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 28-13 and in 2nd place in the Western Conference with the 3rd best record in the NBA.
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 - How would you use new addition Torrey Craig in the Suns’ rotation?
GuarGuar: For the most part I think Craig will be an end of the bench piece for us. The only minutes I can ever see him taking are Nader’s (assuming everyone stays healthy). He’s helps our wing depth tremendously though in the case that one of Mikal/Cam/Crowder is unavailable. He didn’t play well at all in Milwaukee but had a couple good years in Denver.
Sun-Arc: Torrey should be slipped into the rotation only in situational circumstances- meaning when we need another jumbo wing defender. Generally this would be if/when Bridges and/or Crowder are in foul trouble or injured. Though I would have liked to see if he could have slowed down the Rookie Edwards in Thursday’s game. No one else was having much luck. To me, that would have been another ‘situational’ moment to see if changing up personnel would have energized the defense.
SDKyle: I suppose I’d use him sparingly as an extra hustle defender to throw at hot opposing wings.
Craig doesn’t do a heck of a lot other than that so I don’t think he makes a strong case for taking minutes from Nader, but I figure he can find a role defending players our other deep bench options are struggling with.
SouthernSun: That depends. For now, without a big trade that shakes up the rotation, I would say the best move is to keep him in your back pocket until you’re playing a team like the Clippers with multiple good wings. He doesn’t have much offensive ability but he’s very good defensively.
If a trade goes down and Cam Johnson is a part of it, we might be needing more from him. He played 19 mpg in the WCF last year though, so he belongs on an NBA court at least. We know that.
Alex S: A thought that came to mind about Torrey was that it’d be great to see him take Kaminsky’s role as a spot starter at the 4 and/or get backup minutes. His fit in Milwaukee was far from ideal and he’s had important experience in the playoffs guarding some of the best players the league has to offer. I think he could provide very important minutes in the playoffs and I have a hard time believing Frank will.
However, he’ll need time to get acclimated with the team and playbook so I’d hope to see him crack the rotation within a month ideally.
Q2 - I believe that a backup big with some shot blocking ability should still be something the Suns must try to add to the roster. Adding Torrey Craig filled their open roster spot so someone will have to be traded or waived to open up a spot to add that big. Do you agree/disagree that they need another big and which Suns players are the most “expendable” in pursuing another big for the roster?
GuarGuar: I 100% agree that a backup rim protecting big is what this team needs. If one of Ayton or Saric goes down we are in big trouble come playoff time. I think it’s the one missing element that we need before going into the postseason. I think the most expendable pieces are probably Frank and Moore, considering they might actually have interest from other teams.
Sun-Arc: I agree that another defensive back-up big would be a really good idea to have for a playoff run. My gut says that Craig would be the waived player to acquire a buy-out big if we have the opportunity. I think Jones was being opportunistic with Torrey, thinking about him as plan-B if the team cannot get the big they want.
Outside of Torrey, the “expendable” list is fairly non-existent. I know this may not sit well with most people, but I could see Jevon Carter as the next most expendable player, as I do not see the team giving up on Smith - though Jalen is at about the same level of expendability. And his contract is shorter. I suppose both could be used in a trade before the deadline, though I think that is unlikely.
Another candidate is, of course, Nader. But his size, length, and aggressive style of play have made him a rotation player. I feel he is more valuable than Carter to the team.
SDKyle: I agree a paint protecting big could be a boost for the Suns, and I think Galloway, Moore, and Carter are the most expendable players.
I’m a big fan of Jevon Carter so it sucks to say, but when he’s not getting DNPs he’s getting single digit minutes so he’s not been much of a factor this year.
Moore and Galloway seem to take turns being forgotten on the bench, but Galloway has shot considerably better in his limited time. At any rate either guy could be considered expendable for these purposes too.
SouthernSun: I agree that a backup big with some shot blocking ability would be great for the team, though I don't want that player to get a bunch of minutes over Dario at the 5 spot. Dario at the 5 has been fantastic. We just need another guy for when the matchup is bad. Like JaVale McGee. I’d trade either of Moore/Galloway/Carter and a 2nd for him. If you lose one of them you still have the other two, and I don’t expect any of the three to get much burn in the playoffs. At that point it will be mostly Book/CP3/and some Cam Payne.
Alex S: The Wolves game Thursday did show that a backup C with size/inside scoring like Naz Reid can prove to be difficult for Saric to match up with. Furthermore, Ayton is still learning how to play with fouls so having a big with size would be helpful. Will you find someone better than Kaminsky that is comfortable with spot minutes is the question.
I think E’Twaun Moore might be the most expendable if it came down to cutting one player. Payne should clearly be the backup PG, Galloway provides a spark plug floor spacer, and Carter provides defense. I don’t really see a role for Moore that makes sense moving forward.
Q3 - Current Sixers president Daryl Morey has stated, “If you’ve got even a 5 percent chance to win the title... you’ve gotta be focused all on winning the title.” According to FiveThirtyEight, the Suns sit at that 5% cutoff point. If James Jones were to take Morey’s advice and make an “all-in” trade at the deadline, what kind of move do you think that would be?
GuarGuar: If we really wanted to go completely all in for just this season it probably would involve Ayton in some trade. DA obviously has immense potential and at times has been really good for us this year. But it’s pretty clear he might have trouble staying on the court come crunch time this postseason. Packaging him for say a more established Nikola Vucevic would be an all in move for the next 2 seasons.
Sun-Arc: I have a hard time picturing a really big deal going down before the 25th. I’m talking about trading someone like Ayton, Bridges, Booker, or CP3 for a couple of other stars. So that is out. My mind just is not there and while I suggested a bunch of trades below, I did not include any blockbusters.
I also think a big non-star trade is unlikely because they probably do not want to mess with chemistry. In my mind this would be trading players like Crowder, Saric, or Johnson with other pieces for one fairly high-paid player.
They might make a low-level player swap, but I doubt this too.
Here’s some possibilities (not judging good or bad, but just possibilities. And I’m not a good trade estimator, so I only considered a roughly legit trade per salary requirements, not what the other team would actually require):
Houston (bottoming out)
- Danuel House ($3.8m/yr, 1.5 yr)
Swap out Jalen Smith or Torrey Craig + 2nd round pick
Toronto (blowing it up?)
- Van Vleet ($22.5m/yr, 3.5 yr)
- Norman Powell ($22m/yr, 1.5 yr)
In either case it would take quite a bit, and a lot of salary. Something like Crowder, Smith, Craig, Galloway and a pick for either.
Sacramento (lost season with expiring deals)
- Barnes ($20m/yr, 1.5 yr)
- Bjelica ($7m, .5 yr)
- Jabari Parker ($6.5m, .5 yr)
- Whiteside ($2.3m, .5 yr)
Whiteside for a lower level player, maybe Smith or Carter perhaps? Parker is probably hot garbage at this point. Crowder + pieces for Barnes? Smith + Galloway for Bjelica?
Oklahoma City (get rid of vets?)
- Horford ($27m/yr, 2.5 yr)
I have a hard time seeing a trade for this much money happening, but I have to think he’s available. The downside is what it would take an Horford’s contract is no Bueno. This might require something like Ayton, Saric or Crowder, plus Smith to make this workable just for salary purposes. Would not happen, IMO.
Washington (oy vey they need help)
- Robin Lopez ($7.3m, .5 yr)
- Ish Smith ($6m, .5 yr)
Either could be interesting for Carter + Smith, perhaps.
Cleveland (moving up?)
- Nance Jr ($10.6m/yr, 2.5 yr)
- Javale McGee ($4.2, .5 yr)
Same Carter + Smith for Nance or McGee. The latter might require a 2nd rounder or something. Maybe Kaminsky + a FRP with good protections? Is it too much?
I just want to add that I REALLY like Crowder even though I included him in above trades. As I said, I’m not super interested in major trades right now but Jae’s salary made for easy math.
SDKyle: An all-in trade would be giving the Hawks Cam Johnson and Jalen Smith for John Collins and Kevin Huerter (to balance the money). Its a short-term reward move that adds a powerful offensive boost to the Suns at the expense of our last two #1 picks.
That’s one example I cooked up that I don’t think the Suns would consider, but any such deal would be looking for a star or borderline star and it would be costly.
SouthernSun: Nikola Vucevic is a name being thrown around. It would be hard to get him without giving up a lot of depth though.
I think that, mid season as we are, without many ways to recoup depth lost in a big trade, a bit of a smaller one is probably more practical. But still a good trade. Something like:
- Jalen Smith + E’Twaun Moore and removing protections on 2022 1st sent in CP3 deal, and getting back George Hill from OKC.
- Then, Jevon Carter and a 2nd rounder to Cleveland for Javale McGee.
Then you’re looking at:
- Bridges/Cam Johnson
- Crowder/Cam Johnson
as your shortened playoff rotation.
McGee is available for times when Saric is overmatched with a big athletic player in the post.
Sprinkle in some Payne/Galloway/Nader as needed.
That being said, if we get close this year, this coming off-season, go crazy. Go get KAT. Then recoup lost depth using the MLE, BAE, and veteran minimum exceptions, at a time when guys are available and looking for a contender to jump onto.
Alex S: I think they’re already all-in and it’d be a disservice to the team to make some splash move with the success they’ve had. Chemistry is incredibly important in the playoffs so the focus should be internal in regards to some of their flaws (Free throws, DA’s consistency, playing down to inferior opponents, etc). There just isn’t anyone out there that makes sense to me anymore now that PJ Tucker got dealt.
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
The Phoenix Suns Look Like Previous Contenders. So Why Is No One Taking Them Seriously? FiveThirtyEight
The Whiteboard: What’s up with the Phoenix Suns’ starting 5? Gerald Bourguet/The Step Back
Suns trade deadline preview: Why Phoenix probably won’t make any major moves this season. CBS Sports
Phoenix Suns’ Mikal Bridges Sheds Light on The Contributions of Chris Paul Responsible for Their Success This Season. Essentially Sports
Deandre Ayton and the Suns are earning their respect. The Undefeated
This Week in Suns History
On March 22, 2000, Jason Kidd was lost for the remainder of the season after breaking his ankle in a 114-93 win over Sacramento. The following day the Suns announced that 34 year old Kevin Johnson, who had not played since the 1997-98 season, was coming out of retirement to play again for his former team. KJ’s career average of 9.13 apg still ranks sixth in NBA history.
On March 23, 2017, in a game against the Brooklyn Nets the Suns brought out the youngest starting lineup in NBA history with 21-year-old Tyler Ulis, 20-year-olds Devin Booker and Derrick Jones Jr., 19-year-old Marquese Chriss and 23-year-old Alex Len. The five had a combined average age of 21 years, 14 days. The Suns lost to the Nets 126-98.
On March 24, 2017, Devin Booker (20) became the youngest NBA player to score 70 points in a game in a 130-120 loss to the Celtics. By the end of the game, the Celtics’ home crowd realized they were witnessing something special and cheered whenever Booker scored.
Interesting Suns Stuff
Chris Paul and the Suns Are Title Contenders | The Mismatch | The Ringer
Chris Paul’s 13 assists in the Lakers game pushed his career total to 10,004. He is sixth on the All-Time NBA Leaders in assists and one of only six players to total over 10,000 in their careers. Two of the players ahead of him on that list are former Suns Jason Kidd (2nd with 12,091) and Steve Nash (3rd with 10,335). CP3’s career assist rate of 9.43 apg is currently the fourth best in NBA history and the best among all active NBA players.
During the 1975-76 season, former Sun Gar Heard wound up playing more regular season games (86) in a single season than any other Phoenix player in Suns history. Heard started the season as a member of the Buffalo Braves and played in 50 games for them before coming to Phoenix in a mid-season trade. He then played an additional 36 games for the Suns. This ties him with McCoy McLemore (1970-71) for 3rd in most RS NBA games played. 4-time NBA All-Star Walt Bellamy holds the record of 88 (1968-69). Heard averaged a double-double of 11 points and 10.1 rebounds in 31.9 minutes per game for the entire season.
Important Future Dates
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 have had 5 win streaks of at least 3 games this season with the longest being 6. Do you think they will eventually top their 8-0 bubble streak this season?”
45% - Yes.
55% - No.
A total of 176 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
At the trade deadline the Suns will...
This poll is closed
Make a small trade.
Surprise everyone with a big all-in win-now trade.