Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
The 64-17 Suns have just one regular season game remaining before getting a week off to prepare for their first round playoff series. Who they will face in that series won’t be determined until Friday night when the winner of the 9th/10th seed playin game faces off against the loser of the 7th/8th seed game. Either the Timberwolves or the Clippers will most likely wind up as the Suns’ 1st round opponent but the Pelicans or Spurs could surprise everyone and jump ahead of one of those two and take that spot for themselves.
Frankly, I’m hoping that the Spurs beat the odds to get the 8th spot and it’s not just because I believe they would be an easier 1st round opponent. It would just be another small cherry on top of what has already been a spectacular season to knock both the Lakers and the Spurs out of the playoffs.
I obviously hold grudges. I won’t apologize for it.
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 - Which Western Conference teams - if the Suns face them at any point during the playoffs - are the most likely to stretch a series with the Suns to a full 7 games?
GuarGuar: The Warriors, Clippers, and Grizzlies are the 3 teams I can see pushing us to the very edge of a series. The warriors and clippers are great defensive teams and can cause a ton of issues with their switch heavy defense. They also have big time stars. Memphis has a dynamic point guard which is an area we have trouble containing given our personnel.
Sun-Arc: Anything is possible, so any team COULD stretch things to 7 games or even defeat the Suns. I would say the most likely teams are the Clippers (if Kawhi and PG are healthy), GSW, and MEM. All three of those teams have players that match up well against us. All three could be a real threat.
UTA is a really good team, but they’ve been meh lately and I do not see the matchups for the playoffs in their favor. And we seem to kind of own DAL, so I do not fear them on the same level. Same with MIN, NOP, and SAS though I do not see either of those last two teams making it through the play-in tournament.
SouthernSun: Memphis looks pretty dang good. Golden State if healthy would have a shot. I’m really not worried about anybody else. Truth be told, I’m not worried about any Western team. The Suns are dominant when everybody is playing, and it looks like just about everybody on the roster with the exception of Dario will be playing. This sounds so strange to say, but im worried about more Eastern teams.
Alex S: I’m going to say the Clippers.
Now that PG is back, there’s evidence that this team has the capability of pressing the Suns to 6 already (last year). Would I anticipate a 7 game series? No, not without Kawhi. But that squad matches up better with Phoenix than anyone else in the West.
A great coach, depth, shooting, multiple wings and a top 10 level *talent* is not an easy out. Golden State is the other option to choose in my opinion.
Rod: While it’s possible that any WC team could stretch a series to a full 7 games, I think the most likely culprit would be the Grizzlies. They have talent, youth, depth and a very good coach in Taylor Jenkins. The Warriors would be my second choice but I think it would take a couple of relatively bad games by the Suns for them to take a series with the Suns beyond six games. The Suns aren’t unbeatable but I believe that their biggest obstacle in the Western Conference is themselves. No matter who they are playing, they can’t let other teams get out to an early lead and expect to come back and win in the 4th quarter when the playoffs begin.
Q2 - Which bench player(s) do you think are most likely to step up and have a BIG game for the Suns at some point during the playoffs?
GuarGuar: Cam Payne is definitely the obvious answer. We really rely on him giving a change of pace and leading the offense at times. Cam Johnson looks poised for a postseason breakout. I predict many games where he finishes games over Jae.
Sun-Arc: Am I allowed to say all of them? I feel like we may need everyone to have big games (relatively per player) to make it all the way. But certainly Payne, Johnson, McGee, Shamet, and Craig will have to play extremely well for us to be the last team standing.
And if we get down over 25 points in any game, send in Ish Wainright, am-I-right?
SouthernSun: Cam Johnson will be integral to the Suns bench offense all post-season long. Landry Shamet will probably explode for a big game once or twice (20+ points). Cam Payne will probably do the same. Aaron Holiday has a chance to as well, i just think the others are maybe more likely to.
Alex S: The Cams will both have big games, I’m 100% certain of that. I do think JaVale and Landry could each have 1 game specifically where their impact could be the different in a win versus loss.
I think Torrey will be a steady piece but don’t anticipate him being the key difference in any games.
Rod: The logical suspects are both of the Cams and JaVale McGee. We’ve seen all three of them have really good games at times and I suspect that any and maybe all of them have at least one game during this championship run where they are one of the major contributors. Even Shamet or Craig could get hot on any given night. That’s one of the things I love about this team. They have a plethora of threats that could light up the scoreboard on any given night.
Q3 - If (God forbid!) the Suns do not win it all this season, do you think they might make a major change in the roster during the offseason?
GuarGuar: I think if we don’t win it all James Jones will seriously consider trading Ayton and shaking things up. I don’t agree with doing that but I’m just stating how I feel things could happen. The whole extension thing has been bizarre to this point.
Sun-Arc: Interesting question. I think the answer would depend on why we lost. If it was because of a minor injury or two; probably not. If a couple of major players totally underperformed; some core people being moved might be possible.
All in all, we fans feel really good about the team and so does the front office. Yet they always look to improve. Having said that, there are several players on expiring deals we cannot use in trades (Payton, Biyombo, McGee). Sure they could let those guys walk, and might do that. This would be potentially “improving on the margins” and not a major shift.
Just for fun I was looking at what it would take to trade for LBJ (not that I would want to do that, mind you). It would require Crowder, Saric, Payne, Craig, and Johnson. I just do not see a huge trade like this happening. I do not see the team “blowing it up.” There has been too much success over the past two seasons, plus our core are close and well balanced.
I think they basically run it back for another season.
SouthernSun: Suns are about to have A LOT of money committed. If they don’t win it all this year I could see them making a move in the offseason. Perhaps a major move involving one or more of the young guys. Not for an old star, but for someone a bit older than the young core and with more scoring or creation ability.
As CP3 ages he will decline a bit. And the Suns don’t have somebody to create offense in his place. Without CP3, suddenly things aren’t as easy for the young guns. Offense is a little harder to find. They’re gonna need to do something about that eventually. Booker will eventually need another star next to him that's a bona-fide scoring machine, once CP3 is gone. Maybe even before that.
Alex S: *If* we don’t win it all, that’s where I’d believe Ayton becomes a big question mark towards the Suns long-term plans.
He could be the piece that’s moved in a S&T to land a big name back in this hypothetical where the Suns would want to shake it up. Do I anticipate this happening? Probably not.
But it’s a possibility!
Rod: I’d say it’s very unlikely but possible. It would depend on the circumstances though. If it turns out to be injuries that stops them short, I doubt it. It’s gong to take something drastic - such as a non-injury related first or even second round exit - to prompt them into making anything approaching a major change in the offseason.
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
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Rex Chapman on the Phoenix Suns’ Rise from NBA Laughingstock to Potential Champs | Rich Eisen Show
8th Grader Elijah Williams, Son of Phoenix Suns Head Coach, Monty Williams Is a CHEAT CODE
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “Who do you think is the most underappreciated Suns player?”
51% - Jae Crowder.
25% - Cam Payne.
12% - Landry Shamet.
12% - Someone else.
A total of 308 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Who do you think the Suns’ 1st round opponent will be?
This poll is closed
New Orleans Pelicans.
San Antonio Spurs.