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 48-20, in 2nd place in the Western Conference and have the 2nd best record in the NBA. They are currently 2 games behind the Utah Jazz, 3 games ahead of the 3rd place LA Clippers and 4 games ahead of the 4th place Denver Nuggets.
If the Suns were to somehow lose all four of their remaining games they would still wind up with at least the 4th seed in the West.
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 - I think the Suns getting the #1 seed is now unlikely and they’ll probably finish 2nd. That would mean a 1st round matchup with the 7th seed which most likely will be either the Mavericks, the Lakers or the Trail Blazers. What are your series result predictions for the Suns facing each of these teams?
GuarGuar: Suns vs Mavericks: Suns in 6. I’m concerned about the possible foul trouble in this series. We know Luka gets a favorable call and egregiously seeks out contact. Keeping Book, Mikal, and DA out of foul trouble would be a top priority. We are definitely the better team though so I would take us in 6.
Suns vs Lakers: Suns in 7. It’s hard to pick against LeBron and AD but they haven’t been in any rhythm this year. They aren’t the same team as last year. Definitely want to avoid this matchup the most but I still think we are the better team and will prevail. Lakers size would be a big problem.
Suns vs Blazers: Suns in 5. Portland has disappointed for the majority of the season. They’ve had injuries but even when they have been healthy they haven’t clicked much this season. If we trap Dame on every pick and roll we should be okay. Portland has a very bad defense that Book and CP would certainly exploit.
Sun-Arc: Suns vs Mavericks: Suns in 6; maybe in 5 games. This is the easiest match up, I feel. We could even sweep, but I think our team’s inexperience will mean 6 games minimum in each round.
Suns vs Lakers: Suns in 6 (as of Friday); LBJ is not healthy and Davis may have been re-injured. If we get them in the first round, and both stars are hobbled and/or either is unable to play, this could be an “easy” out. Though they are still champions and if LBJ is healthy and playing it could take 7 games even with AD out. If both stars are healthy, this will be a 7 game series and I’m not sure who wins.
Suns vs Trail Blazers: Suns in 6; Blazers are healthy and Dame puts on a show, but we close out in six.
SDKyle: Suns over Mavericks in 6 games. The Suns match up well on the Mavs. Luka is great, but the rest of the roster is very inconsistent and they don’t have the overall quality the Suns have.
Lakers over Suns in 7 games. A healthy Lakers is a bad matchup for the Suns. Too much size and athleticism with Lebron’s deep playoff experience binding them. I hope to avoid this matchup. If the Lakers are hobbled I like the matchup... but I’m not assuming that for this exercise.
Suns over Blazers in 7. When it’s Dame time, few forces can counteract that. But the Suns win out in the end.
SouthernSun: Suns vs Mavs - 4-1 Suns win
Suns have handily handled the Mavs every time they matchup for the last couple of years. I dont fear them at all. Bridges and the rest of the Suns wings, along with Ayton, do a tremendous job of guarding Doncic and friends.
Suns vs Lakers - If the Lakers are healthy, 4-2 in their favor.
If the Suns luck out and LeBron isn’t himself, who knows.
Suns vs Blazers - 4-2 Suns win
Dame is scary but I just feel like the Suns backcourt is just as good and their overall team is simply better.
Alex S: I won’t go as far to say the 1 seed is “unlikely” as any team can have an off-night. However, operating under the criteria with the Suns being the 2 seed let’s make some predictions:
Suns vs Mavs: Suns in 6 - I have a hard time believing the Suns won’t run into some BS officiating when playing against Luka and the Mavs could light it up from three. I could see the Suns winning in 5 as well but I have to give respect to Luka and give the Mavs two games. The biggest X factor in this series would be Porzingis. If he could find his game and stay healthy this is a tough series.
Suns vs Lakers: Suns in 5 - I’m going to be very bold with this prediction not because I don’t respect the Lakers and LeBron James. I’ve followed LeBron’s career very closely and his teams historically either come out on top in a series or manage to lose quite quickly in a series (with an exception here and there). I’m operating under the belief that AD and LeBron are both banged up and the Lakers don’t have a full roster for the rest of the regular season (Dennis S. included) and the Suns have homecourt. If there were an optimal time to face LA in the postseason if you have to, it’s the first round. I’m not also going to act shocked if the Lakers randomly turn it on and beat the Suns either FWIW.
Suns vs Trail Blazers: Suns in 6 - I think the Blazers are a bad version of themselves this year but you have to respect Damian Lillard and the rest of their team talent wise. I do believe the Suns could put up 120 a night in this series but it’ll come down to how electric Dame is and whether you can withstand their clutch play or not. All that being said, gimme Suns in 6.
Q2 - With the Clippers and Nuggets both presently 3 games behind the Suns in the WC standings, how “safe” do you think the Suns are in 2nd place?
GuarGuar: I think we are very safe for the 2 seed. It’s pretty much locked up at this point in my opinion, despite the tougher SOS. Hopefully the Jazz falter a game or two and we can snatch that top seed.
Sun-Arc: With how tired we’ve looked in the past two games (as of Friday morning), we don’t look “safe” to stay in second. Nugs or Clips could get hot and we could start losing more. In the end I believe we finish at #2.
The Nuggets have to play UTA, BKN, CHA, and POR (plus MIN & DET). Those four good teams will pose problems for them. I could see them losing three of them.
The Clippers have to play NYK, CHA (plus TOR, HOU, OKC). They may win out, but I bet they lose at least one of those games.
The Suns have to play NYK, LAL, GSW, POR, SAS, SAS. I could see us losing as many as 3 of those games, but losing 2 is more likely. That keeps us above the Clips. Even if we lose 3 and the Clips lose one game that still keeps us 1 game ahead.
SDKyle: I think the Suns are in good shape to hold onto that seed. I think they’ll finish strong despite a tough schedule. Not going to say it’s safe per se, but I think they’ll do it.
SouthernSun: Suns are very safe. Several game cushion. I wouldn’t be at all worried about their spot. What I’d be looking at is the Lakers and where they end up.
Alex S: Very safe.
Suns are still locked in and I don’t see them losing three games to end the year.
Q3 - Right now, I’d say that Mikal Bridges has become the 3rd best player on the Suns’ roster. What are your thoughts on this?
GuarGuar: I completely agree that Mikal has become our 3rd best player. He’s got an insane 65% TS% and his defense is certainly All-NBA worthy. His usage rate probably needs to go up in the playoffs. He will be a big key for us when teams trap CP and Book. His midrange development has been fantastic. I also feel he’s one of the best fastbreak players in the league.
Sun-Arc: Bridges has been really good all season, particularly in the 2nd half. Third best…? Not sure.
I cannot say he’s the third most important. That would be Ayton because of the need for his defense. If we lose Bridges, but have Jae and Torrey the latter two can make up a lot of what Bridges brings on defense and offense. Not saying its perfect, but there simply is no replacement on the team for Ayton.
- In terms of scoring, Bridges it the fourth highest scorer (behind Book, Paul, Ayton)
- In terms of PER, Bridges is fifth (behind Paul, Ayton, Book, and… Kaminsky)
- In terms of STL%, Bridges is fifth (behind Paul, Moore, Carter, Craig)
- In terms of BLK%, Bridges is third (behind Ayton, Craig)
- In terms of OWS, Bridges is third (behind Paul, Ayton)
- In terms of VORP, Bridges is second (behind Paul)
- In terms of TS%, Bridges is #1.
- In terms of minutes played, Bridges is #1 (with Book, Paul, and Ayton close behind)
One aspect here that makes it really difficult to assess whether he is third best is Bridges doesn’t miss any games. I have no idea what the defense and offense would look like without him. And I really do not want to find out.
It is a close call Bridges and Ayton, but I lean towards Ayton.
SDKyle: Eh... tossup between he and Ayton. They both play good defense but have a lot of games where they go 4/6 from the field or something, not really being a factor. Both are good players who can be fantastic on certain nights when they put it together on both ends.
SouthernSun: Mikal does come in 3rd, no offense to Deandre.
I don’t think Mikal will ever be much more than a really really good role player. At his height, a super charged Danny Green. But I think he’s exactly that right now, and I’m very pleased with his contributions to the team.
Alex S: Oh boy.
I’m going to have to say yes but barely. Deandre’s impact defensively is understated in a lot of ways and he’s starting to show more consistent play which has hindered him in his young career. But damn, Mikal Bridges is good. I always thought the Kawhi comps were a bit unrealistic but Mikal’s development has been a pleasure to watch. His mid-range creation, his catch-and-shoot consistency, his off-the-dribble development, and his known defensive prowess makes him an elite role player at this stage of his career.
Warning Suns fans: He’s going to make around or above $100 million with his extension. Mentally prepare for it.
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 reveals non-Devin Booker reason for Suns’ incredible success. Clutch Points
From worst to first: Phoenix Suns continuing a most remarkable turnaround. USA Today
NBA Daily: Torrey Craig Relishing Role in Phoenix. Basketball Insiders
The Top 25 Players in the NBA. The Ringer
The Ultimate Hype “Beast”. Suns.com
This Week in Suns History
On May 11, 1992, the Suns lost 153-151 to the Portland Trail Blazers in a double overtime Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals. The Suns were down 42-29 at the end of the 1st quarter but outscored the Blazers in each remaining quarter to tie the game in regulation and force it into overtime. Kevin Johnson (35 pts) and Tom Chambers (29 pts) led the Suns in scoring before fouling out. Phoenix’s 151 points are the most ever scored by a Suns team in a playoff game and the most points scored by the Suns in a loss.
On May 16, 1976, the Suns defeated the defending NBA Champions, the Golden State Warriors, 94-86 in game seven of the Western Conference Finals at Golden State to earn their first conference championship and their first trip to the NBA Finals to face the Boston Celtics. Paul Westphal and Gar Heard led the Suns in scoring with 21 pts each while rookie center Alvan Adams added a double-double with 18 points and 20 rebounds.
Interesting Suns Stuff
What is the Ideal Playoff Seeding for the Suns?
The Suns have finished 21-9 against the East this season. It’s team’s best mark against the East since going 24-6 in 2007-08.
Chris Paul’s 4.03 assist-to-turnover ratio is the 2nd best (by a qualified player) in Suns history. Jeff Hornacek ranks 1st with a 4.19 AST:TO ratio during the Suns 1988-89 season.
Jae Crowder is currently 3rd on the Suns’ All-Time list for career average for 3-pointers made per game with 2.44. Quentin Richardson is 1st with 2.86 per game and Raja Bell is 2nd with 2.45 per game.
In the New York game, Mikal Bridges hit the 300th three-pointer of his career (now 303 total) to add to his 300 career steals (now 302 total) to become the 8th-fastest player ever to reach at least 300 of each. Only Paul Pierce, Kerry Kittles, Gilbert Arenas, Eddie Jones, Paul George, Steve Francis and Allen Iverson reached both milestones in fewer games than Bridges.
In the Lakers game, Cam Payne became the first player in Suns history to score at least 24 points while hitting 90%+ of his FG attempts and 80%+ from three.
Important Future Dates
May 18 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.
August 2 - 2021-22 season Free Agency period begins (6 pm ET).
August 6 - Moratorium ends. Free agents can officially be signed.
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “What do you think the odds are that the Suns make it to the Western Conference Finals?”
03% - Less than 10%. It’s not happening this year.
20% - Less than 50%.
40% - 50/50.
19% - More than 50%.
18% - Oh hell yeah, they’re going to make it!
A total of 349 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
If the Suns’ 1st round playoff series is against the Lakers, do you think the Suns will win it?
This poll is closed
Only if the Lakers aren’t back to full strength.