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Center of the Sun: For the Suns the playoffs start on July 31

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They will still be called “regular season games” but the Suns can’t afford to think of them that way.

Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Although the Suns’ odds of actually making it into the real playoffs are extremely thin, don’t make the mistake of thinking that the next eight “regular season” games they will play aren’t important. Their importance goes well beyond a slim chance at making the playoffs.

First off, this will be Devin Booker’s first opportunity to play meaningful games at the end of a season. In his previous four years in the NBA, the Suns were far, far out of the playoff race long before the final eight games of the season. In all four of his previous seasons, they were essentially out of the playoff picture before New Year’s Eve.

A lot of non-Suns fans tried to put the responsibility for that on his shoulders but we know the truth. It is kind of hard to win with a string of bad head coaches and a supporting cast mostly made up of borderline G Leaguers and disgruntled/disinterested over the hill vets. And I won’t even get into ineptness of the former leader of the Suns front office.

Booker has always said all the right things throughout all the losing but it was obvious he was getting frustrated by it all. This season was the first in which things looked to be changing for the better. Even with some key additions yet to be made, as is this team could have been right there in the playoff race when the season was suspended if not for injuries and Deandre Ayton’s 25 game suspension. I feel as though Booker realizes this and is looking forward to playing these final eight games.

More importantly, I believe this all has given him reassurance that the Suns organization will continue to work to improve the team around him next season.

Hopefully, the Suns will also give their fans some reassurance by putting on a good show in Orlando. The competition is going to be tough, likely much tougher than normal regular season games and more like playoff levels of intensity. 13 of the 22 teams that will be in Orlando are already safely in the playoffs but the seeding order will still matter to most of them.

Lots of fans talk about the number of wins it would take for the Suns to have a chance at making it to the play-in stage but the key numbers for them are 3 and 2. They will need to finish with three more wins than Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento and San Antonio and also gain at least 2 games on Memphis. That’s what it will take because even if they somehow manage to win all of these upcoming eight games, they’re out of the running if both of those things don’t happen as well.

According to the guidelines laid out by the NBA, the Suns’ opponents in Orlando are likely to be the Mavericks, Pacers, Clippers, Mavericks, 76ers, Wizards, Heat and Thunder although not necessarily in that order. It’s not going to be a cakewalk by any stretch of the imagination... unless you can imagine holding a cakewalk in a hurricane. To get past these first 8 games, they’ll have to play every single one as if the stakes are win or go home... and then still hope for luck to be on their side.

Yes, there is a chance at making it to the playoffs but there are other things at stake as well. The harder they play and more they win, the more respect they’ll earn from others and have in themselves... not to mention increased confidence for next season.

That would be great but just a good showing shouldn’t be satisfying. It should leave them hungry for more.

And if the Suns leave Orlando early, I hope they leave hungry.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - Now that we know the NBA’s plan, what are your thoughts about it and the Suns chances of even making it to the play-in stage if they are at full strength?

GuarGuar: The odds are definitely very much against us in terms of making the play-in. We have to go at least 7-1. There are scenarios where 8-0 doesn’t even get us in. We have to get hot and other teams have to really play mediocre for us to have a chance. Jumping 5 teams in 8 games is very difficult.

Sun-Arc: I’m not giving us a huge chance. I haven’t been a true believer in this team since before training camp. Having said that, there is a puncher’s chance, because they’ve shown they can beat anyone if they put their collective minds to it.

This article from Arizona Sports lists out who they think the Suns will play in those eight games. Mavs twice, Clips, Pacers, Wizards, 76ers, Heat, and Thunder pretty much in that order. The Suns went 3-8 against those teams so far. That does not bode very well.

Here’s why I think they don’t have a great chance; Sure they are more healthy now than most of the season (outside of Oubre), but someone will get injured with this rush to get back to playing. And we’ve saw how this team just never stayed consistent game-to-game and all season long. Outside of the first 9-10 games of the season, they couldn’t string together wins.

In fact, they only have five win streaks this season, one was in the first 7 games (3 game streak). The other four were all only 2 game win streaks. Put the added pressure of these 8 play-in games in an empty arena, and our best players have little to no playoff experience, and it doesn’t sound like a good situation for success.

I also think there is a pretty good chance COVID will sneak into the bubble and snuff the entire scheme at some point. Hopefully not- or if it does, hopefully it happens late in the process. And I’ll also be hoping the Suns puncher’s chance gets them into the dance. That would be so much fun to see.

SDKyle: It’s an interesting attempt to split the difference between the “straight to playoffs” and “finish the season” options. I don’t really love the arbitrary number of remaining games... would rather have gone straight to playoffs.

I don’t think the Suns’ chances are great to outplay all of several other teams to qualify for the play-in stage... but it’s a real chance anyways.

SouthernSun: There is basically 0 chance the Suns make it to the play in. They would have to go 7-1 at the very least, and the other teams do poorly. But we get to see some Suns basketball.

Alex S: As the Suns social media team said so eloquently, “… so you’re saying there’s a chance?”

There isn’t much likelihood the Suns can make their way to the top 16. However, I’m thankful our franchise gets to be a part of an unique situation that none of us have witnessed before. I consider myself a guy who can feel energy around me, and things generally seem to be going in the Suns way the past year (other than DA getting suspended).

Q2 - Kelly Oubre Jr. has stated that he’s uncertain as to whether he will be cleared to play in Orlando. If he isn’t cleared, should we start singing “Turn out the lights, the party’s over...”?

GuarGuar: I expect Booker, Mikal, and Ayton to play all 8 games even if Kelly is out. I would assume Saric slides back into the starting lineup and Cam would see a lot more playing time. Kelly not playing obviously kills our depth. And he’s one of the few guys on this team who can create their own offense. We’re pretty dead in the water to begin with, but not having Kelly really looks like we have no chance at all. I hope he plays.

Sun-Arc: I think we have a significantly better chance with Kelly available than not. His infectious energy and X-factor potential definitely makes it a better looking team. Not a giant difference, but I’d pretty much be hovering my finger over the play button for “the party’s over” song without him.

SDKyle: It would surely be a blow. Oubre has his faults but he’s an energetic player capable of creating his own bucket, something the Suns frequently lack without Booker on the floor. Without him the Suns would need a really above and beyond performance from some combination of Saric and Johnson, IMHO.

SouthernSun: If Oubre isn’t playing, the chances go from slim to none. He is one of the best players on the team, and him being out will definitely result in worse performances than they are capable of. He provides another “scorer” next to Book, despite him being kind of a square peg in a round hole in that role. But his energy and enthusiasm and mindset are huge for this team, and without it I’m not very optimistic.

Alex S: Kelly is a key for the Suns to have any chance of making the cut. The 5 man lineup involving he, Devin, Deandre, Mikal, and Ricky is killer as we all know. Having a healthy roster from top to bottom would improve the bench and give the Suns their final 5 lineup that could lead to success. Without Kelly? No chance.

Q3 - The NBA is targeting December 1 as the opening night for the 2020-21 season with training camps opening on November 10. With the Finals possibly not ending until October 12, do you think it’s realistic to try to start the 2020-21 season that soon?

GuarGuar: I think it’s pretty realistic considering the circumstances. By the time the league starts up again July 31st, players have had basically 4 months off from games. That’s similar to a normal offseason. Most teams will be completely rested by December 1st, except for the teams in the NBA Finals. I guess that’s just the price to pay for getting that far. There was always going to be some unfairness in this. I’m more curious to see whether next year is an 82-game season or if it’s shortened so 2021-2022 starts in October.

Sun-Arc: I think it can work with those dates. The question is what it does to the players for the following season. Are they mentally rested enough with a shorter break? Does it actually improve play in the latter season? Does it cause more injuries, particularly for the teams that played later into the playoffs this year? Hard to say.

This is one of the reasons I thought (and still think) it might be better to just cancel the season, which is playing it safe. Have one season befuddled by COVID and move on. No champ, lost revenue - but a whole lot safer before there is a wide-spread vaccine.

SDKyle: Sure, it’s fine. Players just got months of rest, now most of them wont have to play more than a few games and then they’ll get months more. I guess it sorta sucks for the handful of players who will still be burning into October, but they’re well-paid. They’ll be fine.

SouthernSun: Yes! Start it as soon as possible. I’m fine with that. Two month offseason? That seems fine to me. It’ll be an awesome year for NBA! Playoffs, finals, and then boom immediately the draft and free agency, and then season again! We won’t have to wait quite as long to see how good the Suns are after their offseason additions. Though that might end up being a bad thing since it gives us less time to feel like they’ll be good before the slaughter starts anew (hopefully this is proven inaccurate).

Alex S: Yes.

With the Olympics being delayed, you’re looking at all teams having nearly two months off on top of the 3 they have gained from COVID as well as the bottom 8 teams getting nearly 9 months off. Hopefully the NBA Finals will move up closer to late August-September in the future if they change the schedule for good. That way, the teams will get closer to 3 or 4 months off like they do now.

From a personal standpoint, I hope the NBA keeps the December start dates moving forward. I’m tired of boring AZ summers of 115 degrees and only baseball to watch. Football gets its time to shine for a few months then the NBA and/or NHL can come back at the right time.

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

Atlanta Hawks vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | November 14, 2019

Devin Booker Full Highlights vs Hawks (2019.11.14) - 27 Pts, 7 Ast!

Kelly Oubre 30 Points Highlights vs Atlanta Hawks | 14.11.2019

Dario Saric 23 Points Full Highlights (11/14/2019)


Quote of the Week

“Being a younger team, new coach, new staff – being together just helps. Even if we didn’t play.” - Mikal Bridges


Interesting Suns Stuff


News & Notes

NBA discussing how to replace players due to injury, coronavirus, sources say. ESPN

NBA news: Trae Young, Kelly Oubre Jr., other players react to Drew Brees’ controversial statement. Clutch Points

Phoenix Suns & Hope Academy Deliver One-Of-A-Kind Graduation Surprises To Extraordinary High School Students Across The Valley. Suns.com

Phoenix Suns’ James Jones gets no love in grades of NBA general managers. Jeremy Cluff/Arizona Republic

The 5 greatest Phoenix Suns of all time. Clutch Points

The Phoenix Suns’ 5 worst free agent signings of all time, ranked. Clutch Points

Each NBA team’s presumed remaining schedule as 22-team plan officially approved for Orlando. CBS Sports

NBA offers clarity on tiebreakers with uneven schedule. Arizona Sports

Phoenix Suns are way too excited to be included in NBA’s return to play. Yahoo! Sports


This Week in Suns History

June 11, 1993, Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls and Charles Barkley of the Phoenix Suns each scored 42 points in Chicago’s 111-108 victory, marking the first time in NBA Finals history that opposing players each scored 40 or more points in a Finals game.

On June 13, 1993, the Phoenix Suns were down 0-2 to the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals after losing Games 1 and 2 at home in America West Arena. The series moved to Chicago Stadium where the Suns pulled of a 129-121 triple overtime win behind Dan Majerle’s team high 28 points, a 24 point, 19 rebound game by Charles Barkley and a 25 point, 9 assist night by Kevin Johnson.


Classic Suns Highlights

1993 Bulls vs Suns game 2 highlights

1993 Bulls vs Suns game 3 highlights


Suns Trivia

In the Suns’ 129-121 triple overtime Finals victory against the Bulls, Dan Majerle set an NBA record by playing 59 minutes without committing a personal foul.


Previewing the Week Ahead


Important Future Dates

June 15 - International players return to markets.

June 21 - All players report.

June 22 - Coronavirus testing begins.

June 30 - Training camps open.

July 7 - Teams travel to Orlando.

July 9-11 - Training camps resume in Orlando.

July 31 - 2019-20 NBA season resumes.

August 25 - NBA Draft Lottery.

October 12 - Latest possible date for NBA Finals Game 7.

October 15 - NBA Draft

October 18 - Free agency begins.

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

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

UPDATE:


Last Week’s Poll Results

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

71% - Yes.

29% - No.

There were 139 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

December 1 is the target date for the 2020-21 season to begin. Do you think it will actually begin on that date?

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    Yes.
    (70 votes)
  • 27%
    No.
    (27 votes)
97 votes total Vote Now