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Center of the Sun: Suns start preseason games this weekend!

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The Suns’ preseason starts in Utah with two games against the Jazz followed by two against the Lakers in Phoenix.

UT: Phoenix Suns v Utah Jazz Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

As wild as it may seem, the Suns will be playing their first preseason game this Saturday. Yes, in just five short days the Suns will be back on the court playing the Jazz in Utah.

The Jazz have changed little from last season, bringing back 11 players from their 2019-20 roster - including their entire starting lineup - and are bringing back former long-time Jazz player Derrick Favors after he spent last season in New Orleans. Although it’s just a preseason game, it should give us all some clues as to how well this new look for the Suns will work together.

With the continuity the Jazz have, they should be sharper than many teams going into the preseason and it will be almost like playing this year’s Suns against what is essentially the same Jazz team that finished last season with a 44-28 record. It will be a good early test for our new starting unit and should provide a great look at just how good our bench could be this year.

You can’t put too much stock into the outcomes of preseason games but you can gain a lot of information on how a team will likely perform once the games that really count begin. Seeing how well Chris Paul meshes with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton will surely be first on most fans’ ‘must-see’ lists with team defense a not too distant second.

Those things should become clearer and clearer as the preseason plays out. Another interesting thing to watch for is who will ultimately be the players who get the most court time off the bench as Monty has a plethora of solid rotation choices in his bench stable. Figuring out who’s first, second and third off the bench could be difficult because of the multitude of good choices or it could be as simple as grabbing the nearest guy on the bench and telling him who to sub in for. This year’s bench might actually be that good.

The Suns got a hard lesson on how a thin bench could throw a monkey wrench into the works early on last season after getting off to a hot 5-2 start. James Jones has loaded up the bench this year as well as revamping the starting unit. This team has been constructed with proven players rather than unproven potential as in many years past.

The Suns may not have the best bench in the NBA but I believe they have more quality depth than I’ve seen on their bench since the 2009-10 “bench mob” that featured Goran Dragic, Leandro Barbosa, Jared Dudley, Channing Frye and Lou Amundson. With the all the talent on the bench this year, it may be difficult for Monty to sort out a rotation scheme but what a great problem to have for a change.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - Everyone wants to see Deandre Ayton make another leap forward in his development this season. What specifically do you want to see from him this year?

GuarGuar: The biggest thing I want to see from Deandre this season is consistency. We know the skills and talent he possesses. He can be an elite center in this league there is no doubt about it. But every game last year we went into it not knowing what type of DA we were going to get. He can get very passive at times and take himself out of the game offensively. I want to see a consistently engaged Deandre Ayton this year.

Sun-Arc: Dominance. Just realizing he’s the most gifted, most unstoppable person on the court when he’s determined. Along with that will come the far better free throw attempts.

SDKyle: I want Ayton to get to the line more. That’s the number one thing he can do to help the Suns offense, even more so than jacking up a couple threes per game. For a big as athletic as he is to only be getting two FTAs a game is criminal... by comparison KAT averaged 7 last season, Jokic averaged 4, and Embiid averaged a whopping 9. Even the very limited Gobert gets there 6 times a game.

Not only does it leave highly efficient scoring chances off the board to settle for finesse jumpers instead of power moves (Ayton is a career 50% from 3-10 feet, which is not especially efficient and much less so than free throws at 75%), but drawing more fouls would also get other teams in trouble.

So this season when Ayton gets the ball in a strong position I want to see him ho hard to the basket and get that contact, slam the ball home, get some “and ones.”

SouthernSun: I would like, and actually think we will see, Ayton put up something like 21 ppg, 12 rpg, 2.5 apg and 1.5 bpg. I’m also expecting him to have even better efficiency. CP3 and Book should also be able to set him up for some pretty wide open three point looks, so I expect one or two of those per game.

Paul will demand more consistency and hustle from Ayton, as well as fewer mistakes. He’ll find where Ayton is most effective, and get them to those spots more often. Not only that, but Paul’s gravity as a scorer will be completely different from that of Rubio, which should make things even easier for Ayton.

All in all, I expect a big year for the big man. I wouldn’t be surprised if he even exceeds some of my expectations.

Alex S: I want to see three main developments for DA this season.

  • An increase in attempted FGs either <5ft from the rim or 3PT/A
  • TS%
  • Rebounds P/G

The first two are tied together as a result of having one of the best point guards of all-time and a known big whisperer on the roster. We saw the shot development for Deandre last season, specifically in the bubble and it’d be great to see DA take shots that are either a result of rim rolling or a wide-open three pointer from quality spots on the court. This should result in Ayton having a potentially higher FG% as well as TS%. The rebounds are important as Baynes and Oubre are no longer Suns and the starting 5 got a bit less athletic and shorter with Crowder and CP3. If Deandre is getting over 30 MPG I’d love to see him approach 12 boards per game.

Q2 - For the season, the Suns shot 35.8% from three (16th) and then 40.2% from three (5th) in the bubble. With the new shooters they’ve added to the roster, what do you expect/hope the team’s 3-point percentage to be in 2020-21 AND who will lead the team in 3-pt shooting this season?

GuarGuar: With our additions this year I’m expecting us to shoot around 38% from 3 this season. I think Cam will be the best shooter from a % standpoint. I think he can shoot over 40% this season with all the spacing we have this year. From a volume standpoint I think Booker will make the most 3s. Hopefully Devin gets back to that 2018 season % at around 38%. He has the most spacing he’s ever had in his career. The last offensive development for him is to become a more efficient and higher volume 3 point shooter.

Sun-Arc: I expect around 36.3%, but hope for higher. As I’ve said in a comment thread, I don’t see a huge jump in 3pt shooting on paper. We have added one very good shooter in Galloway (who will likely only play 16 mpg max). Seven of our top 10 players are the same as last season. Moore may not see much time, but he’s also not a volume shooter. Crowder shot worse last season than Oubre. Having said all that my hope is that Paul (plus Ayton/Book) will create more open shots and raise the overall percentage. I hope Booker leads in percentage- because can you imagine how efficient he would be at that point? My guess is Carter might lead in percentage, while Cam Johnson might lead in overall perimeter shooting when it comes to volume + percentage.

SDKyle: I’m not too hung up on percentage from downtown because three point percentage doesn’t tell you the whole story. The Spurs, Pelicans and Wizards were all top 10 three point teams last season by that measure. But of those only the Pelicans were also above average in volume of threes taken.

Last season the Suns were near average in both categories. I’d like to see them rank top 10 in 3pt percentage and top 15 in volume... I think that would be a good sign for the offense and achievable with the roster we have.

SouthernSun: I believe the Suns will be somewhere between 37% from three as a team to 39%.

As for who will lead the team in three point shooting... there will be two categories to look at:

  1. Either Cam Johnson or Booker will take the most threes.
  2. One of Cam, Moore, or Galloway will have the highest three point percentage.

Alex S: I have expectations for the Suns to be top 5 in three point percentage next season based on the fact that every single player on the roster other than Damian Jones can shoot a three point. Furthermore, every single player should be considered an actually good three point shooter other than Ayton (Bridges has shown the capability in the past). Anything short of the top 10 would be true disappointment. I expect the Suns to shoot around 37% as a team from deep and believe Galloway will lead the team in % above Johnson and Moore as my other two selections.

Q3 - The Suns signed 6’8” PF Johnathan Motley to a training camp/Exhibit 10 contract. Do you think he sticks with the squad past training camp?

GuarGuar: Motley probably gets converted into a 2 way contract after training camp. I can’t imagine him being anything more than a training camp body for now.

Sun-Arc: Off hand, and thinking optimistically, I would say he doesn’t stick. And I’m not sure it matters because I sure hope other players keep him from seeing time on the court. I really hope Smith is playable as a rookie. If he’s not, and Saric or others aren’t doing their job, that is when we might see Damian Jones or Motley.

SDKyle: Maybe Motley will stick around on the edge of the roster... hard to know. I don’t think he brings enough to the table that he deserves to see the floor in the absence of multiple injuries because he has a PF/small ball center skillset and we already have Crowder, Saric, Cam Johnson, Damian Jones and Jalen Smith who can fill that role and I expect all of them are better than Motley with the POSSIBLE exception of Smith.

SouthernSun: I would be surprised if he sticks around the whole season. But maybe. He averaged 3.2 mpg in 13 games with the Clippers last season... so not a lot to be excited about. But I’d love to see him do well and earn a permanent spot on the roster.

Alex S: I could see Motley converting into a two-way. Motley has some athletic upside but I believe he’ll be generally irrelevant in the grand scheme of things with the Suns having 5 PF/C’s currently.

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


2019-20 Season Highlights

For the last week before we’ll be getting NEW game highlights, I selected what I think were some of the Suns’ best games of the past season.

Phoenix Suns vs Philadelphia Sixers - Full Game Highlights | November 4, 2019

SUNS at PELICANS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | December 5, 2019

TRAIL BLAZERS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | March 6, 2020

BUCKS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | March 8, 2020

SUNS at CLIPPERS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | August 4, 2020


Quotes of the Week

“We’re having fun in here, the energy’s high, the personality’s out, and the competitiveness is there.” - Devin Booker

“The biggest thing I learned last year is you can write your own story. I think that was the big thing our team did. We didn’t care — no offense to any of y’all — we didn’t care about your predictions or what your expectations are. You aren’t in the locker room with us. We’re the ones who have to do the work.” - Chris Paul


News & Notes

Paul plans to be more than a teacher in Phoenix. NBA.com

The NBA in Tiers: 2020-21 Preseason Edition. The Ringer

NBA: Here comes the sun in Phoenix. UConn Daily Campus

Will Chris Paul, Devin Booker coexist well on the Phoenix Suns? Dan Bickley/Arizona Sports

‘It’s go time’: Booker, Ayton eager to start after key offseason additions. Tucson Local Media

NBA Offseason Grades: Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns make bold moves. Sir Charles In Charge

Ranking NBA ‘City’ uniforms for 2020-21 season: Here’s the best and worst jerseys from across the league. CBS Sports


This Week in Suns History

On December 9, 1993, Kevin Johnson became the 13th NBA player to ever record 10 steals in a game during the Suns’ 114-95 home win over Washington.

On December 10, 1969, the Suns pulled down 77 total rebounds and 46 in the second half alone in a 137-107 victory over the Baltimore Bullets. Paul Silas (16), Jim Fox (15), Neil Walk (13) and Connie Hawkins (11) all had double-digit rebounding numbers and out rebounded the entire Bullets team 55-51 despite Baltimore’s Wes Unseld leading all in rebounding with 21.


Interesting Suns stuff

How Good Is DEANDRE AYTON? | Player Breakdown

ROLE CALL: Analyzing what Langston Galloway, E’Twaun Moore and Damian Jones bring to the Suns


Suns Trivia


Previewing the week ahead

Saturday, December 12 - Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz (Preseason Game 1) 7 pm AZT


Important Future Dates

December 14 - Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz (Preseason Game 2) 7 pm AZT

December 16 - Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers (Preseason Game 3) 7 pm AZT

December 18 - Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers (Preseason Game 4) 7 pm AZT (ESPN)

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 “Other than Chris Paul and Jae Crowder, which one of the Suns’ new players do you think will have the most positive impact this season?”

38% - Langston Galloway.

13% - E’Twaun Moore.

42% - Jalen Smith.

02% - Damian Jones.

04% - Abdel Nader.

01% - Ty-Shon Alexander (2-way).

A total of 273 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Which is most likely to happen this year?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Devin Booker gets into the MVP conversation.
    (42 votes)
  • 38%
    James Jones gets into the Executive of the Year conversation.
    (80 votes)
  • 41%
    Monty Williams gets into the Coach of the Year conversation.
    (88 votes)
210 votes total Vote Now