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Center of the Sun: Hope is still alive in the bubble for the Suns!

With six games to go, the Suns are slowly working their way toward the play-in stage.

Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

The Suns have started off 2-0 in the bubble with an expected win against the Wizards and then an improbable come from behind victory against the Mavericks last night. How far can they go? It’s still going to be difficult for them to even get into the play-in stage but they’re off to a very good start.

We all knew that the Suns’ odds on making it to the play-in stage and on to the playoffs were low from the start but it isn’t impossible, just... almost impossible. Even if they win all six of their remaining games, that won’t do it without a little help from other teams, especially since they don’t have any games against any of the other Western Conference teams that they’re competing against.

While Memphis has the pole position in the 5 team race for the 8th seed, the Suns don’t have to worry about actually passing them. That’s an unrealistic expectation but they have to close the gap between themselves and Memphis to no more than 4 games. After that, the Suns have to win every game possible and hope that it’s enough to pass Portland, San Antonio, New Orleans and Sacramento in the standings to get to the play-in stage.

This is where things stand following yesterday’s games:

  • Memphis: 4 games ahead of Suns.
  • San Antonio: 2 games ahead of Suns.
  • Portland: 1.5 games ahead of Suns.
  • New Orleans: .5 games ahead of Suns.
  • Sacramento: .5 games ahead of Suns.

The Suns have already closed the gap between them and Memphis to 4 games so all they have to do is stay even with them in the win/loss column from here on. Their challenge now is to pass San Antonio, Portland, New Orleans and Sacramento over the remaining six games. That won’t be easy as they have no head-to-head games against any of them.

As you can see in the following chart (courtesy of Tankathon.com), the Suns have the 4th most difficult schedule remaining and it’s tougher than any of the four teams that they are chasing. It’s not going to be easy but the Suns are still in it and their chances are now better than they were just a few days ago.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - Mikal Bridges is starting to look like more than just a 3&D player. What’s your opinion and what do you think his ceiling might be?

GuarGuar: I’ve been very impressed with Mikal through the scrimmage games and the first game against Washington. He really has turned up his offensive aggressiveness. The hitch in his jumpshot has improved drastically. The shot look much smoother. What has me most excited is he is creating his own offense a little bit now. We’ve seen some creative moves from him that have led to scores. If he keeps developing that then his ceiling is extremely high, something in the Jimmy Butler range. I don’t want to get ahead of myself though. We need to see a lot more before that even becomes a legit discussion.

SDKyle: It would be somewhat surprising to me if Mikal Bridges became a high-level NBA scorer...the “baby Kawhi” comparisons seem a little bit of a reach to me. But then again, there are always guys who bloom later in their careers.

If I had to guess I’d say his ceiling is an all-defense player who averages around 18/6/4... pretty much was I was hoping Josh Jackson would be.

If he comes up a bit short of that, no problem. We just can’t have him revert back to the version of himself thats only willing to take 7 FGAs a night.

SouthernSun: I think Mikal will end up being Shane Battier, or Danny Green with a slightly more diverse offensive package. He sure has looked good for the start of Orlando. He will be a very good role player for many years to come. I doubt he’s ever a “star” though. I kind of hope his contributions on offense are overshadowed by the other starters, because that will probably help keep his cost lower when the Suns extend him. Scoring pays.

Alex S: Yeah, Mikal isn’t going to be a 3/D type going forward. A guy I think would be an apt comparison going forward would be a righty Tayshaun Prince.

Tayshaun at his peak never scored more than 15 a game but he was an elite defender and a 36-38% 3PT marksman. I urge you to go check out Prince’s career stats and see a pattern that Mikal could certainly mirror going forward.

Lastly, Prince’s off the dribble game from what I remember was pretty solid. It wasn’t a go-to but when he needed to contribute, he was more than capable of being a 3 level scoring threat.

Q2 - What’s your opinion on the how the Suns actually used their G League team before selling it?

GuarGuar: I always felt we could’ve used our team more for development of guys like Bender and Jackson when they were really struggling. Similar to how the Spurs have used their G-League team over the years. We really didn’t use it for anything other than late season contracts. Lecque was really the first guy we have tried to develop down there with the intention of him being a part of our franchise in the future. I’m very disappointed in the selling of the team.

SDKyle: I don’t think there’s much value in having a G-league team. It just doesn’t happen often that some 50th overall pick or undrafted free agent signee on a G-league contract actually becomes anything more than a break glass in case of emergency deep bench player.

I thought the Suns endeavored to use their Northern Arizona outpost as best they could, but there’s just so much you can realistically do with a roster of guys who simply aren’t NBA players.

SouthernSun: I think it’s important to have a G League team, but perhaps its unnecessary right now? The Suns are one of if not the youngest team in the league. Perhaps they are focusing on proven talent for now, and will purchase another G league team once profits are back up? As for how they used it... I don’t know enough about the ins and outs of it to give an educated answer. Seeing as they haven’t developed any young late draft pick player or undrafted guy in awhile, and turned them into a viable rotation player on the Suns, I’d say not very well.

Alex S: They stunk.

But to be fair to the Suns, it’s pretty rare for an organization that utilities their g-league system well. A few I could name would be Toronto, Golden State, SA, and Houston but other than that I’m not entirely sure I can add more teams to the mix.

The Suns selling the g league team is a horrid look from a PR standpoint but it really won’t make a huge impact on the actual product on the court.

Hopefully they can reacquire a team by the time the arena renovations are done and the Suns are hopefully a playoff team but we’ll see.

Q3 - What’s your opinion of the NBA allowing players to substitute social justice messages in place of their names on jerseys but only giving them a limited number of options to choose from?

GuarGuar: I think it’s a really cool idea to substitute messages instead of names. I think they could’ve allowed a better variety than what we’ve got though. And I don’t understand why a guy like Jimmy Butler can’t wear his jersey without a name. I’m glad to see the progressive steps our league has taken though.

SDKyle: I think it’s a good move on the league’s part. The choices available seem like strong statements for justice and equality without the capacity for misunderstanding.

I would have also been okay with letting them choose whatever subject to league approval. The league has an interest in making sure jerseys worn on the floor represent the league appropriately, so some oversight is certainly warranted.

SouthernSun: I think its great that they are allowing the social justice messages, but they should probably allow more.

They could have easily set a deadline for players to send them, via freaking email, a proposed message, and then decide if it’s okay. Theres only like 300 players in the league, and only 70% are playing in Orlando. That’s like 220 players. That’s one or two days of work for a couple people. Not a big deal.

They probably were worried about some messages being a little too hot, but c’mon, some people are already gonna demonize the league for this, so why not go full throttle? Who cares if somebody who wasn’t going to watch them in the first place gets mad?

But anyway, I am all for it.

Alex S: I think it’s completely reasonable. The NBA is a business at the end of the day so they are more than allowed to require rules for their product.

However, I LOVE what Jimmy Butler did by purposely wearing a jersey without his name and forcing the officials to make him change. He got his message across and didn’t get punished.

The NBA’s message has been loud and proud since the restart so I’m not one to get overly critical if they want to enforce one or two stingy rules.

As always, many thanks to our Fantable members - GuarGuar, SDKyle, SouthernSun and Alex S. - for all their extra effort every week! (Sun-Arc did not participate this week.)


Key Stats

15.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3 apg, 57.9% FG, 45.5% 3pt

Those are Cameron Johnson’s stats - as a starter - from the two games this week. In the Dallas game he scored 19 and pulled down 12 rebounds to record his first NBA double-double.


Game Highlights

Toronto Raptors vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | July 28, 2020

Mikal Bridges 26 Points 5 Ast Full Highlights | Suns vs Raptors | July 28, 2020

Suns at Wizards | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | July 31, 2020

Devin Booker 27 Points 4 Ast Full Highlights | Suns vs Wizards | July 31, 2020

Mavericks at Suns | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | August 2, 2020

Devin Booker 30 Points Full Highlights | Mavericks vs Suns | August 2, 2020

Cameron Johnson 19 Points Full Highlights (8/2/2020)


Quote of the Week

“That’s going to be a big part of our offense with him moving shot-blockers away from the rim and knocking down big shots like that.” - Devin Booker on Deandre Ayton’s 3-point shooting


Rookie Report

Cameron Johnson - 20.8 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.6 TO, 1.5 PF, 78.0% FT, 40.0% 3pt

  • This week - 32.4 mpg, 15.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.5 TO, 3.5 PF, 100% FT, 45.5% 3pt

Ty Jerome - 11.2 mpg, 3.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.6 TO, 1.0 PF, 78.6% FT, 27.7% 3pt

  • This week - 2 DNP-CD

Scrimmage stats

Cameron Johnson - 25.0 mpg, 13.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 2.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.3 TO, 2.0 PF, 80.0% FT, 41.2% 3pt

Ty Jerome - 21.3 mpg, 6.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.3 TO, 2.3 PF, 100% FT, 15.4% 3pt

All stats courtesy of NBA.com.


News & Notes

Phoenix Suns Forward Mikal Bridges Stands To Gain As Much As Anyone In NBA Restart. Brendon Kleen/Forbes

Phoenix Suns’ ‘Don’t Sleep On Basketball’ Shines Light On New Normal. Front Office Sports

Former Suns GM Ryan McDonough is right about G League ownership. Kevin Zimmerman/Arizona Sports

Deandre Ayton now ‘comfortable’ shooting from deep, hits 2 of 3 in Suns’ win. ESPN

NBA owners’ current financial turmoil portends future payroll problems. ESPN


This Week in Suns History

On August 3, 2005, the Phoenix Suns signed SG Raja Bell to a five-year, $23.75 million contract. A hard-nosed defender, Bell also shot 39.0% from 3 the previous three seasons.

On August 8, 2000 – Kevin Johnson retired for the second and final time after returning to the Suns during the regular season after Jason Kidd broke his ankle. KJ went on to the NBA on NBC studios to call games beginning in the 2000-01 regular season.


Interesting Suns Stuff

Why Deandre Ayton & The Phoenix Suns ARE The FUTURE Of The NBA

Mikal Bridges: The STEALTHIEST PLAYER in the ENTIRE NBA


Suns Trivia

During his short career with the Suns, Deandre Ayton has averaged 10.77 rebounds per game which places him 3rd on the Suns’ All-Time list in that category behind Paul Silas (1st - 12.1 rpg) and Charles Barkley (2nd - 11.5 rpg). After only 103 games played, he is also 48th in total career rebounds with 1,109.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Tuesday, August 4 - Phoenix Suns vs LA Clippers 1:00 PM AZT

Thursday, August 6 - Phoenix Suns vs Indiana Pacers 1:00 PM AZT

Saturday, August 8 - Phoenix Suns vs Miami Heat 4:30 PM AZT

Another week and another three games for the Suns. This week the competition gets pretty tough for a team already fighting an uphill battle for the playoffs. Although their fate isn’t completely in their own hands, every win they can get helps keep those hopes alive.

First off, the Suns face the LA Clippers on Tuesday afternoon. Like the Suns, the Clippers went 2-1 in the scrimmages. Since then they’ve lost to Lakers 103-101 and beaten New Orleans 126-103. The Clips have been without Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell so far. Williams should be back for Suns game which doesn’t bode well for the Suns’ odds of getting a W. Although the Suns had a great 130-122 win against the Clips early in the season, they lost both of their next two games against them by 21 and 10 points. As much as I hate to say it, unless the Clippers decide to cut back on the minutes played by guys like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to attempt to protect them from injury before the playoffs begin, I have to call this one a loss for the Suns.

On Thursday, the Suns have another early afternoon game against the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers also went 2-1 in the scrimmages and then beat Philly 127-121 without Domantas Sabonis & Malcolm Brogdon. As I sure everyone has already heard, former Sun TJ Warren scored a career high 53 points and was 9-12 from three in that game. Will he do something like that against the Suns? Maybe but I kind of doubt it. I’m sure he’ll have a good game against his former team but without Sabonis - and possibly Brogdon - I think that the Suns have a very good chance at getting the win in this one if they feed the big man, Deandre Ayton. Joel Embiid scored 41 points and grabbed 21 rebs for Philly against Indiana and the Pacers were out rebounded 55-34. The Suns aren’t a great rebounding team but losing Sabonis’ 12.4 rebounds per game really hurts Indiana on the boards and the Suns could take advantage of this.

Finally, the Suns meet the Miami Heat in a late afternoon game on Saturday. The Heat went just 1-2 in the scrimmages but then followed that up with a beatdown of the Denver Nuggets 125-105 in their first non-scrimmage game. It’s impressive to beat the Nuggets by 20 but Denver played that game minus Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Will Barton, all starters. The Heat beat the Suns early in the season at TSRA 124-108 while Ayton was still serving his suspension and by hitting an impressive 53.6% of their threes. Miami leads the NBA in three point shooting percentage this season (38.4%). Logic tells me that the Suns will probably lose this game but my gut is telling me this could be a surprise win for the Suns and I’m going with my gut this time.

I’m very optimistically predicting the Suns will go 2-1 this week. What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

August 15-16 - Possible play-in tournaments.

August 17 - Start of postseason.

August 20 - 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 “How many of the 8 bubble games will the Suns win?”

08% - 2 or less.

55% - 3-4.

22.5% - 5-6.

14.5% - 7-8.

A total of 138 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Are you surprised at how well Cam Johnson has played as a starter in the bubble games?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    Yes.
    (124 votes)
  • 37%
    No.
    (75 votes)
199 votes total Vote Now