Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix 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 were 29th in getting to the free throw line last season. What do you consider to be the main reasons for this and do you expect it to change this season?
Sun-Arc: There are probably a couple of reasons why we had so few FTA.
- Through all the years of suckitude, we never got calls we should have. This started to change this past year as we returned to relevance.
- Booker, in particular, got fouled a lot without calls - even in 2020-21. He had a higher usage rate than Dame Lillard, and yet Devin had a significant lower FTA per 36 than Dame did (7.3 vs 6.2).
- All four of our other starters are “slithery” and/or perimeter-based on offense rather than about power. Per game: Ayton had 2.5 attempts, Bridges had 1.8, Crowder 1.3. Even CP3 only had 2.6 per game.
- Compare #3 to Lillard’s Blazers, who’s other starters shooting quite a bit more FTA (Powell 4.0, Nurkic 3.1, McCollum 2.8, Kanter 2.3). That is a difference of 12.2 vs 8.2, or 4 FTA per game. If we went from 18.7 to 22.7, we would have been 8th in the league this past season. Portland was at 21.7 Att per game overall.
- I have nothing to base this on except the eye test, but some of the low FTAs seemed to be by design, to not slow the game down on either end. Do not foul on defense and try to score on offense - to not give the opposition a rest. Maybe a coaching decision based on having a young team full of slithery perimeter players and a nimble center? Not sure.
I hope it changes next season. I hope a good chunk of the change is Ayton finding his inner “Amare-physicality” on offense. I do expect the refs to give us more respect next season. Though I could also see that being a false expectation.
Alex S: Main reason for this is not having a forward or center whose a rim hunter. When your starting five consists of Mikal, Jae, and Deandre you’re going to lack FTs from your 3-5 position.
I do expect Devin to get a better whistle next year due to the respect factor so the key is going to be DA. If he can be more aggressive, the Suns could jump closer to ~20th as opposed to towards dead last.
Rod: I think there were several reasons for this but no clear #1 reason.
- Monty’s offense is designed to keep the ball moving until an open shot develops. Open shooters are rarely fouled.
- Suns players mostly try to avoid contact when shooting, even in the paint. Ayton especially should be getting to the line more often if he would attempt to power through defenders rather than finesse his way around or over them at the rim.
- Booker certainly should have been getting more calls all along but I think that his frequent complaining about not getting calls hasn’t gone over well with a lot of refs and they’ve let a lot of fouls against him go uncalled.
- For a long time the refs (and the NBA in general) just had no respect for the Suns.
Will it change this season? I think the Suns will go up the ladder in getting to the line in respect to other teams but the actual amount of FTs might not be much higher because of the NBA’s new rule changes to limit non-basketball moves used to draw fouls. Those changes include:
- When a shooter launches or leans into a defender at an abnormal angle.
- When a shooter kicks his leg (up or to the side) at an abnormal angle.
- When an offensive player abruptly veers off his path (sideways or backward) into a defender.
If the contact drawn through these moves is considered “more than marginal”, they will be called as offensive fouls but otherwise will be a no-call.
Q2 - Last season, Devin Booker’s minutes per game (33.9) were the lowest since his rookie season (2015-16) and down a full 2 minutes a game compared to 2019-20. Do you think his regular season minutes could/should go down even more this year?
Sun-Arc: I’ll stick with the Lillard comparison here. Dame played a brutal 35.8 mpg last season - nearly 2 minutes more than Devin. But given Book missed less games last season, I’ll take it. CP3 and Payne’s presence allowed Book to play less and therefore play harder - particularly on defense.
I hope he gets to play a little less simply because Shamet ends up being that good and Payne too. I definitely do not think his minutes go up - unless something really bad happens. I’ll leave the “should” part of the question to the coaches.
Alex S: I don’t necessarily see Devin getting less mpg than last season but maybe a few DNPs? I don’t think Book is going to want to sit but there should more than likely be a conservation before the year starts with he and Chris in regards to their minutes. But 33/4 is already a pretty normal number and I don’t see that going down.
Rod: I’m not sure if Book’s minutes should go down this season but I think his average per game could go down slightly just because he might be able to play significantly fewer minutes in games against lesser teams. If Landry Shamet proves to be a quality backup for him and the rest of the bench’s offensive production improves a bit more, we could see the Suns needing him on the court a fair amount less against the league’s celler dwellers to insure a win than in the past.
Q3 - There was a poll on Suns Twitter not long ago asking whether a prime Shawn Marion or a prime Amar’e Stoudemire would help this current Suns team more. The results were roughly equal with Marion edging out Amar’e slightly (52.1% to 47.9%). Which would you chose?
Sun-Arc: I didn’t see that poll, but if that were only possible right now - WOW. That’d be a damn good starting lineup. Either player would be the PF, our position in most need of upgrade - though Crowder did a very good (great) job. Amare would take a lot of the pressure off Ayton to rebound and get to the rim - but Ayton seems to get into the defense more when he is involved offensively - and I think he’s so good I’d like to see the team push him to be “the guy” in the middle.
I’d have to go with Shawn for a couple of reasons.
- Doesn’t need the ball in his hands to do damage like Amare would.
- Can rebound just as well as Amare, but better passer, defender, and ball stealer.
- Comparing the VORP of both guys’ first 8 years in the league, Marion had double the VORP of Amare, showing he’s just an all-around more helpful player. And on a team that already has Booker, CP3, and Ayton, that’s what we need.
- Can you imagine the defense with Marion, Bridges, and Ayton together? Must see TV!
Alex S: I’m going against the favorite and I’ll pick Amare.
I think newer fans or maybe the time removed from the 2000’s era makes us forget collectively how dominant STAT was as a scorer. A team that consists of Amare and DA would be an athletic dream for a PG like Chris Paul and would be imposing on the glass. Amare’s shot was smooth from 20 ft and would translate well in today’s game, maybe even beyond the 3 point line.
Also, the SF position is far from a weakness for Phoenix having Mikal and Cam already.
I just enjoy the options Amare would bring and he was nearly a 1st on a championship level scorer in his prime.
Rod: I’d have to go with Marion. Unlike STAT, he was a great two-way player and played above his size when called on to play at PF. He would fit in perfectly at PF on this squad on both ends of the floor. Looking back at their stats when they were both in Phoenix, Marion also edged out Amare in rebounding (10.0 to 8.9 rebs per game) which the Suns need more of.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SouthernSun and Alex S. - for all their extra effort every week! (GuarGuar and SouthernSun did not participate this week.)
Interesting Suns Stuff
2020-21 Suns Compilations: The BEST of Cameron Payne!
2020-21 Suns Compilations: BEST of Mikal Bridges’ Defense!
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “What do you think the Suns’ record will be after 16 games this season?”
50% - 12-4 or better.
46% - 10-6 or 11-5.
04% - 9-7 or worse.
A total of 365 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
If it were possible to add a prime Shawn Marion or a prime Amar’e Stoudemire to this Suns team, which one would you choose?
This poll is closed