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 finished the 2021 regular season with a 51-21 record to earn the 2nd seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They defeated the defending World Champion Lakers 4-2 in the first round and then swept the Denver Nuggets 4-0 in their second round playoff series. The Suns are currently leading the Los Angeles Clippers 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals after playing the first two games without future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul.
The latest word is that CP3 has cleared the health and safety protocols and will be available to play in Game-3 in LA.
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 - Chris Paul is certainly this team’s best point guard but is it possible that Cam Payne might become that point guard of the future Suns fans have been hoping for?
GuarGuar: The way Payne has progressed it’s certainly possible he’s our PG of the future. I think he’s best as a 6th man in that Jordan Clarkson type role where he has the ultra green light with the second unit. Hopefully Paul sticks around for a while.
Sun-Arc: Payne keeps surprising me. But let’s not get overexcited just yet. Can Payne do what he did in Game 2 consistently? No. Yet I’m still willing to sign him to an extension- because he has been dependable. He’s got heart and is so competitive. Though I am not ready to think he can be a starting PG on a contending team just yet. I’d have to see more evidence.
SDKyle: He can be a serviceable starting guard in this league. I can admit I underestimated Payne based on his history. He’s a great NBA comeback story with some underrated talent and some nifty skills. I don’t think he’d be classified among the NBA’s top starting PGs by any means, and he’s pushing 27 so odds say he probably is out of ceiling... but the guy wouldn’t be an awful option if that’s what we had.
Alex S: How could you argue against Cam Payne being a qualified candidate for PG of the future?
His confidence and understanding of when to press the right button is that of a starting level point guard in the NBA. He’s a fan favorite, brings an energy to your team, and is motivated to continue to get better. I’m not going to assume he’s the future but why wouldn’t you be interested in him taking the keys to the car?
Q2 - Monty’s stuck with E’Twaun Moore in his player rotation with CP3 out. If he misses more games, do you think he should stick with Moore or go another direction?
GuarGuar: I prefer Jevon Carter in this series. He’s a better point of attack defender. He can definitely contain Jackson and Mann better.
Sun-Arc: I have a lot of confidence in Moore because of his good experience of being a starter in the league. He’s smart too- and knows how to manipulate other team defenses. We are talking around 11 mpg in the two WCF games he’s played- so not major minutes. We know he can be a flame thrower off the bench at his best moments- and not that I expect that. But I do expect he can hold his own with the other players out there and not poop the bed. I think that is what Monty is looking for with the players he has at the 9th-11th spot. I think he’s a better option than Jevon against the Clips.
SDKyle: I’m a Jevon Carter diehard. Give me more of what I crave, Monty. I assume the rationale for going with Moore is that he’s a better playmaker than Carter, or something, but he’s not exactly showing that out there and he’s not hitting any buckets.
Alex S: Well we don’t need to worry about this with the Chris Paul update but in regards to Moore, I thought he played a really solid game G2 as opposed to G1. He didn’t make any glaring mistakes, steadied the ship when Payne + Booker were out in the third quarter and wasn’t torched on the defensive end. He did exactly as advertised and that’s all you can ask for.
Q3 - The Clippers have come back from being 0-2 twice in these playoffs. I think winning Game 2 by such a thin margin was a good thing as a reminder to the Suns that they can’t relax even the slightest bit against them. What’s your opinion?
GuarGuar: Hopefully Chris Paul is back for game 3. Remember last year the Nuggets came back from 3-1 the first two rounds. And then people thought some magic was gonna happen in the conference finals when they went down 3-1 to LA. I think this loss really hurt the clippers. They needed this game more than us.
Sun-Arc: The Clippers are not an easy team to deal with. They wore down the Mavs in 7 and Jazz in 6. They are playing harder and better than at the start of the playoffs. They still scare me, not least because of their resiliency in the previous two series. As much as I’d like to see some Suns blowout wins, I can imagine more close games throughout. Hopefully Game 2 was a wake up call for our players to give it their all every minute - but I imagine this series could go to 6 or 7 games. I just hope we move onto the next series, and do so intact.
SDKyle: It’s definitely good for the Suns to remain vigilant, and this win was a good reminder. This was a game the Clippers came very close to stealing even though the Suns outplayed them almost the whole way. Relax in the offseason. If the Suns want to bring the Valley a championship they need to remain locked in for 48+ minutes every night until this ride is over.
Alex S: The Suns are a different beast than the Mavericks and Jazz. The Mavericks were being dragged by Luka with the combination of absurd 3 point shooting that was bound to come back to earth later in the series. The Jazz were similar where Donovan was going nuclear and the three point shooting was their saving grace. The Suns have the luxury of 3 main options now with CP3 coming back…they can either attack the switch with Chris, can create space for Book off the dribble, and can punish small lineups with Ayton (or run the floor with Zubac on the court).
I’m very confident in the Suns winning this series, especially with Kawhi Leonard sidelined still. He was a huge reason for the comebacks previously… but it’s not to say you can take your foot off the gas.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle, SouthernSun and Alex S. - for all their extra effort every week! (SouthernSun did not participate this week.)
This Week in Suns History
On June 21, 1972, KTAR radio hired Al McCoy to call Phoenix Suns games beginning with the 1972-73 season. McCoy was well-known in the Valley and previously was the voice of the Phoenix Roadrunners WHL/WHA hockey team. The 2020-2021 NBA season is his 49th season announcing and he is presently the longest-tenured NBA broadcaster.
On June 21, 2018, the Suns drafted Deandre Ayton with their first ever number one pick in the NBA Draft creating an immediate fan controversy by selecting him over European sensation Luka Doncic. The Suns also selected Zhaire Smith with the 16th pick and immediately traded him (plus Miami’s unprotected 2st round pick in the 2021 draft) to the Philadelphia 76ers for Mikal Bridges whom they had selected with the 10th pick.
On June 24, 1998, 2nd year player Steve Nash was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for Pat Garrity, Martin Muursepp, Bubba Wells and a 1999 1st round draft pick. That pick turned out to the 9th which the Suns used to select Shawn Marion.
On June 25, 2015, the Suns drafted Devin Booker in the 1st round with the 13th pick of the 2015 NBA Draft. No need to elaborate here on how important his selection was!
Interesting Suns Stuff
A Breakdown of the Phoenix Suns Monty Williams Game Winning Lob Play, now being called the Valley Oop!
Original graphic above from an article by The Ringer.
Deandre Ayton (72.6% FG) is the first player in the shot clock era (since 1954-55) with a 70% or better field goal percentage in any 12-game postseason span (minimum of 100 FG attempts).
The most games with 20+ points, 10+ rebounds and 65+ FG% in a single playoffs by a Suns player: 5 by Deandre Ayton in 2021 followed by 4 by Charles Barkley in 1993.
The Suns’ current 9-game postseason win streak is the longest in team history. In that span, they have trailed in the 4th quarter for a grand total of 30 seconds. The previous best was a 6-game postseason win streak in 2010. This current win streak is also their longest since the 2009-10 Suns had a 10-game win streak from March 14 to April 2 during the regular season.
Booker’s 40 pt, 13 reb, 11 assist performance in Game-1 against the Clippers is only the 4th time in NBA history that a single player led both teams outright in points, rebounds and assists in a Conference Finals game. The only other players to accomplish this were LeBron James, Larry Bird and Bill Russell. Book’s is also the only Suns player in the team’s playoff history to lead both teams outright in points, rebounds and assists in any playoff game and just the 6th triple-double ever by a Suns player during the playoffs. Steve Nash last did it in 2005, Jason Kidd and Anfernee Hardaway both did it in separate games in 2000 and Charles Barkley did it twice in 1993.
At 6’6” Jae Crowder is leading the Suns in blocks during the postseason with 11. Mikal Bridges (also 6’6”) and Cameron Payne (6’1”!) are are tied for second with 10 blocks each. Together they have accounted for 59.6% of the Suns total of 52 blocked shots during the playoffs.
@campayne joined LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as the only players with 29+ points, 9+ assists and 0 turnovers in a Conference Finals or Finals game.— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) June 24, 2021
(H/T Stathead) pic.twitter.com/oiQI3BQjEF
The Suns are 21-8 all-time in playoff series in which they won Game-1. They are 9-2 all-time in series when taking a 2-0 series lead and they are 7-4 all-time in Game 3 when entering with a 2-0 series lead.
The last 90 seconds of the Suns/LAC Game-2 took 33 real time minutes. The last 9.2 seconds of the game took 20 minutes.
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “No matter who they play, the Suns cannot win the Western Conference Finals if CP3 misses more than 2 games.”
29% - True.
71% - False.
A total of 202 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is kind of a retread.
Against the Clippers the Suns will...
This poll is closed
Win in 4 or 5 games.
Win in 6 games.
Win in 7 games.
Not win the series so who cares about how many games.