WELCOME to your news roundup of the week that was and the week yet to come for your Phoenix Suns.
Three weeks of 2023-24 Phoenix Suns basketball are in the books and we’re all still scratching our heads. Who are these guys in purple and orange and why do they keep blowing leads? The Suns sit at 4-6 on the season, inclusive of four different fourth quarter meltdowns.
Here’s the WEEK AT A GLANCE
(let me know if there’s anything missing or superfluous in this graphic — should be a glance that sums up the current state for you in 15 seconds or less)
On that last comment in the AT A GLANCE, I wrote it as “Need Book” which does not mean I think it all gets fixed with adding a singular player. It’s not like Book has played with any of these new guys either.
But the Suns need someone starting the offense in the fourth not named Kevin I’ll-do-it-myself-into-triple-team-if-you’re-gonna-miss-anyway Durant, or named Bradley Beal or Jordan never-done-this-before Goodwin or Josh don’t-make-me-shoot Okogie.
The Suns really didn’t load the roster with playmakers beyond the three All-NBAs, and they probably should have at least had someone like Ish Smith, for example. I’m not talking about someone who pushes KBB down positions. I’m talking about someone who can at least run a multi-action play when BB are on the sidelines for one reason or another.
Eric Gordon and Grayson Allen are great in their roles, but neither is meant to be the play caller/ballhandler outside the paint. They’re meant to be that distraction that keeps teams honest on KBB.
So what’s the solution? In my opinion, swap someone like Nassir Litttle ($6 million salary) this fall for someone’s backup PG. Not sure who, gotta see who becomes available. Just someone who can run a play, run a secondary play, and get these guys open shots. Ish Smith just signed with the Houston Rockets, so not exactly Ish. But someone who fits that bill.
Meanwhile, every minute you want to fire Frank Vogel over what’s happening in the fourth, but you’ve got to remind yourselves that this coaching staff has never coached these guys before. And even the coaching staff doesn’t quite know each other, in that Kevin Young is the second in command, so Vogel is even learning his own people.
Check out some of these quotes.
Notable Quotes from the Week that Was
Vogel on fourth quarter meltdown on Sunday, getting outscored 33-13, while shooting 2-21 in the period: “I think that tonight’s fourth quarter is different compared to some of the other fourth quarters we’ve had. Last 48 hours, we’ve put a lot of work into our execution. I think the execution was better than it was against the Lakers and with some of the other fourth quarter breakdowns, we just didn’t make shots.”
Vogel on Josh Okogie, as an example of live evals for roles: “We’re working through roles for certain guys. I think Josh (Okogie) had a big offensive improvement game instead of relying on being a volume three-point shooter. If they’re going to sag off of him, he made a lot of flip plays, read-drive plays, one-more’s into shooters. So, we’re doing some things with them, some things with our centers to help them finish better in the basket. Or reshape him and get the ball back to KD (Kevin Durant) and Brad (Beal) in different ways. So, we’re working through those types of roles. But we definitely don’t want guys passing up shots that are good looks. But we’re working through those guys, working through those roles too.
Vogel on Bradley Beal, who is back but keeps re-tweaking stiffening up midgame: “He tweaked it in the first half and there were questions on if he was going to return and he toughed it out. The guy wants to be in there. He’s a warrior. He’s playing through injury. And I got to commend him for that.”
Vogel on main takeaway from bad fourths: “The big picture. Work on our execution. And work on ways to be better. We’re going to get right; we’re going to get right. We believe in that. We have a hell of a player coming back, soon hopefully. And keep a big picture mindset.”
Kevin Durant with the sage insight: “It just comes down to missed shots. We can’t win games that way. No matter what names you got on the roster, how many points they scored in the history of the game, if you don’t make shots that night, you can’t win.”
Bradley Beal on playing through pain: “That is where I kick myself in the foot a little bit. If I am not going to be useful to the team – which I probably was not as much in the second half – then I should not have been out there. But that is just me being hardheaded and wanting to help and contribute any way that I can. Obviously, I have to be smart going forward and understanding that there are other guys that can probably impact the game at a much higher level.”
Beal on what happened to the back: “It was a little bit of everything. It was a sprint down the floor and close out in the corner. I winced a little bit, but I am out there so I am going to push through. It was just tight; it was not a certain play or certain movement. It was just constant throughout the game.”
Beal on who needs to take lead in the fourth: “I have to be better. I have to be a lot better. I think we all do. I think being more aggressive, especially offensively. Everybody takes a lot of time to slow down to run though me and run through K (Kevin Durant) and that is great, but we have to give him better opportunities.”
Suns Around the Web
- FanNation: NBA admits to missed 3-second call on fateful Lakers possession to beat the Suns
- CBS Sports: Predicting doom for Suns championship quest based on how roster built
- Valley of the Suns: Three reasons it’s now time to panic
- Inside the Nets: How Cam Johnson and Mikal Bridges are doing in Brooklyn - pretty peachy, actually
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: Breaking down the 4th quarter roles, by the numbers (not even including Sunday’s melt!)
- Kyle: Expect more growing pains, even beyond the fourth quarter issues
- Rod et al, Inside the Suns: Jusuf, KBD, Okogie — who fill out the starting lineup long term
- Darth Voita: Whereforarthou Chimezie Metu?
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.
Added: column on when each player can be traded, if you’re looking for that kind of thing. I didn’t bother with Book or KD since those aren’t happening, and reminded you all that Beal brought that No Trade Clause with him.
Contracts in black ink are guaranteed, meaning the Suns have to pay those salaries whether or not the player is on the team, like Keon Johnson. He’s fully charged to the Suns, since he only signed a two-way with Brooklyn.
*Note: Spotrac.com has the Suns still $4.869 million over the second apron. I got most of the way there realizing Goodwin’s non-guaranteed portion counts against this number, but still looking for the other 800k.
Team owner Ishbia has said over and over again he doesn’t care about the cost, but roster management gets more and more difficult if they stay over. Keep reading...
What does the ‘second tax apron’ mean to the Suns?
Today 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
- CAN aggregate salaries in trades to make the money work
If they are still over when the 2023-24 regular season ends:
- cannot pay more than the 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
- One-for-one player trades trades only (no salary aggregation of multiple players)
- every trade must return the same or less player salary back to the Suns
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 they keep 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, especially after this season ends. That’s they these biggest spenders are accumulating the biggest salaries they can right now so they can at least start from the top on the trade.
Important Future Dates
- Nov. 17: Suns NBA In-Season Tournament slate continues at Utah Jazz
- 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: Wednesday vs. Timberwolves, 7pm, AZFamily
- Away: Friday @ Utah Jazz, 8pm, ESPN
- Away: Sunday @ Utah Jazz, 6pm, NBATV, AZFamily
Bad time for a struggling Suns team to face the rolling Timberwolves! They have won six straight games, and will replay a Golden State Warriors they just beat on Sunday a night before visiting Phoenix on Wednesday night. So, the silver lining it’s a back-to-back, considering the Suns don’t play again until then? Hopefully, one or both of Booker/Beal are healthy enough to impact a fourth quarter positively.
Wolves leaders — we are witnessing the Anthony Edwards experience! via basketball-reference.com
Then the Suns do the ROAD two-gamer, facing the Jaxx twice on next weekend. Yes, this is the Jazz team the Suns blew out a couple weeks ago. The Jazz have lost 5 of 7 since that Suns loss, dropping them to 3-7 on the season as of today. This week they play the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, then are off until the Suns series that starts Friday.
Jazz leaders, via basketball-reference.com
This week’s poll
How do the Suns do this week?
Do the Suns beat the Wolves? How about the Jazz twice?
This poll is closed