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Center of the Sun: Ayton is the most polarizing Phoenix Suns player ever?

Your weekly roundup of Phoenix Suns news, rumors, notes and videos from the prior week plus a preview of the week to come.

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Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Current Record: 26-25, 9th seed in the Western Conference

Offensive Rating: 113.7 (13th, ↑1)

Defensive Rating: 112.2 (10th, ↑1)

Net Rating: +1.5 (11th, ↑2)

There’s plenty that the fan base does not agree on. The City Edition uniforms? Who should James Jones target at the trade deadline? DWJ or Saben Lee?

If you want to spark debate, however, you simply say two words in succession to a Suns fan: Deandre. Ayton. Here I am again, talking Ayton, after a polarizing Week 15 by the Suns’ big man. There’s three sides to every argument — your side, their side, and the truth — and with Ayton returning to the lineup, arguing is everywhere. Not disagreements, not misconceptions. Arguments.

I’m guilty of it myself, getting caught up in the DA crossfire. I said some things on the ‘ole Twitter of which I’m not proud. All in the name of Ayton. What’s happening to us?!

I do my best to try to see both sides of the argument and make my own conclusions. What you must learn and understand is that it is acceptable to comprehend all sides of the dispute. There is no right or wrong viewpoint on DA. And that we all want Deandre Ayton to help this team win games and, eventually, a title.

We once again find ourselves torn apart about the effort behind the statistics in Week 15. Everyone has an opinion on the fifth-year, $30M-a-year center. Like numerous things in this world, it isn’t as simple as black-and-white. When it comes to Deandre Ayton, you have to live in the gray.

Statistically, Week 15 was solid for DA. 21 points on 42.5 FG% and 14 rebounds in two games played. What more could you ask for?

What is of note is that he is taking more shot attempts. Prior to his return from his illness, Deandre Ayton was averaging 13.2 field goal attempts in his 40 games played. Since Booker has been out, Ayton increased his attempts to 15.4.

As I previously indicated in relation to Mikal Bridges, I find those numbers difficult to comprehend given that Devin Booker is out and has vacated 20.4 shot attempts per game. I would like to see both Mikal and Deandre work on their offensive game while the opportunity relative to shot attempts exists with Booker out.

We received that this week. Ayton went 6-of-20 in the Suns loss against the Mavericks and 11-of-20 in the Suns win against the Spurs. 20 FGA? That’s more like it.

What is impressive is he did so following his return from an upper respiratory illness. Using the illness as fuel to the debate, you have to understand that Deandre Ayton was asked –and did – exert himself more on the offensive side of the ball. What does that mean? That he suffered on the defensive side of the ball.

The Spurs attacked him with Keldon Johnson and 19 year-old rookie Jeremy Sochan and they were successful. Why? Because Ayton was fatigued. He had no jump left in his legs, no ability to be effective when moving laterally.

The other side of the debate is the lack of production from the shot attempt provided to Ayton. Watch the Suns JAM Session Post Game Podcast following the loss to the Dallas Mavericks. I was furious with DA’s shot selection, lack of physicality, and lack of ability to simply grab key rebounds late in the game.

Sometimes statistics aren’t the entire story. 19 points and 20 rebounds against the Mavericks, the team that is 30th in the league in rebounding, isn’t necessarily impressive.

I feel that those are valid points. “Passion”. It’s unquantifiable and what fuels the anti-statistic debate. He is our franchise center. He does get paid $30M a year to grab a rebound after a missed free-throw by the opposition.

I’ll reiterate that I understand it was his first game back and he was tired. As a player, however, he still has a lot of work to do. He opposes physicality and avoids contact. Other great centers embrace those facets of the game. They take advantage of it. They utilize it to get to the line. Don’t get me wrong: I understand Deandre shot 10 free throws against the Mavericks. But that was the exception, not the rule.

We see too many sequences where he is simply disengaged.

And then, when the game is on the line, he misses the rebounds he should grab. It’s enough to put you in the nuthouse with how crazy it makes you.

I think the key to all of our happiness is to simply accept who and what Deandre Ayton is. He’s not a guy who’s going to go to that next level that we believe he should. Number one pick? Max center? It doesn’t matter. The sooner that we can accept that Deandre Ayton is the fourth best scoring option on this team, the happier will be.

If he goes out and gets 25 in a game, he should be applauded. If he snags 20 boards, it should be celebrated. But it should not be viewed as the expectation night in a night out for him.

I’m still perplexed by the sect of fans that believe the DA can do no wrong. Everybody can do wrong. It’s okay to be critical of your team. That’s what being a fan is. We can simultaneously be critical while wanting the best for them and from them.

Let’s accept DA for what he is and try to be less critical of what he is not. We’ll all be happier.

Player of the Week

Chris Paul

22.3 points, 10.7 assists, 6.0 rebounds

60 FG%, 50 3PT%, 100 FT%

The Point God is back, baby! CP3 was a welcomed addition to a team that is slowly regaining it’s primary productive assets.

Paul has been spry in his return and was key in helping the Suns go 2-1 in Week 15.

In an effort to get help his team, he’s had to log some extra minutes. Is this something we should be concerned with? Or does it not matter. Discuss amongst yourselves, or in the comment section below.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs. Charlotte Hornets (W, 128-97) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks (L, 99-95) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns @ San Antonio Spurs (W, 128-118) FULL RECAP

Highlights/Post Game Podcasts


413. Suns (25-24) vs. Hornets Post Game Pod:


414. Suns (25-25) vs. Mavericks Post Game Pod:

SUNS at SPURS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | January 28, 2023:

415. Suns (26-25) @ Spurs Post Game Pod:

News & Notes

Arizona Sports: Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker surprises Make-A-Wish Arizona kid

NBA Analysis Network: This Knicks-Suns Trade Features Immanuel Quickley

AZ Central: Should Phoenix Suns’ Damion Lee be in 3-point contest All-Star weekend? Stephen Curry thinks so

The Cold Wire: Suns Star Got Called Out For Taunting On Thursday

Clutch Points: RUMOR: The truth behind the Suns not trading Jae Crowder for Rui Hachimura

Hoops Habit: Are the Suns looking for their Chris Paul replacement?

Fan Nation: Mikal Bridges Shines When Suns Need Him Most

Sports Keeda: Kyle Kuzma Trade Rumors: Top 3 ideal landing spots as LA Lakers go out of race

Arizona Sports: Suns’ Cam Payne receives NBA Cares Community Assist Award for December

Quotes of the Week

“When you’re playing more minutes, you’re feeling more like a part of the team.” — Dario Saric

“I love our defensive intensity to start the game, set the tone for us.” — Monty Williams after Charlotte game

“We’ve still got a ways to go. We understand we were in a situation last season we didn’t have to look at the standings, but we’ve got to win games.” — Chris Paul

“I cannot wait for these owners to put their foot in their asses in this next CBA.” — Charles Barkley

“He’s a big piece of the puzzle for us.” — Jock Landale on DA

“I miss him.” — Chris Paul on Jae Crowder

“I thought our bench came in, very little awareness of the game plan.” — Monty Williams after Mavericks’ loss

“I don’t want to say that’s not the end goal, but that’s definitely a stepping stone to being known as an elite shooter in this league to have that invite.” — Damion Lee on being invited to participate in the three-point contest

“I told our guys it was a quality win cause of the way we beat them last time and we knew they were going to come back with way more effort and focus.” — Monty Williams after beating San Antonio

“I still ain’t there yet.” — Deandre Ayton

Key Stat


Bismack Biyombo with the highest +/- on the week.

Injury Status Report

Cameron Payne (right foot sprain) is DAY TO DAY

Landry Shamet (hip) is DAY TO DAY

Devin Booker (groin soreness) is OUT

Jae Crowder (meeting with the Bucks) is NOT WITH TEAM

This Week in Suns History

February 3, 1994

Not all memories are dusted with golden sprinkles and diamond sparkles. But they do have silver linings. Today we warp back in time to when the Suns took on the Portland Trailblazers in early February of 1994.

The team was missing numerous players. Charles Barkley was out. So was Kevin Johnson. And Danny Ainge. Sounds like the 2022-23 Suns these days.

With so many high profile players out, Phoenix chose to start newly acquired third-year guard Elliott Perry at the point. Ah yes, ‘old “Socks”. Along with Dan Majerle, Cedric Ceballos, A.C. Green, and Oliver Miller, Perry attempted to win the 30th game for the Suns.

Portland, who entered 25-18, were chasing Phoenix in the standings. And dominated the game. They leapt out to a 31-21 led after the first quarter and never looked back, winning easily 126-105.

So why is this a memory to look back on?

Well, our boy Socks had quite the interesting game. He was 0-of-6 from the field, scoring his only 2 points from the free throw line. He had three rebounds as well. But it was his assist total, which ended at a career-high 17, that was impressive.

He benefited greatly from Dan Majerle playing like a modern NBA player, as Thunder Dan went 4-of-5 from deep during the game.

17 assists from Socks. In a loss.

Elliott Perry

Upcoming Games

Monday, January 30 — Phoenix Suns vs. Toronto Raptors

Wednesday, February 1 — Phoenix Suns vs. Atlanta Hawks

Friday, February 3 — Phoenix Suns @ Boston Celtics

Saturday, February 4 — Phoenix Suns @ Detroit Pistons

We start the week at home against the Toronto Raptors. And this is it! BRIGHT SIDE NIGHT! I’m sure Dave King will soon provide the information about how much was donated and how many underprivileged children are going to have an opportunity to see the Suns play live and in person on Monday night.

For those of you who donated, thank you.

It means more than you know. It is one of the amazing things about working here at Bright Side, to see Dave organize such a terrific event, knowing that the foundation of our fan base is the future. For those who will be in attendance, I’ll see you there!

The 23-28 Raptors are a team that can be tough because they possess numerous wings with length and speed. We’ve seen teams like this give Phoenix challenges in the past, Toronto included. They beat Phoenix 113-104 in late-December.

Ball security is paramount to success in this game as the Raptors are tops in the league in steals (9.2) and commit the least amount of turnovers (11.7).

Toronto is one of the franchises that many are looking to be sellers at the trade deadline. The Suns have been linked to Fred Vanvleet. Rumor has it the OG Anunoby is unhappy in Toronto. Time will shortly tell us whether or not any of that is true, and we’ll see if this team goes into reset mode.

If you want to see players that have been connected to the Suns, the Atlanta Hawks visit the Footprint Center on Wednesday night. Another name that has been associated with Phoenix is John Collins, though I’m not sure why.

John Collins is on year two of a five-year, $125M contract. Phoenix would have to give up numerous assets to bring him here. And I’ll tell you this, if you think the fan base is frustrated with the DA for his inconsistent effort – for what we would have to give up – you don’t know John Collins.

The Hawks, a team that made an Easter Conference Finals appearance two seasons ago, continue to be a team in the middle. They are 25-24 and 25th in the league in three-point shooting. They’re 23rd in net rating.

We all know that if Trae Young heats up, they are hard to beat. Young is averaging 27.4 points in his last five games. But he is shooting 16.7% from beyond the arc in those games. Ice Trae has been as cold as ice.

The Suns hit the road following their affair with the Hawks, playing on the east coast at TD Garden on Friday against the Boston Celtics.

Remember the Boston Celtics? A team that open-hand slapped the Suns in December on National TV? Since that game, Boston is 14-10. They do not appear to be the juggernaut that existed earlier in the season. Perhaps they were coming off the high of losing in the NBA Finals, started the season feeling like world beaters, and the league has caught up to them.

Tatum and Brown remain a dynamic duo, combining for an average of 58.1 points a night. They’ve each scored 30 points in a game 20 times thus far this season.

Phoenix ends Week16 the following night in Detroit against the 13-37 Pistons. The Pistons are once again the NBA’s bottom feeders. They’ll have so many lottery selections that they won’t know what to do with them.

One thing they are trThe 33 year-old signed a two year, $39M contract extension with Detroit earlier this season. The challenge? They’re trying to set their price. And it’s steep. In a buyers market, with not too many sellers, perhaps they can ask the price they are seeking.

I’ll ask you, you can tell us in the comments below, is Bogdanovic worth that? Not just the Suns, to anybody?

No Cade Cunningham in this one – he’s out for the year with a shin injury – and perhaps we’ll see Jaden Ivey this go round. The 20 year-old rookie is averaging 15.1 points this season.

Weekly Prediction: 3-1

How will Phoenix do this week?

I believe it would be an undefeated Week 15, and I was wrong. Even with Luka Dončić out, those darn Mavericks beat Phoenix, and beat my prediction of 3-0.

This week I’m feeling confident as well. 3-1. I can’t tell you which game will be the loss, but it will be one of them. Will it be on the Bright Side Night? Probably. That’s how the world works. But honestly, I think it might be at the hands of the Boston Celtics in the TD Garden. The team is talented, there’s no question about that.

What do you think?


What will the Suns Week 16 record be?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    (19 votes)
  • 44%
    (57 votes)
  • 32%
    (41 votes)
  • 5%
    (7 votes)
  • 2%
    (3 votes)
127 votes total Vote Now

Bringing it home

I don’t know why I spent so much time on the Great Ayton Debate. It’s the primary negative thing that occurs in our fanbase right now, and I guess we all find it easy to gravitate to the negative.

Let’s look at some positives.

How great is it to have Cam Johnson back? When Johnson returned from injury last season, it took a few games for him to get his legs back underneath him. In fact, he didn’t look right the rest of the season and into the postseason. But he has returned and is looking fantastic! His quick release is confident. His quickness and ability t create his own shot is stellar. I love that he wears black shoes with white socks.

It’s a me thing, I always notice the shoes.

Having Cameron Johnson back reminded us how hampered this team has truly been. Here’s a fantastic scorer, possesses some size on defense, it is a welcome addition to a team that needed a boost.

We’re hoping that soon we’ll see Devin Booker. We’re hoping that soon the storm that the team has been navigating without him will finally be over. We’re hoping that soon this team will be complete.

You want to peak at the right time. It will take some time for everybody to get their legs back underneath them, and re-institute the organic chemistry that they possess. That may equate to a late-season push and peaking when it matters the most: the postseason.

With everybody back, Ayton can fall back into his role, and we can all be happy again.


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