Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
The Fantable - a round table of Bright Siders who give their takes on the Suns latest issues and news - is back!
Fantable Questions of the Week
Q1 - My opinion is that we won’t really know how good this team really is until about 20 games into the season. What are your hopes and predictions for where the team’s record to be at that 20-game mark?
Author’s Note: All questions were asked & answered before last night’s Suns/Warriors game.
GuarGuar: I’m hoping after 20 games we are at least 12-8. I don’t have extremely high hopes for this team as currently constructed. The bench appears to be a major issue and until that is addressed I don’t see us being very dominant.
OldAz: My hope and prediction is about the same, somewhere around 13-7 or 12-8 (so let’s call 13 wins the hope and 12 the prediction). The Suns core has played together long enough that they will get some wins just because of that. It is also a record that will allow them to give up a win or 2 by integrating other players at crunch time (like DA having the ball late against the Blazers). I have said before that I will happily trade a few wins for player development that will pay dividends later.
Cliff30: Last year at game 20 we were 17-3 on a 16 game winning streak that ultimately extended to 18. Our 2-1 start has us better than the 1-3 last year. So maybe even without such a huge streak I’d hope we could try to get close to the same 17 wins in our first 20. But that’s tough. Especially with one loss on the books and two games against the Warriors and an extended East Coast trip. I think 13-7 is much more of a realistic prediction. That would put us on a 53 win pace, which was good enough to win the East a year ago. And given that I think the West will be more competitive overall this year, I don’t think it’s going to take 60 plus wins to be atop the conference this season. So I expect that to have us right in the mix for the one seed.
Jim C: Well we already lost one game so 20-0 isn’t going to happen.
I think my hope answer is 16-4... at least 15-5. Even though home court advantage resulted in humiliation in front of the home crowd during the playoff collapse last season, if the goal is a championship then home court would be beneficial. That kind of record puts the team in good shape to compete for a #1 overall seed. It would also assuage concerns that the team has regressed after a... weird offseason.
The prediction is 13-7. The Suns have enough tough games... Golden State twice, at Philly and Miami, etc. that I think 15-5 or better is a tall order. They do have a six game homestand starting... with an unusual home and home... both against the Blazers... on November 4ht and 5th. Maybe that can get them rolling. Anything much worse than that would be pretty disappointing and reinforce the criticism of what some perceived to be a lackluster summer.
Rod: I just never bought into a lot of the gloom and doom talk. The Suns are still a very good team and 2-1 so far with a really nice win over a healthy Clippers team that virtually no one predicted. I’m thinking that a 13-7 or even a 14-6 start isn’t out of the question but I’m going to predict 12-8.
Q2 - What have you seen on the court in the regular season games that you like or don’t like so far?
GuarGuar: I like how this year our offense isn’t so Chris Paul centric. We are letting other guys run the show and that will be key for us come playoff time. We can’t be so one dimensional.
What I haven’t liked it Monty continues to always play this soft pick and roll coverage and that’s why Luka and Dame both went for big games on us already this season. I hope that changes.
OldAz: 3 things stand out to me:
- Book and DA are clearly the heart and soul of this team. I like seeing them utilize the 2 man game and look more for DA in the 2nd half and especially the 4th quarter.
- Jock Landale looks like a very good pickup. If he can be active, effective, and continue to grow his role James Jones will have picked up a gem.
- Craig was also very encouraging in the Clippers game. My hope is that with regular minutes, his energy will translate into production closer to what the Suns got in2021 from him. They desperately need it as he is currently the backup 4 and an active rebounder.
Cliff30: Booker (who we keep expecting to plateau because how much better can he possibly get?) has been even better to start the year. Not that I expect him to continue to shoot 53% from three all year. But he’s always seemed like a guy you’d expect to shoot an elite 40% plus. Maybe this is the year it finally happens. If he can average 30 points per game on 50/40/90 splits he’s going to be a true MVP candidate.
I have not liked how banged up Cam (Johnson) is. Is playing the starting 4 putting too much physical wear and tear on him? That and Chris Paul’s 1/11 start from three. It’s a very small sample. But it is following up his lowest three point shooting percentage season since his rookie year. I was really hoping his shooting could bounce back and he could be more aggressive in that department as shooting is typically a skill that ages well. But it’s very concerning after a down season to have that slow of his start given he’s at an age where steep decline could happen at any time.
Jim C: Like - Devin Booker has been more aggressive with the ball going to the basket. The team will benefit from him getting to the line more if this continues. Booker has just looked amazing period. This is 100% his team. Ayton has been a little more aggressive too. I like him using more of his fouls, but he also needs to stay on the court. Hopefully he can learn that balance. The bench has been much better than I anticipated. If they keep it up I would love to be wrong about thinking the bench would be worse this season.
Dislike - Ayton needs to attack the glass. The Suns have actually been hanging in rebounding so far, but he needs to swallow up rebounds on a team without a second strong rebounder. Cameron Johnson has me worried about his ability to stay healthy and I still don’t see the Cam I saw before his injury last season. Chris Paul has at times looked old.
Rod: What I like:
- After 3 games, Book is averaging 32 ppg and quite efficiently. And after 4 games...
- DA looks good out there. Although he’s been a little foul prone (averaging 4.7 fouls per game), he seems less hesitant and more decisive than in the past. I’ve accepted the fact that he’s never going to be the kind of big that always tries to tear the rim off the backboard with savage dunks and is more of a finesse big. As long as he keeps improving and adding to his game, I’ll be satisfied.
- Jock Landale... period.
What I don’t like:
- CP3 doesn’t seem to have his shooting touch back yet. 32.1% from the field and 9.1% from three are worrisome numbers. It’s still very early in the season though and his 10.7 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 2.7 steals per game and the best defensive rating (101) on the team are proof that he’s far from “washed”. Hopefully he gets back on track and puts my worries about his shooting to rest soon.
- The bench is also still a bit of a worry to me. I have a feeling that it’s going to get better as the season goes on though as many players on our bench are new to the Suns and still learning how to play with each other.
Q3 - Was putting a contract extension for Cam Johnson on the back burner a good or a bad decision for the Suns?
GuarGuar: Unless we got him to sign a team friendly deal I think putting it off till later was the right decision. He needs to prove he can be a reliable 82 game starter before we dish out even more money to this core.
OldAz: You are going to be hard pressed to find anyone still calling this a bad move on the Suns part. Sure the contract will look like a good value in a couple years, but Cam J has got to find a way to both stay on the court AND be more effective. He did look better against the Clippers, but he has been very fragile during his career and that appears to be exasperated early in this season. If the team is going to commit $20M+ to a player, he has to be available to contribute the value that made the team pony that money up for in the first place.
Cliff30: I think it’s always better to get these extensions done. He’s a good player, you want him here long term. DA’s contract situation was a huge disruption. If they send Cam out to negotiate his best contract similarly it’ll be another extremely frustrating off-season where at the end of it we look pennywise and pound foolish. But I’d guess with the current ownership limbo nobody has the authority to sign off on such a significant future expenditure that will have serious LT implications.
Jim C: Referencing back to the previous question... Cam really has me worried about him. I thought he would flourish in this starting role, but so far (in a very small sample size) he still looks like the Johnson that struggled through the end of last season. Then I find myself constantly holding my breath that he is injured again.
His defense has been solid and he’s hitting his threes (.438), but not really filling out the box score e.g. zero FT attempts through three games. I’m just not sure they are getting enough from him to justify him getting paid as a quality starter. A guy who just plays good defense and makes threes is more of a sixth man than a starter. I predicted him to be the breakout player on the team this season so hopefully this is just a blip.
I really don’t like the idea of another Deandre Ayton situation, but I can see why the Suns might be leery of paying him long term and want to see more. He needs to stay healthy and show he’s a quality starter in this league. I would have probably paid him, although I don’t know for certain what the discussions entailed. The Suns might have been smart to hesitate... especially since locking him up complicates the future point guard situation.
Rod: I really do think that this will only become clear in hindsight. I’m also not sure what the Suns offered or whether Cam might have turned down a good/fair offer to bet on himself when he becomes a restricted free agent at the end of the season. If he has a really good season, the Suns might wind up having to pay more than they wanted to keep him but with him being an RFA they’re still in the driver’s seat.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members for all their extra effort this week!
This week’s poll is...
How many wins do you think the Suns will have when they reach 20 games played?
This poll is closed
15 or more.
Less than 10.