Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Suns team as well as a peak at Suns teams throughout history in this week.
In this weekly article, we focus on you the community to tease out the good and bad of the Suns who are now 22-11 and in 4th place in the Western Conference — the highest the Suns have been in the West since the SSOL days!
We start with what we call the Fantable — a round table of Bright Siders who give their take on the Suns latest issues and news.
Let’s get to it.
Fantable Questions of the Week
Q1 - The Suns opened up a roster spot after waiving Damian Jones. Who are the top 3 guys you’d like to see them go after to fill that vacancy?
GuarGuar: I think we need another backup big man. In the off chance something happens to DA we need more depth than Kaminsky and Saric. So my top 3 are all power forwards or bigs:
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
- Ersan Ilyasova
- Dewayne Dedmon
Sun-Arc: I’m listing some potential targets. I’m ruling out players that are over $10m in salary this season, as we will not have enough assets to trade for them. IE, we aren’t giving up five players to get them or major players with high salary.
Players I would not trade: CP3, Booker, Ayton, Crowder, Saric, Bridges, Johnson.
But I also would not trade (for instance) Carter, Moore, Galloway, Payne, Smith, and Kaminsky (a total of around $16m) because that would gut the team.
- Dedmon (current free agent)
- Marvin Bagley ($8.96m)
- Bjelica ($7.15m expiring)
- LMA (over $20m, too expensive to trade for)
- Drummond RFA (over $20m, too expensive to trade for)
- Aaron Gordon RFA (near $20m, too expensive to trade for)
Dedmon should definitely be a target.
Trading Smith, Carter, and maybe Nader for Bagley or Bjelica might be workable. Defensively that scares me a bit, but if Kaminsky is working out ok-ish, maybe it would work. I’m not saying that is realistic for the Kings. It might be - I really do not know.
SDKyle: I don’t want to seem like I’m copping out, but alI can really say is that I want them to pick up a reasonably strong guy over 6’8” who has a knack for challenging shots on the paint and can be high efficiency on a small volume of shots. The Suns can’t keep relying on Kaminsky and Cam Johnson to provide this, and it’s really not a strength of Dario Saric’s either.
There don’t seem to be a lot of appealing waiver wire options, so I’d hope they’d consider making it happen by trade.
SouthernSun: Number one on my list would be Dewayne Dedmon. He’s a solid front court option and I have no idea why he isn’t on a NBA team right now. My next would be Shabazz Napier. He is a scoring guard who maybe could help the Suns when they need a ball handler who can create off the bench. Jordan McRae would be the third choice, for similar reasons to Napier.
That’s for free agents. For trade, I have several targets I think could be gotten for very little. Number one is probably George Hill.
Alex S: I know he’s not on the market yet but finding a way to get PJ Tucker would be awesome if it’s for cheap. As for two other options, it would more than likely have to be a guard. I don’t see them going to grab another big with Frank and Dario playing well. Kyle Korver for another vet? I would tend to guess whoever the guard would be isn’t available either at the moment.
Q2 - One of the things that bothers me a lot about Deandre Ayton is his tendency to “fumble” passes to him and/or rebounds that come his way. What’s your opinion on this? Is it his hands? His concentration? A little of both and/or something else?
GuarGuar: I remember DA last year during the COVID-break was talking to someone (I think Zach LaVine) and he mentioned how a lot of times if the ball has too much air in it he has trouble. I don’t think this is the main reason at all though. I think it’s just his hands and coordination a lot of times. Occasionally you can tell if he’s not expecting a pass, but usually he is well aware it’s coming to him. He’s much better at grabbing lobs than bounce passes. I’m hoping it improves as time goes on.
Sun-Arc: Ayton’s appearing and disappearing hands have been a frustrating magic act. Last season he was so dependable. I think the problem is between his ears. Though the way he seems to sleep walk some times in some games… its almost as if he’s not getting enough sleep. We just do not know right now.
SDKyle: I think it’s mostly mental because I feel like he’s worse at handling passes now than he used to be. We all noted he was better at it than Alex Len ever was.
I think nearly all the reasons Ayton has issues are mental. If he had the right mentality I believe he could have been an all-star this season.
SouthernSun: Man I don’t know. But Ayton’s Alex Len hands definitely get on my nerves. He seems to do it a lot. People keep saying “nobody can throw him an entry pass” but at some point maybe he needs to get better position and also stop butter fingering so many passes. I don’t think that parts mental. I think he just doesn’t have great hands.
Alex S: I sense DA is using a lot of energy to think about the game when it comes to positional defense and when to get involved offensively so his concentration might not all be there when he’s doing something routine such as catching the ball off a pass. I think this is going to be an issue for the rest of the year but that’s a part of the growing process so you have to hope it’s not a big issue on game outcomes.
Q3 - The “Frank Kaminsky Starting” win streak is over. Do you think Monty will stick with Frank in the starting lineup or make a change?
GuarGuar: I think starting Frank should be a matchup thing. If we are playing the Pacers with both Turner and Sabonis, that’s a good time to run it. When we play a Washington or Brooklyn or some team that runs a wing at power forward, Crowder or Cam needs to start.
Sun-Arc: I’ve never been a fan of starting Kaminsky. It worked well in some games and not well in others. Bringing Johnson and Crowder off the bench, however, has worked really well for that squad. Still, I’d rather have Crowder start most games and play Saric, Johnson, Nader, Moore (or Galloway), with Payne. Kaminsky fits in as necessary to me. Point-Frank worked well at times, so I think this is a matchup issue. The really big teams like the Bucks, Lakers (when healthy), etc - then maybe consider starting Kaminsky. Otherwise I’d go with what I suggested.
SDKyle: It’s absurd that Kaminsky has started 10 games, but he was the only option for legitimate size for a while. I don’t think it’s a good situation long-term. Kaminsky is too exploitable in extended stretches for it to work as more than a change-up.
We need to make a trade or figure out how we make Crowder work in the role we acquired him to play.
SouthernSun: He seems to be doing it on and off depending on matchup. Which is super odd for the NBA. Normally good teams have a fairly consistent starting lineup. But hey, whatever is working. He seems to start Frank whenever he needs to match up against bigger front courts. He’d probably start Dario instead, but Dario is too important to the 2nd unit offense, and he’s been injured/out due to covid protocol a lot. Frank has been performing admirably though. I’ll give him that. I remember saying Suns fans were underrating Frank last year. It’s funny it took until he’d left and come back for that to wind up being somewhat true.
Alex S: This question seemingly got answer Sunday night when he starts over Crowder for matchup purposes. I like the consistency but there needs to be a tight lease on the idea long-term.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle, SouthernSun and Alex S. - for all their extra effort every week!
News & Notes
Despite Top-Ten Status, Defense Still A Work In Progress For Phoenix Suns. Forbes
NBA analyst ‘wouldn’t blink’ at giving Mikal Bridges a $100 million contract. NBA Analysis Network
Chris Paul speaks out on major edge the Suns have over rivals. Clutch Points
Devin Booker And Chris Paul Are Peaking At The Right Time For The Phoenix Suns. Forbes
Phoenix Suns Climbing the Western Conference Ladder. Last Word On Sports
Frank Kaminsky’s hilarious reaction to Deandre Ayton lending him huge iced out chain. Clutch Points
Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker is reaching the levels we thought he would. Hoops Habit
This Week in Suns History
On March 6, 1975, The Suns defeated the Chicago Bulls 88-65 in Phoenix. This game is tied for the fewest points allowed (65) in franchise history. The second time that the Suns only allowed 65 points in a game occurred on April 1, 2003 when the Suns defeated the Denver Nuggets 95-65.
On March 6, 2020, Suns’ backup center Aron Baynes scored 37 points, gathered 16 rebounds and recorded 2 blocks while making 9 of 14 shots (64.3%) from three while taking over for injured starting center Deandre Ayton in a 127-117 home win over the Portland Trail Blazers. In NBA history, no one else had ever done all of those things in one game.
Interesting Suns Stuff
How Good Is Devin Booker in 2021?
Between Feb. 16 and Feb. 22 the Suns scored at least 124 points in four consecutive games. The last time they scored 124+ in at least 4 straight games was in 1992 when they did so in a 5-game stretch between Jan. 11 and Jan. 19.
This is the first time the Suns have had multiple All-Stars in the same year since Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire in 2010. This is Booker’s 2nd straight All-Star selection, the first 2 of his career, as he becomes the first Suns player selected in consecutive years since Amar’e Stoudemire in 2009 and 2010.
Chris Paul has totaled 112 career assists in his 9 All-Star Game appearances (selected but did not play in 2010). His 112 assists are the 2nd-most in NBA history behind only Magic Johnson (127).
The Suns won by 32 points last Monday vs. Portland after winning by 31 points on Saturday at Memphis. This was just the 3rd time in team history they won consecutive games by 30+ points and the first time since winning 2 straight on April 15 (137-91 win vs San Antonio) and April 17 (140-85 win vs Sacramento) in 1989. The April 17 win against the Kings is also the largest margin of victory (55 points) in Suns history.
Important Future Dates
March 3 - All players signed as free agents during the offseason are eligible to be traded.
March 7 - 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 “The process for selecting NBA All-Stars is...”
18% - Fine the way it is.
82% - Too biased in favor of fan votes.
A total of 157 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
The Suns are...
This poll is closed
Serious title contenders NOW.
Only a player or two away from title contention.
Good but no where near being title contenders.