Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
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 - We’re at the midpoint of the season. Are the Suns above, at or below where you thought they would be before the season started?
GuarGuar: They are slightly above where I thought they would be at the start of the season. I expected a hangover period but I didn’t expect an 18 game win streak after. They’ve been rolling and have still won despite the injuries and Covid stuff. We are currently the 1 seed and I have expectations we keep it.
Sun-Arc: They are above where I thought they would be - partially because I could not imagine they would be even better than last season, as part of my “Suns fan’s inferiority complex” the 10 years of misery created. I figured we’d be top 4 throughout the season. But top of the league at the halfway point I would not guess.
A lot could go wrong this season still, but the team looks really resolute to get to the finals so far. Sure, the past two weeks have shown some cracks in the team’s ability to thrash the league. But some adversity is a good thing for them. They need to learn they still have to earn it.
The teams I fear to see the Suns play these days is pretty slim. GSW, UTA, MIL, BKN, plus the strong-looking MEM, hot-shooting MIA, and maaaaybeeee the Bulls and PHI (we’ll see). Basically I feel our record is where it should be given how well we played in that 18 game streak. Just need to get back on that wave towards the end of the season.
SouthernSun: Probably above. I didn’t think they’d be the top seed. I thought they’d be up there, maybe have it occasionally, but they’ve been the pretty clear cut top seed for awhile. I think they’ll rest Book and CP3 a little more nearing the end of the season and may slide down a bit, but who knows.
Alex S: Hard to say they’ve been below where I’d expect when they’re the best team record-wise in the league. I’d honestly say they’re a bit ahead of where I expected due to the massive win streak we had earlier in the year.
I was under the impression there was going to be a bit slower of a start due to fatigue/injuries/etc but turns out it was the opposite.
Now the real test will be staying motivated in February/March basketball when the playoffs are still a ways away. That’s where you need your bench to step up their play.
Rod: With the Suns on the radar of every team after making it to the Finals, I was thinking that a 58-win season might be their ceiling but now I think they can do better than that as long as they stay motivated. I was hoping for a lot from the Suns this season but wasn’t really expecting anything like that historic 18-game win streak. The players publicly seemed to downplay the importance of that streak but I’m certain that it fueled a lot of the players to play harder every night back then which played a big part in them being where they are in the standings today.
Q2 - It has been suggested that the Suns may need to try to find a backup point guard upgrade and move on from Cam Payne. What are your thoughts on this idea?
GuarGuar: Payne has definitely showed regression this season. Whether that is due to his injuries from earlier this year I don’t know. I hope that’s what’s going on. He’s been shot hunting and the shots simply haven’t been falling. I’d like to see him get others more involved. Elf hasn’t been amazing either so maybe a trade would be what we need. He’s looked unplayable in our games vs the warriors.
Sun-Arc: I am one of those people that think Payne will get his groove back. Though, the more poor showings he has, the more thin my patience gets. If we could replace Payton with someone better, I’d be for that. If Schroeder would want to play behind CP3 again, that would be pretty cool- and I do think he would be an upgrade over this current form of Payne.
Yet, Dennis is clearly a jerk and does not seem to get along super well anywhere. I trust Jones on what to do here. He and some of the players have an inside track on what Schroeder is really like in a locker room (JJ can just ask LBJ).
Who else is there that is available and better than Payne? Probably no one. And that might mean we stick with Cam Payne and hope for the best.
SouthernSun: I love the Haboob. However, yes. The Suns need another guard who can score and create. A wing who can do those things would be great, but really the ones who can are stars, and the Suns aren’t gonna mid season trade what is necessary to get one. So guard it is. Eric Gordon is probably available. Go get him. Have him take literally all the backup guard minutes. In the playoffs, always have two of him, Book, and CP3 on the court at all times. Payne is great once every 10 games when he’s on. The rest of the time...
Alex S: Its worth exploring if the deal is right but I’m not urgently looking for an upgrade if I’m the Suns. If Jalen Smith could get your a legitimate upgrade at the position, then sure! But I’m more worried about wing depth beyond Cam J/Mikal/Jae to be honest.
Rod: It’s an idea worth exploring. Payne’s never been a great distributor and his FG (38.8%) and 3-point (31.9%) percentages this season are some of the worst of his career. There hasn’t been a great deal of improvement as the season has progressed but there has been some (he’s shot 36.4% from three in the last 10 games but his FG% was still just 39.6%) which hasn’t been enough to soothe my doubts. I don’t think that it is something you want to gamble on and acquire someone that you just hope will be better. I would do it if the player coming back was a clear upgrade though. I like Cam Payne and really don’t want to trade him but I’ll get over it pretty quickly if they can bring back a more productive player to replace him.
Q3 - The Suns are presently 5th in 3-point percentage but 25th in 3-point attempts. Should they be shooting more threes?
GuarGuar: We only really shoot good looks. We take a lot of mid range shots as a team and have been better at not just settling for 3s. Maybe we should take a little bit more but I don’t want us forcing anything. Our offense has been excellent this year.
Sun-Arc: On whether they should be shooting more threes… two thoughts about this:
- Why argue with what is working?
- Hell yes they should, but there is an issue keeping them from doing so.
The issue with #2 is that the team does not take advantage of Ayton’s gravity potential, which would open up more shooting. In my opinion, he should be averaging 18 shot-attempts per game. He is currently attempting 11.6, which is slightly up from last season. He can be helping out so much more. And we know the more involved he is on the offensive end, the more he relishes defending at a high level.
Ayton can draw 2-3 defenders into the paint when he dominates there, which means someone outside is open. They need to take advantage of this strength a LOT more than they do.
Related: Cam Johnson needs to shoot more. Having him on the court with Ayton more, IF they use DA’s gravity, could help him average 4.5 made threes per game instead of 2.5, which would make a big difference.
SouthernSun: The Suns two starting guards are two of the very best mid range scorers in the league, so this isn’t that surprising. Also, their backup ball handler isn’t an amazing 3 point shooter. So again, not surprising. Oh also they don’t really have an active stretch big right now. So again, not surprising.
They’re shooting exactly the right amount of threes for the personnel they currently have available.
Does that mean they should maybe make a move that changes that personnel just a bit? Maybe.
I’m all for talent consolidation for the playoffs. And if the player they bring back happens to be a really good shooter, then that will probably result in an increase in attempts.
Alex S: I think they’re fine as is. They have a low block/lob threat duo in DA and JaVale. They have two great midrange threats in CP and Book. As long as the quality of attempts is still high, I don’t need them to change what they’re doing. It’s clearly working more often than not.
Rod: For the team in general, no. When they’re hitting threes, they do shoot more of them. When they’re not falling, they don’t abandon threes but they concentrate on scoring more from the inside and midrange. Some teams live or die by the three and I don’t want the Suns to turn into one of them. Cam Johnson should definitely be shooting more threes and should be shooting more period though.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SouthernSun and Alex S. - for all their extra effort every week!
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Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “Would you prefer the NBA to...”
88% - Continue playing games even using lots of replacement players.
12% - Postpone games when multiple players are out due to H&S protocols.
A total of 353 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Are the Suns going to finish the season with 60+ wins?
This poll is closed