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Inside the Suns - Topics: Mikal Bridges’ defense and adjusting to playing without Devin Booker

Your weekly Inside the Suns analysis straight from the BSotS community who live and breathe the team.

Detroit Pistons v Phoenix Suns Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

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 - Can defense carry the Suns until Booker returns?

GuarGuar: The defense can only carry us so far but it should be enough for us to still be a very good team. I have big concerns about our offense going forward without Book, but I have supreme confidence our defense will help us big time.

Sun-Arc: The defense has been really stodgy. Loving it. Hard to know what the limits are for this team and its defense. Keeping GSW to a season low and 17 points less than their average for the season was VERY impressive. Defeating GSW without Booker on Tuesday makes me think the defense and a focused Ayton can beat any team without Book. So I’d say “yes.”

SouthernSun: Not completely, they’ll need somebody to step up alongside CP3 and Ayton every game, but luckily, the defense will definitely help. And also, the Suns have a number of players capable of having a good scoring night on occasion when given the opportunity, so while I think they’ll fall off a little without Booker, it may not be quite as bad as we’d expect.

Alex S: Yes, the defense can absolutely carry this team. Let’s not also act like Landry Shamet is some awful replacement for a starting spot temporarily! He’s a solid defender, unselfish, smart, and quality three point shooter. The bigger concern is who the consistent 10th man IMO. Payton and Ish seem to be the two in contention for minutes according to how Monty has been handling things since the Book injury but I’ll be honest… they both have glaring flaws.

I almost would prefer a 9 man rotation and just expand the minutes for Cam Payne and Cam Johnson before giving those two minutes right now.

Rod: Yes... to a degree. They will still be a tough matchup and should be able to defeat lesser teams (as they did against Detroit) but having Booker out gives them a much smaller margin of error. No one can afford to take a possession off or let themselves get distracted on defense even briefly. I’m certain they can do that but, against the better teams, it will be even tougher with a shortened rotation.

Q2 - What should the Suns do to adjust offensively to play with Devin Booker out?

GuarGuar: I would start Landry Shamet and just hope he doesn’t shoot like he did in that first Warriors game. We signed him for this reason, to be Book’s backup. Time to earn that extension.

I’d look to feed Ayton a lot more and try and create a lot of mismatches that he can take advantage of.

Sun-Arc: Give me Landry Shamet! I think he should be in the starting lineup without Booker. He started for the Nets last season in 12 games and looked good. He has 69 career starts overall. I think he could fill in admirably. Hopefully Nader can fill in from the Bench, but if not the team might just go with an 8 man rotation, or have Payton play alongside Payne.

SouthernSun: They will need to get Ayton a little more involved, and rely on Cam Payne, Shamet, Bridges, and Cam Johnson to do a little more offensively than they’d normally be asked to. Shamet actually plays a bit like a poor man’s Devin Booker, so that helps.

Alex S: Keep playing your game. The 0.5 system works and every single guy seems to be bought in to making it work… I think if there’s a minor adjustment to make it’s just giving those additional touches dispersed between DA/Mikal/and the Cam’s. Chris is going to continue to play game manager and everything else should fall into place naturally.

Rod: Obviously, Shamet starts in place of Book but the main adjustment would be relying even more on the “team first” scoring mentality and spreading the scoring burden around. Getting DA even more involved offensively will also be an option but the Suns can’t become too predicable by just trying to feed the big guy over and over again. CP3 is going to have to be the team’s lone go-to clutch player for a while too. I don’t doubt that other players can score in clutch moments but CP3 is the only guy other than Booker that I fully trust to create his own scoring opportunities when that is necessary.

Q3 - Where would this team be (even with Booker playing) without Mikal Bridges’ defense?

GuarGuar: We wouldn’t be a top defense without Mikal. He is what glues the whole defense together. He guards the best players every game. He is selfless and makes all the winning plays.

Sun-Arc: Bridges’ defense has been stellar individually. But I really think everyone has contributed a lot to the defense. They move and switch so well together. That’s not to say Mikal has not contributed a TON to the success. Certainly we would have less wins if someone like Nader were filling in for him. Quite a few games, probably. But the defense would still be above average in that scenario.

Yet I do not want to see that scenario ever. I am so thankful for Mikal’s amazing health as a player. Never misses a game, always works hard. I love the attitude of this team to be willing to sacrifice what is needed to get the win. Like Ayton, Jae, and everyone else, Bridges does all the dirty work he knows he can take care of - and I love that about this team.

SouthernSun: Not on an 18 game win streak, that’s for sure. Mikal is the head of the defensive snake. He always takes the toughest assignment, and hounds them all night long. Everyone saw what he did to Steph Curry on Tuesday. He does that all the time, that was just exaggerated because of who it was against and it was while on a national stage. Really looking forward to seeing how well Steph performs against him Friday night (which we will have all already seen when you read this).

Alex S: Mikal… man. He’s a star. I’m tired of calling him a role player, a 3/D player, etc. He’s earned star status in my opinion. And I’m not just saying that because I own his Valley jersey, but look at what he does on the biggest stages? He wins. He stands out as one of the most impactful players on the court each night, regardless if he’s scoring or not. There were numerous people, including ESPN and NBA beat writers that said his 2 point performance against GSW was the most impactful 2 point performance they had ever seen.

Give that man the respect he deserves, he’s earned it and will continue to do so.

Rod: That would depend a lot on who would be playing in Mikal’s place but I really doubt the Suns could have easily found anyone who could replace what he brings to the team’s defense. The Suns are presently 2nd in team defense but I could see them possibly falling back to around 10th (or maybe even further) depending on who replaced Bridges’ minutes. The rest of the team is playing extremely good D but Mikal is the guy they designate to guard the other team’s leading scorer night after night and I’m not sure that there is anyone else on the team that could come close to taking on that challenge if he weren’t there.

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

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Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Which has been the more impressive during the Suns’ win streak?

07% - Their offense.

93% - Their defense.

A total of 151 votes were cast.

This week’s poll is...


Should the Suns go ahead and use their open roster spot to sign someone now to fill out their injury depleted roster?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    (112 votes)
  • 46%
    (99 votes)
211 votes total Vote Now

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