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 - gives their takes on the Suns’ latest issues and news.
Fantable Questions of the Week
Q1 - Due to injuries and an unimpressive season start, some fans already seem to be panicking. Is it time to panic?
GuarGuar: I don’t think it’s time to go into a full panic. The month of November just started. We have so many more games to play. All reports indicate Beal will be back soon. What’s going on with Booker is more of the mystery. But this team should be able to hold steady enough until we are at full strength. We’ve suffered some close losses (Lakers, Spurs) that we could’ve easily won short handed. If we won 1 or both of those games I think everyone would be breathing easier right now. I’m not panicking… yet.
OldAz: Not at all. The regular season goals were always to get to the playoffs healthy and develop the chemistry to be playing well when that time arrives. Have one or more of the big 3 out provides more minutes for Vogel to experiment with and learn which lineups work best during the minutes where only 1 of the stars is on the floor.
Also, remember last year the Suns had a significant stretch where people were debating if the team should tank because they were struggling so bad and had so many injuries. The Suns still recovered and got a decent playoff seed. Similarly, a couple years ago when the Warriors won it all Draymond Green poked fun at the Suns (who had won a record 64 games) because the Warriors used the regular season for development and to get better but often were perceived to be struggling or past their “window”.
It’s no surprise the fans in general tend to over-react but it is far too early to panic.
Rod: Not at all. This is a team that’s not yet used to playing together, still learning new offensive and defensive schemes and has been without two of it’s best three players for most of their games. The early season injuries to Book and Beal have been unfortunate but all indications have been that they aren’t serious. It was always going to take some time for team chemistry to develop and the injuries have just delayed it, not derailed it.
Q2 - Your opinions on Jusuf Nurkic after 7 games as a Sun?
GuarGuar: I think Nurkic has been exactly what we should’ve expected. A good playmaker for a big, and a good short roll man when Book/KD/Beal get double teamed. The defense is hit or miss with him depending on the matchup, but he does give solid effort. The 3 point shot so far has been awful for him, but I expect there to be at least some positive regression there soon. Overall he’s been what he was advertised to be. No surprises with Nurkic so far.
OldAz: He is basically what I assumed he would be. His higher basketball IQ is an asset to this team, but his limited athleticism leaves us wanting more at times. Considering the injuries and the lack of a point guard his presence on the offense and ability to be a facilitator have been invaluable in some games. I also expected we would miss DA most on the defensive end as I always felt he did not get enough credit for the good things he did there related to team success.
Nurkic uses his size to get the rebounds and does get some blocks, but sometimes gets overmatched. However, I have always thought that team defense is more important than individual stats and team defense takes longer to develop, certainly more than 10 games and especially when the main pieces are not yet on the floor. Finally, I think the Suns will be just fine as long as Nurk stays healthy which again was what many said right when the trade happened.
Rod: Offensively, Nurk needs some work... but that’s not why the Suns brought him aboard. After 7 games he’s second in assists per game (4.3) behind Book (who’s only played in 2 games) and actually 1st in total assists with 30. I think that number might actually not reflect his value as a passer/connector as some of his teammates had difficulty making their shots in earlier games. His rebounding numbers have been good though (8.3 per game and 11.7 per 36). He may not always look great but he nearly had a triple double in the Chicago game (20 pts, 16 rebs, 8 assists) which shows that he can be a difference maker on any given night.
The Suns got him to play a role alongside their Big 3 which we so far haven’t seen on the court. I think a lot of the criticism of him will dissipate once we see him play with the all of them on the court. Defensively, I never expected him to be a great rim protector (although he hasn’t been terrible at it) or to be very good when switched onto a smaller, quicker player so I anticipated those areas being problems.
Overall, Nurk gets a thumbs up from me.
Q3 - Josh Okogie or Keita Bates-Diop... which one looks best in the starting lineup?
GuarGuar: I think when we are at full strength, Okogie fits better as he is a really good point of attack defender. But when we have Booker and Beal out, KBD fits better around the spot starters. I’ve been impressed with both so far this year. I’m glad that KBD has taken Little’s minutes, he’s clearly the superior player. I think come playoff time our 5th starter will depend on the matchup and not be one consistent guy.
OldAz: Too early to answer because the big 3 have yet to play together. KBD is finally playing how I thought he would when the Suns acquired him, but the amount of space on the floor will be massive when Book, Beal and KD are all on the court to start games. I want to see what that starting lineup looks like for a few games before cementing an opinion here.
JO’s slashing and scrapping really looked good in preseason when all that space was available, but I am always a fan of having more length as well and KBD seems capable of filling multiple roles. I might also consider giving Yuta a look. He is such a sniper, but with the injuries has really not had much chance to set his feet and be that spot up shooter. It seems like the starting lineup would be the best opportunity to get him locked in with wide open opportunities.
Rod: With both Book and Beal out and KD being the primary scoring option, I’d have to go with KBD. Josh is a great defender but is a negative on offense (especially his outside shooting) on most nights where KBD has to at least be respected by the defense all the way out to the 3-point line (34.0% career average, 42.9% this season from 3) and he’s a pretty good defender himself. KBD is also the only Sun to play meaningful minutes in games who has not yet had a turnover, something that should not go unnoticed.
When Book and Beal are both back, Okogie might be the better fit although his 3-point shooting (26.7%) could still be a problem as defenders will likely still sag off him to clog the paint. His non-stop defensive pressure makes it hard to not start him though.
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, “With Booker and Beal missing so many games being 2-2 is...”
21% - Still not acceptable.
75% - Not good but understandable.
04% - Better than I expected.
A total of 132 votes were cast.
Kevin Durant’s 41 points against Detroit on Sunday was his fourth consecutive 40+ point game against the Pistons and the fifth time he’s done so against Detroit, the most by any player in the NBA against Detroit since Michael Jordan retired. It was also the 66th regular season 40+ point game of his career and the seventh time in franchise history that a Suns player scored 40+ points against Detroit.
Kevin Durant is currently averaging 9.1 free throw attempts per game. The last time a Suns player averaged 9+ FTAs per game was in 2004-05 when Amar’e Stoudemire averaged 9.9.
This week’s poll is...
How worried about player injuries are you this season?
This poll is closed
Not worried at all.