Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
Each week the Fantable — a round table of Bright Siders - give their takes on the Suns’ latest issues and news.
Fantable Questions of the Week
Q1 - I read an article today that described the Suns as “Devin Booker and a bunch of high-end role players”. Do you agree with this assessment?
GuarGuar: I view Ayton, CP, and Mikal as more than “high end role players” so I disagree with that assessment. None of them a true dominant stars right now but they are all top 50 players in the league. That’s way better than a high end role player.
OldAz: This is fair, but self inflicted. Monty has a system that basically limits Mikal and DA to a role. In that system, the PG is going to control the action, especially when that PG is Chris Paul. The Suns were so bad before “the Bubble” that adding a CP3 and taking a giant leap was an opportunity they could not pass up. Unfortunately, the system and easy success inhibited the growth of those players into more than the role that was asked of them. Now that CP3 is on the decline, they are having to play catch-up and we can see glimpses of what it could look like for the next 5 years when it is working. Monty just needs to allow for more experimenting with their offense and give them room to fail and grow.
Philip: That’s how I would describe the (everyone-is-healthy) starting lineup. Between Mikal and Cam’s offense, DA’s efficiency, and CP’s facilitating, the starting lineup is a thing of beauty, almost perfectly constructed around the explosive scoring and playmaking of Devin Booker.
I’m less convinced that “high-end” is an appropriate description for the rest of the roster. Is Damion Lee a high-end shooter? Of course. Is Torrey Craig a high-end rebounder? Sure. Is Josh Okogie becoming a high-end stopper before our eyes? I hope so!
But, those are high-end individual (sometimes isolated) skills. I can’t bring myself to call any of the guys on the bench “high-end.” That’s why I think the margin of error for this Suns team is razor thin if they’re wanting to make a deep playoff run.
Ethan: That sounds harsh... but may not be too far off. I think the sentiment here is that Batman doesn’t have a Robin, and that seems accurate. Sticking to the superhero theme, I believe there are some teams that can go with (or at least attempt) the Avengers: End Game approach of “We have a lot of people who are fighting hard and not quite cutting it, but here comes Captain Marvel to cut the entire army and warships in two.”. Unfortunately, Booker isn’t Captain Marvel, so yeah, he may need some help (a weird sentence that may have never been written before this moment.)
Rod: At this point in time I’d have to agree with it. CP3 is past his prime, DA and Mikal have yet to prove to be more than that (although I do NOT think either has reached his ceiling yet) and Cam Johnson still has a lot to prove too. The Suns may already have that 2nd star on the team but he just hasn’t grown into it yet... but that is also something that none of them may ever do.
Q2 - If the description of the Suns in Q1 is accurate, the acquisition of a 2nd All-Star/All-NBA player would seem to be the Suns’ priority if they want to compete for a championship. Do you agree and is acquiring such a player even possible if the James Jones is truly limited in his ability to trade future 1st round draft picks?
GuarGuar: Even though I disagree with the assessment in Q1, I do agree that we need to go after another star. I don’t think we’re limited in trading draft picks but regardless we need another guy. We have no shot creators outside of Booker. It’s a massive problem for us. Acquiring such a player without draft picks would be incredibly difficult.
OldAz: I wouldn’t call it the top priority. Rather, Jones has put them in position for it to be a good opportunity with reasonable expiring contracts and all their draft picks. However, if Jones can’t use those assets how they were intended leading up to this season, or if he avoids a really good deal hoping for the ultimate deal, then that opportunity vanishes quickly. Either way, the top priority should still be on developing DA and Mikal, and getting Booker to accept sharing the spotlight with one of them like he was willing with CP3.
Philip: At this point in the season, I’m not sure it matters if James Jones had free reign to do whatever he wanted. Who would the Suns get who is an All-Star/All-NBA player? Even more, which of those guys would actually fit this roster and make the team better?
After getting past guys like Julius Randle, Zach Lavine, and Demar Derozan, you’re not really talking about guys who are or even can become All-Star/All-NBA. Instead, you’re talking about finding guys who are actually “high-end role players” and trusting that Devin Booker is enough star power to facilitate a deep playoff run.
Ethan: Yeah, I think you have to. There needs to be some talent upgrade, and I think you’d want to prioritize increasing your star power in spots 1-3 rather than strengthening your roster at 4-10. I think the only way that happens is by trading picks, and possibly lots of them. Booker is very close to reaching the status of “You can’t possibly waste this guy’s prime, so do whatever it takes”, so I think that decision will have to be made.
Rod: Well, we don’t know for certain that Jones is limited in what he can include in trades but, if he is, the Suns are likely limited to getting nothing more than “high level role players” back in any trade they make. But getting one of those back in exchange for another one who isn’t playing (Crowder) would still be a win even if it’s not a trade that greatly increases the Suns’ possibility of returning to the Finals.
Q3 - The Suns are dead last in Defensive Free Throw Rate (how many FTs made by opponents per 100 FG attempts) and 29th in Offensive Free Throw Rate (how many FTs they make per 100 FG attempts). Are the Suns really just bad in both of these areas or could the conspiracy theorists be right about NBA refs not calling Phoenix games fairly?
GuarGuar: I think it’s a combo of the way our roster constructed and us having bad relationships with the referees. We don’t have many slashers and our big men all shy away from contact on the offensive end. Our only guy who draws fouls is Book. Defensively I don’t really have an explanation for it other than we lack size and bigger teams can get us in foul trouble. Paul and Booker both having very questionable relationships with the refs doesn’t help either.
OldAz: People need to accept that this is more than a conspiracy theory. There is actual proof and testimony from disgraced ex- officials citing that they officiated the Suns differently and why (Sarver and his antics). When you have that type of evidence AND your eyes are telling you it is still happening ever since then, it is NOT a conspiracy. On top of that, officiating is bad league wide. Basketbell is the toughest game to officiate because of the free flow of movement and crazy athleticism. Officials routinely call games unevenly from game to game and even team to team, and home court advantage and superstar treatment are often very real things. That being said, the Suns do need to attack the basket more and force the officials to make calls on offense. This is not a strength of the Suns, but the officials play a big role too.
Philip: Let’s just focus on the offensive end:
According to the NBA’s shooting data, the Suns rank 4th in field goal attempts per game from 5-9 feet, 1st in field goal attempts from 10-14 feet, 5th in field goal attempts from 15-19 feet, and 2nd in field goal attempts from 20-24 feet.
The Suns rank 29th in the league in field goal attempts from less than 5 feet.
If those field goal attempts are indicative of the overall shot selection, the offensive free throw rate is anything but surprising. The Suns are not taking as many shots where they have a higher likelihood to be fouled.
Ethan: I’m not a big conspiracy theory guy, so I’m going to say the numbers just are what they are.
Rod: I really don’t believe in conspiracy theories but I do believe that there are a lot of refs that don’t particularly like the Suns which can influence their calls at times. Book seems to have toned down his jawing at the refs lately but he’s already gotten 5 techs this season and all that jawing has to rub them the wrong way.
Much of it though is the way the Suns play and not frequently driving hard to the basket. Jump shooters just don’t get fouled that often.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members for all their extra effort this week!
Last Week’s poll results
Last week’s question was, “As a team, do you consider the Suns “soft”?”
76% - Yes.
24% - No.
A total of 314 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Do you think the description of the Suns as "Devin Booker and a bunch of high-end role players" is a fair one?
This poll is closed