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Inside the Suns - Replacing CP3, Cam Johnson as a starter and who to watch during preseason games

Your weekly Inside the Suns analysis straight from the BSotS community who live and breathe the team.

2021 Hoophall West - Perry v Sierra Canyon Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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 - Much has been said about CP3’s advancing age and how the Suns will soon need to find a point guard for the future. If you could trade CP3 right now for any other PG in the NBA, who would it be?

OldAz: There are really a lot of good young point guards around the league right now. I did not realize how many until I started looking at this question (heck, Atlanta now has 2 really good ones). Any number of these young PGs would be a great fit on the Suns for the next 5-10 years. My personal favorite, if we could trade CP3 for ANY point Guard today, is Ja Morant. Normally I would prefer a Steve Nash/CP3 type that facilitates others offense first and can still shoot lights out from 3. However, the raw athleticism Ja brings is simply a game changer and brings an element that the Suns sorely lack. Ja is still a gifted passer, and shoots very well, but his extreme physical skills put him over the top as my #1 choice.

Cliff30: I’m going to cheat on this one. I’d trade CP3 for Jayson Tatum. Now I get it he’s not a “PG”. But he is his team’s primary ballhandler. Sure there’s a lot of dynamic PGs out there. But Luka and Trae are ball dominant guys who would be questionable fits with Booker and they don’t play defense. Ja would be the choice if I’m stuck with just a PG. But instead give me the dynamic wing that can be the primary ballhandler and play off ball so we can maximize Booker’s playmaking as well.

A lineup of Booker, Cam, Bridges, Tatum and Ayton is insane. It’s a real move towards position-less basketball. Defensively they’re long and switchable and would be smothering. Tatum isn’t the best wing in the NBA. But he was good enough to be the best player on a finals team last year and doesn’t have the age/injury concern of Lebron/KD/Kawhi. At 23 his best years are likely ahead of him.

Jim C: If I’m allowed to pick anyone go ahead and sign me up for Ja Morant if I get to keep him long term. Maybe Stephen Curry if I only get one season. Those reasons should be pretty obvious.

If I’m looking at what would be the scouting report for the type of point guard that would fit well with the existing roster then I think the team needs more of a pass first point guard like Chris Paul. I think Ayton does need at least a little bigger role in the offense so it’s beneficial to have someone that is good at getting the ball to him where he can be effective.

Darius Garland does pretty much everything well. Dejounte Murray doesn’t shoot threes well, but is pretty damn good at everything else. He is also a great rebounder and would help the Suns deficiency there. LaMelo Ball also fits that bill. The Suns aren’t going to be trading for any of those guys either (obviously).

In terms of someone they could trade for and make the team better this coming season… I’m not seeing it. I think Chris Paul is the best option to win now.

Rod: Taking everything into consideration - overall talent, athleticism and age - I’d still be hard pressed to choose between Ja Morant and Luka Doncic. Both are young and both can score but they have some very significant differences that would have effects on the rest of the team. Ja is by far the more athletic and faster/quicker but Luka is the better passer and three point marksman. Luka is physically larger and rebounds better than Ja but commits fewer turnovers and personal fouls.

I’d love to have either of them but in the end, the potential fit with the team we already have makes me choose Morant. Dallas played at the slowest pace in the NBA last season, Memphis at the 3rd fastest (the Suns were 9th). That was certainly not determined by them alone but tells me that Ja would likely be a better fit with the Suns’ present offensive style.

Q2 - What do you believe would be the pluses and minuses of starting Cam Johnson at power forward?

OldAz: In today’s NBA I see more positives than negatives, as a lot of teams play smaller “5-out” lineups and don’t employ a bruising PF any more. Obviously, Cam provides much better shooting from distance and is a pretty good passer within the offense. While Jae is a better individual defender, Cam can hold his own and is rarely out of position. From a team defense perspective, I don’t think this is as steep a drop off as many might make it out to be. In today’s NBA the improved 3-pt shooting and spacing is probably a good enough reason to try this.

To me the biggest “Minuses” would be rebounding and the cumulative season long toll on Cam’s body. Jae is not a good rebounder either, but this is a serious weakness for the Suns and plugging Cam in as a starter does nothing to address it. Then there is the significant possibility that Cam’s offensive production starts to erode or he has more stints on the IR due to the regular banging with bigger NBA Power forwards. Not every team has a Julias Randle that plays so physically at the 4, so the Suns could get away with it in the Regular season only to have a major issue exposed come playoff time when they run into a bigger team (Lakers, Pels, Bucks, etc.).

Cliff30: The biggest plus is obvious. He’s a huge upgrade on offense. He’s a drastically better three point shooter and while he doesn’t create a ton of his own shots, he has a lot more unassisted 2 pointers than Jae. The downside is a slight drop off in rebounding and a loss of physicality. Cam is a good defender. But he’s not going to body people up in the post like Jae does. We’d have to do some defensive scheming to make sure nobody other than Ayton got left body on body one on one down low. The other big drop off, who scores on the bench unit? Our bench struggled to score at times last season and that was with Cam averaging 12.5 off the bench. Swap him for Crowder and that unit is really going to struggle barring a serious upgrade over Payne and Shamet.

Jim C: I think if Cam Johnson is one of the best five players on the team, which I think he is, then you have to experiment with this lineup to see if it works. There are definitely players willing to sacrifice for the good of the team, but everyone wants to start. If Johnson wants to start the Suns need to see if it can work.

The biggest question is Cam’s strength and ability to guard the post. At 6’8” with decent length he has the size that way, but at 210 pounds does he have the strength and mass body up guys on the block? Crowder weighs 235. Dario Saric is looking pretty svelte these days, but is listed at 225. Cam is also not a great rebounder. Crowder wasn’t really either, but he will still get you an extra board a game compared to Cam.

Besides those issues Cam is a pretty dynamic defender, and Mikal is never afraid of taking the tough matchup, so I don’t see why it can’t work. Usually situations don’t have nothing but upside. The other side of the coin is that the other team has to figure out how they’re going to deal with this lineup on their defensive end.

Rod: To me it’s pretty simple. Cam J gives the Suns more offensive options while giving up some defense and a small amount of rebounding when you swap him with Jae Crowder. Cam has more offensive versatility too and isn’t limited to just shooting threes. Jae can do some of that too but he always seems a bit awkward when he’s forced off the three-point line and has to take a shot off the move or drive to the basket.

Then there’s also the question of who’s going to (hopefully) take over the role as the 6th man scorer off the bench. I’m not at all confident that we already have anyone else on the roster that can fill that role. If Crowder isn’t traded before training camp and the roster stays pretty much the same as it is now, I’d rather the Suns keep Cam as their 6th man.

Q3 - Of the Suns’ bench players, who are you most interested in watching during the preseason games?

OldAz: All of the newcomers intrigue me to some extent. My main 2 interests in preseason will be watching Okogie’s athleticism and how he fits in. Also, after the highlights of Saric in the Euro league I am interested to see how his renewed athleticism stands up to the increased talent levels of the NBA. Dario was a pretty key piece to the bench 2 years ago, and based on the highlights I have seen he somehow looks healthier and more agile than I remember. I am hoping this is not just a product of reduced competition and if it isn’t, Dario could be a major contributor this coming season.

Cliff30: Dario vs. NBA talent after he’s looked healthy overseas? Duane Washington Jr. because I’m kind of bullish on him, Jock Landale because he’s the guy I’m least familiar with? Honestly, everybody just stay healthy in pre-season is all I care about.

Jim C: Well if Cam is starting… and the Suns trade for Bogdanovich… that means Bojan would be coming off the bench… so I would be most interested in watching him play. Obviously I endorse that trade rumor.

To be candid though, it has to be Dario. He’s already looking good now that he’s finally getting back on the court for Croatia in Eurobasket qualifiers. Let’s not forget that two years ago Saric averaged 11 points and six rebounds a game while playing smart and tough basketball. He is a solid rotation player… and he’s 28. Right in his prime.

I also just want to see him back on the court. As a person who has suffered significant sports related injuries I always hate seeing it happen to anyone else and wish them fast and full recoveries.

Rod: Oh boy, there are several that deserve mention.

First, I really want a look at Dario. The clips I’ve seen of him playing in EuroBasket games have looked good but that’s mostly against non-NBA level competition so you can’t really draw many conclusions from it. He does look fit and healthy in them and I swear it looks as though he may have slimmed down a little and is moving swifter/better than I remember him doing before the knee injury. During the preseason I’d like to see him getting some time in at PF.

Duane Washington Jr is another guy I want to have a closer look at. His stats with Indy were pretty good last season and he’s shot quite well from three (37.7%) which is always a welcomed addition. He seems like more of a combo guard than a PG though so I’d like to see the Suns give him some time in preseason at PG to see how well he functions as a playmaker.

Also Jock Landale has some potential as a stretch 5 and I want to get an idea of how well he might fit into the Suns’ offense... and get a look at his rebounding and defensive skills. I’m pretty sure he’s just going to be an end of the bench player but just how far down that ladder he may be is still a question mark.

As always, many thanks to our Fantable members for all their extra effort this week!


Interesting Suns Stuff

DEVIN BOOKER GOES CRAZY Vs Josh Christopher & Coby White At CP3 Elite Camp!

Cam Payne’s Basketball Camp | Phoenix Suns


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “The Suns should...”

18% - Go ahead and use the taxpayer MLE to sign the best player available now.

82% - Hang on to the TP MLE until the buyout market begins.

A total of 236 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

The news of a potential Jazz fire sale came out the day after I’d sent out this week’s Fantable questions so I’m laying this one out now for everyone to answer instead of waiting a week.

Poll

Which Utah Jazz player do you MOST hope that the Suns trade for?

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    Bojan Bogdanovic
    (208 votes)
  • 23%
    Jordan Clarkson
    (83 votes)
  • 11%
    Jarred Vanderbilt
    (40 votes)
  • 1%
    Malik Beasley
    (4 votes)
  • 5%
    Someone else
    (20 votes)
355 votes total Vote Now