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 35-14 and in 2nd place in the Western Conference with the 2nd best record in the NBA. They are currently 2.5 games behind the 1st place Utah Jazz, 3 games ahead of the 3rd place LA Clippers and 4 games ahead of the surging 4th place Denver Nuggets.
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 - The Suns will soon be entering the toughest part of their schedule this season. Do you think they will keep winning at the same rate they have been until the end of the season and what’s the lowest rank in the WC standings that you think the Suns could possibly fall to?
GuarGuar: If we stay healthy I’m pretty confident we will be a top 2 seed in the West. We’ve gotten up for big games this year and I expect that to continue. I really think this team wants to have the best record in the league.
Sun-Arc: I do not think they will continue to win at the same rate they have been once the 2nd half of April hits. But it will not matter too much for the standings - at least not in my opinion. Being in the top 4 would be great, but I’d be happy just staying out of the play-in games.
The team might end up dropping out of the top 5 if Denver gets really hot and the LA teams come roaring back while we falter a bit. I hope that isn’t the case, but could imagine that happening. The 5th or 6th seed certainly seems possible. I do not see them falling to 7th or lower.
SDKyle: I think the Suns will keep winning at near the same rate. Maybe not QUITE as much, but close.
This team isn’t a fluke. It was fair to doubt them through 10 games, or 15, or even 20. But by now, this team has proven it can and will consistently win regular season games.
I don’t see them finishing worse than maybe 5th at this point.
SouthernSun: I think the Suns are on a roll and will continue winning at roughly the same rate. Other teams made changes at the deadline, so, while for the post-season it would have probably benefited them to consolidate some of their bench talent into at least one more better 2nd unit player, for the regular season the continuity will probably help them maintain this run. I think they end up between #1 and #3 in the West by the end of the regular season.
Alex S: It’s hard to claim the Suns can maintain a ~.700 winning percentage with a good amount of tough games to come but I do believe the Suns will continue to play over .500 basketball for the rest of the season.
As long as the Suns can continue to avoid losing streaks, I’m confident they can end up with the 2 seed. However, the lowest I could reasonably see the Suns falling would be 3 (assuming they stay healthy). It’d take a monster stretch from one team like the Nuggets as well as the Clippers making a surge to surpass where the Suns are currently with a 3 game lead for the 2 spot.
Q2 - Phoenix has been very “lucky” in regard to injuries this season (6th LEAST number of games missed due to injuries through March 23 according to ManGamesLost.com). They also play at one of the slowest paces in the NBA (26th). I think these two things are related. What’s your opinion?
GuarGuar: I don’t really think they are related. I think our low free throw rate and low injuries could be something more correlated. Normally injuries are just luck based and that’s how I still view it.
Sun-Arc: I had not equated the slow pace to lack of injuries. Seems maybe more like luck and having a center that likes to keep things safe and not use his body as a cannonball. But its possible the slow pace has helped.
I tend to think the lack of injuries may be the way players are interchangeable and also playable. Plus the way the team shares the ball so much. But that is just a guess.
SDKyle: I had never really considered the link before, to be perfectly honest. It’s an interesting idea.
In general, I think people tend to make too much of pace. The difference between “fast” and “slow” teams is really only marked at the far ends of the spectrum. If you compare the Wizards at 105 possessions per game vs. the Knicks at 97, that’s a sizable discrepancy.
But while the Suns are indeed a “slow” team at an estimated 99.2 possessions per game, that’s only 2 possessions per game fewer than the Kings, who are technically a “fast” team ranking 13th in the league.
Is that extra 7 or 8 trips up the court per week a major explanation for anything, whether injuries or statistics? I’m not entirely convinced... but it’s piqued my interest.
SouthernSun: I absolutely also think they are related. They also don’t have many people aggressively attacking the basket. Their play style is mostly passing around, getting open layups, middies, and threes, without many sallies into the teeth of the defense. They do things slow and methodically without nearly as much rushing as other teams, and so they gave less chances to get injured.
Alex S: Here’s a list of reasons I think the Suns are staying healthy:
- Pace of play
- Multiple offensive weapons to lessen the workload for everyone collectively
- A lot of young players in the rotation
- New practice facility (the recovery technology)
- Committed players that are taking care of their bodies (for example, CP3 going vegan seems to have helped)
Q3 - There are rumors that Marc Gasol is unhappy with his role with the Lakers and may ask for a buyout. If this were to happen, would you want the Suns to try to add him to their roster?
GuarGuar: I’d definitely be interested in Gasol if he became available. Great big man defender and has plenty of big game experience. Would love him as an insurance policy if anything ever happened to DA or Dario.
Sun-Arc: I would gladly take Marc Gasol on the team. Though if he’s unhappy with his role there I doubt he signs with the Suns too - because there is NO way this team would guarantee minutes for him or anyone.
SDKyle: It couldn’t hurt. What’s the downside? You get a guy who has toughness and a ton of playoff experience and can still kind of shoot it from deep if left open. At this point it would be better than just hoping Ayton never needs to leave the court in the playoffs.
SouthernSun: Absolutely. It would be great to have one more big body defender in the post for certain matchups. I love having Dario as the main big off the bench in the center role most of the time, surrounded by wings and a ball handler, but sometimes he gets overwhelmed if the opponents are a little too big and athletic, so it would be nice to have the option of Marc Gasol.
Alex S: Gasol seems like a James Jones type of player and I could see Marc taking it personally if he were to get bought out. If he could accept a role that’s matchup dependent, I would like the move. Especially consider if there’s one weakness the Suns bench might have, you could point to playoff experience. Having a champion to add to the mix whose very smart and can pass the ball with the best of them for 10 minutes a game wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
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
Chris Paul and the Suns are surging. How long will the magic last? The Washington Post
Veteran All-Star Chris Paul and his $160 million contract keep getting traded, and he keeps becoming a steal. Insider
‘Spoon-Fed Me’ – Suns’ DeAndre Ayton Discusses How Chris Paul Has Helped Him Grow This Season. Essentially Sports
Winning Plays. Suns.com
Chris Paul, Suns are their own worst critic after near-collapse vs. Hawks. Clutch Points
This Week in Suns History
On April 6, 1993, the Suns entered the 4th quarter up 98-81 over the LA Lakers. They extended their lead to 20 points before going cold and allowing the Lakers to take a 2-point lead with just 1.6 seconds to go. The Suns had possession and inbounded the ball to Dan Majerle who made a 33-foot three-point basket for 115-114 win. Following the shot, Majerle jumped on scorer’s table to celebrate as cheers from the home crowd lasted for several minutes. It was the Suns’ first-ever season sweep of LA.
On April 9, 1990, the Suns made an NBA record 61 free throws (out of 80 attempts) in beating the Utah Jazz 119-115 in overtime. A total of 121 free throws were attempted by both teams. Kevin Johnson was sent to the line 24 times and made 23 on his way to leading the Suns in scoring with a total of 37. Tom Chambers was just behind him with a total of 36 points and was 17 of 22 from the line. The Jazz were 29 of 41 at the FT line and had four players foul out of the game, two others finished with five fouls and another four had four fouls each. Two players, Mark West and Dan Majerle, fouled out for the Suns. The Suns’ 61 made FTs is still the NBA record for the most FTs made in a single game. The 121 total FT attempts by both teams is not and NBA record however. That record was established during the NBA’s first season on Nov. 24, 1949 when the Syracuse Nationals and the Anderson Packers combined to attempt a whopping 160 free throws in a 86-74 5-OT win for Syracuse.
Interesting Suns Stuff
From G-League to Contender: The Story of Cam Payne
Steven A. Smith calls Devin Booker a “Bonified Star”! & says “Watch out for Phoenix”.
The Suns’ 37-point victory against the OKC Thunder was only the second time in team history the Suns had won by 37 points with the previous 37-point win coming almost 15 years ago... and Chris Paul played in both games. Yes, the previous 37-point win came on April 17, 2006 when the Suns beat CP3’s New Orleans/OKC* Hornets 115-78 during his rookie season. * New Orleans played all of their home games in Oklahoma City that season due to the damage done to their own arena in NO by hurricane Katrina.
Devin Booker is on pace for his third season averaging 25+ PPG— Basketball Reference (@bball_ref) April 1, 2021
He'd be the 12th player in NBA History to do that 3+ times before turning 25-yo pic.twitter.com/6boPVMEaHf
The Suns 43-13 lead at the end of the 1st quarter against OKC was the first 30-point differential through one quarter in franchise history. It was also only the 13th time in NBA history that a team was up by 30 or more points at the end of the 1st quarter.
Dario Saric hit the 500th three-pointer of his career during the OKC game. This plus passing the 2,000 career rebounding mark earlier this season made him the 3rd fastest player in NBA history to get both 500 3-pointers and 2,000 rebounds. Dario did it in 336 games, Paul George did it in 324 games and Paul Pierce did it in 310 games.
The Suns’ current win percentage (.714) is the 5th best in team history.
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 “Do the Suns really need to somehow add another big before playoff time?”
80% - Yes.
20% - No.
A total of 213 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
If they can avoid any major injuries, which seed do you think the Suns will be at the end of the season?
This poll is closed
1st! We’ll catch and pass the Jazz!
5th or lower.