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In-Season Tournament - Phoenix Suns v Utah Jazz

Suns Weekly Digest (11/14-11/20): Suns are RISING, now come the returns of Ayton, Paul, Saric to the Foot!

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

Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

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WELCOME to your news roundup of the week that was and the week yet to come for your Phoenix Suns.

Normalizing is happening, which comes directly from a guy named Devin Armani Booker getting healthy and suddenly playing the game as a point guard just as interested in passing as he is in shooting. Just incredible to watch! Helps that his running mate is someone named Kevin Durant.


Devin Booker is back, but it was Kevin Durant who truly sealed the two victories over the Jazz in Utah this weekend. First, Durant makes the three to create final separation in a three-point victory, then blocked Lauri Markkanen’s three-point shot as time expired in double overtime to seal a second three-point victory.

KD’s numbers for the weekend: 39.9 minutes, 38.5 points (59/59/100 splits!), 8.5 rebounds, 9.5 assists. Unbelievable!

That puts the Suns to 7-6 for the season and a little homestand coming against West rivals who now employ recent Suns luminaries during the Monty Williams run.

Notable Quotes from the Week that Was

Durant on Eric Gordon, who made some BIG baskets all the way through overtimes to beat the Jazz: “We need him to bomb away as much as possible. He’s a phenomenal shooter, phenomenal driver. Great at playing off of guys.”

Durant on the block/foul/no-foul on Markkanen to finally end the double-overtime game: “I knew I blocked the shot and I knew that I didn’t touch him at all, but that’s just how the game is. It was a quick play for her so I’m sure she wanted to review it and get the right call.”

Suns head coach Frank Vogel on continued defensive difficulties: “We want 5 guys connected. We don’t want the ball handlers seeing driving lanes, but this team puts five out on the 3-point line, they can all shoot and they spread you out.”

Vogel on Booker’s influence: “His leadership on our team is really invaluable. He’s leading when he’s not in uniform. In film sessions and practices, he’s our most vocal guy. He’s really taken the reins of that this year with this team. Even more so on the floor as the point guard, running the show.”

Eric Gordon: “This should be the standard, averaging 120, 130 points. Why not?”

Suns Around the Web

Good Bright Side reads you probably missed

There’s so much great content on here! 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.

Cap Sheet

Here’s the latest, unchanged since the beginning of the season. I added the ‘tradable on’ column to show you what’s in the bag.

Here’s the trade/signing rules between now and end of trade deadline in Feb 2024 (including the trade exceptions you may not know)

The Suns...

  1. CAN aggregate salaries this year, in and out
  2. CANNOT take on more than 10% more salary coming back in a trade of players
  3. CAN sign a guy who was bought out, but only if he made less than #12.4 million
  4. CAN use a trade exception to acquire a player from another team into a roster spot, but canNOT be included with outgoing players. Has to be used by itself to acquire someone else’s player into the salary spot
  • Dario Saric trade exception = $4.975 million, usable through 2/9/2024
  • Cameron Payne trade exception = $6.5 million, usable through 9/7/2024
  • There’s also small Isaiah Todd and Toumani Camara ones, but they are under $2 mil each

Cap Sheet

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: 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, starting next offseason?

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. 21: Suns NBA In-Season Tournament slate continues, hosting Portland Trail Blazers
  • 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: Tuesday vs. Blazers, 7pm, AZFamily
  • Home: Wednesday vs. Warriors, 8pm, ESPN
  • Away: Friday @ Memphis Grizzlies, 3pm, NBATV
  • Away: Sunday @ Knicks, 4pm, NBATV, AZFamily

“It will be good to see them both. We wish them well in Portland and Golden State, but not against us,” Kevin Durant to Duane Rankin, on the return of Deandre Ayton (Blazers) and Chris Paul (Warriors) this week in Phoenix at Footrprint Center:

“I got a lot of love for those guys, a lot of respect for them and I’ll be excited to compete against them,” says Booker to the great Duane Rankin of the returning Suns this week, including Saric, who KD had never laced up next as both were traded at the deadline.

First up, on Tuesday the Portland Trail Blazers (3-10, 14th in West) visit the Suns as part of Group Play in the In-season Tournament. The Blazers had begun the season 3-3 record, including wins over the Raptors, Pistons, and Kings, but have lost 7 straight games since then. Injuries are mounting — starting with Anfernee Simons, then to Robert Williams (Time Lord), Scoot Henderson, Malcolm Brogdon, and now Ish Wainright. All are out versus Suns and many to come.

Guess who IS available, as of today? Former Suns center Deandre Ayton — who is averaging 12.2 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.8 blocks. Basically, that’s the Ayton we all know and love. Guess how many combined free throws and three-pointers he’s taken in 12 games so far this year? 9. Total.

Next up, we see the Golden State Warriors (6-8, 10th in West) on Wednesday and riding their own 6-game losing streak after a promising 6-2 start to the year. Stephen Curry had a knee tweak in the middle of that (losses 4 and 5) of the streak but now is back in the lineup to try to help the Warriors get back on top.

Warriors are being held back by Andrew Wiggins and Klay Thompson playing really bad, just not providing he necessary lift around Steph. They did both play well in Steph’s return in the last game, but the Warriors still lost. Don’t count them out though — just pointing out why they’re scuffling

Let’s check the tape on two former Suns in the Warriors rotation:

Chris Paul

  • 28.4 min, 9.4 pts, 7.4 ast per game, with 38/30/90 shooting splits
  • second on Warriors in total minutes played, despite starting only 5 of 14 games
  • He’s in the starting lineup these days, especially with Draymond Green suspended through and beyond the Suns game this week for choking Rudy Gobert in the opening moments of the Warriors/Wolves game.

Dario Saric

  • 21.1 min, 9.1 pts, 6.4 rebs, 2 ast per game, with 41/33/90 shooting splits
  • 6th on Warriors in total minutes played, starting 3 of 14 games
  • Dario has been a great connector off the bench, much loved by the fans just like here

The coming weekend, the Suns are back on the road, starting with another scuffling team in the Memphis Grizzlies (3-10, 13th in West) still missing Ja Morant. But that is not all. Oh no, that is not all. Marcus Smart is the most recent loss, but they’re missing just a ton of guys. Don’t read any sadness in that last statement. A big part of me wants Devin Booker to score on some rando two-way point guard fill-in a few times in a row in that game and yell out really loud ‘You can’t guard me!’ just to give Saben Lee a smile.

The toughest matchup of the weekend will be at the New York Knicks (8-5, 6th in East) on Sunday afternoon. Who’da thought I’d ever write that one, huh, considering we’ve already mentioned the Warriors and Grizzlies in this one. The Knicks are one of only a few teams with both a Top-10 offense and defense and have the league’s 4th best net rating (+6.3).

They play at a very slow pace (30th in league) to make sure they get what they want for a shot, quite the opposite for a Suns team who likes to push the ball as much as possible. They get most of their scoring (15 - 24 points each) from Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, R.J. Barrett, and Immanuel Quickley.

This week’s poll

How do the Suns do this week?


How do the Suns do vs Blazers and Warriors at home, Grizzlies and Knicks on road?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    (63 votes)
  • 51%
    (82 votes)
  • 7%
    (12 votes)
  • 0%
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    (0 votes)
158 votes total Vote Now
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