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Center of the Sun: Is there still life left in the Suns’ season? We’ll know for sure on June 4

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The NBA board of governors will make a final determination on how to resume the season this week.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

With everything going on in the US right now, talking about basketball seems trivial but that’s what I’m going to do today. It’s not because I don’t notice or don’t care about what’s happening around me. I do and am very concerned about it all. I’m just not wise enough to offer any meaningful words about it beyond those that have already been spoken by others.

The focus here at BSotS is Suns basketball, not the national headlines. While none of us can afford to stick our heads in the sand and pretend these things aren’t happening, I believe that we also owe it to ourselves to sometimes take a break from the really serious things in life and relax a bit. So let’s do that and talk Suns basketball for a while.

On Thursday, June 4, the NBA board of governors will vote on which plan to follow to resume the NBA season and playoffs. There are four plans under consideration, two of which would include the Suns.

  1. Bringing back 16 teams and advancing directly to the postseason.
  2. Bringing back 20 teams and using a play-in pool that would involve a group stage.
  3. Bringing back 22 teams and playing regular season games to determine seeding. A play-in tournament would then be used to determine the final playoff teams.
  4. Bringing back 30 teams, completing a 72-game regular season, then conducting a play-in tournament for the final playoff teams.

Only the 3rd and 4th scenarios would include the Suns and the 4th has been said to be the least likely option to be accepted. ESPN has reported that owners are expected to approve whichever format that commissioner Adam Silver recommends so let’s all hope that Silver will show Suns fans some love and pushes for option #3.

If the 3rd option is the one chosen, the number of “regular season games” that would be played by each team has not been disclosed. The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) has been behind the push to have these games before the playoffs begin. These games would essentially be “tuneup” games before the postseason competition really begins.

Technically, the playoffs would begin with the play-in tournament that follows although it won’t go down in the record books that way. In order for the Suns’ playoff drought to officially end, they would need to win a spot in the “sweet sixteen” which would go on to play in what I assume will be a normal 16 team NBA playoffs bracket.

How exactly would that play-in tournament work? I wish I could tell you but the NBA hasn’t provided those details yet. I’m not certain that they - the NBA - even have all the details worked out for the various plans still under consideration. All we really know for certain is that July 31 is the target date for NBA games to resume and they will likely all be played in Orlando.

July 31 is still two months away but teams will need time to get all their players together, evaluate their readiness and resume structured practices before returning to competitive play. At some point between June 4 and July 31, the NBA should also eventually inform us of their plans for the Lottery, the Draft, the free agency period and a target date for the beginning of the 2020-21 season. All those things will be of interest to Suns fans but right now they pale in significance in comparison to the interest in The Decision that will be made on June 4.

Is the Suns’ season over or not? We could all use some good news this week, Mr. Silver.

UPDATE:

Keep your fingers crossed, Suns fans!


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Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - If the NBA decides to go with the “playoffs-plus” idea that includes 20 teams rather than the normal 16, should they consider dropping the number of teams in the Lottery to just the 10 teams that would be left out and adjust the lottery odds accordingly?

GuarGuar: I think it would make sense to drop the number of teams in the lottery. It’s basically a 20-team playoff because the extra teams are playing in elimination games to keep their season alive. Hopefully Adam Silver decides to make it 22 teams! It would make more sense to give the teams who aren’t invited a bigger chance in the lottery.

Sun-Arc: We have less than a 14% chance to move up to the top 4. In what is considered a weak draft. Our odds are so low to move up, and without knowing how much more our chances would be to move up, I can only say, “ok, sure.” Not sure how much it matters - but I suppose any chance to have a better chance to move up is positive.

Having said that, I don’t think they will remove the extra four teams, and it would seem a bit unfair to those teams.

SDKyle: I don’t think it’s necessary to mess with the lottery just because the playoffs changed. There’s no real reason to add to the chaos this pandemic has caused the league by now reformatting the lottery. All these teams that are making the playoffs just because of the proposed new format are still bad and could use the leg up.

SouthernSun: Whatever teams don’t get to play in the actual playoffs, so 14 teams, should be in the lottery, no matter what. Being invited to the play in shouldn’t mean they don’t get included in the lottery. Because the ones who get to play some more games, but don’t make the actual playoffs, won’t get anything anyway.

Alex S: If they went that route, I’d be all for it. Only seems right that those who have a playoff opportunity and those that don’t are separated accordingly. They would need to alter the odds for one season but I don’t think that would be too complicated.

Q2 - Jared Dudley recently said that he likes the direction in which the Suns are moving and “The key is Deandre Ayton has to take the next step and be an All-Star.” Do you agree?

GuarGuar: Ayton is definitely the biggest X factor for this franchise moving forward. If he develops into an absolute beast then the outlook of this team changes drastically. He’s made a lot of progress over his first couple seasons so I am very hopeful. Just need him to stay on the court and be consistent now.

Sun-Arc: Ayton is hugely important to the team’s success, of course. There are a lot of other factors, too. If Bridges suddenly turned into Siakam, for instance, would Ayton be the MOST important factor? Hard to say.

But here’s why I agree: Ayton improved so much on defense this season, which was clearly what both he and the team was working on, that I have a lot of hope for him becoming the best player on the team. He’s not that far off as it is in just his second season. His PER (20.4) and ORtg/DRtg differential (+2) is better than Booker’s (19.8 & -1), though their VORP numbers show Booker to be much more important right now.

It appears Ayton has the potential to be a top 10 player in the league on each side of the ball within the next couple of seasons. With how much he improved in his second season, yeah, I think its possible. If he is, and Booker sticks around— along with a better supporting cast— this team could be scary every night to face, instead of to watch. Wouldn’t that be nice.

So: I don’t know Ayton if THE most important part. But it’s very possible/likely. Especially if he flops from here on out.

SDKyle: I absolutely agree with Dudley... I’ve said for almost two years now that this iteration of the Suns will go as Ayton goes. If Ayton becomes one of the 10 best players in the NBA, the Suns have a real chance to do something special in the next few years. If he’s just a really good player, the Suns still come up short without another true star added to the fold. Ayton took some major strides on defense this year... he needs to put it all together next.

SouthernSun: I agree. Ayton is the Suns best bet on the rest of the roster for someone who will be a star next to Booker. Sure, Mikal playing well will be important, but he won’t have as huge an effect on the team as Ayton would by getting even better and becoming a true star. Ayton is very talented, and if he keeps getting better, and adding to his game (a three pointer perhaps), he could he unguardable.

Alex S: Oh yeah. DA is the biggest key to all of this. We know Devin is an all-star level guard so Ayton becomes the immediate centerpiece to focus on. If he continues at the progression he was making defensively and his offensive game becomes even more versatile, he should be the best player on the Suns by 2022 or so. Otherwise, you’re more than likely going to see a different core being built around that may or may not involve Devin Booker.

Q3 - Channing Frye said that when he played for the Suns, “We just expected to win every single game.” How important is it for this Suns team to get this attitude back?

GuarGuar: I think we need to develop other winning habits first before we can get to this type of mindset. We haven’t proven anything yet so we need to earn the right to have that mindset. It’s important to eventually get back to this attitude, but first we have to accomplish a lot more than we have.

Sun-Arc: The Suns definitely need the attitude that they should win every game. Without it they’ll be what we saw this past season, where too often they barely showed up on the court. It looked to me like Booker came to play every damn night until he got run down a bit before the ASG. Bridges comes to play hard each night. Ayton took less plays off than last season, but that’s not enough. Too many of the other guys didn’t go out to crush their foes, and so the team was blasé too often. I can’t wait for it to change.

I’ve been watching the classic suns games they’ve had on Fox Sports- and the difference is just so darn palatable between the Barkley and Nash teams and what we’ve seen since the 2010 playoffs. Some of it is the talent, but some is also the attitude and heart.

SDKyle: I think its generally true, whatever you’re doing, that an “I will succeed” attitude is important. It’s certainly true in sports... if you go into a game confident you will win that’s much better for you than heading in feeling unsure what will happen.

A number of Brightsiders have mentioned the lack of swagger the Suns have had in recent years, and that goes to this. They have to get that back.

SouthernSun: It’s very important. Winning is nearly as much about mindset as about talent. We’ve all seen the Suns get up big, then just choke and give up their lead. We’ve seen them keep neck and neck with a good team, only to disappear for the final 4 minutes and end up under the other teams boot. We’ve seen them play horrendously for a whole game, then try like hell for the final couple of minutes, cutting the lead, but too little too late. The culture is slowly changing, but it still needs a little more help. At least this season the team didn’t seem to lay down and play dead quite as quickly as in seasons past. A few more guys with some winning experience (and still in their prime) will get them right where they need to be to start building up a new, better culture.

Alex S: That attitude is essential for any team that wants to be a legitimate contender. Obviously the Suns need to work towards that but you’d hope the Suns have ditched the negative mentality that the constant losing has created over the past 5+ seasons.

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


2019-20 Season Highlights

SUNS at KNICKS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | January 16, 2020

Deandre Ayton 26 Pts 21 Reb Full Highlights | Suns vs Knicks | January 16, 2020

Ricky Rubio Double Double: 25 Points 13 Assists & 4 Steals at New York Knicks

Devin Booker 29 pts 4 rebs 4 asts vs Knicks 19/20 season


Quote of the Week

Devin Booker is as good as any player in the NBA.” - Former Suns head coach Alvin Gentry


News & Notes

5 greatest Phoenix Suns teams in franchise history. Clutch Points

Alvin Gentry: Suns in ‘great situation’ under coach Monty Williams. Kevin Zimmermann/Arizona Sports

Suns rookie Cameron Johnson donates Chick-fil-A to Pennsylvania school. Rookie Wire

Grading the Suns’ last offseason: Context matters in T.J. Warren trade. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Monty Williams in Review. Dom Tesoriero/Outback Zona Sports

Rumors of a Dario Saric & Sixers Reunion are picking up steam. Philly Sports Network

One signing (Aron Baynes) the Houston Rockets need to make in free agency. Clutch Points


This Week in Suns History

On June 1, 1993, Dan Majerle set a then-playoffs record by sinking eight 3-pointers during the Suns’ 120-114 win over Seattle in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. Majerle finished the game with 34 points.

On June 4, 1976, the Suns lost Game 5 of the NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics 126-128 in the first triple-overtime game in NBA Finals history. That game came to be called “the greatest game ever played” and Gar Heard’s buzzer beater at the end of the second OT to tie the game and send it into a third OT was dubbed “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”.


Classic Suns Highlights

Paul Westphal highlights in game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals

Ricky Sobers (25pts/6asts) vs. Celtics (1976 Finals)

Curtis Perry (23pts/15rebs/6asts) vs. Celtics (1976 Finals)

Gar Heard (17pts/4blks) vs. Celtics (1976 Finals)


Suns Trivia

In Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals against Boston, Gar Heard set a then Finals record by playing 61 minutes. This record stood until Kevin Johnson broke it 17 years later when he played 62 minutes in the Suns triple OT Game 3 Finals win against to the Chicago Bulls on June 13, 1993.


Previewing the Week Ahead


Important Future Dates

July 31 - Target date to resume the 2019-20 NBA season.


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Should the NBA come up with a plan to somehow expand the playoffs to include more than 16 teams this year?”

86% - Yes.

14% - No.

There were 109 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

If the Suns are included in a play-in tournament, do you like their chances at making it all the way to the playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 70%
    Yes.
    (98 votes)
  • 29%
    No.
    (41 votes)
139 votes total Vote Now