Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
If you missed Inside The Suns last week, that was on me. I was ill for most of the week and just not up to the task but we’re back this week with a new edition of ITS.
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 - Last season many fans were on the verge of panic when the Suns were 8-8 after their first 16 games. How do you foresee the Suns’ first 16 games going this season?
GuarGuar: 11-5 start after 16 games.
Sun-Arc: I think we will come out of the gate hot and hopefully stay that way. 12-4 out of the first 16.
SDKyle: So whether this is exactly right or not ( I’m sure it’s not), I’m picking the Suns to start 11-5. I think that would be a solid start that will establish them as once again a team that is going to be competing for a top playoff seed.
SouthernSun: So, 11-5. A good team with continuity should do well early in the season while other teams adjust.
Alex S: 11-5. I think the Suns should be in a good position to get off to a good start. The first two games being national TV games should be some extra motivation to get off to a good start and there are some favorable matchups in the first 16.
I’m more concerned about maintaining health deeper into the season we go more than anything.
Rod: I’m starting out very optimistic. 13-3.
Q2 - Cameron Johnson came into the NBA as a small forward but has spent a lot of his time with the Suns playing power forward. He’s played well at both but which position do you think is the most natural fit for him?
GuarGuar: I think him as a Power Forward provides more value on offense. Being so mobile and such an elite shooter as a 4 is a crazy good mismatch. Defensively he has shown he can handle bigger assignments too. He held his own all playoffs. Won’t be surprised if we are calling him to start at some point this year.
Sun-Arc: I think he’s pretty comfortable in either forward spot, but seems to excel a bit more as a power forward in smaller line ups, in particular off the bench. He’s a decent defender, but it seems he does a bit better guarding opposing bench PFs than SFs or guards. Not to say he does a bad job there. I also think his floor spacing was more needed at the PF position.
Monty seems to agree, since his % at the PF position went up to 93% this past season, according to BB-ref.com.
SDKyle: His height screams PF, but if we’re being honest his skillset screams SG. So I suppose SF is his most “natural” position. That said, the lines between positions have blurred to such a degree in the modern NBA that I no longer lose too much sleep worrying about who is playing what specific traditional position. “wings” have become generally interchangeable with each other, to the point where I’ve seen teams running lineups where the supposed SG is an inch or two taller than the supposed SF.
What really matters is whether the team is putting out there a solid combination of offensive skills and defensive versatility. And Cam Johnson has shown he has the defensive versatility to competently guard more than position, and he can shoot, so I’m not worried.
SouthernSun: I believe Cam Johnson is a slightly more natural 3, but he is almost just as suited for the 4 as well, especially if he adds a bit more muscle. He’s a decent defender on the perimeter as well as inside. I really consider him all purpose. He fits into just about any lineup.
Alex S: I actually think PF might be the best for him because there aren’t many 4’s that abuse him on the offensive end. Meanwhile, Cam’s offensive game becomes an even bigger plus when getting guarded by bigs and the Suns have enough versatile forwards/centers to create optimal matchups for Johnson.
That being said, I have no issue with him getting solid minutes at either position.
Rod: While I think he can play either position well, power forward probably suits him best especially as he continues to add weight/muscle. As long as the extra weight doesn’t slow him down, he can continue to play either.
Q3 - Monty Williams seems to like Abdel Nader quite a bit. What do you like and dislike about his game?
GuarGuar: His aggressiveness is what I both like and dislike about his game. At times it’s much needed as we don’t have many players who attack the rim. Other times though it appears selfish and leads to wild shots or turnovers that kill possessions. His defense is also a valuable asset that he brings.
Sun-Arc: I really like Nader - for the money. He isn’t starter quality on a contending team, but even then I could see starting him in a pinch. He’s a plus defender with a huge wingspan, athletic, and shot 42% from three last season on a decent rate (.371). More than that, he gets to the rim and the FT line. While he didn’t play a ton (355 minutes), he had the highest FT rate on the team- just a hair higher than Booker.
Having said all that, there is a reason he wasn’t coveted by other teams this offseason. He is inconsistent as a player- a streaky shooter at times, but also with his on-court awareness. Though I believe many of his defensive lapses in the playoffs were the result of his injury keeping him out of the last couple of months in the regular season when the team changed to a switching defense. Nader looked lost at times- but he did not have the reps the others did.
One other aspect is how he fits into the “.5” system. Last season he had a career high in AST% (7.3) and USG% (19.0), which is good, but also had a higher TOV% (12.6). That means he was more apt to turn it over than pass. He had an equal total of TOs to AST (19). Though I think his role was to get to the rim or line when he had the ball, which explains the slightly higher usage rate. And on the relatively small sample size, this may all be numerical bull-hockey. Yet it would be a good idea for him to fit into the ball-movement offense a bit more- albeit while also going for the rim.
One last quick note… His minutes had gone up each season until last; from 522, 694, to 867 before the trade. And although he is about to turn 28, there could be more upside to him. According to BB-ref.com, he under contract in PHX for the three next seasons at a great rate. Hopefully we’ll see some of that upside before he turns 31.
SDKyle: I like Abdel Nader’s aggression and shot selection. He’s a classic advanced stats darling, albeit a low volume one, because he maximizes either taking threes or getting inside 10 feet to take high percentage twos. What I don’t love about his game is that he is a very limited passer...his court vision seems pretty basic and if he’s not shooting it he’s usually just giving it back to the PG (or whoever is running the action at the moment) for a reset. But that’s admittedly a bit of a nitpick for a guy playing a 9th or 10th man kind of role.
SouthernSun: I like that Nader is willing to attack the basket. Suns need a guy like that. I just prefer that guy be better than Nader. But he showed he could be a fairly competent player this season. He’s not bad defensively. He can hit threes. I would have preferred they kept Torrey Craig for his role, but Torrey makes more than twice as much, so I get it.
Alex S: I like Abdel’s ability to slash, get to the rim off the dribble, and his surprisingly solid 3 ball offensively. Defensively, I really like his athleticism, length, and ability to disrupt plays around the rim.
The things I hope to see improvement on involve one thing for each side of the ball. On offense, a bit less tunnel vision/hunting his shot because he hasn’t taken an attempt in a few possessions. Defense, don’t reach/foul as much. He’s too athletic and quick to have to depend on reaching as much as he does.
Rod: The thing I like most about Nader is his aggressiveness. He also makes quick decisions which makes him a good fit in Monty’s offense and his long arms (7’1” wingspan) allow him to be disruptive in the passing lanes when on defense. I do think that he gets a little tunnel vision when he decides to drive though which sometimes gets him into trouble.
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
Chris Paul’s Top 10 HANDLES from SUNS HISTORIC 2020-21 Season!
Devin Booker’s Top 10 Handles from the 2020-21 NBA Season!
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “On paper, which team looks like the best in the West?”
53.3% - Suns.
38.9% - Lakers.
02.5% - Jazz.
05.3% - Another team.
A total of 244 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
What do you think the Suns’ record will be after 16 games this season?
This poll is closed
12-4 or better.
10-6 or 11-5.
9-7 or worse.