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Phoenix Suns Weekly Reset (12/11/23): Recapping last week, setting up the week to come

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 Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

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

The Phoenix Suns had won 8 of 10 games and entered last week with a Quarterfinal spot in the league’s inaugural In-Season Tournament. They started very poorly against the Lakers (who eventually won the tournament handily) but made the second half a nip-and-tuck affair until the final moments when the Lakers created enough separation to win. After that, the Suns were scheduled for a regular season game against the other team that lost their QF — the Sacramento Kings — but this time the Suns lost because they were down to only Devin Booker as a proven shot maker (Durant/ankle, Allen/groin, Beal/back) and none of the backups could come through with big games.

Snapshot of the week:

  • Lakers 106 - Suns 103. Regardless what you may think of the phantom foul call at end of Suns-Lakers, the Suns lost that game in 1000 different ways
  • Kings 114 - Suns 106. Kings played everyone the Suns didn’t, De’Aaron Fox had 23 fourth quarter points, and that’s really all I have to say about that.

Let’s move on to this week!


Injury Report

Sunday’s post-practice comments from Frank Vogell, via the inimitable Duane Rankin

So here’s what we expect to see:

  • Bradley Beal will almost certainly return against the Warriors on Tuesday night (HE’S BACK!), but I’d personally expect he’ll skip the back-to-back vs. Nets for injury management, and then be back to play the weekend games. But that’s just Dave talkin’
  • Kevin Durant rolled an ankle last week against the Lakers, played through it, but then skipped Friday’s game and has not been a practice participant over the weekend. He’s day to day
  • Grayson Allen tweaked a groin — nobody wants that — and is day-to-day. He didn’t practice Sunday either.
  • Nassir Little got a hit on the head and is in concussion protocol AND he has an orbital fracture from the hit as well. He will be wearing the face mask — like Jordan Goodwin did — when he returns to the lineup. Day to day.
  • Damion Lee recovering from surgery on meniscus. Not expected back any time soon.

So what does all this mean? Bradley Beal comes back just in time to have to pick up 43 points lost in Durant/Allen in the starting lineup. I really hope Beal is healthy so he can bring his playmaking and ballhandling to a lineup that desperately needs it.

The Suns have a good home stand coming, starting with these four games on the schedule, including more returns of former Suns who helped win all those games in recent years. No less than Chris Paul, Dario Saric, Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson are back in town mid-week, while Bradley Beal’s whole Washington Wizards come to pay respects to former their former star on Sunday.

Folks, I know you’re frustrated by the up and down start from the Suns and very skeptical of a lot of things at once. So I discovered one thing you might not already know...

Stat Me, Dave!

We all remember former coach Monty Williams having his favorite players, the ones he’d trot out there no matter what happened on the scoreboard. And I KNOW that plus-minus is a really flawed statistic because it depends on a lot of things likew who else is on the court for both teams.

However, I still want to share this. While Frank Vogel tries to figure out the best lineup combinations, especially among his dozen Spidermans — minimum wage guys who have similar, but slightly different skills — you have to go SEVEN deep on minutes-played together before you find a five-man plus-minus in the negative this year.

You may not be that impressed, but I’m just trying to show that Vogel is working hard to be able to narrow down his rotation at some point, but still trying to give guys a chance to work their way in.

Another thing that jumps out to me is how few minutes each lineup is getting, considering there are 250 different 5-man combinations having been tried this year.

A year ago, the Suns had early season injuries — Paul, Cam J, etc. — and also had to do a lot of mixing and matching. Here’s their top dozen played combos through December 10.

You can see that once Cam Johnson went down in Game 7, and then Chris Paul followed quickly after, Monty Williams was really focused on lineups he’s trusted despite some strong evidence to the contrary that other combinations might have been more effective.

Since Vogel doesn’t have that trust issue, and knows he can build a championship team, I’m hoping that he goes with that works as the season goes along, focusing less on what he thinks ‘should’ work best.

What do you think?


Notable Quotes from the Week that Was

“Exciting time, can’t wait for the world to see.” — Booker on people getting to see a healthy Bradley Beal, via Duane Rankin/AZCentral

“That’s the nightmare all coaches have trying to guard Brad. Not only coaches, but opposing players. I’ve been on the other side of it. He can stop on a dime and get to his pullup so fast.” — more Booker on Beal, via question from Duane Rankin/AZCentral during post-practice media session.

“For that to be our second/third/fourth option makes it a tough cover for teams.” — Booker on what Grayson Allen and Eric Gordon bring to Suns as supporting roles alongside the Big Three.

“It’s tough, I won’t lie, but I like being here. I like coming to the gym.” — Chimezie Metu on loving Phoenix even though he wishes he’s getting more touches.

“We talked about that, actually today. Those are the shots I want him to look for. It’s a recognition thing, but it’s also just trying to be in attack mode.” - Vogel to Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports, on Booker taking more pullup threes. His volume has dropped significantly recently.


Suns Articles Around the Web

  • That Steve Kerr rant on the constant music will be played, for sure, all night long on Tuesday night when the Warriors come back to town!

YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO

Bright Side Night is coming — help us out! Every day is a double match of your donation, thanks to the Phoenix Suns. As little as $15 out of your pocket can give a lifetime memory of a live pro basketball game experience to TWO underprivileged kids. Got more than $15 to give? Great — we’ll give even YOU something(s) cool too, so you can be part of the gifting AND receiving.


Cap Sheet and what can the Suns DO in TRADE!!!

First, let’s stay realistic? We are really looking at role players, not the big trade market right here. I have idetified two areaas the Suns need improvement if they are REALLY going to contend with the roster model they have current built:

  1. Upgrade on the Okogie / Bates-Diop / Watanabe / Little / Metu brand of small power forward wo can defend multiple wing sizes and add seconday rim protection on one end, while on the other, both TAKE and MAKE make open threes without hesitation. The Suns hoped one of these guys would deliver all of that consisntently but we haven’t seen it yet.
  2. Upgrade on 4th ball bandler who can initiiate offense in any 5-man lineup, from driving and hitting HoFers on catch-and-shoot, or pairing with one or none of them at time while the othe=rs are resting/out. The Suns had hopes that would be one or more of Gordon / Allen / Goodwin

If the Suns get healthy at the top and upgrade those slots I really like the chances in the playoffs.

Here’s the latest. I added the ‘tradable on’ column to show you what’s in the bag.

The, Suns, as a secnod apron team, have some limitation, but can still do some intersting things before 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: 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, 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 NBA Dates

  • Dec 15: Almost all free agents signed over summer can start being included in trades
  • Feb 8: Trade Deadline
  • Feb. 16-18: NBA All-Star Weekend 2024
  • April 14: 2023-24 regular season ends

*Knockout and Semis count as part of the 82 regular season games. Any that the Suns don’t play in will be rescheduled that week against another of the eliminated teams to keep schedule clean coming out of this, except for...

**The Dec 9 NBA Cup Final is #83 for 2 teams. Won’t count on schedule, kind of like if they did the All-Star game better. Every player on winning team gets half-mil, with two-ways getting half that number.


This week’s poll

How do the Suns do this week?

Poll

How wii the Suns do at home vs. Wariors, Nets, Knicks and Wizards, with Booker and Beal but no KD?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    4-0 baby!
    (23 votes)
  • 32%
    3-1
    (29 votes)
  • 37%
    2-2
    (33 votes)
  • 4%
    1-3
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    oooofer
    (0 votes)
89 votes total Vote Now
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