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Center of the Sun: Suns finish Week 1 with winning record

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3-0 would have been great but 2-1 still looks pretty good.

Phoenix Suns v Sacramento Kings Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs Dallas Mavericks W (106-102) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings L (106-103) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings W (116-100) Full Recap

One close win against the Mavericks on opening night, one close loss to the Kings and then a 16-point payback win against those same Kings the following night wasn’t a bad way to start off the season. The Suns offense did not look sharp in the first two games but showed signs of coming together in the third. Hopefully that trend will continue... and accelerate.

Some of the things that we had hoped for during the short offseason are looking as though they may come true. Cameron Payne is looking like a solid backup point guard. Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson are becoming multipurpose offensive weapons. Langston Galloway can light it up as soon as his feet touch the hardwood floor.

It’s true that there is still a lot of work to do but I’m optimistic that it will all come together soon. Why, we haven’t even had the chance to see how Dario Saric fits into Monty’s plans yet.

It’s still going to be a long, tough road to the playoffs in the West but it looks as though the Suns have what they need to make a real fight of it this season.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - Do you think that the Suns’ roster will make it through this season relatively intact or do you expect some in-season trades or some players possibly waived to sign someone else?

GuarGuar: I think for the most part this will be our roster for the season. I think eventually we may use one of our salary cap exceptions on a bought out player midway through the year. Maybe we add a better backup center. But for the most part I think this roster is it for the year.

Sun-Arc: Hard to say. Continuity right now seems like a strength to the teams that have it. Yet I could see injuries making a mid-season acquisition necessary (either a big or PG). If we have an option to improve the rotation of bigs, we will likely do it (IE: Frank and/or Jones waived to get one more solid guy behind Ayton and Saric). Without Dario, the bench bigs are lacking. And if Ayton went down we will really be screwed. Same if CP3 has injuries. Payne has been better than I expected (in the Dallas game), but we would need someone to fill in behind him if that becomes necessary.

SDKyle: I think there will be some peripheral moves, but no major trades. Moore, Galloway, Payne, and Nader are all expiring contracts, which always raises the possibility that they could become pot sweeteners in a trade deal, but none of them make enough money to lend themselves to a major transaction.

I could certainly see the team just letting Frank go, though. His addition seemed like an afterthought and they might find out they have better options.

SouthernSun: I don’t see the Suns roster changing much for the rest of the season. Perhaps some minor tweaks happen. Like cutting Damian Jones and signing another big like Dedmon. But once Dario is healthy we won’t think about Jones anymore anyway.

Its unfortunate that Dario isn’t able to go right now. Jones is perfectly fine as a break glass in case of emergency big, but he should not be getting the minutes he is now on a team that wants to make the playoffs. Somebody like Dedmon would probably be unhappy with the lack of minutes once Dario is back and taking his rightful place as the primary backup 5, which is the only reason I question the idea of cutting Jones and bringing in a better player.

Alex S: I feel there will be some sort of move to potentially add an additional upgrade on the bench. If the Suns can get an “A” level bench piece to add to Cam/Dario that would be optimal. I don’t think the Suns have much of a need for additional depth pieces but someone whose a 6th man level talent could be ideal.

Q2 - Your thoughts on the return of Frank the Tank?

GuarGuar: He’s fine as the 15th man on the roster. He knows the system. He should not be seeing any meaningful playing time though. I would rather Saric be our backup center than Frank.

Sun-Arc: Meh.

I’m not even sure if he’s an upgrade over Jones, who is a walking foul-per-minute. Frank had a few good games with us last season, but he’s so vacant on defense that he’s not often a positive player to even put on the court over his first five seasons. At his age, I think he is what he is: A borderline NBA caliber player that should be no higher than a 3rd stringer on a good team. Would it have surprised anyone if, after SAC(!) dropped him, no one picked him up?

SDKyle: There are worse guys to have at the end of your bench...at least you know he’s capable of scoring the ball. Kaminsky is a decent guy to soak up garbage minutes, but it will be a bad situation if he’s playing many minutes in close games. He just isn’t a guy who should be getting more than mop up time for a team aspiring to the playoffs.

SouthernSun: Frank is better than Damian Jones. That isn’t saying much, but it’s something. In the absence of Dario, he is a welcome addition. Hopefully we see him completely replace Jones in the rotation during this second game against Sacramento (hello from yesterday, when I’m writing this).

Frank knows the system. He is apparently well liked by the players (Booker seemed happy to have him back). I’m a little concerned with how serious he will take things like wearing a mask and social distancing (there are pictures of him just straight up in a bar mid pandemic, no mask, crowd of people), but as long as he follows NBA covid protocol I’m happy to have him back.

Alex S: To be honest, Frank shouldn’t get much playing time whatsoever so this move seems like a chemistry move more than anything. If you read some of the quotes that came out from the team, there’s more of a sense that they’re excited they have a friend back more than anything his skillset does to help this team. However, with how easily Ayton and/or Jones get in foul trouble, it doesn’t hurt to have another center on the roster.

Q3 - As the New Year will arrive this week, what are some of the New Year’s resolutions that you hope the Suns make?

GuarGuar: I want Deandre Ayton to be consistently aggressive.

I want Devin Booker to stop turning the ball over so much.

I want Robert Sarver to be willing to pay a luxury tax if we can make this team a true title contender.

I want Cam Johnson to play more minutes than Jae Crowder.

Sun-Arc: Stay on Ayton’s ass for 48 minutes each game.

Hold everyone accountable. Everyone (players, Sarver, coaches, etc).

All the players should do everything Chris Paul did last season to stay healthy. I’ve heard he went vegan, but I personally have to draw the line at not eating Kalua Pork. Glad I don’t ever make resolutions.

SDKyle: 1. Ayton: Be more decisive with the ball. When you catch it, look to score before deciding it should go back to the perimeter.

2. Sarver: resist the urge to micromanage, even if things look tough at some point. Jones has earned the leeway to make some adjustments if things are sliding a little, so trust the people you hired until they prove you can’t.

3. The Suns: Make the playoffs. Fight tooth and nail for that every night. It won’t be easy... every west opponent is tough. But remember it’s been 10 years for Suns fans and refuse to miss the playoffs.

SouthernSun: Ayton - Fight for position without fouling so much.

CP3 - Get the ball to the Big Fella.

Booker - Cut down a bit on the turnovers.

Mikal - Consistent offensive contribution.

Crowder - Shoot like Heat Crowder.

The Cams - Continue to develop, be a solid options off the bench.

Suns as a whole - Make the damn playoffs.

Alex S: For one, I’d like to see folks ease up on Deandre a little bit for now. It’s two/three games into the season and Suns fans are getting really aggressive with their Ayton takes. Sure, he needs to play better but it’s a process to acclimate two new starters and a HOF PG into your team’s balance. DA is going to get the short end of the stick as opposed to Devin when it comes to getting his touches in their ideal spots.

Another resolution for down the road is improving the Suns’ white jerseys sometime soon. They’re easily my least favorite of the uniforms they have.

Finally, I hope this season becomes Mikal Bridges national breakout! He’s so talented and deserves way more recognition so here’s to 2021 making a leap in regards to public attention and notoriety.

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

Dallas Mavericks vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | December 23, 2020

SUNS at KINGS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | December 26, 2020

Chris Paul & Devin Booker Full Highlights vs Kings

SUNS at KINGS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | December 27, 2020

Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson WINGS Highlights vs. Kings! 43 points combined!


Key Stats

101.3 DefRtg (4th)

It’s a small sample size for certain but after 3 games the Suns rank fourth in the NBA in defense. Yes, I said defense. That will hopefully persist as the Suns’ offense (106.2 OffRtg, 20th) is still a work in progress. The Suns have a net rating of 4.9 (11th).

Random stats: Although Devin Booker continues to struggle with turnovers (6.3 per game which is the highest player average in the NBA), as a team the Suns presently rank 5th in the NBA averaging only 13.0 turnovers per game.

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


Quotes of the Week

“There are times where those two (Cam Payne and Jevon Carter) get up and pressure and we really don’t scheme it as much as you would think. We fell into it. We didn’t do a ton of that last year because I just didn’t feel like that second unit had the personnel to do it in the first 65 (games). When we got Cam Payne, he and Jevon just started causing havoc with ball pressure.” - Monty Williams

“We know how uncomfortable it is to get picked up 94 feet offensively. So, we just do what makes us uncomfortable.” - Jevon Carter

“It’s full of life. It’s full of guys wanting to be better. It’s full of a coaching staff wanting to push you to be better. It’s full of just good energy. I’m an energy type of guy, so maybe I’m trippin’ or maybe I’m weird. But I felt it and I feel it every day.” - Jae Crowder on his 1st day in the Suns new training facility


Rookie Report

Jalen Smith - 10.2 mpg, 2.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.5 TO, 0.5 PF, 0.0 3PT%, 1 DNP - Injured

Ty-Shon Alexander - 1.5 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.0 PF, 0.0 3PT%, 2 DNP-CD

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


Injury Status Report

Dario Saric - Quadriceps/Expected to be out until at least Dec 29.

Abdel Nader - Concussion/Expected to be out until at least Dec 29.

Jalen Smith - Ankle/Expected to be out until at least Dec 29


News & Notes

Driving Culture. Suns.com

The Whiteboard: Devin Booker and Chris Paul make Suns deadly in crunch-time. Gerald Bourguet/The Step Back

Wreaking Havoc, 94 feet at a time. Suns.com

Suns’ Chris Paul responds to Cardinals legend Larry Fitzgerald’s warm welcome to Phoenix. Clutch Points

Matt Barnes tells story of cussing at & almost slapping Suns owner Robert Sarver, Amar’e says he left Phoenix due to Sarver. TalkBasket.net


This Week in Suns History

On December 30, 1992, the Suns defeated Houston 133-110 to finish December with a 14-0 record, tying for the third-best month in NBA history. The Lakers set the NBA record by going 16-0 in December of 1971.


Suns Trivia

Chris Paul led the NBA in clutch scoring in 2019-20, totaling 150 points on 52.2 FG%, 37.0 3P% and 92.0 FT% in 168 total minutes when the score was within five points either way in the final five minutes of games. He was +99 on the court in such situations as he led Oklahoma City to a 29-14 record in 43 games of “clutch” time. His 29 wins tied Denver’s Nikola Jokic for most in the NBA last season.

Mikal Bridges has totaled 100+ steals while committing fewer than 75 turnovers in each of his first two seasons. He is the first player in NBA history to record 100+ steals with 75 or fewer turnovers in each of his first two career seasons.


Previewing the week ahead

Tuesday, December 29 - Phoenix Suns vs New Orleans Pelicans 8 pm AZT (TNT)

Thursday, December 31 - Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz 7 pm AZT (NBATV)

Friday, January 1 - Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets 7 pm AZT

Sunday, January 3 - Phoenix Suns vs LA Clippers 6 pm AZT

The Suns have four games this week, two at home and two on the road with none that could even remotely be considered easy.

First up is a home game against the Pelicans. The Pels are off to a 2-1 start behind the play of their young stars Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. This will be another challenge for the Suns but I believe they will come away with a win.

Next the Suns head back to SLC to face a Jazz team that they already lost twice to during preseason. The Jazz are 1-1 following a sound victory over the Trail Blazers (120-100) in Portland and a surprising home loss to the Timberwolves (116-111). I don’t like how Ayton has played against Rudy Gobert and don’t expect him to suddenly change that. I’m calling this one a loss for the Suns.

The Suns then head to the Mile High city to face the Denver Nuggets on the second night of one of the Suns’ many back-to-backs this season. Denver has gotten off to an unexpected 0-2 start with home losses to the Kings (124-122) and the Clippers (121-108) but shouldn’t be counted on as an easy opponent. Their defense has been quite bad so far though (DefRtg - 118.4, 26th) and if they can’t find an answer to that problem between now and then, I believe the Suns will rack up another win on Friday night.

Finally, the Suns return home for a match with the LA Clippers. After impressive wins over the Lakers and Nuggets, they looked horrible with Kawhi Leonard sidelined in a 51 point loss to the Mavericks (124-73) on Sunday. Kawhi should be back for this game against the Suns so don’t expect a repeat of that performance. I’m picking the Clips to win this one.

I believe that the Suns will go 2-2 this week.

What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

February 6 - Most free agents signed this offseason can be traded.

February 23 - First day that teams can sign players to 10-day contracts.

February 27 - Leaguewide salary guarantee date.

March 3 - All free agents signed this offseason can be traded.

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

March 25 - NBA 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 “Do you believe that injuries could be an ongoing problem for the Suns this season?

83% - Yes.

17% - No.

A total of 164 votes were cast.


Poll

Overall, the level of fan criticism directed at Deandre Ayton is...

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Excessive.
    (163 votes)
  • 50%
    Deserved.
    (178 votes)
  • 3%
    Not harsh enough.
    (11 votes)
352 votes total Vote Now