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Center of the Sun: Suns must wait a while for their 50th win

Your weekly roundup of Suns news, rumors, notes and videos from the prior week plus a preview of the week to come.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs Oklahoma City Thunder W (124-104) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs New Orleans Pelicans L (117-102) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Utah Jazz L (118-114) Full Recap

We all knew it was going to be tough with both Chris Paul and Cam Payne out... and it got even tougher on Friday with Aaron Holiday also sidelined. Thankfully, Holiday’s injury was minor but his return yesterday just wasn’t enough to get past the Jazz and the Suns wound up going 1-2 for the week as they lost back to back games for the first time since December.

Devin Booker did a very good job playing out of position (28 points, 8 assists per game) but I believe things will go much smoother when Cam Payne returns and he can slide back over to his natural position at shooting guard. Hopefully, that will happen soon but, if not, will the Suns look to the buyout market for another point guard for help?

While Elfrid Payton once seemed like a smart addition as the Suns’ 3rd point guard, he just doesn’t fit in the Suns’ system. He’s not a reliable outside shooter and he seems almost out of control most of the time I see him driving to the basket. Although he plays defense pretty well, that’s not good enough for this team.

This Tuesday (March 1) is the last day that a player can be waived by one team and remain eligible to appear in the postseason for another team. Whoever is already available or is waived/bought out between now and March 2 would be the players that the Suns would likely look at first as a replacement PG. If they go that route, they would have to waive someone to create an open roster spot and the most likely candidate is Elf.

The Suns don’t have to sign someone before this deadline passes but if they’re going to do it, James Jones will likely make the move to open up a roster spot before then so that the player he waives would be eligible to play in the payoffs if he was picked up by another team. If the Suns do nothing before the end of the day on March 1, take it as a sign that they probably aren’t looking to add anyone else to the roster.

With 21 games to go, the Suns’ magic number to retain the number 1 seed in the playoffs is now 16 (wins).


Game Highlights

SUNS at THUNDER | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | February 24, 2022

Devin Booker has a game no Sun has had since Jason Kidd in 2001

PELICANS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | February 25, 2022

Deandre Ayton 20 PTS: All Possessions (2022-02-25)

JAZZ at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | February 27, 2022


Key Stats

115.6 OffRtg (12th), 114.1 DefRtg (16th), 1.5 Net Rtg (13th)

Those are the Suns’ team ratings over the past 3 games without CP3. While not terrible, they’ve been pretty average which doesn’t give me a lot of confidence going forward. I expect those numbers to get better as the Suns continue to adjust to playing without Chris Paul - and with the return of Cam Payne - but how much better they will get is questionable. For the entire season the Suns rank 3rd in offense and 4th in defense with a net rating of 1st.

Random stats: Over the last 3 games, Cameron Johnson has been the Suns’ 2nd leading scorer with 19.7 points per game (his full season average is 12.3 ppg). During that 3-game stretch, his FG percentage has improved from 46.5% to 59.2% and his 3-PT percentage has improved from 43.2% to 45.8% while his FG attempts have only increased by 2.2 per game (from 9.1 to 11.3).


Quotes of the Week

“I think every game is going to be a new learning experience for us and figuring things out. I’m sure we’re going to see a bunch of different defenses. I think we just have to keep improving.” - Devin Booker

“We know that teams are going to try to go after him (Booker) with Chris and all of our guys out. We just have to respond a bit better.” - Monty Williams

“I think our team, we just continue to build. All you want to do is have a chance (to win). And we know we got a chance.” - Chris Paul


Injury Status Report

Cameron Payne (Wrist) Game Time Decision.

Chris Paul (Thumb) Expected to be out until at least April 3.

Frank Kaminsky (Knee) Expected to be out until at least March 8.

Dario Saric (Knee) Expected to be out until at least April 1.


News & Notes

The Phoenix Suns Are Seeking Redemption And Dominating Along The Way. Forbes

Why Phoenix Suns need Mikal Bridges to play like a star in wake of Chris Paul injury. SportsNaut

Mikal Bridges’ leap offensively is vital for the Phoenix Suns. Basketball News

Can Devin Booker carry the Phoenix Suns and win MVP? Hoops Habit

Phoenix Suns: Three Ways to Stay Up Without Chris Paul. Last Word On Sports

Opinion: The Suns Should Sign This Former All-Star Point Guard. Sport Illustrated

NBA Odds: How Chris Paul’s injury impacts the Phoenix Suns’ future lines. Fox Sports

The biggest threats to the Suns in the playoffs, ranked. Clutch Points

Home-grown contenders, not assembled super teams, inspire NBA’s next generation. NBC Sports


This Week in Suns History

On March 3, 1993, the 41-13 Phoenix Suns - as expected - defeated the 19-35 Philadelphia 76ers 125-115 in Phoenix. The one unexpected thing during that game was 76ers backup center, 7’7” Manute Bol, who was mostly known only for his shot blocking, making 6 three pointers, 2 more than the entire Suns team. Suns forward Charles Barkley was both amazed and amused by it all.

On March 6, 2019, Devin Booker became the youngest player ever to make 500 3-Point Field Goals at 22 years, 127 days). Book’s career 3-pointers made total now stands at 936.

On March 6, 2020, Suns’ backup center Aron Baynes scored 37 points, gathered 16 rebounds and recorded 2 blocks while making 9 of 14 shots (64.3%) from three while taking over for injured starting center Deandre Ayton in a 127-117 home win over the Portland Trail Blazers. In NBA history, no one else had ever done all of those things in a single game.


Suns Trivia

During the OKC game, Devin Booker passed Steve Nash in the Suns’ record books to become the Suns’ 7th leading All-Time scorer. His career point total now stands at 10,780 and he needs an additional 256 points to pass A’mare Stoudemire (11,035) for 6th place. Also in that game, Devin Booker became the first Suns player with at least 25 pts, 10 assists and 5 steals in a game since Jason Kidd had 30 pts, 12 assists and 6 steals in a 106-99 Suns win over Milwaukee on April 1, 2001.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Wednesday, March 2 - Phoenix Suns vs Portland Trail Blazers 8:00 pm AZT (ESPN)

Friday, March 4 - Phoenix Suns vs New York Knicks 8:00 pm AZT (ESPN)

Sunday, March 6 - Phoenix Suns @ Milwaukee Bucks 1:30 pm AZT (ABC)

The Suns have three games this week with the first two at home after a couple of days off. The toughest game of the week should be the third as they begin a three game Eastern Conference road trip in Milwaukee.

First up, the 25-36 Portland Trail Blazers come to town on Wednesday. The Blazers are much changed since the last time these two teams met but Portland’s changes haven’t really improved them in the short-term. They are presently tied with New Orleans for the 10th spot in the West with San Antonio nipping at both their heels. They are 21st in offense, 28th in defense and 25th in net rating. Their main man, Damian Lillard, is out as is big man Jusuf Nurkic. They still have some offensive weapons in Anfernee Simmons and Josh Hart but they should just keep the game interesting. I don’t expect a blowout win but I do expect the Suns to win in this one.

Next, the lowly New York Knicks come to the Valley. At 25-36, the Knicks are presently 12th in the East, 1-9 in their last 10 games and on a 5-game losing streak. The Knicks are dead last in offense and defense in the NBA and play at a very slow pace (28th). The Knicks play hard though and won’t make it easy for the Suns. Even without CP3 Phoenix should win this one if they come in focused and don’t take them lightly.

Finally, the Suns head to Milwaukee for their final game of the regular season against the Bucks. I doubt they have forgotten the 131-107 pasting that the Suns handed them back on Feb. 10 in Phoenix and they will be out to even the score at home. The Suns will definitely miss Chris Paul in this one (he had 19 assists and 17 points in their first matchup). Phoenix also held Giannis Antetokounmpo to just 18 points in that one, one of only 5 games this season in which he was held to under 20 points. If they can do that again, they’ll have a good shot at getting another win but I doubt they will be able to do it and will likely lose this game.

I predict the Suns will go 2-1 this week.

What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

March 10 - Last day to use a disabled player exception.

April 10 - Regular season ends. Last day players can sign contracts for 2021/22. Last day two-way contracts can be converted to standard NBA contracts.

April 11 - Playoff rosters set (3:00pm ET).

April 12-15 - Play-In Tournament.

April 16 - Playoffs begin.

May 17 - NBA Draft Lottery.

June 23 - NBA Draft.