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 were in the top 10 in both offense (5th) and defense (9th) last season (3rd in NetRtg). Do you think they will repeat that in 2021-22?
GuarGuar: I do think we will finish top 10 in both ratings again this year. The majority of our squad is back. We’ve arguably improved our defense by adding McGee as our backup center. Everybody knows the offensive system so there shouldn’t be a learning curve like there was early last year.
Sun-Arc: The Suns should be able to repeat being top 10 in offense and defense. If they do not, something went quite wrong. Whether they hit 3rd in the league in NetRtg is unknown. There will be surprise teams again this year, just like the Suns were last season (to many).
I would hope that both offense and defense improve at least a bit. Another year of Monty, another year of mostly the same players. The coaches should be able to devise some new wrinkles and get more out of players like Bridges and Ayton, plus add in Shamet on offense.
SouthernSun: I do think they will repeat that. Actually, I think they may even top it. The young guys are getting better and better, and now they have McGee backing up Ayton, which gives them another rim protector (and finisher) that they didn’t have last season when Ayton wasn’t on the floor. They also brought in Landry Shamet, who has a bit more creation ability than the guards off the Suns bench last season other than Payne. He also probably walks onto the team as the squad’s best pull up three point shooter. The Suns will be at least as good, if not better, barring injuries to key players.
Alex S: I would anticipate a top 10 season on each side of the ball again. There wasn’t too drastic of a personnel change so the variance can’t be too crazy, right?
I could see Phoenix taking a step back as a team coming off a Finals appearance won’t have quite the same drive in the regular season as they did prior. But the talent and scheme is still too good for me to see a drastic change from last year.
Rod: I think they will only get better on both ends of the court this season so a drop off likely only happens if they’re bitten hard by the injury bug. Adding McGee should improve their overall defensive rating as they had no real rim protector on the court last season whenever DA sat. Of course, other teams could improve enough either offensively or defensively to push the Suns lower in those rankings without them actually getting worse in either area.
Q2 - Of all the players on the Suns’ roster, only Devin Booker and Chris Paul have scored 40 or more points in a single game. Other than those two, which Suns player do you think is the most likely to have a 40+ point game?
GuarGuar: It would be very surprising but Ayton has to be the 3rd most likely to score 40 for us. It’s really all about usage when it comes to his scoring. If we were short a few guys and needed DA to be our top scoring guy for a game I can certainly see it happening. He’s had big scoring outbursts here and there.
Sun-Arc: Forty is a lot of points. I guess is Crowder just went off for 14 threes in a game? Half-kidding. He did hit 8 in a game this season. The way he throws them up… who knows.
I am tempted to say Bridges would be most likely to get to 40. He could hit a lot of threes and make it there combining getting to the line and making some easy interior baskets. He did score 34 on January 9th in Indiana. In that game he was 6 of 8 from three and 12 of 18 overall plus 4/4 FTA.
Shamet is always a threat to pour in 20 or more. He’s never scored more than 30 (which was this past season), but it could happen. In that game he was 7 of 13 from three and 10 of 17 overall, plus 5/8 on FTA. He could get there.
But I will go with Ayton. Although his highest scoring game was 33 points in his rookie season, we know his offensive potential is so damn high. There could very well be a game this season that he just totally dominates inside, gets a ton of calls, and breaches the 40 point mark.
SouthernSun: The most likely would probably be Bridges, the one with the best career high scoring night (34). The Suns most likely want Mikal to become someone who can reliably create offense in a pinch, so they will probably give him more touches to do just that during the regular season. Same goes for Ayton so he is second most likely, followed by Cam Payne. Shamet is a dark horse because, while I expect Payne to be handling the ball more, and get a few more minutes, so he will have more opportunity, Shamet currently has a better career high (30) than Payne (24).
Alex S: The obvious (and only) answer to this question is Deandre Ayton in my opinion. As much as I’d love to say Mikal or one of the Cam’s could go crazy in a game, I just don’t see a world where they would get enough touches to get 40.
DA? He could have a night where he starts 7-8 from the field in the 1st quarter with 20 pts and the opponent doesn’t have a quality big to slow down his rhythm. Furthermore, there will be an emphasis to get the best out of Deandre this season.
I think the team is gonna be motivated to get him to become an all-star caliber big this year.
Rod: I’m picking three guys as the most likely to get a 40 point game: Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Cam Payne.
A 40+ point game seems almost inevitable for DA at some point in his career if his offense continues to progress. Even this season, with a favorable matchup in a game, I could see the team feeding him the ball enough to pass that mark in a close contest. It would have to be a close game or they would likely pull him before he got 40 points. I don’t think it will happen until he starts drawing more fouls and getting to the FT line more often though.
Mikal’s already had a 34 point game. All I think he needs to get to 40 is a hot night from three and his teammates finding him regularly on cuts to the basket. He’s also great on finishing fast breaks so on a night where another team commits a lot of turnovers... easy buckets for him when CP3 and Book find him streaking down the court after a TO.
Cam Payne is a different story. First off, it would have to be on a night when CP3 is not playing and he gets to start (or he just plays heavy minutes). The playoff game against the Clippers where he got 29 and was not shooting well from three (2-8) convinced me that he has it in him to go all Tony Delk on any given night if he gets hot and gets enough minutes. For those who don’t get the reference, Delk was a backup, 6’1” shooting guard who never averaged over 12.3 ppg in a season during his 10 year career but went off for 53 points against the Kings back on Jan. 2, 2001 after getting a rare start.
Q3 - If you were coaching the Suns, what limits would you set on the minutes your starters play in preseason games?
GuarGuar: I don’t think I would play Booker/Ayton/Paul in any of the first couple preseason games. And then when they did play it would be like a maximum of 20 minutes. We are gearing up for another long season and potential long playoff run so rest will be key.
Sun-Arc: Protect CP3. No need to waste Booker or Crowder. But we do want to get the team humming. Bridges and Ayton can handle a bit more load to start the season. They were really durable last season. Plus Ayton can always use a bit of conditioning to start the season.
- CP3 (20)
- Booker (24)
- Bridges (28)
- Crowder (20)
- Ayton (28)
SouthernSun: I wouldn’t play Paul at all, even if he can go. Let that man rest as much as possible. Maybe a little bit in a the last game or two, but that’s it. I’d keep Booker below 20, and Mikal, Jae, and Ayton under 25. Not much other than that. Get them in rhythm, but don’t needlessly play them more than necessary in a preseason game. Our dudes played the most minutes in the NBA last season, and they have continuity. No big changes to incorporate. Take it easy.
Alex S: I would barely play the core group except for one of two halves. Practice should be enough to get the flow back and there’s no reason to risk injury for meaningless basketball.
Rod: I see no reason to play the starters much in the preseason since they already know each other well. It’s certainly an advantage of bringing back most of last year’s team and all of it’s starters. CP3 especially should spend most of the preseason games on the sideline coaching up other players. He, Book and Crowder don’t really need court time in meaningless games so I’d prefer keeping them all to 20 minutes or less. Bridges and Ayton... 24 minutes or less. Give them all enough court time to shake the rust off and that’s it.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SouthernSun and Alex S. - for all their extra effort every week!
Interesting Suns Stuff
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Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton’s Contract Extensions
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “Are you in favor of the rule changes listed in Q1 of the Fantable questions?”
% 94- Yes.
% 06- No.
A total of 149 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Other than Book and CP3, which Suns player do you think is most likely to have a 40+ point game?
This poll is closed