Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
First up, 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 - Bottom line time. In your opinion, will the Nets eventually take the best offer they can get for Durant this summer (even if it’s less than they want) or keep KD on their roster (at least for the beginning the season)?
GuarGuar: I have been following Flex from the start and he’s been proven right so far and I’m not going to go against him now. I think KD truly wants Phoenix and the Nets and Suns will work out a deal, probably a multi team trade. If the Nets keep KD to start the season his value goes down everyday. I think both Kyrie and KD will be gone by the start of the season.
OldAz: I think the Nets will keep Durant for this season. I just don’t see them getting anything close to a reasonable return, and because they don’t own their own pick next year there is no incentive to tank. The only way I see this changing is if KD starts pulling antics like Harden has in the past or by signaling that he is willing to sit out to get what he wants.
Cliff30: I think he’s still with the Nets opening day. The Nets need to win given the draft capitol they owe the Rockets. The best chance they have to do that is by fielding a team with KD and Kyrie. Kyrie isn’t going to net them a significant return. If KD isn’t netting them a significant return it’s going to be hard for them not to bottom out. So they’re likely going to see if they can call the bluff and get them on the floor. If they can’t, they can revisit all these bad options at the deadline.
Jim C: I think Durant will be a Net at the beginning of the season.
There is no reason for the Nets to rush to unload him, and at this point I don’t think a better offer comes in before the season starts. The Nets are probably assuming they can get the same or better types of packages before the trade deadline next season. That’s somewhat risky since Durant has had problems staying healthy lately, but if he’s out there playing like Kevin Durant I don’t believe he loses trade value compared to now.
The Nets could also be hoping that Durant changes his mind and becomes more receptive to stay. Maybe they even trade Irving for someone that Durant prefers to play with.
For the Suns specifically, I think they have exhausted all avenues in trying to make a deal work now, but the Nets don’t want what they have to offer. Maybe at some point before the trade deadline the team can make moves or involve other team/s to get a desirable package to Brooklyn.
Then again I thought Durant was going to be traded here earlier in July... so the smart money says I’m probably wrong again.
Rod: I really just don’t see Brooklyn caving in and trading KD for draft picks and table scraps this summer but I also think that they would like to get a trade done before the season actually begins. If Durant winds up in Phoenix (or anywhere else for that matter) before the start of the regular season, it’s going to be done through a multi-team trade with several players changing teams instead of just a two-team trade. If that doesn’t materialize, then they may try again as the season goes on... which I think is the most likely scenario.
Q2 - Cam Payne had a rough season last year, especially with his shooting (FG - 40.9%, 3-PT - 33.6%) which fell well below his previous season averages as a Sun. Do you think this was just “a bad year” or did the Suns’ opponents just figure out how to game plan against him and what are your expectations for him this season?
GuarGuar: I think a large part of this was due to injuries. However it’s also possible it’s a regression to the mean and his averages before he came to Phoenix. I don’t expect Payne to be here by the start of the season.
OldAz: I am not sure what to make of Cam Payne last year. Recency Bias from the playoffs has seemingly made everyone forget the stretch where CP3 went down from march 3rd to March 24th where Cam Payne played 27 minutes a game and averaged 14.1/4.9/9.5 (P/R/A). This stacks up pretty nicely against CP3s 14.7/4.4/10.8 for the year (on 33 minutes a game). I really thought coming out of that stretch that Cam Payne had figured out how to best help the Suns and may be a reasonable long-term fit. However, after CP3 came back it never seemed like he got back to playing the faster “change of pace” style necessary for his backup role.
I also think Cam P struggles against bigger teams that are able to clog the paint (Like New Orleans) as well as long teams that stay tight on 3-point shooters (Dallas). To be effective he has to be able to get a half step to get his shot off at the rim, or be wide open to get off his slow and awkward 3-point shot. I expect more of the same this year as Cam P can be great some nights and other nights runs into a bad matchup for him.
Cliff30: The thing is his numbers this season are more in line with his career. I think his scoop shot layup was a big part of his success at the rim. And now that teams have film on that it’s easier to defend. And I think it’s possible that the 3 point shooting (44% in 20-21) was just a one year aberration. The guy was out of the league and reinvented his game to be a rotational player on a finals team. So maybe he can do it again. But I don’t expect much from him. And I wouldn’t construct the roster expecting anything from him.
Jim C: I have lost faith in Cameron Payne.
That pains me to say because the previous season I really liked what he brought to the team. Last season I didn’t think backup point guard was an area to address. This season I do.
It wasn’t just a bad regular season. He was absolutely putrid in the playoffs. All advanced statistics AND the eye test tell you he was easily the worst playoff performer on the team... which is impressive after what Jae Crowder did in the first round. He was 5-30 from three point range. He couldn’t defend. He couldn’t even stay on the court...
He had a huge negative impact on the team. The Suns were basically playing 4 vs. 6 whenever he was out there. I actually felt bad for him.
I’m really concerned about how this will play out.
Rod: I have a feeling that many of Cam’s problems last season may have been mental. When things start going wrong, it can mess with your confidence and make things worse. But then we also might have seen who Cam really is last season. He played great in the Bubble and then very well in 2020-21 but that was really just a 68 game stretch - less than one full season - where his stats were well above his career averages. This year - if he’s still with the Suns when the season begins - will likely tell us which it really was.
If it was confidence, hopefully he puts in enough work this summer to get it back. If last season was just who he really is, the Suns could be in trouble if they plan on him being CP3’s primary backup. I’m hoping that he bounces back but his NBA career history doesn’t give me a lot of reasons to expect that.
Q3 - As it stands right now, Bismack Biyombo will most likely be the Suns primary backup center. In your opinion, will Biz be an upgrade, a downgrade or just a lateral move compared to JaVale McGee’s performance off the bench last season?
GuarGuar: I think it’s a lateral move having Biz instead of Javale. McGee offers more offensively but Biz is way more versatile on defense . Shouldn’t have a big impact on our season going from Javale to Biz. I preferred Biyombo last year actually because of his mobility.
OldAz: It really depends on how Monty uses him. Biz is solid on Defense and brings similar energy, but not as flashy with the blocks compared to Javale. When he is playing with CP3 he is also a step down from Javale on the screen and roll game, although he is adequate and as has been stated many times, CP3 can make pretty much any big look good in the PnR. When he plays with a mostly backup lineup, I don’t think he adds much offense and has little gravity to free up others.
Personally, I would like to see most of Biz’ minutes played with Book and CP3 to maximize his effectiveness on offense (make him a Rim Runner) and play DA more minutes with the backup unit, where he can be the focus offensively. If this becomes the plan, then it becomes impossible to compare Javale’s role to Biz and I think the Suns are better off in the long run (due to DA’s increased usage during those minutes). If the Suns do exactly what they have done the last couple years and just plug Biz into Javale’s minutes, then I see a (very small/minimal) step backward.
Cliff30: Bismack is not as big or energetic as JaVale. He’s not going to have the impact that JaVale had on his best nights. That said, JaVale had games where he was awful. I think Biyombo is a more steady contributor. Overall his net contribution won’t be as much. But I think he will be a more consistent positive contributor and a very good backup C.
Jim C: One could make an argument in limited playoff minutes that McGee was one of the Suns’ most efficient performers.
In the playoffs he led the team in PER, TS%, TRB%, BLK%, WS/48 and DBPM. You would think he was the starting center if you didn’t know better.
During the regular season he was also first in PER, second in TS%, first in TRB%, first in BLK% and third in WS/48. McGee averaged more rebounds and blocks per 36 minutes than Ayton did... and only averaged .1 points less... McGee was an excellent backup. He was also fun to watch. I like alley oops. They are really neat.
Biyombo might be able to provide a solid contribution defensively, but I just don’t think he brings everything to the table that McGee did offensively. One thing to note is that Biyombo is only 29, while McGee is 34... so if the Suns had retained McGee they shouldn’t have expected to get the same contribution. I think it will be a downgrade, but hopefully not a huge one.
Rod: I think it’s mostly just a lateral move. If you look over their career stats, McGee has the edge offensively in points production and is a little better shot blocker but Biz is a slightly better rebounder and is a bit more mobile on defense. Biz is almost 5 years younger than JaVale although that’s just a small plus in a backup that you don’t expect to have to play extended minutes. The main difference will be on offense though. Although JaVale wasn’t a great shooter outside the paint, Biz is worse when shooting from more than 3 feet away from the basket.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members for all their extra effort this week!
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Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “How do you expect 37 year old CP3 to play this season?”
03.9% - Better than last season.
52.8% - About the same as last season.
40.8% - Worse than last season.
02.5% - Much worse than last season.
A total of 515 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
This poll is closed
Just had a bad year last season and is better than his stats indicate.
Fell back to his normal self after overachieving the year before.