Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
Happy New Year! We here at Bright Side wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2022!
First up, we have some news from late yesterday.
ESPN Sources: The Phoenix Suns plan to sign free agent C Bismack Biyombo on a 10-day hardship deal. Biyombo, who started 41 games for Charlotte last year, brings some size and strength to Suns’ frontline depth. Deal could be prelude to a longer stay this season.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 1, 2022
Biyombo is a 29 year old 6’8”, 255lb 10-year NBA vet with a 7′ 6″ wingspan. He played for Charlotte, Orlando and Toronto with career averages of 5.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in 20.2 minutes. He went unsigned as an unrestricted free agent during the offseason.
And now, on to 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 - Cam Payne’s shooting percentages from the field (38.6%) and from three (30.6%) have been some of the worst of his career while his FG attempts (4th highest on the team this season) and TOs are his highest ever. What do you think might be the reason(s) for the drop in his stats this season?
GuarGuar: He’s had an ankle and a hamstring injury within the past few months. Logically I would think it has to do with that or the shortened offseason. There is a chance we are seeing a regression to the mean of who he is as a player. But it seems like a lot of his mistakes have been mental and fixable. I have hope Payne can turn it around and be that dynamic 6th man like last year.
Sun-Arc: While it is true that Payne’s shooting percentages are down quite a bit, he is actually scoring more pts per game (10.6) than any season (except the bubble games, which were a hair higher at 10.9). He’s also scoring more per 36 minutes than any previous season. His defensive rating is the best too, except for a rookie season of 686 minutes total.
I think Monty put pressure on him to put pressure on opposing defenses. But it is not working. I’m really not sure what the reason is. It might stem from often playing alongside several new bench players (McGee and Shamet mainly, but also Payton, Wainwright, Hutchison, Smith, and the seldom able Nader). Or it might be conditioning. Or it might be the pressure of being a ‘super sub’ playing for a contender that is getting to him. What ever it is, I hope and believe he will come out of it eventually.
SouthernSun: Probably trying to force the issue a bit too much. Trying to score like he’s in a rhythm when he isn’t in one. Suns don’t really have another creator off the bench, so he’s doing more than he should. Also doesn’t help that Book was out for awhile and Payne had to play without one of Book or Paul more than he probably should. I’m sure we’ll see him round into form as the season progresses/we get closer to the playoffs. At least, I hope.
Alex S: I’m legitimately not too concerned about the general percentage from the field because Payne has been great at attacking the rim and drawing multiple defenders at a time and allowing our bigs (McGee mainly) to get easy putback opportunities. What I’m more worried about is the dip is the 3% and I honestly think the main factor in that is shot selection.
He’ll make a three and then immediately get overconfident and take a really poor quality shot more than anyone else on the team. It’s fixable but it’s a matter of maintaining the appropriate confidence while still having a filter. I do think he’ll improve with time though.
Rod: Considering Payne’s age (27) and his struggles early in his NBA career, I think these are signs that he’s pretty much reached his ceiling but is still trying to push beyond that and do too much. He’s very good at driving to the basket but is 13th on the team in FG% within 3 feet of the rim, partially because, even when he drives to the right, he almost always tries to finish with his left hand. He also sometimes tends to either force bad shots on those drives or tries to make a desperation pass that sometimes results in a TO once he gets into trouble.
I like Cam Payne a lot but I think he has just almost reached his limits talent-wise and needs to play a little more within his limits to be a net-positive player.
Q2 - With players all over the NBA missing games due to health & safety protocols, how much of an impact do you think this could have on season records and ultimately conference seeding for the playoffs?
GuarGuar: Oh it’s going to have a huge effect on records and seedlings. It already has. Omicron is spreading very easily so we’re not just seeing 1 player out at a time for teams. In some instances like Toronto and Orlando almost the entire roster got it within a 2 week timeframe. It looks like we are being affected big time by it now too.
Sun-Arc: The replacement players will definitely have some effect on playoff seeding, depending on which teams suffer the most protocol player replacements over the course of the next few months. But I do not think it will make a huge difference unless something goes horribly wrong somewhere. Most of the good teams have good coaching staffs that can get new players in line quickly. Though the teams with the least depth may lose more games than those that are deep - like the Suns.
SouthernSun: If every team experiences it, then it shouldn’t affect much. Maybe the Lakers and Nets get slightly better flotsam than other teams and it helps their seeding.
Alex S: Oh it’ll definitely will have an impact on seeding. You’re talking about a few games for each team being dramatically impacted by roster losses due to Covid? That can potentially change a 5 seed to an 11 (look at the West for example).
I do think it’ll impact the Suns chase with the Warriors but ultimately I do believe Phoenix ends up a top 2 seed, maaaaaaybe a 3 if Utah goes crazy in the 2nd half of the year.
Rod: It really depends on how long the rash of players going into H&S protocols lasts. It will have some effect but not a huge one if - and that’s a big if - the number of players going in and out of protocols slacks off in about a month or so but if it persists through February or beyond the impact could be much larger. Either way, I think that the best teams will still secure playoff spots (although the seeding could be altered a bit) but it could play a large part in who gets the lower seeds and which teams make it to the playin stage.
Q3 - What are the most important New Year’s resolutions that the Suns should make (and keep)?
GuarGuar: 1. We need to strengthen the bench. Shamet and Nader are not going to be viable come playoff time. Payne is looking very shaky at the moment too. Going after guys like Eric Gordon would help tremendously.
2. Don’t panic/overreact to a bad loss when we have one. Every team has bad losses. Remember when we were terrible and beat that 5 All-Star warriors team? It happens to everyone no matter how good you are. How you respond is the better measuring stick of a team and culture.
3. More Point Book. We have the wings to make it work. Payne can be shaky at times and in those instances we should run Point Book. He’s an elite offensive talent and we should increase his role at times throughout the year and playoffs.
Sun-Arc: As a team, the players should have regular meetings (maybe every 2 weeks?) to assess where they are and what they can do to improve. Stick to that and they should stay bonded and work for each other.
Booker’s resolution should be to keep hitting threes the way he has been lately: 42.8%! Damn, Devin, keep it up and take more from distance!
Ayton… keep building up the aggression around the basket. Learn to play through people to draw more fouls and get more free throws!
Most importantly… Finals or Bust mentality. Get there and get the rings this time.
SouthernSun: Consolidate some talent in a trade to strengthen their top 7-8 rotation for the playoffs.
Keep CP3 fresh and healthy for the playoffs (and Book to a slightly lesser extent, since he’s not as old, but equally important).
Try and always have one of Booker or Paul on the floor at all times in crucial moments. Not enough creation with anybody else so need to have one of those guys running the show almost always.
Alex S: Sign DA next offseason. I think this is the easiest one to pick out but Deandre is a monster and deserves a max in my opinion.
Sign Cam Johnson to an extension. He’s a perfect wing for any franchise so getting him locked up is yet another important objective for the Suns this offseason.
Continue to get value from Jalen Smith. He deserves to be getting minutes in the NBA whether that’s for Phoenix or somewhere else. Showcasing him is a smart strategy to get interested bidders.
Rod: Get the ball inside to Ayton more often. I think Monty’s .5 offense sometimes penalizes DA to a certain extent because when he’s in the paint, there’s rarely an easy pass to be made to him (especially by the guys who aren’t great passers) so, if they don’t shoot or drive, they tend to whip the ball around the perimeter rather than attempting a more difficult pass inside.
Encourage Cam Johnson to shoot more each game. Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, 8.7 FG attempts per game (5.6 from three) isn’t enough. He should be (and could be) scoring closer to 20 ppg than 10 ppg. Give him the green light and make it as bright as possible.
This may sound harsh but... just go ahead and waive Abdel Nader. He only played in 24 of 72 games last season, 14 of 35 games this season and is just not good enough to keep a roster spot on hold in hope that his gimpy knee will suddenly get well - and stay well - on it’s own. He has veto power on trades which makes that a difficult option which is why that wasn’t my first choice.
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
Mikal Bridges has been THE best player in our Wing Stopper Role among Guards/Wings this season— BBall Index (@The_BBall_Index) December 28, 2021
Defensive Impact: 1st*
Matchup Difficulty: 3rd
Headshots & Scatter Plots App:https://t.co/Xnn6TCH5qD
*With a lead on 2nd as big as the gap between 2nd and 13th pic.twitter.com/bdOlx0IMA3
5 Reasons Why the Phoenix Suns will win the 2021-22 NBA Championship
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “Which stat concerns you the most?”
20% - Landry Shamet hitting on only 37.3% of his 2-point shots.
80% - Cameron Payne hitting on only 30.2% of his 3-point shots.
A total of 265 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
How do you rate Kevin Young’s coaching during Monty’s absence?
This poll is closed