Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
Once again, we’ll start off this edition of with a look at the current Western Conference standings and playoff probabilities.
Graphic courtesy of PlayoffStatus.com.
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
Author’s Note: All questions were sent out to the FT members before the OKC and NO games were played.
Q1 - How much of a fall off do you expect to see in the Suns’ game with CP3 out?
GuarGuar: I think offensively there will be a big falloff in the second unit. We can hold our own when Book is on the floor but when he sits it’s going to be a big problem.
Sun-Arc: Noticeable and possibly significant on offense. Paul consistently finds his shots on his own and assists others at a very high volume. Losing that will hurt. Even if Payne plays like he did last season we will still notice the drop in offensive efficiency. All the other guys will have to step up to produce more of their own offense, and I think we will see some struggles there.
SouthernSun: The Suns will probably fall off some offensively. You just always will when a star is out. Particularly one that runs a whole lot of the offense for the team. Guys won’t get as easy looks, particularly Ayton, and that will perhaps result in the team being a bit less efficient and simply not as dynamic. But it does open the door to Mikal and Cam Johnson getting more opportunity to carry a bigger offensive load and see how they do. On Thursday night they certainly seemed to do a good job.
Alex S: The real fallout will only potentially come with clutch time. Suns are too deep for me to think we’re going to take some dramatic fall off a cliff in efficiency when the whole team is bought into a system. So, sure maybe there’s a slight drop-off statistically but overall the product should be very similar to what it’s been. You can thank Point Book and the crappy Suns from the mid 2010’s for that one!
Rod: I think that the biggest negative effect will be during clutch situations. The Suns are 25-3 in clutch time so far this season and Chris Paul has contributed greatly to this stat. Book has been great in the clutch too but I’m concerned that his effectiveness at those times could drop off a bit as teams will likely focus on stopping him more in those situations than they could when both he and CP3 were on the court together. For lesser teams (.500 and below), I don’t think this strategy will work but it could create problems when employed by better teams that have above average defenses.
GuarGuar: Defensively we should see a small drop off but nothing drastic in my opinion.
Sun-Arc: Not much fall off and a small chance it improves. The advanced +/- stats bear this out. The team was better defensively when Paul was on the bench. I also believe Paul will be barking out commands to the team from the bench and in huddles, so it will almost be like he’s on the court on that end. We know the guys communicate a lot, particularly Ayton and Crowder. With Craig back on the team, it makes us all the more versatile on this end.
SouthernSun: I expect a slight fall off defensively, mostly due to needing to play someone who isn’t used to playing as much with that starting unit, and not having CP3 out there calling things out. But he can still do that a bit from the sidelines.
Alex S: Defensively I could see a bit of a dip. A lot of defense is communication and role so plugging in some changes with Book/Mikal and the bench could lead to a bigger dip than the offense will be. However, I still don’t expect too much of a dip so the Suns should be well off w/out CP3 for the ‘regular season’.
Rod: Overall I don’t foresee a big drop in the Suns’ defense unless Book has to play excessive minutes and has to expend even more energy on the offensive side of the ball. An overly tired Devin Booker could create problems for the Suns on both ends of the court near the end of games.
Q2 - Before CP3’s injury, the Suns won 82.8% of their games. If that percentage had persisted, they would have likely won 20 of their final 24 games and finished the season with a 68-14 record. What are your best and worst case guesses as to the Suns’ final record if CP3 misses ALL of the final 24 regular season games?
GuarGuar: My best case is we continue to win at the same rate we’ve won this season. Our strength of schedule is one of the weakest remaining. We are a deep team and Payne should be back soon.
My worst case is we play a little over .500 and put our #1 seed into jeopardy and it becomes a very close call come the end of the season.
Sun-Arc: I’ve been looking at the schedule for the Suns and GSW. Using a very unscientific method, and assuming Paul misses all remaining regular season games, I believe the Suns will finish the last 24 games at 15-9, and GSW will lose 6 games. That will mean GSW will only gain 3 games on our 6.5 game lead and we still finish at the #1 spot.
Best case scenario is the Suns do not slow down at all and finish out 20 wins out of 24 with a 68-14 record. I think this is unlikely, but this team has continually exceeded my expectations over the past 2 seasons+.
Worse case is Suns really look haphazard on offense and just cannot convert points when they need them while continuing the trend of not putting in the effort to start games against weaker opponents (like with HOU). If that happens, they could go 10-14 and finish 58-24. If GSW only loses 6 more times (as mentioned above), they would take the #1 spot in the west and make our path to the finals that much more difficult.
At the start of the season, you had told me the Suns would end up with the #2 slot in the West and a rested and healthy CP3 headed into the playoffs, I would have been quite happy about it. At this point it feels like a bit of a disappointment. But not a huge one. And I think the worst case scenario is not likely. The 12-12 scenario is possible, but would still make it difficult for GSW to overtake us. Again, if GSW only lose 6 more games, the 12-12 record should suffice to keep us #1.
SouthernSun: I believe the best case record will be 67 - 15. Worst case is 62 - 20. Either way, not a bad place to be. And the Suns will hopefully have a healed and fresh legged CP3 for the playoffs.
Alex S: Worst case: 60-22, Best case: 68-14.
The Suns have one of the easiest schedules in the league to end the season. I don’t anticipate a major drop-off as you saw from my 1st response but it’s going to come down to if they win the close games as consistent as they were w/CP3 or not.
Either way, the Suns will end up with the best record in the NBA and I’m 99% confident about that. Breaking a franchise record would be fun though and hopefully something that motivates the squad!
Rod: My best case scenario is that the ‘next man up’ mantra works, the team continues to play top notch defense and good enough offensively to win 75% of their remaining games to finish 66-16. That should be sufficient to keep the #1 seed in the West and give them home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
I think that the worst case scenario would be going 10-14 (with a 58-24 final record) and falling to the 2nd or 3rd seed in the West even if the Suns can avoid excessive/lengthy injury absences by other key players. There are a little over 6 weeks of regular season basketball to play and I can’t see the Suns getting through all of their remaining games without some players missing a few here and there with a turned ankle, strained muscle, severe contusion, illness, etc. which could add an extra loss or two in games that I would normally expect them to win. And then there’s always the possibility of foul trouble. There are a lot of potential mines left to step on before the season ends and avoiding them will be key to avoiding a worst case scenario.
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
The Phoenix Suns Will Have A Lot To Prove Without Chris Paul
Why The Phoenix Suns Will Survive Without CP3
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “How do you rate the possibility of CP3 winning MVP?”
06% - He’s a strong contender.
47% - He has an outside chance.
47% - He has virtually no chance.
A total of 219 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
If CP3 misses the rest of the regular season the Suns will...
This poll is closed
Still wind up with the #1 seed for the playoffs.
Fall no further then 2nd in the WC standings.
Possibly fall to 3rd or lower in the WC standings.