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 38-15 and in 2nd place in the Western Conference with the 2nd best record in the NBA. They are currently 1.5 games behind the 1st place Utah Jazz, 2 games ahead of the 3rd place LA Clippers, 4.5 games ahead of the 4th place Denver Nuggets and 5.5 games ahead of the 5th place LA Lakers.
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 - Devin Booker or Chris Paul... which one do you trust the most to have the ball at the end of a close game?
GuarGuar: I trust them both a ton but if it’s coming down to 1 shot I’m going with Book because he can score in any way. I know CP is more experienced and played in bigger games. Book is fearless and a killer and I always want the ball in his hands to close out games.
Sun-Arc: Both and neither is my first thought. It depends on the game and what has happened thus far with each player in the first 3.5 quarters. Also depends on the match up. For instance, against the Clippers I prefer Booker, but against the Hawks I prefer Paul take the last shot.
SDKyle: If we’re talking about a situation where we have a final full possession, then CP3 because I trust him to make the right decision and make a play either for someone else or himself. That’s his role... no reason to take it away from him at the end of a game.
If we’re talking about a situation where someone just needs to get the ball and put it up, then no question the man for the job is Booker. There are few guys in the NBA I’d take before Booker in terms of a guy who can hit a tough shot with no time to play.
SouthernSun: Chris Paul as of now. I just trust him to get the ball in the best possible place for a shot, whether by him or someone else, more than I’d trust just about anybody else in the league. Pretty sure he’s a big part of the reason the Suns have been able to win a lot of close games. I’m sure I’ll feel similarly about Book in a few years though.
Alex S: This one is actually a really tough question because I have two different opinions on this. I feel like I trust Devin more when it’s a high scoring affair and he’s shown the ability to get to the rim and/or get to the free throw line throughout the game. But if he hasn’t shown that ability I tend to want to see the ball in CP3’s hands more.
Another factor as well is DA. If Ayton is having a great game then I love seeing Chris/Deandre P&R’s down the stretch. As long as there aren’t constant ISO’s and the ball is in one of their hands, I’m happy.
Q2 - Jevon Carter has recently taken Langston Galloway’s minutes and moved back into Monty’s 10-man rotation. Which of the two do you prefer in that spot?
GuarGuar: I prefer Galloway because he’s an elite shooter. There are games though where Carter is a better matchup against certain teams. I don’t expect either to be in our playoff rotation.
Sun-Arc: Monty is still playing around with different combinations of players - telling me he has not found confidence in one yet. Could be he just wants to keep the players on their toes- though I think he’s looking for the most trustworthy group. Particularly alongside the new addition of Craig.
They each have their strengths. Carter’s is attacking the ball handler. Galloway’s is shooting. Moore’s is, perhaps, experience & versatility. Personally, I prefer going with players by match up. But if we find the right group that has real chemistry that is even better.
The challenge is the bench has been inconsistent lately. Maybe this is just a matter of repetitions with Craig in the line up. I hope that is all it is. Saric has been mostly in a funk for a month now - though I cannot imagine this is due to the addition of Craig.
If I had to pick, I would go with Galloway. I feel like he’s a smart guy with the best shooting ability. I’ll stick with that unless Payne and Carter rekindle their Bubble Magic.
SDKyle: I like Carter. I’m not changing my mind. I think he helps energize the defense of his teammates when he gets in the game, and he’s not a bad shooter himself despite his down year.
SouthernSun: Langston because the team needs his three point shooting. However, it’s probably a good idea to test Jevon out every once in awhile to see if he’s got his shot going that night, because Jevon’s defense plus his shot going down is a higher caliber player than either.
Alex S: I like the idea of giving Jevon these minutes in the regular season as Langston is a true professional and will stay ready when called upon. The Suns are going to need a quality backcourt defender for the playoffs so as long as Jevon is showing confidence offensively, I think he should continue to get the opportunity. Monty probably recognized that Jevon will get a short lease in the playoffs but it’s worth giving him a longer lease during the regular season to see what he can bring to the 2nd unit. So far, so good.
Q3 - Other than Booker and CP3, which Suns player most needs to play consistently well once the playoffs begin for the Suns to get past the 2nd round?
GuarGuar: Deandre definitely needs to bring consistent energy and defense throughout the playoffs for us to have success. He’s the 3rd best player on our team and we all know what he can do at his best. When teams trap Booker and CP, Ayton is going to need to be ready to score at a high clip.
Sun-Arc: The obvious answer here is Ayton. And it’s the right answer. When he’s fully engaged the team is much better on both ends. And if/when teammates trust him more to receive passes in the paint the offense will be a juggernaut.
But I’ll throw in another answer: Dario Saric. He just is not right lately, and the team has struggled. When he plays well, the team wins. We saw it in the bubble, and we have seen it this season. Get that guy on CP3’s diet and whatever it takes to get him there.
Payne is another player that has been up and down, but when plays well is a game changer.
The next most important players are Crowder and Johnson - particularly with their shooting. Though I’m less worried about these two.
SDKyle: Ayton. No question. The Suns won’t survive the grueling Western Conference playoff gauntlet without Ayton playing very well and very consistently. They need his defense in the paint, they need him to vacuum up missed shots, and they need him to establish a strong scoring presence inside.
The Suns will not reach the WCF just trying to jump shoot their way there. Perimeter defense tightens up a lot in the playoffs, so we can’t just hope whoever we play leaves Bridges and Johnson open all night every night and they combine for 38 points on 10 made threes over and over.
The Suns will need their big man.
SouthernSun: Either Ayton or Bridges. If either one of them play like a near all star for the playoffs consistently, that will help the Suns get to where they wanna go. Ayton playing consistently well is probably the one that would make the most difference, though. If we get the Ayton we know he can sometimes be, watch out.
Consistency from Ayton is the biggest thing he’s lacking, however.
Alex S: I really want to say Mikal but Deandre is such an obvious answer here that I can’t pass him up. In all honestly, he’s probably the biggest what if piece in the entire Western Conference. If he plays at a high level and takes on the challenge with guys like Jokic, Gobert, AD, etc., the Suns are going to be a true title contender this season. If he loses his confidence and has minimal impact, the Suns are going to have to rely on heavy perimeter play which can get dicey in the playoffs. Mikal will also be vital as the Suns need competent wing play to go along with the main stars for Phoenix to have a chance at a title as well.
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 Turnaround. The Game Haus
Devin Booker is on a Scoring Splurge for Surging Suns. SLAM
3 Reasons why the Phoenix suns will be real contenders in the Western Conference. Sportskeeda
Three things to know: Chris Paul, Suns make case they are best in West. NBC Sports
Defense Travels. Suns.com
NBA Daily: Get Familiar With the Phoenix Suns. Basketball Insiders
The Whiteboard: 3 things we learned from Jazz-Suns showdown. Gerald Bourguet/The Step Back
Suns Announce Road Game Rallies at Phoenix Suns Arena. Suns.com
This Week in Suns History
On April 15, 1989, Phoenix retired the No. 44 jersey of Paul Westphal who averaged 20.6 points, 5.2 assists and 1.6 steals in his six seasons with the Suns. He was named the team’s head coach for the 1992-93 season and led them into the NBA Finals against Chicago. In 2019 he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
On April 17, 1989, Suns defeated the Sacramento Kings 140-85 in Phoenix. The 55 point margin of victory is the largest in team history. The Suns jumped out to a 35-17 lead at the end of the 1st quarter which they stretched to 78-38 at halftime. Eddie Johnson led the Suns in scoring with 24 points off the bench and five other Suns scored in double figures. 32 of the Suns’ points were scored at the free throw line where they were 32 of 41.
Interesting Suns Stuff
‘Stop disrespecting Devin Booker!’ - Kendrick Perkins on ESPN’s Best 25 under 25 list | The Jump
Against Washington on Saturday, Devin Booker had 6 assists and passed Dan Majerle (1,824 assists as a Sun) to move into 10th place for most assists in Suns history. Book added 7 more assists against Houston last night to bring his career assist total to 1,834. Booker is also just 43 points short of scoring 9,000 career points.
Chris Paul sits at 6th All-Time with 2,308 career steals. He passed Scottie Pippen (2,307) with his 2 steals in the Houston game and is now only 2 steals behind No. 5 Maurice Cheeks (2,310). When he reaches the top 5 in both assists and steals, he will join John Stockton and Jason Kidd as the only players to rank in the top 5 in NBA history in both career assists and career steals.
In 2018-19, the Suns tied for the 2nd-worst record in the NBA at 19-63. If the Suns were to finish this season with one of the league’s top two records, it would be just the third time since the NBA-ABA Merger that a team jumped from bottom two to top two in two seasons or less. The only other times it was done were by both by the Boston Celtics (24-58 in 2006-07 to 66-16 in 2007-08 and 29-53 in 1978-79 to 61-21 in 1979-80).
The Suns are 17-7 on the road this season and their .708 winning percentage in road games is best in the NBA. This currently sits as 2nd-best in Suns history behind only their .756 mark (31-10) on the road in the 2004-05 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 begin.
June 7 - Conference semifinals begin.
June 21-27 - NBA Draft Combine.
June 22 - NBA Draft Lottery. Conference Finals begin.
July 8-22 - NBA Finals.
July 29 - NBA Draft.
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “If they can avoid any major injuries, which seed do you think the Suns will be at the end of the season?”
26% - 1st! We’ll catch and pass the Jazz!
42% - 2nd.
20% - 3rd.
10% - 4th.
02% - 5th or lower.
A total of 226 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Who do you trust most to have the ball in his hands at the end of a close game?
This poll is closed
It depends on the specific situation.