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Center of the Sun: Suns stumble to 1-2 record in Week One

Your weekly roundup of Suns news, rumors, notes and videos from the prior week plus a preview of the week to come.

Phoenix Suns v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs Denver Nuggets L (110-98) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ LA Lakers W (115-105) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ Portland Trail Blazers L (134-105) Full Recap

With the exception of the Lakers game, the Suns have just not played well in their 1-2 start. Their offensive production has been up and down during games (19th in offensive rating) and their defense - especially on the perimeter - has often been just plain bad (26th in defensive rating) although some of that can be attributed to hot shooting nights for their opponents.

This is not what fans expected to see this season. Of course, stats from three games is a very small sample size to draw conclusions from so don’t panic. Not yet.

The Good: The $90 mil investment in Mikal Bridges is paying big dividends. Among the Suns’ top 10 rotation players, he’s second in points (17.0 ppg), FG percentage (55.6%), 3-point percentage (53.3%) and FG attempts (12.0 FGA).

Even with the offense sputtering at times, Chris Paul has averaged 11.7 assists per game. That puts him 1st in the NBA in assists so far.

JaVale McGee has fit in seamlessly. He’s leading the team in FG% (72.2%) on 6 shots per game in just 13.3 minute per game. Per 36 minutes, that works out to 24.3 ppg which is the highest per 36 ppg average on the team.

Landry Shamet is also proving himself to be a good investment by leading the team in 3-point percentage (55.6%) and 3rd in overall FG% (53.8%). He also leads the Suns in eFG% at 73.1%.

The Disappointing: Although leading the Suns in scoring, Devin Booker has yet to hit his stride as he is averaging just 18.3 ppg while making only 39.6% of his FG attempts (17.7 per game) and 33.3% from three. His averages will certainly go up as the season progresses but so far it’s been a rough start for Book.

Deandre Ayton has also not gotten off to a good start. His 10.3 ppg and 8.0 rpb averages are both below his 2020-21 season averages (14.4 ppg, 10.5 rpg) and his FG% is so far the worst of his career at 50.0%. Blame this on the distraction caused by the failed contract extension talks if you want but, whatever the cause, he’s not been playing his best in the first three games.

Cameron Payne’s shooting has fallen off a cliff. His FG% is just 28.6% and he’s hitting just 16.7% from three. It’s not all bad news though as his per 36 assists are 7.6 per game which is up slightly from his average last season (7.2 apg per 36).

Offensively, the most disappointing player so far this season is without a doubt Jae Crowder. I love his hustle and defensive play but his 13.3% shooting from three on 5 attempts per game is horrible, especially for a starter playing the 5th highest number of minutes per game. We all know Jae can be a streaky shooter from three but his streak has been all bad so far as he’s hit just 2 of his 15 three-point attempts over three games. Jae needs to break out of his three-point shooting funk soon. Despite his three-point shooting woes, Jae has hit 71.4% of his 2-point attempts (2nd best on the team) but on low volume (2.3 attempts per game).

So far, the pluses have been outweighed by the minuses resulting in a 1-2 record. As I said in last week’s CotS, the NBA schedulers did the Suns no favors in scheduling their first three games over just four days... plus having all of them being against 2020-21 Western Conference playoff teams.

Although I didn’t expect two losses last week, I don’t think it’s overly concerning this early in the season. The early struggles by some players aren’t yet something to be overly concerned with either... although if no improvement is apparent this week I might change my mind on that.


Game Highlights

NUGGETS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | October 20, 2021

SUNS at LAKERS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | October 22, 2021

Chris Paul Double-Double 23 PTS 14 AST Full Highlights vs Lakers

SUNS at TRAIL BLAZERS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | October 23, 2021


Key Stats

104.3 OffRtg (19th), 115.2 DefRtg (26th), minus-10.9 NetRtg (26th)

It’s a small sample size but still a very bad start for a team that finished in the top 10 in both offense and defense last season.

49.0% FG% (28th), 43.1% 3-PT% (28th) Opponent Shooting Percentages

The Nuggets, Lakers and Trail Blazers all made over 40% of their three-point attempts against the Suns while Portland and Denver both hit over 50% of their FG attempts. Only the Lakers had an overall bad shooting night against the Suns when they shot under 40% from the field. The Suns made only 46.2% from the field (13th) and 34.0% from three (22nd).

43.3 rebounds per game (26th)

I had hoped that the Suns’ 50.3 rebounds per game average during preseason would carry over into the regular season but that hasn’t been the case so far. 43.3 rpg is very close to their 42.9 average from 2020-21 and needs to improve somehow this year.

Random stats: More than 50% of Landry Shamet’s, Jae Crowder’s and Cameron Johnson’s shot attempts have been three-pointers with Shamet (69.2%) and Crowder (68.2%) averaging nearly 70% of their FG attempts from three. The average distance of all of Shamet’s shots has been 20.5 feet (longest average on the team).


Quotes of the Week

“It’s crazy, I’ve only been here (Phoenix) for, what, if you look at a calendar I’ve been here like a month and a half? And I really like truly say I haven’t felt more right about an environment that I’ve been in. Basketball wise, the people here, the way of life, where I live — it’s somewhere that just feels right.” - Landry Shamet

“We have the experience over here now so I think we understand what an NBA season entails and I think we’ll be alright. I know we will.” - Devin Booker

“You have those situations where ‘oh yeah, good D, better O’.” - JaVale McGee


Injury Status Report

Cameron Payne (Hamstring) Game time decision.

Dario Saric (Knee) Expected to be out until at least April 1.


News & Notes

Phoenix Suns X-Factor: Mikal Bridges. UPROXX

Phoenix Suns: Predicting statistical leaders in each major category. Hoops Habit

“PJ Tucker never hooked me up with Jordans”: Devin Booker called out the ‘Sneaker God’ while revealing the only two Jordans he wears. The Sports Rush

The top trade candidate on each NBA team this season. Hoops Hype

Young Core Rankings. The Ringer

NBA West Preview: The Return of ‘Beautiful Basketball’. New York Times


This Week in Suns History

On October 25, 1975, Phoenix Suns Ring of Honor member Alvan Adams made his NBA debut for the Suns in an 89-88 win over the Portland Trail Blazers and was just 2 assists short of getting a triple-double (14 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists) in his first ever NBA contest. Adams played a big role in helping the Suns get to their first ever NBA Finals appearance that season where they were defeated 4-2 by the Boston Celtics. The Suns rookie was also named to the All-NBA Rookie Team, won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award and was selected to play in the All-Star Game that season.

On October 25, 2013, the Suns traded Shannon Brown, Marcin Gortat, Malcolm Lee and Kendall Marshall to the Washington Wizards for Emeka Okafor and a 2014 1st round draft pick (Tyler Ennis was later selected). Okafor was injured at the time of the trade and never played a single game for the Suns.

On October 29, 1996, in conjunction with the NBA’s 50th anniversary celebration, the list of The 50 Greatest Players in NBA History was announced. It included two former Suns, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal.

On October 30, 1972, new Suns head coach “Butch” van Breda Kolff was fired after coaching just seven games for the Suns (3-4). General Manager Jerry Colangelo took over as head coach for the remainder of the season. The team would go 35-40 for the rest of the season under Colangelo (38-44 overall) and miss the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

On October 30, 2009, Steve Nash dished out 20 assists in a 123-101 win over the Golden State Warriors. Ten days later, he would do it again with 20 assists in a 119-115 win against the Philadelphia 76ers on Nov. 9. Thaddeus Young (whom many fans hope the Suns will acquire from San Antonio sometime this season) started for the Sixers in that game.


Suns Trivia

During junior year at the University of Oklahoma, Alvan Adams tied a school record with 21 double-doubles for a season by a Sooner. The player whose record he tied belonged to his future Suns teammate, Garfield Heard who established the record during the 1969–70 season. That school record stood until 2009 when it was broken by Blake Griffin.

Alvin Adams is the Suns’ franchise leader in games played, minutes played, rebounds and steals; second in field goals made and attempted; third in assists; and fourth in blocks.

Devin Booker is in his 7th season with the Suns. Only 11 other players have worn a Suns uniform for more than 7 seasons (Alvan Adams - 13, Kevin Johnson - 12, Walter Davis - 11, Steve Nash & Shawn Marion - 10, Dick Van Arsdale & Leandro Barbosa - 9 and Dan Majerle, Alvin Scott, Amar’e Stoudemire & Mark West - 8).


Previewing the Week Ahead

Wednesday, Oct. 27 - Phoenix Suns vs Sacramento Kings 7:00 pm AZT

Saturday, Oct. 30 - Phoenix Suns vs Cleveland Cavaliers 7:00 pm AZT

It’s a light week for Suns’ with just two games scheduled as they begin a 5-game homestand.

First up, on Wednesday the Sacramento Kings come to town. After three days off following their loss to Portland, I expect the Suns to want this win badly, especially in from of the home crowd. This Kings team is pretty good though and I expect them to make it a good game although I think the Suns will even up their record at 2-2 against Sacramento.

The Suns get another two days off after the Sac game before the Cleveland Cavaliers make their lone visit of the season to Phoenix. The Cavs will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back and their 4th game in 6 days on a brutal Western conference road trip following games against Denver, the Clippers and the Lakers. I don’t expect them to go down without a fight but I’m also not expecting a very tired Cleveland squad to be a match for a very well rested Suns team.

I’m predicting that the Suns will go 2-0 this week and raise their season record to 3-2.

What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

December 15 - Most players signed during offseason can be traded.

December 25 - Phoenix Suns vs Golden State Warriors 3:00 PM AZT (ABC)

January 15 - All players signed during offseason can be traded.

February 20, 2022 - NBA All-Star Game.

April 10, 2022 - Regular season ends.

April 12-15, 2022 - Play-In Tournament.

April 16, 2022 - Playoffs begin.

June 23, 2022 - NBA Draft.