Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
Well, the Suns are now up 2-1 in their series with New Orleans but the Pelicans didn’t make it easy in the Big Easy. With Devin Booker possibly out for the entire series, regaining home court advantage was very important. The Suns came through in the clutch once again! Their prowess in closing out close games may be diminished by Book being sidelined but it’s certainly not gone.
The Suns have managed to win 2 of 3 games even though as a team they really haven’t played their best yet. Here’s a little food for thought before Game 4:
Suns three pointers this playoffs:— Xin Varlock (@XinNBA) April 23, 2022
You have to believe immense regression to the mean is coming.
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 - If Booker’s hamstring injury results in him missing significant time, how far do you think the Suns can go in the playoffs without him?
GuarGuar: The report is it’s a mild strain so at worst I feel he’d miss the rest of this series. I do have concern we can’t beat New Orleans without him. However I think our veteran leadership and depth can pull through and get us to the next round. But I don’t see us ever getting further than that if Book somehow was still out.
Sun-Arc: I have to see what happens on Friday before I feel either truly good or truly bad about getting through this series. I still think they will win this series, though it will take more than the 5 games I predicted. If we look fine in that game I do not think we’d have trouble in the first two series, which should be enough time for Book to make it back into the lineup.
I’m of the feeling the team needed a “shock” to wake them up and remember what they are here for. Game 1 seemed like they came out super focused in the first half and then cruised to a victory. Then they came out cruising for all of the second game. Booker might have been enough to get them through that game if he had not gotten injured. Without him the team cannot win without giving all-out effort every game. I think they’ll remember that now. At least I hope.
SouthernSun: Not very far at all. The team is built perfectly if healthy. Everybody plays their part well. But without Book, I'm not sure... I think they’ll have trouble taking down the Pelicans without him. Not to mention the next opponent. We all just have to hope he heals quickly.
The Suns become a significantly worse team when missing either of Book or CP3. Book is the only real volume scorer on this squad. You’d think with CP3 and a first overall pick from a few years ago who expects a max contract this summer on the team, we shouldn’t be so concerned about missing one player... but unfortunately Ayton isn’t the kinda player who can take over a game. He is impactful for sure, but in Books absence he can’t carry the team. CP3 can come close to doing that, but only in short stretches, because 36.
Alex S: We need him back by the western conference finals. Suns can reasonably win series’ against the Pels and the winner of Dallas/Utah but I still prefer he’s back by midway through the second series. Knowing how competitive he is, I could see him coming back before that.
Rod: The Suns should still be able to win this series with New Orleans but Book’s absence likely turns what I expected to be a 4-5 game series win for the Suns into a 6-7 game series with the Suns winning no longer a foregone conclusion. I still believe the Suns will defeat the Pelicans but the margin for error is certainly smaller with Booker out.
To get by the Pels, the Suns will need better performances by the supporting cast of players than we’ve seen in the first three games but that’s not an unreasonable expectation as some haven’t had even average games (by their standards) so far.
Beyond the first round, playing without Booker would definitely be an uphill battle which I would still give the Suns a chance at winning but they would be the underdogs in my opinion. At best, they could possibly make it as far as the WCF without Book but not beyond it. At worst, it is possible that they don’t make it out of the first round.
Q2 - Is there anything different that Monty could/should try in the remaining games against the Pelicans?
GuarGuar: Cam Johnson needs to get more playing time. Now that Book’s hurt I’m sure he will but he’s been better than Crowder by a wide margin offensively this series. We also are gonna need to feed Ayton a lot more now. He’s one of our most efficient options.
Sun-Arc: With Booker out Monty will have to try someone new in the starting lineup. My guess is Shamet will get the nod, which I am all for. When he started in Booker’s place he raised his game significantly in the regular season. I think he can do that again.
The motivation is what is missing (as mentioned in #1), and I’m not sure how Monty addresses that. I’m sure he’s got ways to do that. I was super impressed with that video of Willie Green’s motivational speech in their game against the Clippers. Hopefully Monty has a few of those up his sleeve.
Though I also think getting Ayton involved more on offense is needed. Sure, several bench guys will need to step up, but it would make everything easier if they could get some interior domination going.
SouthernSun: A ritual sacrifice to heal Booker. He probably hasn’t tried that. Who knows? We don’t know the mysteries of the universe.
Alex S: I think at this point if Jae continues to not provide floor spacing you need to consider running a jumbo lineup in spurts. What’s the advantage you have going small if you’re going to get outshot from deep?
Rod: While I expected Monty to start Landry Shamet in Book’s place, I think he made a very good decision to go with Cam Johnson instead. He’s going to need to throw in a heavy dose of a CP3, Bridges, Johnson, Crowder and Ayton combo to try and combat the Pelicans’ size advantage. That would entail more minutes per game for some of them but shouldn’t be too much of a problem in the short term.
Also, once the game is underway, using two bigs (with Deandre definitely being one of the two) together is also a possibility. I don’t think that idea is a good one to start games with but could work for short stretches depending on who is on the court for New Orleans.
Other than that, it all comes down to hustle and execution.
Q3 - Several Suns players have under-performed so far. Which one do you believe most needs to get his game back on track soon?
GuarGuar: Crowder and Payne are the two that we really need to step up in Book’s absence. Payne will be relied upon heavily like when Paul was out last year. We need him to run the offense and be and efficient scorer. Crowder just needs to make his open 3s. He’s in a massive cold stretch right now.
Sun-Arc: Book, CP3, Bridges, Crowder (on defense), and Ayton are the only ones that I feel have really shown up. I’ll call out Payne, Johnson, Crowder (on offense), Craig, and hopefully Shamet in a big way. So… basically everyone but the starters.
If I have to pick one player to really step it up I would say Shamet if he is going to start in Book’s place. Payne would be next on the list.
SouthernSun: They all do. Game 2 was a terrible showing. Everybody but Book was sucking and then he got injured. Very Sunsian way for this to play out. Ayton needs to step up in Game 3. If you read this after Game 3, I hope he did. And just everybody else. Jae played like crap. I don’t know... I’m still pretty distraught. The wound is fresh. I want to also see CP3 take over these games, but as I said earlier, he’s old. He can’t do it for entire games like he used to. Maybe occasionally. And this might be the occasion to try.
Alex S: Cam Johnson. We NEED someone to be a consistent threat from deep and he’s the main man that’s capable of doing so. I sort of anticipated shooting slumps for a few guys like Crowder/Payne/Craig but not him.
Rod: I’m not sure it really matters who steps up their game and it’s more a matter of someone just doing it. Jae needs to find his shot again. The best version of Payne needs to show up. Shamet and Craig also need to make their presences felt. It would be great if they could all just turn it back on but if just one or two of them could step up their games it would be a big help in getting past New Orleans.
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
Stephen A.: The Suns are built to win this series even without Devin Booker
Doctor Reacts to Devin Booker Injury Concern - Another Hammy?
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “How will the Suns’ 1st round series end?”
30% - Suns win in 4.
60% - Suns win in 5.
09% - Suns win in 6.
0.5% - Suns win in 7.
0.5% - Suns somehow lose.
A total of 199 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
How far do you think the Suns can go without Devin Booker?
This poll is closed
Lose 1st round series.
Make it to the 2nd round but lose.
Make it to the WCFs but lose.
Make it to the Finals but lose.
Win it ALL!