Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
Each week the Fantable — a round table of Bright Siders - give their takes on the Suns’ latest issues and news.
Fantable Questions of the Week
Q1 - With Book possibly out until February, what are your expectations for the Suns in January?
GuarGuar: My expectations are by the time Book comes back we are at around .500. We may be slightly below or above but I am not hopeful about this team’s record while he is out. Our offense and defense have been abysmal without him. Maybe Payne and Cam J coming back soon will change things some. But the next month or so looks pretty bleak. Our schedule is really hard in January too.
OldAz: They still need to compete, even if this means fighting to stay above .500. Ideally, Monty reads BSotS and takes to heart the article from a few days ago by John Voita and moves away from his “guard centric offense” to prioritize development of DA. So far I have only seen him use Mikal more in the role as “the only starter with the bench unit”. If the Suns are going to lose (and with the current roster they will struggle either way) then they need to get some benefit from it by leaning on DA and getting him more comfortable being the focus of the offense. They should also give heavy minutes to DWJ, Ish, and Lee and see what they can provide over the current bench options.
However, the question asked what I expect, not what I hope for.
I expect Monty to do exactly what he has been doing and try to run the same offense and game plan, but with Shamet in Booker’s place and I expect a continuation of the last few games results. (I really hate being a pessimist, but this is honestly what I expect and why wouldn’t I when the first 3-4 plays after the half against the Knicks were run for players who were a combined “0 for” the entire first half!).
Philip: The Suns will be a middling or slightly worse team all month. They’ll have moments of seeming brilliance (see the December 27 game against Memphis), and they’ll have moments that make fans want to pull their hair out (see the turnover extravaganza against Toronto on December 30).
Suns fans should hold on to hope that the reappearance of key rotational figures will serve as a stop gap until Booker returns.
Ethan: If they could manage to go around .500, I think that’s a win. Given their recent run of play, I think that .500 may be too optimistic.
Rod: After what I’ve seen on the court lately, I expect them to keep falling in the standings... maybe as far as being back with the lottery level teams. I’m hoping that they can at least tread water until then AND can avoid any more injuries and can keep most of the rest of the roster healthy. .500 seems like too much to expect right now though, especially considering the difficulty of their upcoming schedule.
Q2 - Should fans be losing patience with James Jones’s hesitancy in trading Jae Crowder?
GuarGuar: It’s obviously frustrating we haven’t dealt Jae yet, but I think we all will be fine if he gets dealt for good value at the deadline. Hopefully the waiting will be worth it. It would be a huge let down if after all this time we gave him away for very little.
OldAz: It depends. I really do think that the ownership situation has tied his hands to make the moves that need to be made. In addition, too many teams are still competitive so I don’t think there is anything super enticing out there right now. Thus, if James Jones makes a move simply to make a move, it would likely be a band-aid type move that really does not help in the grand scheme of things. IMO, Monty playing Lee and DWJ heavy minutes over Shamet and Payne would be better than any minor trade Jones could make currently.
Philip: Would it be nice to have something, anything from that roster spot? Sure. Am I frustrated that James Jones hasn’t filled it? Not really.
I have, like probably every person reading this article, ZERO information-sharing connections on the team. I just watch and (sometimes) enjoy the basketball product. That to say, I don’t know what deals James Jones has heard, countered, or rejected.
So, I guess, no, I’m not losing patience, and I’m not even sure “hesitancy” is the right word to describe how James Jones is handling the situation.
Ethan: Based off of recent reports, I don’t know what to believe when it comes to trades happening or not happening! I think it’s silly to think Jones is just sitting on his hands. If Jones isn’t willing to part with Ayton, Mikal or Cam J (which I believe is not the best way to think about our team), he may be thinking Jae is his only shot at getting value.
Rod: After reading Dave’s article on Wednesday, I’m less inclined to lose my patience. GM’s are always going to have to work with some restrictions placed by owners (not to mention the multitude of NBA trade rules and restrictions) and I have strong doubts that anyone Jones could bring back for Crowder right now wouldn’t really move the team’s needle much.
The one good thing about the Suns recent fall in the standings is that their draft picks are becoming more valuable as trade chips so if the front office has the okay to add one or more to a trade that could make the difference between rearranging the deck chairs and actually bringing back at least a slightly better return through a trade.
Q3 - Other than Book, Cam Johnson is the player I’m most looking forward to returning from injury (Jan. 8 is the 2-month mark following his surgery). Do you think his return could make a significant difference for the Suns even w/o Book?
GuarGuar: Assuming Cam J is close to his normal self that definitely is a big boost to the team. He helps our spacing drastically and is a solid wing defender. There are nights he is capable of scoring 25-30 points, which we desperately need with Book out.
OldAz: Yes. The Suns need reliable shooters in a big way, especially with the starting unit. Their spacing is terrible and teams are packing it in on DA to live with the outside shooting of Craig, Mikal, Shamet and CP3 (and right now that’s a good move on their part). Putting Cam or Lee in more minutes changes that equation because they provide a real outside threat that does not take what seems like 1-2 minutes to get up a shot (apologies to Mikal, CP3 and Craig, but their shooting motion is super slow and allows teams too much time to recover compared to Lee or Cam J.) Shamet and Ish also get their shot off quickly, but they are not really a threat until (if) they prove they are hot during the game.
Philip: A fully healthy Cam Johnson would do a lot for the Suns. His shooting and ever-increasing shot creation would buoy an at-times stagnating offense. However, he won’t be fully healthy when he gets back. He’ll need time to get his legs underneath him, get his rhythm back, and reach in-season conditioning. So, I’m going to be wary of heightened expectations right when he returns.
Regardless, I can’t wait to see him play. It has been too long.
Ethan: Absolutely. Cam is a plus defender, a shooting threat, a solid passer and can attack the rim. The Suns will love to have ALL of that back in the lineup! Cam is a MASSIVE improvement offensively over the guys that are currently filling his role in the lineup, so we have to have some high hopes about the impact. I am worried about him getting his legs back under him and getting the confidence back, but we’ll have to see on that one!
Rod: Yes. Probably not a huge difference but still a significant one. Johnson is a shooter who can do a pretty good impression of a go-to guy on offense. Remember that 38 point game - and the game winning shot - against the Knicks last year? He did that in just a hair over 28 minutes. He knows his primary job is to score and if Monty just tells him to defer to no-one I think he can make a big difference at times... as long as he can get and stay healthy.
Bonus Q - This Thursday (Jan. 5) teams will be able to sign players to 10-day contracts. Do you think the Suns will sign someone and is there anyone available that you would like to see them offer a 10-day contract to?
GuarGuar: It’s definitely worth a shot to sign a scoring guard to a 10 day and see what they got. We aren’t in a place where we should be avoiding possible 10 day gems. Low hit rate but it’s worth a shot to try and get some guys.
OldAz: Not really. The Suns are already playing deep into their bench, but it’s not like there are issues burning those players out. In fact, we could easily see more minutes from Lee, Ish, and DWJ without any issue. All a 10 day contract is going to do is take minutes from those 3. The one exception would be a veteran like Carmelo Anthony. If he wants to sign a 10 day deal to show that he can be an answer at PF, then I would roll the dice on that.
If you’re the kind of person who can have genuine insight on a 10-day contract that would actually help this team in the long run, you’re a significantly better basketball mind than me. I, for one, do not even attempt to dive into the realm of 10-days. In fact, I don’t really even care about watching/scouting draft prospects until their rookie year, and that feels incredibly on-brand for a Suns podcaster…
Ethan: I genuinely have no idea on this one, I’m sorry!
Rod: The Suns don’t really need to sign someone just to have another healthy body available (not at the moment anyway) but there are a few older vets that are still unsigned that might take a 10-day offer just to try and prove that they can still be a valuable addition to an NBA team and might be worth a shot.
Carmelo Anthony is the first to come to mind and then there’s also Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge. None of them are who they once were anymore but, if you could just get 10-12 good minutes per game out of any of them, a 10-day contract could be worth it while the Suns are waiting on Booker’s return and Crowder finally getting traded. I really don’t expect them to find anyone that will stick with the team beyond those 10 days though.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members for all their extra effort this week!
Last Week’s poll results
Last week’s question was, “Which would be your top choice if the Suns could only keep one?”
30% - Damion Lee.
51% - Josh Okogie.
16% - Jock Landale.
03% - Bismack Biyombo.
A total of 185 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Until Booker returns I expect the Suns to...
This poll is closed
Win over 50% of their games.
Win about 50% of their games.
Win less than 50% of their games.
Win FAR less than 50% of their games.