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 - What do you consider to be the most surprising thing(s) about Jusuf Nurkic’s play so far?
GuarGuar: Nurkic had a 39% FG% before Book came back from injury. Since Book’s return, Nurkic is almost at 45% FG%. His play has been pretty much what I expected and no real surprises. He is who he is. However, one thing that surprised me some was his willingness to shoot the 3 without hesitation. He has no reservations about letting it fly. I did not know that about his game.
OldAz: I am not really surprised with what Nurkic has brought to the Suns so far. When the trade was made I expected a player with a big body, higher basketball IQ, pretty good passing skills, but lacking in overall athleticism (at least compared to DA). While he has rounded into better playing shape, I think this is still a fair description of Nurkic.
He has made some eye-popping plays on offense with his passing, but at times he can be played off the court against more athletic teams. He certainly holds his own, but I expect his impact to be minimized as the season progresses and the Big 3 play together. In fact, with the emergence of Metu allowing for the 3 man center rotation, I would advocate for giving Nurk a quick hook in some games so he can play minutes when 2 of the big 3 are resting, thus providing another facilitator on offense.
Rod: He’s leading the team in blocked shots and steals! The blocks have been especially surprising as the guys is not a great leaper. From what I’ve seen though, he’s very good at anticipating the shots coming and timing his swats. And while he also doesn’t have great foot speed or lateral mobility, his BBIQ makes him a better defender than I expected.
Q2 - What are your thoughts on Nassir Little?
GuarGuar: Little has really been great this recent stretch of games. I was hammering for KBD over him to start the season. And while I still feel that way, Little has impressed me a lot recently. He can run the fastbreak pretty well, knock down open 3s, and attack close outs well. Not to mention he’s one of our best wing defenders. I can’t fault Vogel for trying to find this guy minutes every night.
OldAz: I think in a couple years we may be looking at Little as the primary reason the Suns “won” the DA trade. That is saying a lot considering how good GA has played so far. Little gives the Suns a young player with eye-popping athleticism. Before the trade they had players who were mostly veterans who were good at their “role” but really did not project to much beyond that.
DA was that player who simply oozed athleticism and promise, but many rightly noted that his lack of motor blunting those talents. Getting Little back in the DA trade provided a young player with upside speed and leaping ability (along with the ability to shoot), who doesn’t appear to have any issues with his motor. Now it is a matter of harnessing those skills to fit within the team game and be a benefit when he is on the floor without trying to do too much and creating a problem. If (when) Little does this he will steadily increase his minutes, supplanting others, and will be hard to take off the floor.
Rod: Having not watch a lot of Portland games before the trade, Little wasn’t someone I knew much about. After he’s gotten some playing time, I like what I’ve seen for the most part. He’s quick and long with some bulk that he uses to his advantage on both offense and defense. If he can improve his 3-pt percentage a bit (33.3%) I can see him continuing to get rotation minutes.
From what I gather, injuries were a problem for him in Portland (he never played more than 54 games a season in his 4 years there). If he can put those problems behind him, I could see him staying in Phoenix for a while. He’s under contract through 2026-27 on a very reasonable deal which would make him a nice trade asset too if the Suns decide to go that route.
Q3 - 17 games into the season, what do you now see as the Suns strengths and weaknesses (other than possible health issues)?
GuarGuar: Our strength is our overall offense. We have dynamic superstar power. We play with great pace. We spread the floor and have great spacing and almost always make the right play. We are unselfish and play smart offensive basketball. Offensive rebounding I think is another one of our strengths.
For weaknesses I’d say our overall defense. We are ranked 17th in DRTG as I type this. That probably won’t be good enough to win a title. I do expect us to improve on this end though, but we are worse on defense than I thought we’d be.
OldAz: At the beginning of the season people were looking at defense, depth, and the center position as possible weaknesses. This may just be a fancy way of saying “health issues”, but I believe the Suns only weakness is time and chemistry. I expected it to take about 20 games playing together to really start to see it, and so far we have zero games with all of the Big 3. However, what that has done is provide extended minutes to experiment with which lineups work best when only KD is in, or only Booker is in. What we have seen over the last week is the improvement I expected with some bursts of unstoppable offense and some bursts of suffocating defense. Time and chemistry will extend these bursts and further build on the teams many strengths. Unfortunately, integrating Beal back in will cause some necessary disruption in the process but as long as it is worked out by playoffs all will be well. They have the players that once it is all working together, defense will be a strength, not a weakness.
Further, I think we have seen that depth is actually a strength as a case can be made for every player (excluding Bol and the 2 way contracts) either earning the extended minutes they have gotten (EG, GA), being deserving of more minutes (Like Little, KBD & Metu), or filling their role adequately but could use more consistency which is only gained by experience (Goodwin, Yuta, and JO). That’s a significantly better situation than last year where the bench plan was basically to play Shamet more when someone was out.
Finally, I was worried about the Center position until about a week ago when Nurk and Drew both got in early foul trouble. It forced Vogel’s hand and showed us what Metu can bring. I still think he should get more minutes at the PF slot, but as a 3 headed Center rotation it works nicely. Nurk is the biggest body that can add connectedness to whatever unit is on the floor (if needed), Drew is every bit as good or better than the bench centers the Suns had last year, and Metu provides that more mobile and athletic option when needed. As a bonus, all 3 are willing to shoot the 3 and capable of making them if left open.
Rod: I’ll begin with strengths because that’s the longer (and more fun) list.
To me, having Devin Booker as the Suns’ point guard has been a very unexpected strength. I could go into detail as to why but I don’t think there’s a need to. He’s been phenomenal so far.
I always thought that depth wasn’t going to be a problem for the Suns and now I believe that our only depth “problem” will be finding enough minutes for everyone that deserves them. The depth of this team is beginning to show itself even more as chemistry has developed. Early on a lack chemistry was a weakness but it’s building itself into a strength.
As a team the Suns are 2nd in 3-pt percentage (39.3%) which I expected but being 1st in blocks and 3rd in free throw attempts per game are two very pleasant surprises.
For the weaknesses, although turnovers have gone down recently, they haven’t gone away and the Suns are 27th in the league in TOVs. I believe that the developing chemistry has played a part in the turnovers going down but some of them are still due to careless passes which need to be eliminated. Team defense has also improved and I wouldn’t actually call it a weakness but it still needs some work. I expect that to continue to get better as the season goes on and team chemistry continues to develop.
Rebounding is another area that’s a little concerning. The Suns started off the season out rebounding teams handily but that’s an area they’ve fallen off in and are now 18th in total rebounds per game. Not terrible but not great either.
All in all, I’m extremely happy with this team though, especially considering that they’ve yet to play a single game at full strength.
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, “Should Chimezie Metu be getting more minutes?”
81% - Yes.
19% - No.
A total of 198 votes were cast.
The Suns’ 11 blocks in the win against the Knicks was their fifth game with 10+ blocks this season. They are 4-1 in games that they record 10+ blocks and lead the NBA in blocks per game at 7.2. The Suns record for blocks in a season is 582 in 1991-91 when the team averaged 7.1 blocks per game.
Devin Booker’s game-winning three-pointer with 1.7 seconds against NY was his eighth-career made field goal to win a game or force overtime in the final 3 seconds of the 4th quarter or overtime and the Suns are 7-1 in those games.
This week’s poll is...
When do you think Bradley Beal will return from his injury?
This poll is closed
Sometime in the 3rd or 4th week of December.
Probably not until January.
I have no idea but I’m not holding my breath because I fear the worst.