Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
Although last night’s loss to Memphis was disappointing, the only mystery left in the regular season for the Suns is how many total wins they will end it with. Other teams still have playoff positioning - or actually making it to the playoffs - left to worry about but Phoenix will go into the playoffs as the number 1 seed with home court advantage throughout. The biggest concerns for the Suns now are staying sharp and healthy as the final 9 days of the regular season play out.
The first round begins April 16. How will the rest of the playoff field shake out and who will the Suns face in their 1st round series? Isn’t it great to be thinking about those things rather than discussing draft prospects and hoping for some luck in the lottery? I doubt there are many Suns fans bemoaning the fact that the Suns have no draft picks this year but... there may be a few draft prospects bemoaning the fact that there’s no possibility that they could be drafted by Phoenix.
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
Q1 - The Suns have the #1 seed locked up but who they’ll play in the 1st round is still up in the air. Which team do you think will wind up with the 8th seed and how do you see that series ending?
GuarGuar: I still think the Lakers will somehow sneak into the 8 spot now that AD is coming back. We are still the better team but they have Lebron James and he’s good enough where I’d say the Suns win in 6.
Sun-Arc: So hard to tell right now because the Lakers and Spurs keep switching between 10 and 11 in the west. And we don’t know how affectively LBJ and Davis will be for the play in if they make it. Plus any of the five teams that may qualify are capable of winning a play in game or two.
As a total guess, I would say the T-wolves and Clippers are the two teams that make it, which would mean we’d face the Clippers as the 8th seed. And just as “Pushoff-P” is rounding back into form. That could be a tough first round opponent as we saw in the WCF last season. Yet our team is quite a bit better and even deeper than last season and the Clippers no longer have Pat Bev.
Suns in 5.
SouthernSun: It’s really hard to say who will end up there, especially with the play-in. I hope it’s the Lakers, though. I just want to see them get demolished by the Suns. Just to really close that debate from last season. If they get beat by the Suns in the first round two years in a row, that will simply be the end of that.
Alex S: I see the Timberwolves getting it by losing to the Clippers. Paul George is back and already looks good so as much as the Wolves have been a great story, I’m not sure they’re ready to win that one game matchup against an experienced group.
Once we get there, I don’t want to sound too confident but a sweep? Only way it goes 5 and beyond is if KAT manages to go nuclear.
Rod: I think it will be Minnesota. Even though they’re presently 7th in the standings and have a 5.5 game lead on the Clippers, they still have to win a playin game against them to keep that 7th seed. With Paul George back and Norman Powell and Kawhi Leonard also possibly back in time for the playin stage, I think LAC will win their initial game against the Wolves and take the 7th seed away from them.
Minnesota will likely have few problems beating the 9th/10th teams’ playin game winner (New Orleans, San Antonio or LAL) though, which would make them the 8th seed and the Suns’ 1st round opponent. But if their opponent in that game turns out to be the Pelicans, I give them an outside chance at knocking the Wolves out of the playoffs and taking the 8th seed for themselves. That’s pretty unlikely but anything can happen in a single winner takes all game.
Q2 - What area of their game do you feel that the Suns are weakest at/needs improvement that could cause issues in the playoffs?
GuarGuar: I’d say rebounding is our biggest issue. We can really get in funks and it has hurt us quite a bit at times this year. We have more size than last year but a lot more of our lineups are just 1 big lineups. Our power forwards aren’t very big.
Sun-Arc: The Suns have few weaknesses, but they are present. Rebounding certainly comes to mind. They have shored that up a bit in the past week or two, but that is always a concern. I feel they rely less on rebounding and try to ensure their transition defense does not give up easy points, which is why the get beat on the boards so consistently. And it works for the most part- but this is definitely something they need to work on.
The more complicated answer is for the players to figure out how to start games stronger and not get flustered when things do not go their way. Again- this is not a major flaw of theirs; but it is present. You could see it in the GSW game to a degree. Keep the poise.
SouthernSun: They don’t have much self creation. They have really two guys who can be relied upon to do that at a high level. And if one them is having an off game... things can get a little dicey. We saw it with Chris Paul not being the scorer he usually is in the Finals last year (granted, it was health related). That could still come back to bite the Suns. They didn’t correct that one thing at the deadline and get a scoring guard off the bench. And it’s not something they can fix right now.
Alex S: Rebounding consistency. I do feel that’ll improve come playoff time but it has to be a point of emphasis. 2nd chance opportunities are the main way a team can match shots with Phoenix as our turnover differential is going to be better than pretty much anyone.
More shots? More chances to score.
Rod: Their offensive rebounding worries me a bit but I understand part of that is because of them hustling to get back on defense instead of crashing the boards after a miss. They may be 21st in offensive rebounding but they’re also 2nd in defense and tied for 6th in fewest opponent’s points scored on fast breaks which can often come after missed FGs. If the Suns have one of their occasional bad shooting nights this could become a big problem though.
Q3 - Who is the most underappreciated player on the Suns’ roster?
GuarGuar: Cam Payne is the most underappreciated. He brings a much needed change of pace to every game and can create his own offense. He takes a lot of pressure off Booker and Paul and hurts teams when they double Booker. His change in play style to become more of a playmaker has been extremely helpful too.
Sun-Arc: Most under appreciated? I always feel it is Jae Crowder. Fans complain about him a lot when he’s missing shots while missing all the other things he does on the court. He provides very tough individual defense (often on centers to protect Ayton), great team defense, box outs, rebounding, great communication on both ends, leadership, ball movement, major perimeter shooting threats, and is also the team’s enforcer. He works so damn hard. He’s got my vote for the Thunder Dan Marjele Hustle Award this year.
SouthernSun: Probably Landry Shamet. Not because he’s great or anything. He just got a lot of hate for his cold start/middle of the season. But he appears to be rounding into form now. Which bodes well for the playoffs.
Alex S: Had you asked me a month ago? Cam Payne.
Now? I’ll go with Shamet, although he’s starting to get some love from fans due to his improvement of late. I’m still fascinated to see how long of a leash he has in the playoffs but there’s potential for him to win you a game or two in the playoffs with how lethal he can be on a given night.
Rod: I think maybe Jae Crowder. Even before the season began, there were many fans talking about the Suns needing a “real” power forward and that it was a weakness for the team. And many times later I heard many complaining about his bad shooting nights and calling him useless. He works hard every night, consistently plays good D and has expanded his offense to where he’s no longer just a 3 and D player. He’s also been a great veteran leader on a still young team. Some people tend to ignore or forget those things when his 3-ball isn’t falling.
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
Devin Booker & Chris Paul break down their best plays in the film room
Phoenix Suns Players Get In A Post-Game Workout After Tying Franchise Record 62 Wins.
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “The Suns are presently 60-14 with eight games to go. Their final win total for this season will be...”
01% - 60-62.
59% - 63-65.
40% - 66-68.
A total of 723 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Who do you think is the Suns’ most underappreciated player?
This poll is closed