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Center of the Sun: A strong Week 2 ends on a sour note for the Suns

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Winning 3 of 4 brings their season record up to 5-2.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs New Orleans Pelicans W (111-86) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz W (106-95) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets W (106-103) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs LA Clippers L (112-107) Full Recap

The Suns started out the week strong and actually had the best record in the NBA for a short while. Although the final game of the week wound up a loss, the Suns still showed some heart in that one by coming back from a 31 point deficit to give themselves a chance at a win and made it close in the end.

At 5-2 the Suns still find themselves in a three way tie for first place in the West with the Clippers and Lakers as well as co-owners of the second best record in the NBA. The Suns also got off to a 5-2 start last season but that was a pleasant surprise to fans. This season it’s not. The Suns went all in this season in the Chris Paul trade, the signing of Jae Crowder and adding other solid vets to fill out their roster instead of more youngsters and/or marginal NBA players.

The Suns are 22nd in average age (26.3) this season. Although many of their high minute rotation players are under this average it’s not by much. At 22 Deandre Ayton is the second youngest player on the roster (Rookie Jalen Smith is 20 and fellow rookie Ty-Shon Alexander is actually 7 days older than Deandre) and going into his sixth season Devin Booker is the 4th youngest Suns player.

Gone are the days where fans hoped that the potential of young players would be quickly realized and the Suns franchise might return to respectability. That transition began last season and is finally over. The Suns are once again back to where they belong... being a real contender.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - Devin Booker is “only” averaging 20.2 ppg (after 5 games) this season. This doesn’t bother/worry me but do you think it merits some concern?

GuarGuar: I have absolutely no concern with how Book has started this season. We 100% know what he is capable and who he is as a player. The last thing this fanbase needs to worry about is his “slow” start. New Orleans, Sacramento, and Denver all trapped pick and rolls so he was never going to be able to shoot a ton during those games. And when we played teams who use drop coverage like Dallas and Utah he had very nice games scoring wise. The turnovers have been bad but he’s had stretches like this in the past and it always clears up.

Sun-Arc: Doesn’t bother me... yet. The team is playing well, and it does seem like Booker and Paul are abusing defenses by taking advantage of their own offensive gravity, thus allowing other players to score the points. And its working. The only concern would be that Booker/Paul cannot turn the scoring on when they need to. But I don’t think that will be a problem.

SDKyle: I have no concerns at all about Booker scoring points. It’s the thing he’s been able to do his whole career. He didn’t suddenly lose the knack in his prime.

Part of this is just a slow start, nothing to worry about. The other is he now has a number of legitimate scorers around him so he doesn’t need to take 20 shots a game to give his team a chance. And that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.

SouthernSun: No, definitely don’t have any concerns. The team is like 50% new players. There's a learning curve. Also, it seems Booker and CP3 are both trying to raise the confidence levels of their teammates, making sure to get them involved plenty here in the early going. I’m sure there will be plenty of 30 and even 40 point games for Booker this year, and probably a few for Paul too.

Alex S: Not concerned whatsoever. I think it’s evident that Devin will average less ppg this year than the season past due to more consistent bench scoring on the roster. I envision Book ending the year hovering around 25 ppg and somewhere between 5 to 6 apg with legitimately good defense this season. As Devin said in an interview recently, having a structured team defense is much more important than one individual defender and his play backs up that statement.

The thing that concerns me going forward with DB is the turnovers. It’s not okay how loose with the ball he’s been but I chalk that up to trying to get others involved too much. That should change soon enough.

Q2 - Mikal Bridges has been playing great to start off this season. On Twitter I saw this comment: “Instead of Kobe and Shaq 2.0, we may have Jordan and Pippin 2.0.” What’s your opinion on the possibility of that statement coming true?

GuarGuar: Mikal making such an apparent leap has been by far the most fun thing for me this season. Ayton had a nice game against Denver but outside of that has been underwhelming. Jordan and Pippen 2.0 is obviously not possible but a Walmart version I guess is. Mikal is a serious offensive threat now. He’s developed his jumper and off the dribble game big time. I just hope this isn’t some fluke stretch from him and that it’s actually sustainable.

Sun-Arc: Bridges is pretty far from Pippen at this point. Can he can get closer to it? Yeah, maybe. I don’t know. Booker is also no Michael Jordan. I think those are exaggerations. Not sure we need them to be those two guys anyway if we keep winning.

SDKyle: It’s a fun idea. Realistically Jordan and Pippen were far better than I see our duo being, especially in that Pippen was actually a very high level distributor and Bridges is currently averaging less than one assist per game.

But I can see the comparison at a base level. At any rate, props to Mikal for showing this aggressiveness on the offensive end. It’s a very welcome development.

SouthernSun: I’m going to need a larger sample size of this new and improved Mikal. Obviously we know his defense will always be great, and he is great at cutting to the basket, and even last season his three pointer was falling a decent percentage of the time, but he seems so much better on that end this season. It could be a mirage, but I’m optimistic.

Alex S: Well, Jordan and Pippen are two legendary players so let’s calm down a bit. I still believe the best comp for Mikal is a modern Tayshaun Prince and that’s not a slight whatsoever. Prince was a hell of a player. But in regards to the idea that Mikal is now the 2nd most important/valuable ‘future’ piece on the roster, I’m not there yet. Ayton needs a lot more respect from this fan base for the elite defense he’s playing right now and also the fact he’s nearly eliminated the long mid range shots that drove Suns fans crazy for two seasons. He’s still struggling to find his role offensively but his impact is felt on the court.

Q3 - Until the Utah game, Jevon Carter was in a big shooting slump (3 of 18, 16.7% FG & 1 of 13 from three, 7.7% 3PT). His defense alone should insure that he continues to play but if his shooting continues to slump do you think Monty Williams might try giving some of his minutes to E’Twaun Moore (39.0% career 3pt shooting) or even Abdel Nader (once he clears concussion protocols)?

GuarGuar: I think what will happen if Carter struggles more is Galloway will just take up all his minutes. We saw that in one of the games this week where Carter barely played and Galloway stole his minutes. I’m okay with this because I think Langston should be getting close to 20 minutes a game. He is such a serious offensive weapon for us. Carter obviously brings a very unique defensive energy though and I’m always cool with him getting minutes as long as he isn’t a huge offensive negative.

Sun-Arc: I, for one, hope that Nader turns out to be a full-on rotation player. But for now I think Carter will be in the rotation until someone takes it from him - whether that is Moore, Abdel, or someone else.

SDKyle: It’s certainly possible. Carter needs the three to make him a value add. He’s a great defender but if he continues to be a drag on the offense longer term Monty should and I assume would at least experiment with other options too.

Then again, if the Suns keep winning, why fix what isn’t broken?

SouthernSun: If Jevon’s shooting struggles continue, I could definitely see Moore getting some minutes. They run plenty of three guard lineups now, and Moore is a more consistent and proven player than Nader, so I imagine that’s the route they go, unless they’re in certain matchups that need a bit more size. As Rod says, even in the midst of a shooting slump, Jevon will still see the court because of his tenacious defense and hustle, but occasionally Monty may need to turn to someone he knows can put the ball in the hole, especially when the offense is stagnant. And a guy like Moore with a proven track record probably prefers that happen on more than a “break glass in case of emergency” basis. So we will see. But the team is rolling right now, so until they string a couple of losses together, I don’t see much changing.

Alex S: I don’t see Monty switching up the rotation considering the Suns are off to the best start in the West and Carter brings value no matter if his shot or falling is not. As much as I enjoyed the E’Twaun pickup, if his shot is falling does he have any other value? We’re getting consistent scoring from a ton of guys so I don’t feel the need to turn to Moore quite yet.

And as the question mentions, Jevon played well against Utah and showed the confidence to take the shots he took. That alone is an important sign that he’ll break out of his slump sooner than later.

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


Game Highlights

New Orleans Pelicans vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | December 29, 2020

SUNS at JAZZ | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | December 31, 2020

Mikal Bridges Highlights vs. Jazz - 16 pts, 6 rebs, 2 steals, LOCKDOWN DEFENSE ON DONOVAN MITCHELL!

Phoenix Suns vs Denver Nuggets - Full Game Highlights | January 1, 2021

Deandre Ayton Highlights vs. Nuggets - 22 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks, DEFENSIVE ANCHOR!!!

Los Angeles Clippers vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | January 3, 2021

Paul George & Devin Booker HEATED Moment | Clippers vs Suns | January 3, 2021


Key Stats

110.7 OffRtg (13th), 103.4 DefRtg (3rd), Plus-7.3 NetRtg (4th)

After a tough week the Suns are still near the top in defense and net ratings. The offense continues to need work although 13th is a quite respectable ranking. I believe that offensive ranking will improve as the season goes on.

Random stats: The Suns are tied for first in team free throw percentage (82.0%) but 29th in free throw attempts per game (18.4). Getting to the line more often needs to be a goal for this team. Maybe it’s just a fluke but Devin Booker had only 2 turnovers in 45 minutes in the Clippers game, well below his 5.8 turnovers in 33.8 minutes per game average this season.

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com and/or Basketball-Reference.com.


Quotes of the Week

“It’s early. It’s a long season. We always say this... we’re just trying to pile up wins.” - Chris Paul on the Suns early season winning record

“I think our guys are learning how to keep their composure but also have an edge when they’re going through those (difficult) moments. It’s just a growth moment for us.” - Monty Williams


Rookie Report

Jalen Smith - 10.2 mpg, 2.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.5 TO, 0.5 PF, 0.0 3PT%

This week - Did Not Play (Injured)

Ty-Shon Alexander - 2.5 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 0.5 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.5 PF, 0.0 3PT%

This week - 3.9 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 1.0 PF, 0.0 3PT%, 3 DNP-CD

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


Injury Status Report

Abdel Nader - Concussion/Expected to be out until at least January 6.

Jalen Smith - Ankle/Expected to be out until at least January 6.


News & Notes

Recognizing Hall of Famer Paul Westphal. Suns.com

Chris Paul praises Jae Crowder: “He is a dog. I am grateful I call him a teammate now.” TalkBasket.net

Suns boast of the best two-man lineup in the NBA outside of Nets’ Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving. Clutch Points

One Play: How the Phoenix Suns weaponize Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton at the same time. Sporting News

Suns’ Chris Paul reacts to rookie taking off his shoe after clutch bucket over Nikola Jokic. Clutch Points

New Hardwood. Suns.com


This Week in Suns History

On January 9, 1972, the NBA’s 2,000,000th point occurred in either the Baltimore-Phoenix or Detroit-Buffalo game. (At the time, precise NBA records were not kept and no one is certain in which game the 2,000,000th point was scored or which player scored it.)


Suns Trivia

Paul Westphal’s .685 winning percentage (191-88) as the Suns head coach is best in Suns coaching history.

In his six years as a player for the Suns, Westphal scored 9,564 points (8th on the Suns All-Time Points Leader board), averaged 20.57 points per game (tied for 7th with Tom Chambers) and added 2,429 assists (7th).


Previewing the week ahead

Wednesday, January 6 - Phoenix Suns vs Toronto Raptors 7 pm AZT

Friday, January 8 - Phoenix Suns @ Detroit Pistons 5 pm AZT

Saturday, January 9 - Phoenix Suns @ Indiana Pacers 5 pm AZT

The Suns have three game week this time, all against Eastern Conference teams. They start off with one at home followed by another back-to-back (their third of the season) on the road.

First up is are the Toronto Raptors who surprisingly struggled early on and began the season 0-3. Former Sun and fan favorite in The Valley, Aron Baynes has not fared well in his starting role there so far with averages of just 7.3 ppg and 6.5 rpg while shooting 21.4% from three. He’s not the cause of the Raptors’ problems though as the entire team has had trouble finding the bottom of the basket and are 29th in field goal percentage (41.3%) and dead last in offense (98.1 OffRtg). Their defense is 2nd in the NBA though so this won’t be a cake walk for the Suns. I believe that the Suns defense will do a much better job stifling the Raptors’ O than their defense will be able to stop the Suns from scoring. I’m counting this one as a win for the Suns.

After a day off, the Suns head East to Detroit. The Pistons signed Jerami Grant - whom many Suns fans coveted during the offseason - and he’s doing well there, averaging 23 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1 steal per game. He hasn’t been enough to keep Detroit’s offense from ranking 23rd and their defense from ranking 17th (net ranking 25th) though. Former Suns Josh Jackson is also there and playing pretty good (16 ppg, 5.2 rpg) although still somewhat inconsistently. The Pistons just aren’t a very good team overall though and the Suns should win this one.

Following an overnight flight to Indianapolis, the Suns will take on their biggest challenge of the week in the Pacers. There’s no possibility of a T.J. Warren revenge game though as the former Sun is sidelined indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left foot. The Pacers have plenty of other weapons to throw at the Suns though and, unlike the Suns who will be on the 2nd night of a B2B, the Pacers will have had 2 days off before this game. I don’t like to say it but I calling this one a loss.

I believe that the Suns will go 2-1 this week.

What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

February 6 - Most free agents signed this offseason can be traded.

February 23 - First day that teams can sign players to 10-day contracts.

February 27 - Leaguewide salary guarantee date.

March 3 - All free agents signed this offseason can be traded.

March 5-10 - Mid-season break (no All-Star game).

March 25 - NBA Trade Deadline.

May 16 - Regular season ends.

May 17 to 21 - Play-in tournament for 7-to-10 seeds.

May 22 - First-round playoffs.

June 7 - Conference semifinals.

June 22 - Conference Finals.

July 8-22 - NBA Finals.


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Overall, the level of fan criticism directed at Deandre Ayton is...”

46% - Excessive.

51% - Deserved.

03% - Not harsh enough.

A total of 352 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Has Cameron Payne proven that he deserves the Suns’ backup point guard slot yet?

This poll is closed

  • 87%
    Yes.
    (274 votes)
  • 11%
    Not yet.
    (36 votes)
  • 0%
    His performance so far is a fluke. He’ll eventually fail.
    (3 votes)
313 votes total Vote Now