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 - Disregarding Jusuf Nurkic’s possible health/injury issues, what do you see as the positives AND negatives of having him as the Suns’ starting center?
OldAz: The positives are his passing and Basketball IQ. He is simply miles ahead of DA in these 2 key areas, and with no true PG on the team they become even more important. The negatives are his lack of athleticism and that he is another player with serious injury concerns. While people will compare total games missed I can honestly say I was never worried about DA being fragile or coming down with a severe or extended injury. This possibility is far more real for Nurkic than for DA and has to be added to the same concerns about KD.
Also, Nurkic has a far lower ceiling if there are major injuries to more than one of the big three at any given time. With DA, if 2 of the 3 got hurt, they would still be a pretty dangerous team by playing 2 man game with DA and the remaining healthy leader. We saw this last year as DA occasionally put up a monster game of close to 30/15 which he had never done before. This is still true with Nurkic but his ceiling in these scenarios is not as high in my opinion.
Brrrberry: The negative seems pretty clear in that we’ve always lauded an inspired DA for his work defending in space and I don’t foresee a situation where Nurkic does that on DA’s level, regardless of whatever defensive metrics would say in either of their favor.
The positives are many, some difficult to enumerate but most having to do with BBIQ. For the sake of hitting on something that’s not been discussed much yet, the difference in their abilities to carve out and hold space in the post is massive. Sealing your man is big man 101 but something DA struggled with mightily. He never figured it out. It’s something Nurkic is adept at, which creates space for everyone. It makes it easier to get the ball into the post and have some offensive sets to run from there, and take advantage of having a “mouse in the house” when we create switches and hunt other bigs. Having all 5 starters as threats from 3 will be a nice development too, couple that with a more physical nature and I just think he’ll mesh really well with the big 3 and whatever guy we choose to roll out there with them.
Realistically there’s a lot more that I can add but I don’t want to oversell it much. I’m just elated opening night is less than 3 weeks away and we get preseason ball this week!
Rod: One positive I see is that Nurkic is coming to Phoenix knowing and accepting that he is going to be a role player here and is fine with that. He’s not going to be asked to do things that he not already good at. He seems to be more aware of what’s going on around him on the court and is a good and willing passer. I think I would have loved watching him play with Mikal Bridges with him hitting Bridges on cuts to the basket but hopefully we’ll be seeing that play made with others this season.
Both he and Drew Eubanks are supposed to be very good screeners which I will enjoy seeing too.
Outside of the possible health issues, his foot speed and lateral movement will make switching difficult and hurt defensively but I’m hoping Vogel will figure out how to minimize that problem with his team defensive approach. He does understand positioning well though which should help on that end.
Q2 - Other than Nurkic, which one of the players the Suns acquired in the trade do you think is the best addition to the roster?
OldAz: Allen. Because we know what he can do and he has already done it for a contender. If he can earn 20 minutes a game like he did with the Bucks despite the Suns guard heavy roster and continue to hit 40% on threes, then he will become a very popular player despite his reputation.
On the other hand, even if he is a better shooting version of Shamet who can’t get that many minutes because of the guard heavy roster, he will still fetch a player that is needed at the trade deadline, and that player will be at or above the $9M salary range. The other players they acquired don’t carry this same value so whether he succeeds or not, Allen is the best addition.
Secondarily, if Little finally makes good on his potential he would become the best addition because of his talent level and very affordable contract.
Brrrberry: This is Allen and it’s not close. He’s going into his 6th season and you know what you’re getting. He’s smack dab in the middle of his prime at this point but we can count on a super efficient 10 ppg, cerebral basketball and a competitive guy that genuinely wants to win. You can never have enough shooters these days and we’ve been near the bottom 1/3 of the league as far as attempts in recent years. I expect to be in the top 3rd for attempts and wouldn’t be surprised if we led the league in 3-pt efficiency. I felt that way before Allen came aboard but now it’s something I’d put money on.
There’s going to be some nights where we absolutely run teams out of the building and Allen is going to be a part of that quite a few times. Defensively he’s solid enough that Jrue holiday publicly gave him props for his defense last year and that’s just not something he’d have done if Allen wasn’t putting in some decent work on that end.
Having him and EG behind Book and Beal has gotta be the most absurd amount of riches a team has ever had at the SG position. Literally our 5th SG was leading the NBA in 3pt shooting for most of the season last year and he’s likely not even going to see the court.
Rod: It has to be Grayson Allen. I’m not a fan of his personally but he plays hard, shoots well and has experience under fire (including the playoffs). I wonder whether he or Eric Gordon will get the bulk of the backup minutes at SG but having to choose between the two of them isn’t a bad problem to have. At worst, if there just aren’t enough minutes to go around at SG, having him on the roster gives the Suns a great mid-season trade chip at the deadline to possibly go after a player of need.
I like Nassir Little’s potential - and as a SF he is a little better fit in terms of the team’s needs - but he has not been able to put it all together yet nor does he have a good track record injury-wise. With the wealth of riches the Suns have at SG, Little might become a bit more valuable as a guy that can both play SF and be a small-ball PF. Although I really think that’s a remote possibility, it is a possibility.
Keon Johnson... as Dave Deckard from Blazer’s Edge described him, “Keon goes boing. Like a spring” and I think it’s likely that he gets waived during training camp as the only way the Suns could likely find a team willing to trade for him is if they sent one of their few remaining 2nd round picks back in the deal to get them to just absorb his salary.
Q3 - What’s the most interesting (to you) thing that was spoken about during the Suns Media Day?
OldAz: The hints at the backstory behind the Ayton trade by far were the most interesting. Did he request a trade? (He indicated so). Was there any bad blood involved between players? (doesn’t appear so but that never stopped the media and fans from speculating and assuming such things). Every thing else is just Basketball talk and boring until we actually get to see this team on the floor playing. I am picturing the scene in Return of the Jedi where the Emperor is almost giddy in showing the power of the “fully operational” Death Star. I am that excited to see this team play, but talking Xs and Os now just dulls that sense of anticipation for me. ”Let’s just get to the games already.” So for now, talking about DA and the drama surrounding him is far more interesting this one last time.
Brrrberry: KD’s unabashed LOVE for Book. I’ve never seen another guy in the league talk about one of his teammates the way that KD was talking about Book yesterday. There’s an intense amount of game recognize game going on but it extends way beyond the basketball court. They spent a bunch of time together this summer as homies and obviously became great friends but KD was talking yesterday like they’ve only scratched the surface of what they’re going to do together, on and OFF the court! I’ve found KD to be one of the most likeable superstars in sports. The last few times I’ve seen him behind a mic he’s been so comfortable and authentic. He said it himself, but that comfort he’s feeling currently is going to translate onto the court and he’s going to have a great season. Let’s just hope Book doesn’t get a GF for a bit so they can continue down this young, rich, free and living their best life path they’ve got going on.
Rod: While a lot of interesting things came up, I most loved the overall positivity and enthusiasm as compared to last year’s media day. Everyone there seemed as eager as we fans for the season to start, mentally locked in and ready to get going. I’ve seen kids in candy stores that didn’t seem as happy to be there as Ishbia seemed to be on Monday. It’s great to see such enthusiasm from our owner! I also liked when James Jones said, “There’s always a better way, there’s always a way to improve” and indicated that his work is not over and, as good as this team seems to be (on paper), the Suns will continue to look for opportunities to get even better.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members for all their extra effort this week!
There are 10 players on the Suns roster who shot at least 35% from 3-point range last season.
Last Week’s poll results
Last week’s question was, “Maintaining which Suns player’s health is most important this season?”
28.0% - Devin Booker.
71.5% - Kevin Durant.
00.5% - Bradley Beal.
A total of 380 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Is Jusuf Nurkic a "better fit" at center for the Suns?
This poll is closed
Undecided but I can’t wait to find out.