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Center of the Sun: The Suns begin preparation for the bubble games this week

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It will be a busy week for the Suns and the other 21 teams on their way to Orlando.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Today is the day the NBA restart begins to gain some momentum.

All players are due to return to their team markets today and tomorrow coronavirus testing begins. Head coaches can also begin working with players in voluntary workouts and the NBA “Transaction Window” opens at noon (ET).

By now I’m sure virtually everyone has heard of the “Transaction Window” that will begin tomorrow and end a week later (June 30). During that period of time, all NBA teams - including those not going to Orlando - will be able to sign available free agents to fill open spots in their rosters.

Presently, the Suns have two open spots. After waiving Tyler Johnson back in February, the Suns never signed anyone to take his spot and they also waived Jared Harper - who was on a two-way contract - right at the time the season was suspended back in March.

With Kelly Oubre Jr. now ruled out for the restart in Orlando to continue rehabbing after his meniscus surgery, that leaves the Suns with three open roster spots to fill during the transaction window... right? Well, sort of.

Oubre’s spot on the roster isn’t actually open although the bubble rules state that a “substitute player” can be signed to take his place. There are slightly different rules for signing subs that are outlined in this excerpt from a Fox Sports article:

The league also clarified the procedure for teams should any need arise to replace a player who either was excused from participating in the restart, would be protected from playing for health reasons or chose to not play.

Starting July 1 and going through the end of the seeding games, expected to be Aug. 14, substitute players can be signed to take the place of someone who falls into those categories. If a player tests positive for coronavirus after the seeding games end, teams would still be allowed to replace them — but only with someone who has three years or less of NBA service.

So it seems that the Suns won’t be able to add a third player until the week after the transaction window when the already slim pickings in the available in the free agent market become anorexic pickings.

I highly doubt that it will matter much though as I doubt that many of the still available free agents are anxiously awaiting a call from the Suns on Tuesday. The Suns odds of playing beyond the 8 seeding games are probably worse than any other bubble team, including Washington which is also the long shot to sneak into the 8th seed in the East.

More than likely, the Suns will bring Tariq Owens (two-way contract) and sign another G League level player or two as emergency fill ins. If they go that route, Owens will probably get converted to a standard end-of-the-year contract and someone else will be signed on a two-way to replace him. If the Suns decide to go with the full 17 players allowed, they would need to sign someone else to another two-way contract but I’m not convinced that they will even bother to do so. They may not even sign anyone unless another player decides to sit out or gets ruled out due to a training camp injury or testing positive for the coronavirus.

There is one potentially interesting wrinkle to the transaction window though. Only eight of the bubble teams - Denver, the LA Clippers, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento and San Antonio - actually have open roster spots so all the other teams would have to waive someone already on their rosters to sign a free agent during the window. While it’s doubtful that anyone that’s actually good will get waived, there might be one or two on that list that could be better options for the Suns to pick up than the current free agents that will likely be left over after the better free agents are scooped up by teams already guaranteed a playoff spot.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - Oubre’s out. Who should start in his place and how should the Suns divvy up the minutes he was expected to play?

GuarGuar: I think Dario should be our starting 4 in Orlando. He’s played plenty of games starting for us and done well in that role at times. He was our starting 4 during our 7-4 run in the beginning of the season. I think Cam should come off the bench, but still see 30+ minutes a game. He’s really who has to step up now that Kelly is out. I’d prefer him coming off the bench to try and give that unit a boost. And depending on how he plays, Cam probably should be closing games with Mikal.

Sun-Arc: Such a bummer, though totally understandable. As Dave King noted, he presumably hasn’t been able to adequately rehab that knee. He will be sorely missed.

In his absence, Mikal Bridges really needs to step up to be that glue-guy leader, scorer, and energy player. I hope he’s up to the task.

Minutes will be increased for Bridges, Booker, and Rubio, obviously. But they were likely to be anyway. Saric will have to start now, and certainly play a lot more minutes. Cam Johnson too. Probably more minutes for Carter as well. I also hope they’ll pick up someone in free agency to help.

SDKyle: I’d give the majority of those minutes to Cam Johnson, I guess. But there’s probably an increased role for Saric in there too, which would allow Bridges to guard more guys his own size. May as well experiment a bit with these games at this point.

SouthernSun: I would like Cam to start because I think that would give them the best offensive unit they can cobble together without Oubre, but Dario should probably get the nod, otherwise the Suns would be starting both their small forwards at once and have to sub one out really quickly.

Bridges should get 38mpg, Cam should get 30mpg, and Dario and Frank should get plenty of minutes as well.

Alex S: I believe Mikal and Dario are going to be the starting 3/4 since Kelly will not be available to play. Expect Cam and Mikal to each get upward of 30 mpg and for Dario to get a bit more than he was previously getting before the season shut down.

Q2 - The Suns now have two open roster spots they could use to sign players before the bubble games begin. My opinion is that all they will probably do (if anything) is convert Tariq Owens’ 2-way to a standard contract and maybe sign another G League player for depth. My reasoning is that the ‘best’ of the remaining free agents will sign with teams already in the playoffs or those that have the best chance at making the POs. What’s your opinion?

GuarGuar: I agree with Rod that we won’t do anything unique or surprising. I can’t see us signing any name brand players like IT, Boogie, Crawford, etc. We probably will convert Tariq and bring someone else from the G-League.

Sun-Arc: Tariq Owens is a possibility. The list is a bit of a who’s who of who’s bad. Sure, Boogie Cousins would be great to obtain, but we know he isn’t coming to a team with virtually zero chance of making it past the eight games.

Allen Crabbe might just come to the Suns hoping to land a longer deal. Same with Gerald Green, and Iman Shumpert. JR Smith would be a good replacement for Oubre to some extent. But he’s probably headed to one of the LA teams.

Would we want Tyler Johnson back? Jeez, seems we would really not; but he can spell some minutes at either guard spot and might be willing to come back. I’m not really interested in the other guys.

SDKyle: I agree the Suns will probably just convert Owens and sign a random G-Leaguer. None of the “premier” free agents are rushing to sign with a team thats almost sure to not make the playoffs. Going into the bubble would be too much trouble to be done in 8 games.

SouthernSun: I’ve said before I’d like the Suns to bring back Gerald Green for this Orlando run if he’s available and in shape. Either him or another free agent guard. I guess Crawford if you have to. Somebody with experience to take all of the Okobo and Ty Jerome minutes, please. I just want as many competent NBA players as possible.

Alex S: Yeah, I highly doubt anybody from outside the organization will get picked up for a pretty much guaranteed 8 game stretch. I would agree with your guess where Owens gets a shot. Not really up to speed on what our G-League season turned out to look like but maybe Harper?

Q3 - Which Suns player that’s unlikely to have a great game do you think is most likely to possibly shock fans and actually have one in one of the final 8 games in Orlando?

GuarGuar: I think Dario Saric is a guy I can see really performing above expectations in Orlando. I expect him to start and see big minutes. He has a contract on the line so these 8 games can be very important for him financially. I believe he’s been in Phoenix this whole quarantine time too, not out of the country. A hot shooting Dario Saric in Orlando might be surprising to some, but not really to me.

Sun-Arc: Cam, Saric, or Carter. And I’d say its about even for all three of them to have a great game in the run. Well, if I’m being honest, Cam and Saric have a more realistic chance of it (more minutes, have shown a bit more potential for this). Still, I just can’t count Carter out of putting a ton of effort into having a great game.

SDKyle: Random hunch... Jevon Carter gets hot off the bench and has a game where he scores 17 points on five made threes in like 22 minutes played.

SouthernSun: Jevon Carter because he’s going to get more burn than usual in Orlando until the Suns are mathematically eliminated from the possibility of making it into the 8th spot. Monty knows he’s better than Elie and Ty, so if the Suns don’t sign another free agent guard, he will he soaking up a lot of the minutes they would otherwise be playing, and it will give him the chance for a big game one night.

Alex S: I could see someone like Jevon Carter having a big game - I think he’ll be in really good shape and motivated to prove his worth to try to solidify his worth to the franchise heading into the offseason.

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

Phoenix Suns vs Chicago Bulls - Full Game Highlights | February 22, 2020

Devin Booker 29 pts 5 threes 5 asts vs Bulls

Deandre Ayton 28 Pts 19 Reb Full Highlights | Suns vs Bulls

Ricky Rubio Full Highlights 2020.02.22 Suns vs Bulls - 18 Pts,7 Reb,11 Ast


Quote of the Week

“It’s good to finally be back on the court, start to build towards something. You can do all the cardio and conditioning in the world that you want at your house by yourself, but nothing can really prepare you for playing actual basketball.” - Frank Kaminsky


Interesting Suns Stuff


News & Notes

Suns’ Mikal Bridges will have breakout opportunity with Kelly Oubre Jr. out when NBA resumes. Clutch Points

This awful NBA free agency decision involved a Jason Kidd rescue mission and ... Patrick Roy? (VIDEO) SB Nation

Suns Basketball Enters A New Normal. Suns.com

The Whiteboard: What Kelly Oubre’s absence means for the Suns. Gerald Bourguet/The Step Back

Suns’ Devin Booker a top 15 talent in the NBA, claims Jameer Nelson. Clutch Points

What would happen if the NBA canceled the 2019-20 season? Hoops Hype


This Week in Suns History

On June 26, 1996, the Phoenix Suns used the 15th pick in the NBA Draft to select Steve Nash.


Classic Suns Highlights

Steve Nash: Greatest Plays and Performances (Highlights)

Attention to Detail: Steve Nash


Suns Trivia

The first time that Steve Nash might have shown up on the Suns’ radar as a potential future draft prospect may have been during his freshman year at Santa Clara University when his underdog 15th seed Broncos upset the No. 2 seed Arizona Wildcats 64-61 in first round of the 1992-93 NCAA College Basketball Tournament.

One of the draft picks obtained from the LA Lakers in 2012 when Steve Nash was traded to them wound up being the pick used to select Mikal Bridges in the 2018 NBA Draft.


Previewing the Week Ahead

June 22 - Players return to team markets.

June 23 - Coronavirus testing begins. Head coaches can begin working with players in voluntary workouts. NBA “Transaction Window” opens (12 pm ET) and teams can sign available free agents to fill open roster spots.

June 24 - Deadline for non-participating players to notify teams in order to be excused.

June 27 - Two-Way contracts (only 22 teams in Orlando) can be signed.

June 28 - Last day to waive a player (5 pm ET).


Important Future Dates

June 30 - Transaction Window closes (11:59 pm ET).

July 1 -Individual workouts begin in team markets. 37-person team travel party must be submitted to the league.

July 7 - Teams travel to Orlando.

July 9-29 - Training camps begin, including three inter-squad scrimmages.

July 30 – August 14 - Seeding games begin.

August 15-16 - Possible play-in tournaments.

August 17 - Start of postseason.

August 25 - NBA Draft Lottery.

August 30 - Guests/family members permitted to arrive.

August 31 to September 13 - Conference Semifinals.

September 15-28 - Conference Finals.

September 30 to October 13 - NBA Finals.

October 16 - NBA Draft.

October 18 - Free agency begins.

October 23 - Moratorium ends (noon).

November 10 - Target for opening day for 2020-21 season training camps.

December 1 - Target for 2020-21 season opening night.


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Would you be upset if any Suns players decide to sit out the season restart?”

31.9% - Yes.

33.6% - No.

34.5% - It depends on their reasons.

A total of 116 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Do you think that the coronavirus will eventually end the NBA’s season restart attempt?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Yes. The season and/or the playoffs will eventually be cancelled.
    (28 votes)
  • 27%
    No. It will have no effect on the restart and/or the playoffs.
    (26 votes)
  • 42%
    No, but it will have an influence on which team ultimately wins the championship.
    (40 votes)
94 votes total Vote Now