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Center of the Sun: Some questions still unanswered as Suns prepare for scrimmage games

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Two inter-squad scrimmages are scheduled for this week but who will be available to play in them?

2020 NBA Restart - All Access Practice Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

In three days the Suns will face off against the Utah Jazz in the first of three scheduled inter-squad scrimmage games. That much we know for certain but uncertainties still abound as to which players will actually be available to play in that game.

Since entering the bubble, the Suns have been very tight-lipped as to who is and who isn’t there with them. They admitted that some players would be joining them in Orlando “later” and who didn’t make the initial trip has been a source of speculation among Suns fans for quite some time.

As of today, there is still no word on whether Ricky Rubio, Aron Baynes, Elie Okobo, Jalen Lecque and Tariq Owens are in Orlando. Yes, a video by the Suns was tweeted on Saturday that included Rubio but his part in it was all about preparing to go to Orlando, not actually about being there. Without a doubt, Ricky Rubio’s absence is the most worrisome of the lot. Dave King wrote in detail on that subject yesterday so I won’t waste time repeating his words here.

Aron Baynes’ absence also concerns me but not nearly so much. Aron’s presence on the court would be missed but it isn’t likely to be a game changer. As long as Deandre Ayton remains healthy, Frank Kaminsky, Dario Saric and Cheick Diallo should be able to adequately cover the backup duties at center.

Saric might wind up starting at power forward with Kelly Oubre Jr. sidelined but Monty Williams might still decide to go smallish in his starting lineup with Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson as his starting 3 and 4. Cam has spent his time off from basketball bulking up and added about 10 pounds to his frame which would make him the same height and only 5 lbs lighter than Cheick Diallo now.

The Suns’ second unit has been a problem all season long. They’ve averaged just 30.1 points per game (27th in the NBA) and have been in the lower rankings in most other statistical areas as well. Alarmingly, the Suns bench was 25th in assists (6.5) which is pretty sad for the team that leads the NBA assists per game (27.2). This likely won’t be fixed before the restart... especially if Rubio doesn’t play. The hope all season long was that one of the backup PGs would step up his game and prove worthy of those minutes off the bench. If one of them actually has to start, the bench will still likely remain a problem.

We’re very likely to see some new wrinkles added to the Suns’ play in Orlando but how many of them will made by choice and how many will be made out of necessity is yet to be determined.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - A recent Bleacher Report article ranked Devin Booker as the 5th best shooting guard in the NBA this season behind James Harden, Paul George, Bradley Beal and Jrue Holiday. I think he’s finally getting some respect. What are your thoughts on this ranking?

GuarGuar: I am also glad that Booker is finally getting some national respect. Now I would take him over all those guys except Harden, but that’s not the point. He deserves to be recognized for the superb player that he is. His stats to this point have been unbelievably great. He won’t get the true respect he deserves until we start winning.

Sun-Arc: I’d have Booker higher than Beal, but otherwise agree. Beal and Book are just about even, but I put Devin a hair above because of certain aspects to his game, particularly his deadliness in shooting, versatility, and size. Crazy to say this, but his defensive advanced stats are better than Beal’s, as are his shooting numbers and his ability to get to the line. Bradley had a great (somewhat better) season for scoring, and most of the other stats are even between them. Maybe I’m just being a homer. Yet I’d wager if you asked the GMs of all the teams who’d they’d rather have locked up on a long term deal right now, it would be the younger Booker.

SDKyle: This seems appropriate and you could make a solid case his superior playmaking skills put him ahead of BeaI. Not sure where I’d put Holiday. I think Booker is getting as much respect as is possible for a player who has never been to the playoffs. You could see a lot of people’s opinions of him rise even more ext season, bad defense and all, if the Suns finally break through and win 42+ games.

SouthernSun: I’m glad he’s finally getting respect, but I honestly believe that he is better than any shooting guard on that list not named James Harden, especially since Paul George is a SF. Beal and Book are probably tied, though I think Booker is a slightly better playmaker. Jrue is just behind them. He’s not close to as good offensively as either of Beal or Book, but he’s much better defensively.

TLDR, Paul George isn’t a SG and Booker and Beal should he tied for 2nd behind Harden.

Alex S: I believe Jrue is getting way too much love in this article but the ranking is very fair. My personal assessment at the moment would’ve had Harden, PG, (Klay when healthy), then a 4a/4b between Beal and Booker. Mitchell gets some disrespect in this ranking as well.

But Devin’s ranking is certainly a sign of getting more positive recognition. He easily could’ve been put somewhere towards the Lavine range but his performance and consistent improvement is getting the recognition he deserves.

Q2 - Another recent Bleacher Report article ranked Deandre Ayton as the 7th best center in the NBA this season behind Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert, Bam Adebayo and Nikola Vucevic. What are your thoughts on this ranking?

GuarGuar: I think this is a pretty spot on ranking for Ayton this season. He only played 30ish games so for him to be ranked 7th is pretty nice. Talent wise I would definitely take him over a few of the guys they have ranked ahead of him. I believe Ayton has the potential to enter that Jokic/KAT/Embiid elite center territory in future years.

Sun-Arc: I think its a fair ranking, but as with Booker, I would have Ayton above one of the top 5 mentioned. This time is Bam Adebayo. As with the Beal to Book comparison, this one is pretty close. In this case, Adebayo definitely has an advantage in shooting %, though Ayton handily outscore, out-rebounds, and out-blocks Bam and is a year younger. Ayton had a 4.5% block percentage and his defense grew by leaps and bounds in his second year. I really like both players a lot, but - again - if you asked GMs who’d they would rather have long term right now, I think its Deandre for most of them.

SDKyle: Also seems appropriate. Some of these guys are coming off monster seasons, and Ayton missed a good chunk of his. Ayton will get his recognition when he hopefully puts it altogether on both ends simultaneously next year.

SouthernSun: I’m very very happy to see Ayton get the respect he deserves. I myself think he is probably 6th. I believe he is better than Bam. Bam gets more assists, but Ayton has the edge in points, rebounds, and blocks. And if I had to build a team around one of them, I’m picking Ayton. Within 2 or 3 years I fully expect us to be talking about whether Ayton is the best center in the NBA or not. He is that good and has that much upside.

Alex S: Again, I think they did a very good job with this ranking. I believe DA will be a more valuable big man than Gobert and Adebayo in very short time but for now I feel the ranking is appropriate. Let’s not forget Ayton could be higher if the Suns had him for another 25 games and the team’s record was closer to .500.

However, his immense improvement on the defensive end has me believing there’s a lot of good to come, and fast.

Q3 - Forget about who is or isn’t going to be available. If the Suns could add ANY power forward to the team this offseason, who should that be?

GuarGuar: Well if Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis count as power forwards then I would certainly go with one of them. Both of those guys are franchise changers and would make us championship contenders instantly. Pascal Siakam is a true power forward who would really fit well with our roster. Gives us much needed athleticism and defense while being able to space the floor.

Realistically with who’s available this offseason I’m hoping for a guy like Jerami Grant.

Sun-Arc: Duh, Giannis. Every damn time. Who wouldn’t want this guy on their team? But maybe, if we are being really silly, we think The Freak weakens the team by eating up too much ball so Booker and Ayton are left out too much? Well how about Anthony Davis? That guy is versatile enough anywhere. But he’s too unrealistic, you say? (Unlike The Freak?) Well, then the next person you’d want would be Paul George playing the 4- but if you don’t consider him a PF, let’s go with Siakam. Great defense, improving his 3-pt shot, and has become a heck of a shot creator and all around star- yet doesn’t mind doing the dirty work in the background next to the “Double Ds”; Deandre and Devin.

Given where the team stands, I’m for anyone that supplies 3&D at the PF position. Siakam and George are great at that. Obviously, Davis is too and I’d take him in a heartbeat, just like Giannis and a load of other players for the position of great need for the Suns.

SDKyle: Robert Covington. Injury concerns aside the guy defends and hits threes off assists... perfect compliment to our two heavy usage stars. He also understands his role, which would be huge for team chemistry versus taking a fallen star and asking him to play a minor role.

SouthernSun: Technically Giannis is a PF, so probably him, but if he’s not allowed to be classified as a PF, then I choose Anthony Davis. Either one being added to the current team would make them instant top 3 seed on the west. Throw on a couple bench pieces and they would he a championship team. Pure overwhelming talent.

Alex S: Any, you say?

Giannis would be insane on this team obviously but you would need to get rid of Rubio and find a high level floor spacer to replace him.

Anthony Davis would be crazy as well and would be an immediate fit.

However, if I want to be a *lot* more realistic let’s go with Lauri. I almost said Draymond but I don’t see a world where either franchise wants to make that trade.

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

Suns at Celtics | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | January 18, 2020

Devin Booker drops 39 points in Suns vs. Celtics | January 18, 2020

Mikal Bridges Career High 26 Points Full Highlights (1/18/2020)

Deandre Ayton 26 pts 15 rebs 2 blks vs Celtics (1/18/2020)


Quote of the Week

“For me, I’m anxious to see us against competition outside of our gym and progress the program as it relates to being in this bubble, throwing a bunch of stuff at our guys for a week and seeing how we respond to another team trying to take us out.” - Monty Williams


Interesting Suns Stuff


News & Notes

Phoenix Suns: How far can this team possibly go in the Orlando Restart? Hoops Habit

Is James Jones an NBA Calibre GM? Dom Tesoriero/Outback Zona Sports

22 Questions: Will the Phoenix Suns’ Deandre Ayton Ever Be Good Enough? Inside Hook

The NBA Free Agents With the Most at Stake Inside the Bubble. The Ringer

NBA Bubble Bets: Phoenix Suns Win Total. SI

What should Phoenix Suns do now, later about depth at guard? Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Why Phoenix Suns fans absolutely hate Robert Horry. Clutch Points


This Week in Suns History

On July 20, 2007, the Phoenix Suns traded Kurt Thomas plus two firsts in 2008 (Serge Ibaka) and 2010 (Quincy Pondexter) to the Seattle SuperSonics for... luxury tax relief.

On July 24, 1996, the Phoenix Suns officially signed their 1st round pick (15th), Steve Nash to a 3 year contract worth $992,300 a season.


Classic Suns Highlights

Phoenix Suns 04-05 Season Recap Mix

MVP Steve Nash & Amar’e Stoudemire vs Dirk Nowitzki Game 5 Battle Highlights 2005 Playoffs - EPIC!


Suns Trivia

The 2004/05 Phoenix Suns finished the season with a 62-20 record (best in the NBA that season) and went all the way to the Western Conference finals before losing 4-1 to the Spurs. They were also the 3rd youngest team (average age = 24.05 years) in the NBA at that time and had only four players with more than 5 years of NBA experience (average exp. level = 3.78 years).


Previewing the Week Ahead

Thursday, July 23 - Phoenix Suns vs Utah Jazz inter-squad scrimmage 5:00 PM AZT*

Sunday, July 26 - Phoenix Suns vs Boston Celtics inter-squad scrimmage 10:30 AM AZT

* The 1st inter-squad scrimmages for all teams will be shortened to 40 rather than the usual 48 minutes total time. The 2nd and 3rd scrimmages will use standard timing.

Wohoo! We finally have Suns’ games again! They’re only scrimmage games which won’t count as part of the regular season but they should still be interesting and fun to watch.

I usually make predictions when there are upcoming games but these are going to be like preseason games where the players will be trying to win but the coaches will have things they want to look at that might not put their teams in the best position to get a win. Because of that, I won’t make any predictions but...

Against the Jazz in the regular season, the Suns were 1-1. In their 1st game, the Suns lost 96-95 at home early in the season (Oct. 28). In their 2nd game, the Suns beat the Jazz 131-111 on their home court four months later (Feb 24). I’m certain that the Suns at full strength could win this game but who knows what will actually happen since it’s just a “scrimmage”.

Against the Celtics, the Suns were also 1-1 before the season was suspended. In their 1st game on Nov. 18, the Suns lost 99-85 at home. Both Ricky Rubio and Deandre Ayton were out for that game and it was the game in which Aron Baynes was injured and didn’t play at all in 9 of the following 10 games. In their 2nd game, the Suns beat a depleted Celtics squad (Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown were both out) 123-119 in Boston two months later. In neither game were both squads at full strength during the regular season which would make this one difficult to call if it actually mattered. But it doesn’t since it’s another scrimmage game.

Neither of these games will count but the players on both sides will still be trying their best to win. The interesting things will be who looks sharp after the layoff, who doesn’t and what other surprises might be in store for us.

All 33 exhibitions will be televised by some combination of local TV, national TV, NBA TV or NBA League Pass.


Important Future Dates

July 28 - Suns vs Raptors inter-squad scrimmage Noon AZT

July 30 - August 14 - Seeding games.

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 “Do you think that Kelly Oubre Jr. will play at some point in Orlando?”

31% - Yes.

48% - Only if they somehow make it to the play-in games/playoffs.

21% - No.

A total of 95 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

If Rubio isn’t available, who starts at point guard for the Suns?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    The new guy, Cam Payne.
    (46 votes)
  • 19%
    Jevon Carter.
    (33 votes)
  • 7%
    Ty Jerome.
    (12 votes)
  • 3%
    Elie Okobo... IF he’s available.
    (6 votes)
  • 42%
    Go with Point Book and just put the best defender you have next to him.
    (73 votes)
170 votes total Vote Now