Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.
One week of 2023-24 Phoenix Suns basketball is in the books, and while the team doesn’t look like the team you watched the last few years — “ummm, who’s that?” my in-laws ask — they are still fun as heck to watch.
Here’s the week AT A GLANCE.
Think about this: The only guys you saw wearing Suns unis in the 2023 Playoffs who have played in all three games in Suns unis to start this season are Kevin Durant and Josh Okogie. That’s it. Go back a year and the answer is zero, with Book out since Game 1.
New owner Mat Ishbia and CEO Josh Bartelstein don’t just turn a corner, they laid a whole new road. On the court, together with James Jones and his staff, they’ve totally remade the roster into one I already like a lot better. But OFF the court is where the new ownership really really shines.
- “Spending? Spend every penny and more on players. And I’ll pay whatever luxury tax comes.”
- “What do you mean people can’t watch games if they don’t pay a fortune? Screw it, make it FREE to every home in Arizona!”
- “We need a third star? Leave it to me. I’ll get him. We’ll have the best third-man in the league.”
- “It took the last guy 20 years to cough up a $45 million practice court for the NBA team, and it’s 15 minutes away? Fine, I’ll double that, for the women’s team Mercury and my staff, and it will only be 3 blocks away.”
- “Ring of Honor for 54 year franchise history is a rando digital board display that alternates with ads? Eff that. Let’s make it permanent, in the rafters, make ALL of them feel great to be back here again, and finally induct Marion and Stoudemire too!”
- it goes on and on
He. Da. Man.
Back to the team on the court for a minute. I’ve got my own personal Stock Up/Down Tracker. Totally subjective.
The graph on the left is from before preseason. The graph on the right is as of today. Color indicates a 2+ move on the board since last time.
That’s my rank on player performance so far, while not knocking Book and Beal down just because they’re day-to-day injured. I only knocked Lee down because he won’t play for at least a few months, if at all this year, due to the meniscus tear/surgery rehab. I saw him on crutches at the arena on Saturday.
You’re going to argue that Yuta deserves better than a yellow ‘drop down’, but that’s just a testament to the whole bench mob. Okogie and Goodwin jumped up so high, that’s the two-spot drop for Yuta.
Now let’s look at their playing time. This past week, Eric Gordon is second in total minutes played behind, of course, load-carrying Kevin Durant.
If you’d put that chart in front of me a week ago, I’d have predicted a week of sadness. Kudos to this bench crew!!
JORDAN GOODWIN on Lakers loss: “That was our first time through (without both Beal and Book). Coach did a great job of showing us our spacing. Let’s not just stand, give [KD] a little bit of movement. We did a great job the next time out.” (sure enough, the same group hung 126 points on the Jazz with constant movement and spacing to deter the focus off KD.)
COACH FRANK VOGEL, SAME TOPIC: “We worked really hard on it the last two days, we thought it was the biggest thing that cost us the game in L.A. and our guys did a good job on our end with spacing. There’s a lot of ways to make your teammates better and one way to do that is to pass the ball to them, but by spacing the floor off the ball, you made the player with the ball smarter and more efficient and we did a lot better job of that tonight.”
VOGEL, on 4th RANKED D: “So far, so good. The guys have really worked at it, they believe in what we do and in terms of contested shots; you can contest shots if everybody stays guarded... they’re doing it with a great deal of effort, hustle and scrappiness, which is what we’re asking them to do.”
VOGEL, on DURANT TAKING THE TOUGHEST DEFENSIVE MATCHUP: “It’s what he asked of me in our very first conversation this summer. We don’t have to hide him so he can carry the offensive load and put another player on their best player so that it’s a mismatch, he wants it.” (ed note: we’ve all worried about KD wearing down, but he’s not. And when Book/Beal are out there he doesn’t need to carry all the offensive load either)
KEVIN DURANT, on PLAYING WITH THE BENCH GUYS: “That is one of the best feelings in the league, when you can get some of the guys who don’t get an opportunity to play as much, get them some reps on the floor, and their families get to see them on TV.”
DURANT, on the DBACKS: “The game was on during pregame in the locker room. We are very excited for the D-Backs. World Series here in Arizona is going to be extremely fun. Hopefully we can catch a game. Big opportunity for those guys, so I’m excited for everybody in Arizona.” (ed note: I asked him if he was going to throw out a first pitch this week, but he laughed it off. He’s happy getting those field level seats with Book again on an off day or two.)
GRAYSON ALLEN, on OCCUPYING THAT CORNER SPOT FOR KICKOUTS: “That was the spot I loved the last two years in Milwaukee too, the same with Giannis (Antetokounmpo). I would throw it to him and play the game of chicken. If my guy helps, I am ready, I like being in that spot. Kind of just sliding back and forth hoping to get an open look.”
ERIC GORDON cont’d: “I really feel like we’re onto something special in Phoenix. I don’t look at this as a short-term thing. I really think we have a really good shot this season [at winning the NBA title] and for years to come. With me being here, I felt like we would be pretty good because I think I would fit in and gel with these guys really well.”
ERIC GORDON cont’d: “I felt Phoenix was onto something special. It was a tough decision, but I really think we have everything going on here from ownership, to coaches and to players. It’s hard to beat.”
GORDON cont’d: “We have to stay as healthy as we can. That’s No. 1. And no. 2? Once we get the chemistry down, it’s going to be really hard to stop us. In the playoffs, it’s going to be really hard to beat us four times.”
GORDON cont’d: “A lot of the good players around the league with whatever team I’ve been on, always want me in the game with them. I can spread the floor out and they can still operate the way they want to. I’ve had that going on everywhere I’ve been.”
BRAD BEAL on JOINING SUNS: “Honestly, Phoenix picked me. That’s pretty much the gist of it. That’s the short term of it… Phoenix was very aggressive. I felt like I was back in college being recruited again to hear K [Durant] and Book [Booker] pretty much sign off on it and encouraging it to happen. It was definitely surreal because they were kind of a dark horse. They came out of nowhere. They definitely weren’t on my map initially until the day Mat Ishbia reached out and that kind of changed everything.”
Suns Around the Web
- Andscape/Marc Spears/Bradley Beal Diary: Bradley Beal gives his first diary entry to Spears. You gotta read this whole thing, folks! He’s like us, a kid in a candy store on this team.
- SPORTSKEEDA/Mark Medina: Eric Gordon turned down Warriors, Rockets, Bucks to join Suns; talks about how excited for this Suns team this year and for years to come
- KPNX: Superfan Mr. ORNG attended final game with face covered orange paint
- AZ Republic/Bill Goodykoontz: Valley resident Amanda Pflugrad leaves Celtics broadcasting to join the Suns broadcast crew on the Arizona Family channels as a sideline reporter, the team’s first such reporter since the awesome Lindsey Smith thee years ago. Pflugrad will work both home and away games too. Great get for the Suns!
- Shams Charania: Former Suns backup center Bismack Biyombo signs with the Memphis Grizzlies after they learn Stephen Adams will miss the whole season (knee)
- NBA.com: Suns lose 2024 second round draft pick (likely 52-60 range) for starting too early on free agency recruiting
- AZCentral/Duane Rankin: Every Ring of Honor member/surviving rep got $1,200 Canfield Sport 45MM watch by Shinola, a company out of Detroit, during the ROH ceremony last Saturday
Good Bright Side reads you probably missed
Each week I’ll highlight some Bright Side articles that didn’t get as many eyeballs as they should have. It’s worth your time to give these unique takes a look before they’re lost in the ether forever.
- Dave King: I apologize, Grayson Allen, I was unfamiliar with your game
- Overlord Voita: Thank you Mat Ishbia for getting the Ring of Honor right
- Stephen: Booker shines in opener in Point Book role
- Brandon/Zona: Which role player with exceed expectations this year? (this one’s good because he did this before games started, and so far 4 of 5 have done it already)
It’s just here for easy reference. I’ll let you know if anything changes, and I’ll leave all the ‘what does the second apron mean to the Suns stuff here’ too. Just look for a Suns Weekly for a reminder any time.
Contracts in black ink are guaranteed, meaning the Suns have to pay those salaries whether or not the player is on the team, and would only be offset by the salary that player would get by signing with another team.
If Johnson is not outright claimed, the Suns are still 2.4 million over the second tax line.
They will have to make a trade later in the year that nets -$2.5+ million in return salary to get under the second apron.
What does the ‘second tax apron’ mean to the Suns? Because being over that mark limits what the Suns can do with signings and trades to continue to improve the team.
Right now, while they’re over it, through end of regular season:
- cannot sign any high-salary buyout guys (who had more than $12.4 million or so)
- cannot acquire > 10% more salary than they send out in any trades
That means no more Terrence Ross signings after the trade deadline, and no more Durant and Beal trades the way they were done in bringing back significantly more salary.
And if the Suns are still over the second apron after April 2024, they
- cannot pay more than league minimum for free agents from another team
- cannot trade the “seven years out” first round pick (2031)
- cannot acquire any players in sign-and-trade
- cannot send out cash in any trades
- cannot take back ANY more salary than they send out, not even a dollar
- can only do one-for-one trades for salary-matching purposes (no salary aggregation of multiple players)
If they remain over the second apron twice in the following four years (i.e. three of five), starting NEXT season:
- those future frozen draft picks are moved to the END of the first round (they can later be unfrozen if the team gets below the second apron 3 out of 4 years)
In short, trades get tough for the teams over the second apron, including the Suns, Celtics, Nuggets and Clippers (This list only leaves out the Warriors and Bucks because Klay Thompson and Jrue Holiday are merely Bird Rights free agents until they re-sign).
Important Future Dates
- Nov. 10: Suns NBA In-Season Tournament slate begins; Suns host Lakers
- Dec. 7: NBA In-Season Tournament Semifinals
- Dec. 9: NBA In-Season Tournament Finals for inaugural NBA Cup
- Feb 8: Trade Deadline
- Feb. 16-18: NBA All-Star Weekend 2024
- April 14: 2023-24 regular season ends
The Week Ahead
- Home and home vs. the Wemby Spurs
- Road back-to-back this weekend in Philly and Detroit, both 2-1 at this point
Big four-game week!
We don’t know if either Booker (ankle) or Beal (back spasms) will be back in the lineup but they seem to continue to be day to day. Both home games this week are against the Spurs, who don’t quite know who they are yet. They aren’t playing a real point guard (Jeremy Sochan) but have Tre Jones in the wings who might step in after their 40-point loss on Sunday night. You tune in to watch the Victor Wembanyama anyway. He’ll be up and down, but his ups are always highlights. Not sure the Suns need either of the Bs to beat these guys this week.
The weekend gets tougher. The Sixers are playing well without James Harden, and the Pistons are playing well so far this year too. Former first overall pick Cade Cunningham and last year’s lottery pick are rolling. And, it’s a back-to-back. We saw what happened to the Jazz this weekend. One night, they’re beating a healthy Clippers, the next they’re getting their doors blown off. So don’t chalk Sunday’s Pistons game up as a win just yet.
This week’s poll
What’s the Suns record this week, in four games?
Suns record this week with two at home vs Spurs, two on road including B2B at Sixers and Pistons?
This poll is closed