Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
This week, we’ll start off this edition of with a look at the current Western Conference standings and each team’s magic numbers.
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: Questions were sent out to the FT members before Devin Booker entered H&S protocols.
Q1 - Some people have referred to CP3’s injury as a “blessing in disguise”. What do you see as the possible benefits to the Suns?
GuarGuar: I understand that viewpoint and all but there’s really no overwhelming positive of ur star PG being out for the majority of rest of the season. It does let us experiment with some lineups and prove we can win without him. However, I’d much rather been in rhythm with our normal rotations and CP be in rhythm heading into the postseason.
Sun-Arc: Yes there are some potential positives to CP3 being out for an extended time. We’ve seen teams’ younger backup players get stronger with star absences. And, darn it if Book wasn’t totally killing it before COVID protocols took him out. And it does look like Bridges and Johnson have been working hard to fill in the gaps. Crowder too.
And I’m glad to see the team find ways to engage Ayton on offense as much as they have. Its gotten better as they’ve gone along in their first four games since the break. In order, DA had 5, 12, 15, and 12 shots in those games. The lower number (12) in the fourth game against POR was in just 26 minutes, by far the fewest minutes he had played. His ORtg also increased through the four games (53, 125, 151, 136).
For those guys to really work on staying strong on offense and defense is super important for achieving the #1 seed. And I do think it could reap benefits come the post-season. Hopefully that potential comes through.
SouthernSun: Its only a blessing in disguise if he comes back healthy and helps make a deep run in the playoffs. Until then, I won’t say which it was/is. But I see what the mean. Maybe it’s beneficial for him to go into the playoffs with fresh legs. Less strain on his body.
Alex S: I do believe it’s great preparation for guys to get ready for extra touches and if anything were to happen to Cp3 in the playoffs (lord forbid) that the squad would have experience without his services. I think it’s fair to say it’s a “blessing in disguise” because the overall NBA 1 seed is essentially wrapped up thanks to the poor performance of Golden State of late.
Had they been playing like they were earlier in the year? I’d be a bit more concerned.
Rod: The obvious answer is that it at least gets CP3 a lot of rest before the playoffs. Hopefully it will also provide an opportunity for other players to step up and expand their games. With CP3 and Book now out, the rest of the team will have to play without their two “safety net” players. When the team needs a bucket, there’s no option of getting the ball to either of them and other guys are going to have to take those shots. They’re going to have to rely on their offensive system even more and really play team ball.
Other players are going to have to take on more responsibility now and it’s better to find out who can handle that best now rather than later. Playoff time is no time for experiments.
Q2 - Cam Johnson has been playing very well as a starter. Do you think his best role on this team is as a starter or scorer off the bench?
GuarGuar: For this current team it’s probably best he comes off the bench to help with scoring. But he’s absolutely a quality starter player. He’s been lights out as a starter and he will definitely be a long term starter for us in the future.
Sun-Arc: I will continue to state that Crowder is too important to the starting unit to switch him out for CJ. As much as CJ is playing at a very high level, Crowder’s defense, toughness, and leadership is extremely important to Book, Ayton, Bridges, and Payne. Additionally, Johnson’s scoring contribution is really critical for the bench.
Having Cam Payne and Holiday available really helps the starters and bench, particularly Booker. Point Book was never a sustainable idea. He allows CJ to continue coming off the bench, which works better for the team for now.
SouthernSun: I still think that, while Jae is on the team, Cam is best off the bench, because Jae would be much less effective off the bench without reliable scorers all around him, and his defense and intensity help the starting unit a lot.
But eventually yes, I’d love for Cam to take over that starring role.
Alex S: I believe long term he’s the clear starting 4 for Phoenix but this year I think his best role will continue to be the bench. The starting unit has 4 legitimately consistent scorers so it’s not the biggest need for Cam’s services to be utilized there.
The bench? They need help. Especially when the injuries pile up. However, Cam needs to be getting near 30 mpg whether he’s coming off the bench or not.
Rod: Right now the Suns need him to be their scoring punch off the bench. The sixth man role isn’t always glamorous but it’s often as important to the team as any of the starters. Eventually - perhaps as soon as next season - he’ll get his chance to be a full-time starter but for now it might be as simple as just making sure he gets plenty of minutes.
As a final note, after his performance against the Knicks last night, I think this kid could be a future All-Star.
Q3 - Frank Kaminsky might return from rehabbing his knee sometime this month. Do you think he will see any court time when/if he’s healthy again?
GuarGuar: I think he will see some court time just give him some run and back in an NBA game flow. I doubt we need him come playoff time but you never know. He was playing great before the injury.
Sun-Arc: First off, if Frank comes back it will take some time to get him up to game speed. Secondly, if he does come back, he will not be the first or second center off the bench. He will not get time playing at the PF position. So his playing time is probably going to be “limited-to-nil” for the most part.
Yet I can imagine Kaminsky getting “garbage time” unless there are injuries, protocols, and/or foul trouble with the other bigs.
The real question for me is whether he earns minutes over Biyombo. Both guys were good in the pick and roll with Paul, but Bizzy can’t shoot or create his own offense. Frank can hit from the perimeter and looked good on both ends before his injury. Yet Biyombo is clearly quicker and more athletic - so it may come down to matchups. Or it could come down to who Monty trusts more, particularly in the playoffs.
Either way, I would love to see Frank see some minutes (in Suns blowouts). He and Bismack both seem like great guys and I’d like to see them both have great moments this season. Heck, maybe even on the court together. Who knows?
SouthernSun: Maybe? But the Suns and he probably won’t push it. They’ve got Biyombo and McGee now. Maybe is he’s completely healthy. Unfortunate, given how he was playing before he went down.
Alex S: Honestly, no. With the addition of Biz the 3rd unit center when guys are in foul trouble has been taken. Going smaller with a stretch 5? Torrey Craig is going to keep that role.
Love me some Frank but I don’t see him having much impact at the point barring injury.
Rod: Frank will probably not see a lot of court time unless Monty just decides to throw the other team a curve ball and sub Frank in... and that would likely only be under very specific circumstances. Frank isn’t a great three-point shooter (34.8% career average) but he would be the best three-point shooter among the Suns’ available centers once he’s back. If the Suns aren’t hitting anything from downtown, I could see Monty giving Frank a chance to put a few up and hopefully change that, especially if the need for rim protection isn’t a priority at that moment. Frank’s also not a bad passer and could be useful in situations where Monty wants another “connector” on the court with the 2nd unit.
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 “If CP3 misses the rest of the regular season the Suns will...”
68.5% - Still wind up with the #1 seed for the playoffs.
28.1% - Fall no further then 2nd in the WC standings.
03.4% - Possibly fall to 3rd or lower in the WC standings.
A total of 238 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Will this Suns team wind up with the best regular season record ever (63 wins or more)?
This poll is closed
I don’t care. Winning a Championship is all that matters.