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 31-14 and in 2nd place in the Western Conference with the 3rd best record in the NBA.
The NBA standings through Week 14!— NBA (@NBA) March 29, 2021
➡️ Teams ranked 7-10 will participate in the NBA Play-In Tournament after the regular season (May 18-21) to secure the final two spots in the Playoffs for each conference. pic.twitter.com/wbQCBa73Co
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 - Andre Drummond, LaMarcus Aldridge, Hassan Whiteside, Kelly Olynyk and Gorgui Dieng are on the list of NBA big men that are at least rumored to be possible buyout candidates. If the Suns go after another big in the buyout market, which would be your top 2 choices?
GuarGuar: I really feel we just need a backup center who will only play if one of Ayton/Saric is out. Most of these buyout candidates probably won’t be content seeing no minutes. Dieng or Whiteside could possibly be options if they are just wanting to be on an elite team. But obviously I’d choose Drummond over all the options from a pure talent perspective.
Sun-Arc: Some of the guys on the list are either too old, too slow, or both (such as LMA). Whiteside would be the best of the list Rod provided, but he seems to have behind-the-scene problems as teams really do not want to hold onto him. That could be damaging to have on this team. Dieng doesn’t seem like a great fit - too much overlap with Saric. Olynyk fits pretty well. Not a great defender, but puts in effort there, has enough size and some speed, and can shoot from the perimeter. Out of that list I think he’s the best fit.
Dedmon is another player not signed anywhere - but I assume something is keeping teams from signing him, so I assume he’s out of the running.
SDKyle: My top choices were Aldridge and Dieng, but they appear spoken for. Any of these guys would be a positive addition, though. The Suns need an extra bit of power inside.
SouthernSun: My first option would have been Dieng. He does everything a backup big to be able to do. Defend, rebound, and even hit threes. But since that ship sailed, along with LMA and Drummond, Kelly Olynyk would be an interesting one to take a look at, if he even gets bought out. He’d basically be a better Kaminsky.
Alex S: Considering multiple of these names have been picked up, I’ll go with Olynyk over Whiteside but I don’t want either. Hassan would be the more optimal fit but I don’t trust his demeanor heading into the playoffs.
Q2 - Dario Saric has not been playing very well lately. If this continues, what should Monty Williams do?
GuarGuar: I think Dario is just in a funk. He contributed in so many other ways and flows really nicely with the second unit. We don’t really have another option right now unless Jalen Smith suddenly becomes game ready. I don’t want to make Frank our backup center. I’d just stick with Dario.
Sun-Arc: I do not know what has been up with Saric. Seems like either he’s in a rough patch or teams have figured out how to neutralize him. Or both. Some of it did seem to be matchup problems. Saric should not be guarding KAT, for instance. He’s not going to be great in every match up. But the offense has not been there with him.
What I noticed with the Orlando game was that Monty really wants to solidify a 10 man rotation and stuck with those guys even when it clearly was not working well. The defense was not there. I would have thought Monty might have subbed in Carter and Nader to see if the energy would change- but he did not do that. While Payne and Saric had some chemistry early on, and Saric is still running a higher usage rate than Payne, something isn’t working. Monty needs to figure out what is happening and deal with it.
SDKyle: I guess just limit his minutes and hope he finds himself. He’s a veteran player, he should be able to work through some struggles. The Suns need Dario to come back to form, because without him its hard to cover for Crowder’s off nights.
SouthernSun: Not much he can do now. Missed their chance to get another big though trade. No better options on the buyout market really. I’m very confident Saric will turn it around though. And he always kicks it into high gear around playoff time anyway somehow.
Alex S: Maybe cut his minutes a bit and get Frank some run to switch things up. I wouldn’t freak out too much and if anything it might make more sense working through the growing pains now as opposed to the playoffs. He’s been a great player this season and could very well be going through a standard cold stretch.
Q3 - The Suns are tied for last in the NBA in drawing personal fouls. Do the refs really hate the Suns (as some fans claim) or are there other more likely reasons for this?
GuarGuar: We certainly deserve more foul calls than we have gotten (especially Booker). Generally speaking though it’s because we play at a slow place and don’t attack the rim very much. We barely have any slashers on this team. It’s really a personnel issue. Aside from CP and Book nobody on our team is good at drawing fouls. And even those two are getting to the line less than normal.
Sun-Arc: I’ve seen enough evidence this season to believe the refs have something out for the Suns. Lots of uneven calls and most of the time they get far less FTA than the other team. There probably is a less speculative explanation, but I’d rather take the easier, more emotional response in this case. Lol.
SDKyle: I think the Suns rely a lot on jumpshots rather than aggressively attacking the rim, and that results in fewer drawn fouls. There’s no logical reason for the officials to specifically discriminate against the Suns and not other smaller market teams that don’t have this problem.
SouthernSun: Yes, I believe there is actually a bias. Monty sees it. Ann Meyers Drysdale sees it. I’ve heard them both mention that the Suns don’t get foul calls they should. I think that will slowly go away, hopefully, as the team brings itself back into the spotlight after such a long time away from it. What would really be terrible if it keeps up even after that.
Aside from that though, the Suns don’t really play in such a way that’s conducive to getting a bunch of fouls anyway. Ayton avoids contact at the rim. Jae shoots mainly threes. Same for Cam Johnson. Payne attacks the rim but in ends up doing more floaters and acrobatic contorted TJ Warren style finishes than ones that will draw contact. Saric goes to work on the inside but he’s flat footed and doesn’t tend to get calls for some reason (bias?). Really, the guys who mainly get free throws are the two starting guards, especially Booker.
So, them being more of a jump shot team doesn’t help, and neither does two of their players who finish at the rim more than others being guys who do it with skill rather than throwing themselves at the basket like how some guys generate fouls.
Alex S: I don’t think they “hate” the Suns but there’s certainly not officiated entirely properly. Book and DA both are the two that need more respect specifically in my opinion, while Chris clearly gets his respect.
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
Monty Williams on Suns bench: ‘I have not coached a group like this before’. Cronkite News
The Chris Paul Effect: Led The OKC Thunder To The Playoffs With 0.2% Chances; Took The Suns From 10th To 2nd In The West. Fadeaway World
Suns’ Frank Kaminsky reflects on being called ‘worst player of all-time’ in powerful message. Clutch Points
Who is the MVP of the 2020-21 Suns? Zona Hoops
This Week in Suns History
On March 29, 1970, in just their second season the Suns got their first ever playoff victory when the Suns upset the Lakers 114-101 in game 2 of their first round playoff series in Los Angeles. A few days later, the Suns played and won their first ever playoff game 112-98 at home over the Lakers on April 2. The Suns then got their 2nd playoff win at home (their 3rd in the series) on April 4 to take a 3-1 series advantage.
Unfortunately, the Suns couldn’t get the 4th victory they needed to win the series and progress to the next round of the playoffs. It was during this playoff series that Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn gave the Suns’ home, Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the nickname “Madhouse on McDowell” due to the enthusiasm of the Phoenix crowds.
Interesting Suns Stuff
THE SUNS HAVE RISEN | Inside look at the hottest team in the NBA - The Phoenix Suns
We talk a lot about Devin Booker’s scoring but he’s also 11th on the the list of Suns All-Time leaders in assists with 1,797. His career assists per game average of 4.7 is 14th on that Suns All-Time leader list.
Dario Saric surpassed 2,000 career rebounds on March 24 in his 331st career game and is 7 three-point makes from 500 for his career. According to Stathead, only Paul Pierce and Paul George have ever reached both the 2,000 rebound and 500 three-pointer milestones in fewer than 331 career games. Depending on when Saric makes his 500th three-pointer, he could be the 3rd-fastest to 2,000 boards and 500 triples.
Mikal Bridges’ career high 6 steals in the Charlotte game almost equaled the Suns’ 6.6 steals per game team average for this 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 “At the trade deadline the Suns will...”
38% - Do nothing.
50% - Make a small trade.
12% - Surprise everyone with a big all-in win-now trade.
A total of 350 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Do the Suns really need to somehow add another big before playoff time?
This poll is closed