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COTS2: Inside the Suns - Topics: The top teams in the West, Deandre Ayton and the Suns’ Christmas Day game

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Your weekly Inside the Suns analysis straight from the BSotS community who live and breathe the team.

2021 NBA Finals - Game Six Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Suns team.

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 be back on TV on Christmas Day against the Warriors. I would have preferred a Suns/Bucks game. What would have been your preference?

GuarGuar: Suns-Bucks would’ve been nice but I’m very excited to play the Warriors. That’s a really fun conference matchup. I’m just overall very happy we are finally playing on Christmas again. It’s been too long!

Sun-Arc: Honestly I don’t really care about playing on X-mas day. I’m generally hanging out with family and do not watch the games. But - heck, its been 12 years, so maybe I need to start caring and get a new tradition. Maybe I’ll end up caring who they play at that point.

For now, I don’t mind the Warriors as competition. I watch all the games anyway - so I’ll see them play GSW and the Bucks through the season. I just want them to win games, get in the playoffs, and get back to the WCF if possible. That’s what I’ll be watching for.

And, by the way - absolutely no offense to those that feel X-mas games are a big deal. I think we all get excited by different aspects of the season. I think it is great the Suns are getting more national spotlight on them, but I really care that much more about winning that these aspects about special tv appearances and holidays is way lower on my excitement spectrum.

SDKyle: I also would have preferred a championship rematch. It always feels a little more meaningful when there’s that “unfinished business” vibe.

That said, the Warriors are a fun matchup. They aren’t what they were, but they should still be a solid playoff team with some star power and it’ll be a good matchup.

SouthernSun: Yeah I don't really understand the Warriors vs Suns game idea. I mean, I'm glad we have a Christmas day game, but Suns vs Bucks makes more sense. That being said, I feel more confident about beating the Warriors in that game (I’m not sold on Klay being back to himself this year... just highly doubt that happens), so maybe the Suns winning a big Christmas day game on national television will help to continue to slowly revitalize their image to casual national fans who still think the finals run was a fluke. Aside from that, I wish it had been Suns/Bucks. Or even Suns Lakers. Either of those would have made a lot more sense. Nobody is scared of the Warriors this season. At least, not me, and I'm assuming a lot of people feel the same way.

Alex S: I would have preferred the Bucks as well but honestly Golden State might be the more enjoyable matchup. Playing at home on Christmas is a big deal! I definitely was hoping for a game as that shows a level of respect from the decision makers in the league in regards to where the Suns stand in terms of popularity and respect.

Rod: My preference is already in the question. Playing the Warriors is an okay matchup but watching a Finals rematch between the Suns and Bucks just seems like a more natural Christmas Day game to me. Perhaps it didn’t happen because neither Phoenix nor Milwaukee are considered “big market” teams by the NBA.

Q2 - Based only on team rosters as of today, who would you rank as the Top 8 teams in the West?

GuarGuar: Lakers, Suns, Warriors as the top 3 teams. Then the Clippers, Jazz, Nuggets, Mavericks. And the last team I think grabs the 8 seed is Portland.

Sun-Arc: This is the order I currently have the Western Conference teams arranged, top to bottom:

  1. Phoenix
  2. Utah
  3. LA Lakers
  4. Denver
  5. Golden State
  6. LA Clippers
  7. Portland
  8. Dallas
  9. Memphis
  10. New Orleans
  11. Sacramento
  12. Minnesota
  13. Houston
  14. Oklahoma

SDKyle: Top 8:

  1. Suns
  2. Jazz
  3. Nuggets
  4. Lakers
  5. Clippers
  6. Mavericks
  7. Warriors
  8. Blazers

I think spots 3-7 are pretty much up for grabs in my mind. The Mavs will either take a big step forward or they’ll realize this roster doesn’t work. The Pelicans could jump in there if Zion takes a big step.

SouthernSun: Disclaimer: I’m not saying what the seeds will be, I'm saying who the top 8 teams are talent wise. If we were talking seeding it would get more nuanced. For example, Lakers probably the top team, but chances are they rest guys due to “injury” more often to keep them fresh, at the expense of regular season win totals. And the Jazz, who very well might have the best record in the West again, aren’t the best team, particularly in the playoffs when defense ramps up and their only real go to offensive player is Mitchell.

Also, I'm factoring in injuries. So that will hurt the Clippers and Nuggets in this.

  1. Lakers
  2. Suns
  3. Jazz
  4. Mavs
  5. Nuggets
  6. Clippers
  7. Warriors
  8. Pelicans

Alex S: My current rankings of the top 8 would be different from my standings prediction but I’ll focus on the teams I feel are the best level of quality top-to-bottom.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers
  2. Phoenix Suns
  3. Utah Jazz
  4. Denver Nuggets
  5. Golden State Warriors
  6. Los Angeles Clippers
  7. Dallas Mavericks
  8. Portland Trail Blazers

I was very intrigued to throw New Orleans in the 8 spot but it’s not fair to do that with Dame still in Portland. The fringe two (play-in) choices would be New Orleans and Memphis.

I really am not a fan of Memphis’ offseason, almost doubling down on youth when I felt that Ja Morant showed signs that he was ready to compete now. Had the FO went the veteran route, I would’ve put them much higher.

People are also sleeping on the Clippers without Kawhi. Paul George can hold his own and their depth/coaching is high quality.

Rod: As much as I wanted too, I just couldn’t bring myself to give the number 1 spot to the Suns. My list was made without taking possible injuries into consideration although existing injuries that will carry over into the coming season were certainly factored in.

  1. Lakers
  2. Suns
  3. Jazz
  4. Nuggets
  5. Clippers
  6. Warriors
  7. Grizzlies
  8. Mavericks

I was tempted to put Portland into the top 8 but I doubt that the roster they have now will still be around when the season begins. New Orleans and Minnesota were also close to getting in my top 8 but I’m not convinced either are going to be able to push there way ahead of any of the other teams on my list... yet.

Q3 - Deandre Ayton took a huge step forward in his development last season. What is the one thing you would most like to see him add to his game this year?

GuarGuar: The thing about Ayton is his massive improvement came during our playoff run. Which while it was excellent timing, we haven’t seen that “Dominayton” throughout an entire regular season. I’d love to see him be a consistent force throughout the season like he was during playoff time. As far as a skill thing I want him to develop, it’s becoming a better catcher of passes. He’s great at grabbing the ball above the rim and finishing but when it comes to bounce passes or anything below the rim he can struggle at times. It’s led to too many turnovers.

Sun-Arc: I’d like to see Ayton add more physicality. Be a bull in the paint on both ends. More dunks! He seemed more aggressive in the playoffs, which is great, but I would like to see this all the time but also overall more physical. Move bodies. Dunk through people. Put his body in the paint on defense more. With this I feel he will definitely pick up more free throw attempts, which he really needs to add in as well. I think the FTA come with the physicality.

May he start getting ridiculous star treatment like Embiid, getting double digit FTA per game. lol

SDKyle: Get to the line! For the second year in a row, this is my priority for Ayton. Compared to other top centers, he attempts very few free throws. And he’s good at the line, so it’s a big missed opportunity.

Part of this deficiency is scheme, but a bigger part is Ayton’s preference to use a finesse move rather than a power move when he reasonably can. This season I would love to see him play for more contact and feel comfortable trying to finish through it.

SouthernSun: I would like for him to develop one of two things. Either a reliable three ball, or self creation. Him being able to put the ball on the floor a little more and create for himself. Either one of those would be absolutely huge for him. They would make him so much more of an effective offensive player.

Alex S: I think this season should be an opportunity to start attempting the 3 ball and diversify his offensive game just a little bit. The Suns are bringing back a ton of continuity so you know what to expect with the group. I’d love to see DA take some more chances this upcoming season to show off his all-around game.

Rod: Ball handling and dribble drive penetrations. I saw DA do this occasionally - and successfully - but he didn’t seem to be very comfortable doing it and often settled for short jumpers or passed the ball instead. Opponents have seen him settle for jumpers so often that he seems to catch them off guard when he drives and with his length it’s often one dribble and he’s at the basket for a dunk or layup.

As always, many thanks to our Fantable members - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle, SouthernSun and Alex S. - for all their extra effort every week!


Interesting Suns Stuff

Are the Phoenix Suns the Western Conference Favorites? | NBA Summer League | The Athletic

2020-21 Suns Compilations: BEST of Devin Booker’s ISO Scoring!


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “If the Suns do make a trade for a power forward, who would you prefer?

52.9% - Larry Nance Jr.

33.6% - Thaddeous Young.

13.5% - Someone else.

A total of 539 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

On paper, which team looks like the best in the West?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Suns.
    (130 votes)
  • 38%
    Lakers.
    (95 votes)
  • 2%
    Jazz.
    (6 votes)
  • 5%
    Another team.
    (13 votes)
244 votes total Vote Now