Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
First up... the Fantable — a round table of Bright Siders who give their takes on the Suns latest issues and news.
Fantable Questions of the Week
Q1 - Is Stix a bust or just not good enough (yet) to earn rotation minutes on a contending NBA team?
GuarGuar: It’s looking like he’s a bust, especially given the great players who were taken right after him. It was a very questionable pick at the time, with the obvious answer being Halliburton. He looks very raw and isn’t exactly great at anything other than hustling. Very telling that we already declined his rookie extension.
Sun-Arc: What I know about Stix is he is not ready to be in the rotation of a winning team at this moment. That could change in a week, a year, or never. Very hard to say. While he has some useful tools, his stature really hampers his ability to be useful.
On rebounding he does not have the lower body strength to box out other players. Sometimes he can use his agility to work around opposing players- other times he gets easily pushed out of position.
His 3pt shooting stroke is very smooth, but, again, his lack of lower body strength (and possibly conditioning) limit his accuracy.
One of the biggest issues, as pointed out very well by Dave King, is his lack of position. He is not strong enough to play center and is not quick enough against most power forwards. Right now he does not appear to have a position to play. His limited agility on defense in general (especially on the perimeter), and lack of strength, really keep him from more court time on a winning team.
If I had to bet right now, I would lean strongly towards “bust” but I do think he’s got the character and ethic to be successful.
SouthernSun: He’s pretty close to a bust. Especially for a top ten pick. And especially given the performance of a number of players drafted after him in his class. The Suns obviously tried to trade him and came up empty. If he’s back on the team next season, it will be on a minimum contract. He probably won’t get any more than that anywhere else in the NBA either. Maybe the Suns can make use of him as salary filler in a trade to improve the team before the all star break.
Alex S: It’s irresponsible to call Stix a bust when he’s barely been in the league for over two years, including the Covid season. Has he been disappointing? Sure, absolutely.
I’m going to say he’s just not good enough quite yet to earn minutes on a good team. Even then, I did like what I saw in his limited minutes he played in the other night with his hustle and rebounding. That being said, I do understand (somewhat) why they declined his option although I wish they hadn’t.
Rod: I suppose for me it comes down to how you define the term “bust”. He hasn’t been good enough to earn minutes on a very good Suns team but I don’t really believe that he won’t eventually find a role on an NBA team and stick in the league, even if it’s just as a journeyman player. I’d call his selection at 10th in the draft the bust rather than him. The Suns don’t need projects right now and that’s what Smith is.
Q2 - Since Cam Payne was sidelined by injury, Elfrid Payton has filled in well as the Suns’ backup PG. Their stats are roughly equal except for shooting percentages (Payne’s are way down from last season). When Payne returns from injury, does he automatically get the backup spot again or should Elf keep it?
GuarGuar: Yea I think Payne should get his role back immediately. His change of pace is very valuable to our squad and he’s great at giving us a scoring boost when we are in a drought. Payton has filled in nicely though so it’s good to know we have PG depth.
Sun-Arc: Payne should get the nod for first PG off the bench when he’s available. His quickness and shooting really help the team a lot. But I would not be surprised to see Monty going to Payton situationally and/or to lessen minutes for CP3.
I could also see Payne and Payton play together potentially- much like Carter and Payne did in the bubble. Sure, Shamet deserves more minutes- but maybe he can get that in small ball bench units with three guards on the floor plus Johnson and McGee.
SouthernSun: Payne should definitely get the backup spot again. He is simply better than Payton. Not a knock on Payton. He’s been playing pretty well. But we know what Payne can do. He’ll be back in his spot as the first or second guard off the bench soon (I think Landry will end up being just as, if not more, important as him).
Alex S: I appreciate how you phrased this question but I think the eye test will tell you Payne is just flat out a better player than Elfrid. And if you asked any Knicks fan to confirm that, they would.
I’m going to stick with Cameron Payne until the wheels fall off, he deserves it.
Rod: Unless he’s not feeling completely 100% when he returns, Payne should retain his spot in the rotation. Elf has played well but but not better than Cam. Defenders are going to cheat on defense and sag off Elf until he proves he can consistently hit threes. That’s not going to happen against Cam even though he had a pretty bad shooting slump (28.6% FG, 16.7% 3-pt) in his first two games.
Q3 - There’s a rising number of complaints from players about the new Wilson basketball. Both FG (44.6%, lowest since 2004)) and 3-pt (34.2%, lowest since 1999) shooting percentages are down for the entire NBA. Could this at least partially be the cause of the Suns’ shooting woes this season?
GuarGuar: It could be a partial reason for our woes but I doubt it’s anything truly significant. Less foul calls equals less rest during game time so players are probably a little more fatigued. I’m sure the ball change has had some impact but I can’t imagine it being anything these guys can’t overcome.
Sun-Arc: I had not heard of the complaints about the ball. I remember when that happened during the SSOL era where they tried to change balls and players complained. My recollection was that when Nash weighed in, the NBA relented back to the old ball. Probably me being a classic homer.
Sure, I guess if numbers are down across the league it could be a factor. But that does not explain the massive drop in FG% the Suns are experiencing. It appears to be more about conditioning or mental fatigue than ball issues.
SouthernSun: I think it could definitely be playing a role in the Suns struggles. That, combined with early season jitters, and the short offseason. Also added a couple new players who play fairly significant bench roles. All those things, plus a new ball they aren’t used to, PLUS the Robert Sarver stuff going on... not a recipe for success.
Alex S: Oh definitely, I’m not going to say it’s the entirely of the issue but I do believe it’s a big factor. The other two factors I would like to point out would be the emphasis in officiating early in the season which could have an influence on the physical aspect/flow of the game as well as the prolonged Finals run the team had.
I know the teams shooting will bounce back soon, it’s just a matter of time. As long as we see the group clean up their turnovers and continue to emphasize ball movement, everything will come full circle.
Rod: I’m sure it is a contributing factor but not the lone reason. Things like this tend to get into some people’s heads and magnify the problem, much like a lack of confidence. For the Suns specifically, another part of it is simply that they really do have a target on their backs after making it to the Finals and other teams are all bringing their A-games onto the court whenever they play Phoenix this year. No one is taking the Suns lightly anymore which makes every game, every play and every shot a bit more difficult. The short offseason for the Suns did them no favors either.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SouthernSun and Alex S. - for all their extra effort every week!
Interesting Suns Stuff
In honor of Chris Paul passing Steve Nash to move into 3rd on the all-time assists list… we showcase the incredible passing prowess of these two 75th Anniversary Team members! #NBA75— NBA (@NBA) November 4, 2021
Rockets vs. @Suns - Tonight at 10pm/et on NBA TV pic.twitter.com/lf6Oy0cfzn
JJ Redick on Chris Paul’s greatness: He squeezes the juice out of every possession | NBA Today
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “When the Suns reach the 20-game mark this season they will be...”
57% - At least 3 games above .500.
32% - At best a game or two above or below .500.
11% - At least 3 games below .500.
A total of 141 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
On Thursday, the NBA announced it will investigate the allegations made against Suns owner Robert Sarver.
This investigation will likely lead to...
This poll is closed
Sarver being removed as the Suns owner.
Nothing of consequence.