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. After a great regular season run concluding with their first appearance in the playoffs in over a decade, the Suns fought their way to the NBA Finals before falling 4-2 to the Milwaukee Bucks. No matter how disappointing the Finals loss was, the Suns had a truly great season overall and are a team we can all be proud of.
In this article we now will turn our focus to offseason questions and topics. And much like last year, the offseason will again be fairly short as training camps for 2021-22 are tentatively set to begin on September 28 with the regular season starting on October 19. The Draft is this Thursday! Free Agency begins in 9 days! NBA Summer League starts 6 days after that! There’s lots and lots of Suns related stuff still to be discussed.
And even though there’s no Suns basketball to watch, don’t forget that Devin Booker will be playing for Team USA in the Olympics! Team USA’s opening round schedule is as follows:
- Sunday, July 25: vs. France, 5 am AZT
- Wednesday, July 28: vs. Iran, 9:40 pm AZT
- Saturday, July 31: vs. Czech Republic, 5 am AZT
Team USA’s opening-round men’s basketball games will all air live streaming on Peacock. They will be tape delayed on NBC and other networks.
And according to Chris Sheridan of Basketball News, Booker may be starting for Team USA even in Game 1 on Sunday.
Team USA assistant coach Steve Kerr just said Middleton, Holiday and Booker will all be in starting lineup against France without the benefit of having a single practice. That would qualify as a piece of news. (Coach Gregg Popovich not speaking with media today).— Chris Sheridan (@sheridanhoops) July 22, 2021
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 - What should be the Suns’ top 3 priorities this offseason?
GuarGuar: 1. Retain the core - Extending Ayton and Mikal and keeping Chris Paul should be the biggest priority. Keeping our core in tact keeps us a contender.
2. Sign a backup big - Our big man depth was the biggest issue for our team. It was exposed in the finals and at other times throughout the year. We need another rim protector.
3. Backup PG - I think Payne is the one who’s gonna get away from us this off-season. So finding a solid backup PG will be another very important task.
Sun-Arc: What the team should do this offseason depends so much on what CP3 does and also how much of a hole Coach Willie Green leaves behind, plus how many of the 1-year players like Payne end up doing. Right now it feels like a moving target- but these are some thoughts:
A. Shoring up the front line. We all felt the team was too small and un athletic behind Ayton at the center position. With most NBA teams this post-season it did not really matter, but it did against the big Bucks. They could do this in free agency with a low cost vet like McGee, or possibly through the draft with a late pick of perhaps Neemias Queta.
B. Shoring up the defense if Willie Green really was responsible for the team’s D, as he has been credited with. Some of this might be through players, but some should probably be through a coaching replacement.
C. Maintaining the core. In particular, extending Ayton’s and Bridge’s contracts.
D. Shoring up the PG position. We got lucky all season that we did not have more injuries to either Paul or Payne. Whether Paul stays or not, it would be great to keep Payne, but we need to have that third line. Carter is a useful player in situations, but not a true point guard, which creates a conundrum. If we aren’t going to play him a ton, is he worth keeping at his salary? And who can we get that could carry the PG position if Paul stays but misses time or leaves? That may require moving some other pieces.
E. Shoring up the Roster. We have 6 players on expiring deals (Payne, Nader, Moore, Galloway, Craig, Kaminsky), and Paul will probably opt out. Lots of holes to fill. To make more room the team will have to decide what to do with guys like Crowder, Saric, and Carter. All three are good-to-great role players, with Crowder being so important to this team’s success. But he’s also the most valuable trade piece that isn’t part of the core. Tough decisions are likely to be made this offseason.
SDKyle: Top priority has to be figuring out the Chris Paul contract. Until that’s figured out, it’s hard to construct the team.
Next has to be shoring up the lack of size that made the Suns especially vulnerable against the Bucks. The same issue actually reared its head against the Lakers, but the Suns were able to overcome it especially because the Lakers’ weak supporting cast wasn’t able to take advantage of the effectiveness of Drummond and Co.
Last is to acquire another multi-level scorer, even if its just a sixth man type. someone who can create his own offense and not be reliant on the catch and shoot or cutting game.
SouthernSun: First, replace Dario. He’s probably out for the season. Going to need a solid 4/5 out there. Preferably a decent defender who can hit the three. Theis, depending on how much he costs, might be a good option. Dedmon and Dieng fit the bill as well.
Second, need a bit more firepower off the bench. If you can sign a guard/wing who is a little better at creating their own shot than either Langston or Moore, get them. Or trade for one. Alec Burks would be perfect. I’ve seen Terrence Ross be brought up as well as a trade target.
Third, replace the likely leaving Torrey Craig. If he can find a moderately sized deal elsewhere, I don’t think he’ll come back to the Suns for a minimum exception.
Alex S: Top 3 priorities for this offseason:
1) Retain CP3. Think this goes without saying but you don’t want Chris to move on to another franchise. Ideally, the Suns can either lock him into a 3 year extension around 90-100 mil or Chris accepts his P.O.
2) Keeping role players. The two key guys I’m referring to are Cameron Payne and Torrey Craig. The Suns could look to lock in Payne to a 3 year deal due to bird rights around 27 million total which would be a great deal for a legit backup PG. Torrey is an interesting guy because I’m not sure what his market value is at this stage of his career. I could see him getting 5 million so it’ll be interesting to see how the Suns prioritize him or not.
3) Extensions. I was tempted to say backup C specifically as a target for upgrade but the reality is locking up this young core is way more important long-term for this franchise. Ayton will presumably get his max offer and Bridges is going to be the one to keep an eye out for. You don’t want to be too aggressive with his negotiations but he’s a guy that can realistically get 100 million on the open market if he were a UFA tomorrow. I’m not expecting him to accept an offer under 100 mil but if you’re able to get him for less than that, that’s a steal.
Q2 - CP3 has to make a decision on his player option August 1 at the latest. What do you think he will do AND what do want him to do?
GuarGuar: I think CP is going to opt out and try for a multi year deal. This is his last opportunity to score a huge contract and I think he will try and take advantage of that. I’d prefer if he just opted in to his 1 year player option.
Sun-Arc: I’m pretty sure CP3 will opt out. Even with a bit of a “collapse” in the finals, he’ll still be a coveted market element. It all depends on what he wants- does he want just one more shot at a title or multiple more seasons? Will he simply chase a title and which team gives him the best shot at winning it all? Or does he really love the Suns.
My guess is he will want to chase a title over everything. And I think he might choose the Lakers on a smaller single-year deal, betting on his ability to have yet another shot the following year if that team is unsuccessful.
I’d love it if he wanted to stay with the Suns and take a three year deal for something under $20m/year, but I do not know if it is realistic to think he’ll stay at all. I also think he would require over $20/year to stay here rather than play with two superstars somewhere else.
SDKyle: I think he will and hope he will opt out in favor of a two-year deal that increases his overall compensation at the expense of the yearly price tag. I would love for CP3 to opt out and sign a 2 year $60 million deal. It gives the Suns a little relief and still gives him $60 million to replace the $44 million he’d be leaving on the table by opting out.
SouthernSun: I think he’ll either pick up his option and then do a couple year extension, pick up the option and then go into free agency next summer, or decline the option and sign a new deal with the Suns immediately.
I don’t think there’s any chance he leaves. Just makes zero sense. He just went to the Finals for the first time in his career, and his teammates are young and will only get better, particularly after getting so much experience packed into one post-season run.
What id prefer he do is pick up the option and then extend for two more years at a smaller amount. Still end up getting 90 million over three years though (what he purportedly wants).
Alex S: What I expect him to do: Opt out
What I want him to do: Opt out
You did everything you needed to do in order to convince Chris to stick around long-term. This offseason needs to be the time for Chris to decide if he’s fully committed to the nucleus or not. I don’t want to have Chris take the PO and then dip the following offseason ideally so getting that extension in place now is important. Yes, he’s not going to be a great player by the end of that deal but you can worry about that when the time comes.
Q3 - If for some reason CP3 decides to opt out of his contract and move on, what do think the Suns should do to fill the void at point guard?
GuarGuar: Well I don’t think Payne is a starting PG for a championship team. We’d need to acquire another star somehow. Dame and Westbrook are really the only ones available it appears.
Sun-Arc: Finding a CP3 replacement is the many-million-dollar problem. I’d love to be able to swing a trade for Brogdon or Shai, but those are probably crack-pipe dreams. This will definitely take careful maneuvering from the Suns. We have to hope Paul gives the team some warning prior to the free agency date so the team can start working on something early. I’m sure they’ll prep to replace him either way- but it would be great to know what is coming before it happens.
SDKyle: Replacing Chris is impossible. But the Suns could make a run at some of the free agents that include Kyle Lowry, Spencer Dinwiddie, Mike Conley, and even Goran Dragic. The Suns’ window is now, so I’d want them to try to acquire a veteran PG with playoff experience rather than hope to just promote Cam Payne and run with Carter/a draft pick as the bench guards.
SouthernSun: Oh please no. That would be awful. I suppose you immediately look at trying to land a trade for Lillard then.
Other than that, your options become:
- Kyle Lowry (not a bad replacement)
- Lonzo Ball (not nearly as good but upside and much younger)
And not a whole lot else... on the free agent market anyway. Reggie Jackson? Oof. He was good in that series but you don’t replace CP3 with him and assume the same level of play.
All in all... just hope CP3 stays. I think he will.
Alex S: Go all-in on Damian Lillard.
Look, there’s not one guy on this roster that I don’t respect or want to be a part of the future for the Phoenix Suns. At the end of the day, star power is the biggest factor in winning and there’s an obtainable star on the market that has ties to Devin Booker (and Bridges). If it takes Ayton and/or Bridges to make it happen, I’m sorry but I’m going to do it. If you have Dame and Devin running the backcourt together for the next 5 years, I like your odds of competing each season and attracting big-name pieces in the open market.
That being said, I still don’t see that happening this offseason.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle, SouthernSun and Alex S. - for all their extra effort every week!
This Week in Suns History
On July 19, 2001, the Phoenix Suns re-signed Dan Majerle to a one-year, $1 million contract. Seven years earlier Majerle was traded to Cleveland for John “Hot Rod” Williams, a move the Colangelo’s later regretted.
On July 19, 2017, Suns PG/SG Brandon Knight suffered a torn ACL while playing pickup basketball in Florida. Knight would miss the entire 2017-18 season and never played for Phoenix again. One year later he (along with Marquese Chriss) would be traded to the Houston Rockets for Ryan Anderson and De’Anthony Melton.
On July 20, 2007, the FBI opened an official investigation of NBA referee Tim Donaghy for allegations that he bet on games that he officiated during his last two seasons and that he made calls that affected the point spread in those games, including the Suns’ 2007 Western Conference Semifinals loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Donaghy pleaded guilty to two federal charges related to the investigation and was later sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.
On the same day, the Suns traded Kurt Thomas plus two firsts in 2008 (Serge Ibaka) and 2010 (Quincy Pondexter) to the Seattle SuperSonics for... luxury tax relief.
On July 24, 1996, the Suns officially signed their 1st round draft pick (15th), Steve Nash to a 3-year deal worth $992,300 a season. Nash specifically said he wanted to be an assist guy for the team.
Interesting Suns Stuff
Phoenix Suns thanks fans for supporting
Unknown Facts About Chris Paul | Top 10 AMAZING Facts About Chris Paul
PHOENIX SUNS LOGO 780 Rubik’s Cubes
Devin Booker scored 601 points in his first appearance in the NBA playoffs. This is the highest point total by a player in his first playoff appearance in NBA history. His playoffs point total is already 13th on the Suns All-Time Playoffs Points Leaders list and is the 2nd most points scored in a single playoffs behind Charles Barkley’s 638 scored in 1993 (in two more total playoff games). His 27.32 career ppg playoffs average is currently the best in Suns history.
The Phoenix Suns’ all-time playoff win/loss record now stands at 147-149 (.497) which is the 10th best in the NBA and the best all-time playoff record among teams that have not won an NBA championship.
Devin Booker will be the 6th player to represent the U.S. at the Olympics while on the Suns’ roster and each of the previous five have medaled. He will join Shawn Marion (2004-bronze), Amar’e Stoudemire (2004-bronze), Jason Kidd (2000-gold), Charles Barkley (1996-gold & 1992-gold) and Dan Majerle (1988-bronze).
The Suns were +4000 to win a title preseason.
CP had one hell of a postseason.— StatMuse (@statmuse) July 21, 2021
— 19 PPG, 9 APG
— 4:1 AST:TOV ratio
— 22p/8a on 55/52/75% in Finals
— First career Finals
— First career sweep
— COVID and shoulder injury
— Oldest 40p in a closeout game
— Most 15a/0tov games since 1980 pic.twitter.com/EnZ6PljZbh
Chris Paul’s teams blown leads:— StatMuse (@statmuse) July 21, 2021
2-0 vs Spurs in 2008
2-0 vs Grizzlies in 2013
3-1 vs Rockets in 2015
2-0 vs Blazers in 2016 (broken hand)
3-2 vs Warriors in 2018 (hamstring)
2-0 vs Bucks in 2021
He is the first player ever to blow four 2-0 leads in a best-of-7 series. pic.twitter.com/HZ6GZQaUZZ
Deandre Ayton first career playoffs:— StatMuse (@statmuse) July 21, 2021
He is the first player in NBA history to average 15/10 on 65 FG% in a single playoffs (min 10 games). pic.twitter.com/Tzwfw36QUL
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “Will Chris Paul return to - or near to - his best form before the Finals are over?”
51% - Yes.
49% - No.
A total of 173 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Will CP3 stay with the Suns next season or move on to another team?
This poll is closed