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Center of the Sun: Suns blow through Week 8 undefeated

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

Philadelphia 76ers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs Cleveland Cavaliers W (119-113) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Milwaukee Bucks W (125-124) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Philadelphia 76ers W (120-111) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Orlando Magic W (109-90) Full Recap

They say that time flies when you’re having fun and the Suns have been giving fans a lot of fun so far.

The Suns put together a great week going undefeated in four games at home and are now undefeated since they began letting fans attend games again. Now at 17-9 and 4th in the Western Conference standings, the Suns are providing a lot of entertainment for their fans who have suffered through a lot of losing in recent seasons. Sure there have been a few stinkers here and there but overall this has been the best season since 2013-14.

That was 7 years ago... although it seems like much longer. That team was a scrappy, over-achieving bunch that nobody expected much from but somehow managed to almost magically pull 48 wins out of thin air.

This team is much different although the results in the win/loss column have been similar (a 16-10 start in 13-14 vs this team’s 17-9 start). This team is loaded with talent and experience and doesn’t rely on its roster playing over its collective head night after night. These teams were very different but the level of fan fun really isn’t... which brings me back to my opening statement about time flying.

We’re presently just short of three weeks and 9 Suns games away from the All-Star break. The Suns will have played 35 games, the 2020-21 season will be almost half (48.6%) over and for the first time in 7 years fans will be looking forward to the playoffs instead of the Lottery and the Draft. Seven years ago we were hoping the upstart Suns could sneak into the postseason as a 7th/8th seed in a Western Conference that was top-heavy with extremely talented teams. This season the Suns are one of those talented teams near the top of the WC.

Enjoy this Suns fans. Savor every passing moment because after sticking with this team through all the lean years, you’ve earned it.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - The Suns are presently 4th in the West, below Utah and both LA teams which look like the top tier in the WC. Once back to full strength, do you think the Suns could move up into that tier?

GuarGuar: It’s definitely possible that we could catch up to one of the top 3 teams by the end of the season. I don’t really expect to. But Utah could really cool down and we aren’t that far behind the LA teams right now. The Suns could get really hot like the Jazz did and climb the leaderboard for sure.

Sun-Arc: Sure, anything is possible this season. We’ve seen teams bounce around the standings quite a bit (MEM, DEN, & GSW come to mind). A string of wins or losses creates a lot of movement. Though the three teams above us look pretty darn entrenched- particularly the LA teams. I’m not totally buying into UTA just yet as their last ten games were against the bottom half of the league except BOS (a win) and DEN (a loss). I don’t expect them to climb over the Lakers- they just look super consistent. The clips slightly less so.

Full strength or not, the Suns could still end up on another (even longer) losing streak. Its certainly possible. Just as their current streak could end up being 15 wins in a row. Its just that kind of a season.

SDKyle: No reason they can’t. I’ve been loving the balanced play this season, and super happy CP3 has finally hit his stride after a little early struggle. They still aren’t as good on paper as the LA teams because they don’t have the same sheer firepower those teams do, but this team at full strength could go a tough playoff series against anyone.

SouthernSun: I think there’s a small possibility that the Suns could move into the third or even second spot in the West. However, I don’t expect that. They are probably going to stay right about where they are, and finish the season in 4th or 5th place. The LA teams are just too OP, and the Jazz seem to be using the mid 2010’s Spurs as their spirit animal, so it looks like it will be tough to break into that party.

Alex S: Once at full strength, I believe the Suns are going to be a true threat for conference finals contention and will be a difficult opponent to play night-in, night-out. However, the Lakers and Clippers will continue to be the true two forces in the conference due to each team having two top ten players on their roster (PG has been playing like a top 10 player/has top 10 player talent). The Suns have two top 20 players (in my opinion) and potentially better role players but it’s incredibly difficult to beat superstars in a playoff environment. Lastly, you rarely if ever see a team go from bottom feeder in the West to a Finals contender within a year. Unless you get LeBron, then why not?

The Suns are comfortably in the Denver/Utah/Portland tier for me: Teams with high upside and can win multiple series in the playoffs but not sure if they have what it takes to win it all.

Q2 - The playoffs are still a long way off but if the Suns stay at 4th in the WC standings, which of the teams presently in the 5th-8th (Portland, San Antonio, Denver & Golden State) spots would you prefer the Suns to face in the first round?

GuarGuar: I’d probably prefer San Antonio the most out of that group. Denver would definitely be my least favorite matchup because they trap everything so Book and CP would have more problems. We would score a lot against Portland and Golden Stare but Lillard and Steph obviously terrify me.

Sun-Arc: My preference would be to face San Antonio. They’ve been inconsistent and lacking fire power in many games (they have the lowest DIFF in the West’s top eight at minus -1.2). DeRozan is still a stud but Aldridge’s minutes and production are down, even per 100 possessions. LMA’s ORtg and DRtg are the worst of his career so far this season. Without a second star, they don’t have the gravity to weather a playoff series.

Plus POR and DEN scar me in the playoffs because of their stars (see: 2020 playoffs). GSW is a fundamentally poorly constructed team that I still do not rate highly. I don’t think they’ll be in the top 8 by season’s end. And if they are its because something gelled, meaning they are more dangerous than the Spurs.

SDKyle: I’d like to play and beat the Spurs. They’re obviously a very well coached team, but the Suns can handle them and I want Spurs fans to taste getting knocked out by the Suns. For obvious reasons, I should think.

SouthernSun: I definitely wouldn’t want to face the Nuggets. They have plenty of talent. I suppose I’d prefer whichever of the Warriors/Portland/Spurs has the most injured players, or the most significant player injury, once the playoffs start. But if each team has full health (minus Klay for the Warriors who I assume will be out for the year) then I’m going to say the Spurs. They certainly have some spunk, but I feel like they’re gonna drop out of the playoffs by the end anyway. They just don’t have any true star talent. They’re a collection of pretty dang solid role players, in my opinion, and that doesn’t scare me one bit. Except for when you factor in that Phoenix tends to play down to their competition...

Alex S: I wish Dallas would’ve been an option because that would be my choice. However, since it’s not give me Portland. San Antonio seems to be the easiest choice here but I don’t trust the Suns playing SA as long as Pop is on that sideline. Denver just came off a deep playoff run so no thank you and Golden State has Steph. I could see Chris Paul giving Dame trouble offensively and nobody on Portland’s roster can guard Devin Booker. DA could also abuse Kanter/Nurkic (if he’s healthy) in select games as well.

Q3 - What about the Suns has been the biggest surprise to you this season?

GuarGuar: What surprised me the most is that we have such a good record despite Book and Chris really not being amazing until recently. It speaks to the depth of this team and the development of certain guys. Mikal has been phenomenal for the most part this year. He was our best player those first 10 or so games. Moore, Galloway, Frank have all provided solid depth while we have had to deal with injuries. This team is very deep and I’m excited to see what we accomplish when everyone’s back.

Sun-Arc: I’m going to call my answers here surprise/mystery issues, because there are so many unknowns to the surprises.

  1. The biggest surprise for me had been the play of Cameron Payne in the first 9 games of the season. Then he missed a couple of games, then played poorly for the last four. Returning to the mean or was he hobbled? Still a mystery to me at this point.
  2. Another issue I think about a lot is why the team struggles to play their Bubble style of play with CP3 in the fold. He should be a great .5 player in Monty’s system. But they sort of changed the schemes around Paul’s slow brand of half court offense. I feel like they kind of killed the team’s momentum with that. Lately, it seems they’ve gotten some of the mojo back, which leads me to the next surprise/mystery…
  3. Is Kaminsky becoming a valuable asset to the team? In his last 8 games he’s been playing really well; passing, shooting, and playing with confidence. Did ya’all see that spin move he put on Javale McGee? And he’s been 10 of 18 from three in those games, with 3.6 assists, 6.6 rebounds, and even .5 blocks. Plus the team has won 7 of 8 games. Is Frank the key here? And even more of the question to me is… did he and the team suddenly unlock his game (like they did with Saric)?

To put #3 in context, in his first 10 games this season Frank averaged 4.4 pts, 2.7 reb, 1.0 ast and shot under 30% from the perimeter. Which is the real Frank the Tank? It is perhaps a mystery.

I am looking forward to seeing Frank and Dario play together when the team is healthy. That should be interesting.

SDKyle: Probably a tie between how good the team defense has been and how little Ayton figures in the offense. He’s obviously a huge contributor on defense and as a rebounder, so I’m not dumping on him, but I really did think he’d put up 20-ish ppg and get an all star nod this year. I didn’t think CP3 would be our 2nd option or that he’d be battling Bridges for the infamous third banana award.

Still, whatever else... the Suns are winning! The Suns are a pretty good team! Hard to feel too badly right now, even about slight disappointments.

SouthernSun: Nothing! They are doing exactly what I thought they’d do! I thought they’d be a middle of the pack playoff team. I thought CP3 would be good, and even assumed he’d start off slow and get progressively better, just like his previous year in OKC. I suppose the most surprising thing was Booker getting off to a slow start, and then the injury and Covid protocol mess that was keeping our guys from being fully healthy. Then again, both of those things should have been expected going into the season. Booker hasn’t played before with someone who deserves the ball as much as CP3 does. Learning curve. And the Suns went out and got all the depth they have now precisely because Covid was going to be an issue.

But, man. This is so exciting! Haven’t been this hyped for Suns basketball since college a decade ago!

Alex S: I think the biggest surprise for me would have to be a wildcard and that’s Frank Kaminsky. What in the world happened with him to where he became point Kaminsky? Did he trap Saric in a room and steal all his powers? I have no clue but this version of Frank is legitimately playable and more often than not a plus for the Suns while he’s on the court. His chemistry with Mikal is absurd. Some of the assist numbers he’s put up of late have been fantastic and most importantly his three point shot looks so much more dependable than last season. I have to say I’m quite impressed with him so far this season.

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

CAVALIERS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | February 8, 2021

Devin Booker 36 Pts 5 Threes 8 Asts 5 Rebs Highlights vs Cleveland Cavaliers

BUCKS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | February 10, 2021

Devin Booker Highlights vs Milwaukee Bucks

Chris Paul 28 PTS 7 AST: All Possessions

76ERS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | February 13, 2021

Dario Saric return HIGHLIGHTS vs. Sixers - 15 PTS, 4 AST, 4 STL, Defense on Embiid!

Devin Booker 36 Points Full Highlights vs 76ers | February 13, 2021

MAGIC at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | February 14, 2021


Key Stats

32.3 PPG

Devin Booker got off to a bit of a slow start offensively this season but this week he showed fans not to worry as he ramped up his point production with three 30+ point games and a 27 point effort in the 19 point win over the Magic. Book’s PPG average for the entire season is now 24.5.

Random stats: The Suns are 7-0 against Eastern Conference teams at home this season. The Suns have also won their last 7 home games. The last time they had a 7-game home winning streak was Dec. 23-Jan. 21 during the 2014-15 season.

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


Quotes of the Week

“We’re deep. I feel like we’re 15 deep. Everyone can play and everyone’s ready to go.” - Devin Booker

“To be finally back with this group of very talented and positive-minded players, it’s just a pleasure.” - Dario Saric


Rookie Report

Jalen Smith - 6.2 mpg, 1.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.1 TO, 0.4 PF, 28.6 3PT%

  • This week - 1.4 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.0 PF, 0.0 3PT%, 3 DNP CD

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 - Assigned to NBA G League (Canton Charge)

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


Injury Status Report

No current injuries.


News & Notes

The Rise of Devin Booker. ESPN

Chris Paul’s one-word take on Suns teammate Devin Booker’s All-Star case. Clutch Points

Dario Saric on Suns’ winning streak: “Everybody understands his role”. Eurohoops

Devin Booker says he didn’t fear Giannis taking a game-winning jumper, and that’s bad for the Bucks. For The Win

Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul teams up with Sour Patch Kids to offer college scholarships. AZ Family

Phoenix Suns Increasing Capacity to TO 3,000 Fans. Suns.com

Suns remain patient with rookies Jalen Smith, Ty-Shon Alexander. Arizona Sports


This Week in Suns History

On February 18, 1990, Tom Chambers scored the first 50+ point game (56 points) in Phoenix Suns history in a 131-113 win over Golden State. The previous record was 49 points scored 10 years earlier (also during this week on Feb. 21, 1980) by Paul Westphal in a 125-116 win over the Detroit Pistons. Westphal was on the Suns’ bench as an assistant coach during the game.


Suns Trivia

During the regular season, only six Suns players have scored 50 or more points in a single game with two reaching that mark more than once. On Jan. 16, 2000, Clifford Robinson scored 50 in 113-100 win over the Nuggets. Amar’e Stoudemire also scored 50 in a 117-98 win over the Trail Blazers on Jan. 2, 2005. 39 year old Jamal Crawford came off the bench to score 51 in a 120-109 loss to the Mavericks on April 9, 2019. Tony Delk scored 53 in a 121-117 overtime loss to the Kings on Jan. 2, 2001. On March 24, 1990, Tom Chambers bettered his 56 point game of the month before with a 60 point performance in a 121-95 win over the SuperSonics. Devin Booker has broken the 50 point mark 3 times in his young career with 50 points against the Wizards on March 27, 2019 in a 124-121 loss, 59 points against the Jazz on March 25, 2019 in a 125-92 loss and 70 points against the Celtics on March 24, 2017 in a 130-120 loss.

In the playoffs, Charles Barkley is the only Suns player to break the 50+ mark with a 56 point performance on May 4, 1994 in a 140-133 win over Golden State during their 1st round playoff series.


Previewing the week ahead

Friday, February 19 - Phoenix Suns @ New Orleans Pelicans 6:00 pm AZT

Saturday, February 20 - Phoenix Suns @ Memphis Grizzlies 7:00 pm AZT

It’s going to be a relatively light week for the Suns in terms of the number of games (only 3 vs the usual 4) but they do have three quality opponents to face and they head back on the road after an extended home stretch.

First up, the Suns are at home for their first matchup with the new-look 16-12 Brooklyn Nets. Even with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, the Nets have a slightly worse record than the Suns and a much worse defense. They average scoring 120.9 points per game (2nd in the NBA) but also give up 117.5 points per game to their opposition (28th). The Suns are only averaging 110.8 ppg (20th) but are giving up a very stingy 107.9 (4th). Against the Cavs, Bucks and Sixers last week the Suns’ offense came alive and averaged 121.3 ppg against the 20th (Cavs), 11th (Bucks), 5th (Sixers) and 22nd (Magic) ranked defensive teams. Considering that the Nets are also coming to Phoenix on the second night of a B2B on the road after playing in Sacramento on Monday, I think the Suns will spoil Steve Nash’s 1st return to The Valley as a head coach and get another W against the Nets.

After a couple of days off, the Suns get a chance for a little payback when they visit New Orleans for their 3rd and final game of their season series against the 11-15 Pelicans. The Suns handily won their first meeting 111-86 in Phoenix but were on the wrong end of a 123-101 whipping in the rematch in NO. In that 1st game the Suns shot 40.4% from three while NO shot 12.5%. In the 2nd game, the Pels shot 42.4% from three while the Suns could only hit 22.9%. I don’t expect the Suns to shoot that badly from three again plus they also don’t rely on 3-pointers as much anymore. I expect a hard fought game with the Suns winning a close one in the end.

After an overnight flight to Memphis, the Suns take on the 11-11 Grizzlies in their den. The Griz are 4-5 in their last 9 games (and 2-5 in their last 7) since having a string of 5 games postponed due to COVID protocols and have been battling injuries as well as the opposition (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) since then. The Suns have been playing much better lately while the Grizzlies have been in a bit of a slump, especially on defense (26th in their last 8 games vs 12th for the entire season). Phoenix is 0-1 against them so far this season but I think that they will even up the series on Saturday even though they will be playing on the second night of a B2B.

Can the Suns go 3-0 this week? Now that they’re back to full strength, I believe they can and will.

What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

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/All-Star break.

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 “The Suns are on pace to win 42.5 games (out of 72) this season. Are you betting on them going over or under that?

05% - Far over.

79% - Slightly over.

15% - Slightly under.

01% - Far under.

A total of 216 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Of the teams presently behind the Suns in the 5th-8th spots, which team would you LEAST want the Suns to face in a 1st round playoff series?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Portland.
    (22 votes)
  • 7%
    San Antonio.
    (20 votes)
  • 78%
    Denver.
    (203 votes)
  • 5%
    Golden State.
    (15 votes)
260 votes total Vote Now