of the most excited Suns fans around, however, even i have some worries.

Will CP3 stay healthy all season? He says he doesn’t plan on resting like some of the other older stars do, will that be detrimental to his health and availability for the playoffs?

If one of Ayton or Saric miss significant time, the Suns are very very shallow in the big department. Damian Jones seemed pretty ineffective out there on Saturday night. The Suns could help assuage that worry for me if they give a veteran minimum deal to a guy like Kyle O’Quinn, Taj Gibson, Ian Mahinmi, or even Ersan Ilyasova.

Can Cameron Payne be a solid backup Point Guard for a full season? Was his bubble run an illusion?

Alex S: Health first and foremost. Bringing in a 35 year old PG and an NBA Finals starter forces you to be naturally concerned about your team’s ability to stay healthy all year. I will say that I’m confident in CP3’s routine (being vegan and how he takes care of his body) so hopefully this won’t be much of an issue *knocks on wood*.

The other main concern would be chemistry / a concise rotation. Adding the amount of pieces and important ones at that will be a challenge for the players as well as Monty Williams to step up and create some consistency.

Q2 - Offense tends to be the number one topic of discussion but what are your hopes for the Suns defensively this season?

GuarGuar: I think we can be a top 12ish defensive team this year. We made massive strides on that end in the Bubble. Our starting lineup has 4 at least good defenders. Mikal is already a top defender in the league. Chris Paul has continuously been a top point guard defender in the league for years. Ayton made massive strides last year. Cam vastly blew away expectations on the defensive end last year. Booker is about average now for his position. We should be much improved overall defensively. It would be a disappointment to be in the bottom 3rd of the league in defense this year.

Sun-Arc: I mainly hope that Ayton expands even further on his defensive leap from this past season. And I hope that Paul plus Crowder help him get there with leadership. And that his defense spurs on everyone else to work super hard on the defensive side of the ball. I know Bridges and Carter will be in on that. We know Cam works hard on that end, as can Saric. So my larger hope is everyone buys in on that side and works together to have a top 10 defensive team.

SDKyle: I’d love to see the Suns be a near top 10 defense this season. I think they have that capacity with CP3, Ayton, Bridges, and Crowder all being good to excellent defenders in that starting lineup. The bench defense is much less exciting as you figure to see heavy doses of Saric and Galloway, with the better defenders in that unit( other than Carter) probably not earning much time due to their limited ability on offense.

But this team should be at least an above-average defense.

SouthernSun: I believe the Suns will be a top 10 defensive team, for the first time in, well, I’m not sure. I don’t think they’ve been one of those in the entire time I’ve been a Suns fan (16ish years). Crowder, Mikal, Carter, Cam Payne, and CP3 on the perimeter, with Ayton roaming the paint and able to switch when necessary. Scoring on the Suns this season will not be a walk in the park.

Alex S: My three main wishes this season defensively will be as follows:

  • Deandre Ayton becomes one of the five best rim protectors in the league. Back up his growth from last season and be a true force each night at the rim.
  • Mikal Bridges becoming one of the ten best wing defenders in the NBA. He doesn’t need to make an All-NBA defensive team but seeing Mikal become a part of the conversation is important for his development long-term with this franchise.
  • As a team, be top 10 in turnovers p/g defensively. We have pieces in CP3, Bridges, Carter, etc that should lead this team to be aggressive on the defensive end. This’ll more than likely lead to the team being high in the fouls per game category but that’ll be sustainable as long as the team creates turnovers and gets out in transition.

Q3 - Getting off to a good start would be great but the Suns have 3 B2Bs and 6 roadies in their first 10 games. What are your most optimistic and most pessimistic predictions for the Suns’ record in those first 10?

GuarGuar: The best I can see us going in the first 10 games is 7-3. The worst I can see us going is 4-6 to start. The first 5 games are all very winnable. If we beat Dallas on opening night, 5-0 is certainly in play.

Sun-Arc: The first 10 games are a mixed bag, but mostly difficult. Six of the 10 games are against playoff bound teams with the Kings and Pellies potentially in the mix too, making all but the game against the Pistons potentially quite difficult.

Best: 8-2

Worst: 4-6

SDKyle: Best: 8-2. The Suns beat all the teams they should and only drop a couple to other teams that are WCF hopefuls.

Worst: 3-7. The Suns don’t gel right away, and drop two otherwise winnable games looking tired on the second game of back to backs.

The opening ten games is a tough stretch. I’m circling the games at Utah and Denver on a back to back. We could learn a lot about this team then.

SouthernSun: Best case scenario 9-1. Hey, they went 8-0 in the bubble, so why not?

Worst case, 5-5.

I realistically expect something like 6-4 though, with a tough opening stretch like that.

Some of these back to backs will be pretty grueling, especially for a team still looking for its legs, but I feel like there’s just too much positive energy and too much talent on this team not to go .500 in that stretch at worst. I’m curious whether CP3 sits out one or two of the back to back games. He has said he doesn’t plan on resting, but Monty might convince him otherwise.

Alex S: Best case, 7-3. Worst case, 4-6.

I’m going to try to create a narrow window with this prediction as it’s too easy to say BEST CASE 10-0 WORST CASE 1-9. I could see the Suns starting 3-1 but the New Years B2B is going to be tough.

The Clippers and Raptors are both top 10 teams in the league and the Suns have historically done poor of late against Indiana so I’m tempted to predict a measly 5-5 to start. But I wouldn’t be shocked give-or-take a couple games in either direction.

A flaming hot start or an abysmal start would shock me, however.

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


Game Highlights

SUNS at JAZZ | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | December 12, 2020

Langston Galloway NBA Preseason 17 Second Half Points

Coach Williams, Galloway, Booker, Payne: Suns vs Jazz Postgame Media Availability (12/12/20)


Key Stats

17 points, 60% FG, 57.1% 3pt (4-7), 16 minutes

7 Suns played more minutes than Langston Galloway but no one scored more points or scored more efficiently (TS% = 81.42%, eFG% = 80%). If Galloway can just come close to repeating this night after night, the Suns will have a great microwave scorer off the bench in him.

11 pts, 14 rebs, 22 minutes

Whether you like the way Deandre Ayton plays or not, a double-double in just 22 minutes is nothing to sneeze at. I’d love to see him get more aggressive offensively but I also wasn’t expecting a sudden metamorphosis in the 1st preseason game.

Random stats: The Suns’ starters made only 10% (1-10) of their 3pt attempts while the bench hit 9 of 19 (47.4%) of their 3pt attempts. E’Twaun Moore (14 mins, +4) and Jalen Smith (18 mins, 0) were the only Suns players that did not have a negative +/- in the Suns’ 1st preseason game against the Jazz.

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


Quotes of the Week

“Just win basketball games — that’s my main objective.” - Devin Booker

“Devin (Booker) is a problem. There’s a lot of guys that are shooters or they just take you off the dribble or they’re athletic — he’s got all that.” - Chris Paul

“I was pretty direct with all of the guys that we signed and traded for about how we play. But I also told them I’m willing to learn from them and grow, so that they can help our program.” - Monty Williams


Rookie Report

Jalen Smith - 18.4 mpg, 5.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 2.0 TO, 0.0 PF, 33.3 3PT%

Ty-Shon Alexander - 5.2 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.0 PF, 0.0 3PT%

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


Injury Status Report (Updated)

Chris Paul - Ankle/Questionable

Dario Saric - Quadriceps/OUT

Cameron Johnson - Left calf soreness/OUT

Cameron Payne - Left knee tendinopathy/OUT


News & Notes

Revamped Roster. Suns.com

Phoenix Suns won’t have fans in attendance for start of 2020-21 NBA season. ABC 15 Arizona

Suns’ Deandre Ayton taking Jalen Smith under his wing during camp. Rookie Wire

25-under-25: Devin Booker at No. 3. Gerald Bourguet/The Step Back

Chris Paul’s arrival makes everything easier for Suns’ Deandre Ayton. Dan Bickley/Arizona Sports

Suns’ Chris Paul reveals how he stole Jae Crowder from Heat. Clutch Points

NBA Top 100 player rankings, a team-by-team breakdown. CBS Sports


This Week in Suns History

On December 16, 2017, with Devin Booker sidelined with an injury, the 10-20 Suns defeated the 17-12 Minnesota Timberwolves in Minnesota 108-106 in a game where the Suns’ bench outscored their starters 69-39. Dragan Bender and Troy Daniels led the Suns in scoring with 17 points each. Isaiah Canaan added 15 points and his 7 assists equaled the total number of assists by the starting 5. Alex Len added a double-double with 12 points and 19 rebounds. T.J. Warren led the starters with 15 points on a 4 of 14 (28.6%) shooting night while making 7 of 8 from the FT line.

The starting unit went 0-7 from three while the bench was 11-17 (64.7%). Every single bench player’s FG% was .600 or above while only Josh Jackson (4 of 9, 44.4%) shot above 30% for the starters. On this night the Suns bench led the starters in every single statistical category except offensive rebounds (7-6 in favor of the starters).

Karl-Anthony Towns led all scorers with 28 points (plus 11 rebounds) for the Timberwolves. Taj Gibson also had a double-double for Minnesota with 18 pts and 10 rebs.


Interesting Suns stuff

Phoenix Suns 2020-21 NBA season preview: Devin Booker + Chris Paul = playoffs? | The Jump


Suns Trivia

The combined 2019-20 three-point shooting percentage for all of the players presently on the Suns’ 2020-21 roster (excluding rookies) was 37.1%. Of the 2,622 total 3pt attempts taken by this group, 73.8% were attempted by Devin Booker (398), Jae Crowder (394), Langston Galloway (331) Chris Paul (304) Cameron Johnson (272) and Dario Saric (235) who had a combined 3pt percentage of 36.7%. The combined percentage for all others who each took less than 200 total attempts was 38.4%.


Previewing the week ahead

Monday, December 14 - Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz (Preseason) 7 pm AZT (NBATV)

Wednesday, December 16 - Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers (Preseason) 7 pm AZT (NBATV)

Friday, December 18 - Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers (Preseason) 7 pm AZT (ESPN)

I’m making no predictions for the preseason games as all things about them are just too... unpredictable. As in the 1st game with the Jazz, players were held out for reasons that wouldn’t have kept them out of a regular season game, starters aren’t going to play a lot of minutes and of course coaches want to get the guys that may wind up spending most of their time at the end of the bench some court time.

All I am comfortable predicting at the moment is that fans are in for at least the most enjoyable Suns season since 2013-14.


Important Future Dates

December 22 - Opening night for 2020-21 NBA season!

December 23 - Phoenix Suns vs Dallas Mavericks 8:30 pm AZT (ESPN)

March 5-10 - Mid-season break (no All-Star game).

March 25 - Trade deadline.

May 16 - Regular season ends.

May 17 to 21 - Play-in tournament for 7-to-10 seeds.

May 22 - First-round playoffs.

June 7 - Conference semifinals.

June 22 - Conference Finals.

July 8-22 - NBA Finals.


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Which is most likely this year?

20% - Devin Booker gets into the MVP conversation.

38% - James Jones gets into the Executive of the Year conversation.

42% - Monty Williams gets into the Coach of the Year conversation.

A total of 210 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

What’s your prediction of the Suns’ record after their first 10 regular season games?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    8-2 or better.
    (9 votes)
  • 25%
    7-3.
    (37 votes)
  • 46%
    6-4.
    (67 votes)
  • 15%
    5-5.
    (23 votes)
  • 5%
    4-6 or worse.
    (8 votes)
144 votes total Vote Now