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 46-18, in 1st place in the Western Conference (due to owning the tiebreaker with the Jazz) and tied for the best record in the NBA. They are currently ahead of the Utah Jazz due to the tiebreaker, 3 games ahead of the 3rd place Denver Nuggets, 3.5 games ahead of the 4th place LA Clippers and 10 games ahead of the 5th place Dallas Mavericks/LA Lakers/Portland Trail Blazers (3-way tie).
Graphic courtesy of PlayoffStatus.com.
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 - Two part question: Out of the likely candidates, which team do you most want the Suns to play and which team do you least want the Suns to play in the 1st round?
GuarGuar: Assuming we are the 1 seed, in order I would rather play the 1. Grizzlies 2. Spurs 3. Warriors 4. Blazers 5. Mavericks. Those look like the only 5 teams who can end up in the 8 seed. Memphis is inexperienced and they generally play soft pick and roll defense so that would be really good for our guards. I think we are significantly better than all 5 of these teams but I’d least like to play Dallas because of all the foul trouble Luka could put us in. He baits for calls big time and that could cause issues if the refs aren’t in our favor.
Sun-Arc: Give me the Mavs for round one. Luka v Ayton, Porzingis v his knees, etc. We seem to own those guys and I think it’ll be a good warm-up series. The Spurs or Grizz would also be a good match up for us.
Least want to see the Lakers, if that ends up being possible. Seems highly unlikely- but (worst case scenario) we drop to 3 and they stay at 6. The next worst would be the Blazers. Hard to bet against Dame plus they just got healthy.
SDKyle: Most - Memphis. The Grizz often play the Suns tough, but I just don’t think they have the firepower to stay up in a series against any top team, including the Suns.
Least - LA Lakers. Healthy, the Lakers still have to be considered the west favorite. Their health is a big question mark, but they have Lebron, AD, and a small army of quality paint bangers that could pose a serious problem for the Suns.
SouthernSun: Most want - Mavs. Because the Suns seem to really have their number and just wipe the floor with them every time they play. Plus, it would be fun to easily beat Luka in a series that everyone will be watching.
Least want - Blazers. First round Lillard just frightens the bajeezus out of me.
Alex S: Most want: Spurs
Least want: Lakers
I’m operating under the belief the Suns will be able to secure either the 1st or 2nd seed. Let’s use the 2 seed for this example because there is a chance the Lakers can fall to 7th…I think it goes without saying why the Lakers would be a bad opponent in the 1st round. The only thing redeeming in that scenario is that the Lakers have limited continuity so their cohesion in the playoffs might be a bit off, especially in the 1st round.
The reason I want the Spurs is I’m not afraid of getting upset by them in a 7 game series, so I want to to beat a long-time rival for some sense of redemption. Remember what it felt like to sweep the Spurs back in the day? It’s a pretty great feeling.
Q2 - A good many Suns fans have expressed doubt that the Suns can make it past the 2nd round of the playoffs. What’s your opinion on this?
GuarGuar: I think we can win the championship. We could also flame out early in the playoffs if things aren’t clicking. The only team in the West I am truly afraid of is the Clippers. I don’t think we match up with them very well. I would love to be on the opposite side of the bracket as the Clippers. We have great star power and are deep. We are very capable of going all the way this year.
Sun-Arc: I would not be totally surprised if the Suns were knocked out in the first round, to be honest. But I also would not be totally surprised if we made it to the Finals. This is really hard to predict. We will likely have to face one of the LA teams at some point- and quite possibly the second round- which is our largest likelihood of defeat. Against all the teams in the hunt, they scare me the most. I think most people feel the same way. Plus, for a lot of the players it is their first playoffs, and I’ve seen young teams lose in the first two rounds often. GSW with Curry and Klay went through that too.
SDKyle: Reaching the conference finals is hard for even very good teams. We’ve seen many a 55+ win team go down in the semis over the years. That doesn’t mean they “couldn’t” have gone further if a key bounce or a big call had gone another way.
The Suns can go to the WCF, I absolutely believe that. They can go beyond that. But no sugar coating it... it’ll be hard. They’ll have to play hard and consistently and very well.
SouthernSun: Booooooooooooooo those people. Suns can make it to the WCF, and maybe even the Finals. Now’s not the time for tempering expectations. Enjoy it yall! Deal with the shattering of expectations if it happens, but be loud, be confident, be hyped, be arrogant! We haven’t had this for 10 years!
Alex S: Definitely. It’s going to come down to matchups and star power for the most part and I believe there’s no “bad” matchup for Phoenix due to their versatility. There’s certainly teams I’d rather avoid in the 2nd such as the Clippers and Lakers but I do believe we have the firepower to beat them if it came down to it. Would I favor the Suns? Not necessarily. But the depth, the improvement from the young guys, the mid-range clutchness of CP3 and DB, along with the toughness from our wings and bigs has me thinking the Suns are a real threat to win it all.
Q3 - What do you think the odds are that Devin Booker spends his entire NBA career in Phoenix?
GuarGuar: My heart wants to say 100% but I know towards the end of careers things can get weird. I’d probably say there’s a 60% chance he plays his entire career here. I really believe him when he says he wants to be like a Dirk/Kobe and play his whole career with one franchise. I think it’s best for his career arc too. He’s an instant legend here if we win a title.
Sun-Arc: Tough to know - but I like our odds. Book idolizes Kobe, so maybe he’ll go old-school and stay in PHX the entire time. At the same time I could imagine a scenario where the Suns bottom out again near the end of his current contract and he eyes a move as a restricted free agent or even asking for a trade. I’d put the odds at 60% that he stays. The remaining 40% is simply because the players have so much freedom these days and he’s so young.
SDKyle: 33%. I don’t say this to imply Booker wants to leave or anything. It’s just very rare in the modern NBA for a player to spend 15+ seasons with one franchise. Even Paul Pierce, who DID spend 15 seasons in Boston, played for the Nets, Wizards, and Clippers before calling it a career.
I think it’s very likely that Booker spends his whole prime and much of his post prime in Phoenix... but there’s always a chance whoever is calling the shots for the Suns a decade from now doesn’t want to pay 35 year-old Booker another 3-year $120 million contract so he plays out his last couple of years elsewhere. It won’t make him any less of a Sun.
SouthernSun: 90%. I feel like he wants to be the kind of player that is a legend in a city and plays their whole career there and gets a statue and stuff, you know? Maybe thats just me being a stupid sentimental fan, but thats what it feels like. That’s our guy.
Alex S: 25%.
Devin is already one of the most loyal players in the entire league and the Suns have created a foundation that should be able to keep him happy for his entire career. But I have to put the odds low because every single year can lead to dramatic change, no matter what franchise you’re talking about. Look at the Rockets! I am optimistic the right people and structure are in place but there’s another 10-15 years of Devin Booker left so it’s really hard for me to say he’s going to stick around for the entirety of his career.
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
We’re Back! Suns.com
Deandre Ayton And Mikal Bridges Could Be Postseason X-Factors For The Phoenix Suns. FiveThirtyEight
Kia MVP Ladder: Crunch-time performances help Chris Paul rise up. NBA.com
Phoenix Suns return to NBA playoffs for the first time in a decade — here’s what team owner Sarver has learned. CNBC
Ranking the Top 10 Phoenix Suns Point Guards since 2010. Zona Hoops
Don’t sleep on the Suns. The Undefeated
Suns Shining Through Cloudy April Schedule. The Lead
This Week in Suns History
On May 4, 1994, Charles Barkley hit 23-of-31 field goal attempts and finished with 56 points, leading the Suns to a 140-133 win over Golden State and a three-game sweep of their Western Conference First Round series. Barkley’s 56 points tied for the third-highest total ever in an NBA Playoff game and his 38 points in the first half set a record.
On May 5, 2010, the Suns made national headlines when they wore jerseys emblazoned with “Los Suns.” They were worn “to celebrate diversity on Cinco de Mayo,” according to team owner Robert Sarver, but also to protest a controversial immigration law that had been recently signed by Arizona’s governor. Los Suns beat the San Antonio Spurs 110-102 in a conference semi-final contest.
On May 6, 1968, the Suns acquired their first player during the NBA Expansion Draft, selecting 6-5 guard Dick Van Arsdale from New York. Van Arsdale served as an interim coach for the final 26 games of the 1986-87 season, leading Phoenix to a 14-12 record and 12 wins in their final 15 games. He also served 15 years as a color analyst beside Al McCoy and was named the team’s vice president of player personnel in 1987. He was one of the charter members of the Suns “Ring of Honor,” along with Alvan Adams, Connie Hawkins and Paul Westphal in 1999 and is still affectionately known as “The Original Sun.”
Interesting Suns Stuff
The Offensive Potential of Mikal Bridges (Phoenix Suns Analysis)
How JAMES JONES Rebuilt The PHOENIX SUNS From The WORST To The BEST TEAM In The NBA?!?!
The Suns are 12-4 in April after going 12-3 in February and 11-3 in March. This is the Suns’ first time recording 10+ wins in 3 consecutive months since November to January in the 2007-08 season. By winning 11+ games in 3 straight months, this is just their 3rd time doing so in franchise history (November-January in 2004-05, January-March in 1989-90).
The Suns have a .719 winning percentage this season after .466 last season; the Suns’ +.253 improvement ranks 2nd in the NBA. According to STATS, this would be the 2nd straight season the Suns’ winning percentage improves by at least .200 points (.232 in 2018-19 to .466 in 2019-20). The Suns would become just the 3rd team in NBA history to have .200+ improvements in winning percentage in consecutive seasons (Miami from 2002-03 to 2004-05, Philadelphia from 2015-16 to 2017-18).
Deandre Ayton needs 4 more blocks to reach 200 for his career.
Mikal Bridges needs 4 more steals to reach 300 for his career.
Important Future Dates
May 16 - Regular season ends.
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 “Who do think will win the Dan Majerle Hustle Award this year?”
54.5% - Mikal Bridges
10.6% - Jevon Carter
21.6% - Torrey Craig
09.4% - Jae Crowder
03.9% - Someone else
A total of 255 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
What do you think the odds are that the Suns make it to the Western Conference Finals?
This poll is closed
Less than 10%. It’s not happening this year.
Less than 50%.
More than 50%.
Oh hell yeah, they’re going to make it!