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 - On a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great), how would you rate the Suns’ coaching so far?
GuarGuar: I’d give our coaching staff at 4 right now. It’s hard to really judge them given them amount of different lineups they’ve had to run due to injuries. The defense has been slightly disappointing thus far. And that’s surprising given that it is Vogel’s specialty. Our team has been really good when Book and KD both play. I expect it to be even better when we add Beal this week.
OldAz: What score equates to an “incomplete”? It is hard to measure any coach when 70% or more of his payroll is sitting on the bench for every game. This is especially true when we have not seen the full team for any length of time. Any coach needs time to see what he has and experiment with lineups to see what works best.
What I have liked best (so far) about the coaching staff is that they have experimented with combinations and rotations while they have been short handed. Based on this, I am going to give them a 3 for now in place of an incomplete grade and bump that up by half a point because Vogel seems to know when to call a time out. That doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, but considering how many coaches seem to struggle with the concept it is worth a half a point. Therefore 3.5 is my answer.
Brrrberry: Man this one is tough, really tough. I think Vogel has drawn a bit of a tough hand, similarly to Monty post trade for KD last year. I do think he’s in the upper tier of coaches around the league so I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
It has been tough to watch us struggle in the 4th after a few seasons of just sheer dominance in the final quarter. Not having CP3 and his masterful manipulation of the nuances of the game is probably a big reason for that. The tough hand Vogel has had to deal with is obviously injury related and simply not having the same lineups from night to night which throws everything out of flux/rhythm. I’d give him a 3.5/5 though.
Ultimately this team will go as far as the big 3 + Nurkic can stay healthy. I still believe it’s one of the most lethal triumvirate of scorers the league has ever seen and if they can get any serious amount(s) of game time together, I think Vogel will end up looking like a genius.
Rod: I’m giving the staff a 4 right now (with Vogel getting a 5 on actually calling timeouts when they’re needed). The offense hasn’t been particularly smooth running but the Suns have had to deal with so many injuries plus trying to figure out lineups/rotations at the same time that I suspect that they’re keeping things relatively simple at the moment... which could also make it fairly predictable which could be part of the Suns 4th quarter scoring problems.
The defense is not up to snuff for a potential championship contender but at this point I’m not certain whether to blame Vogel (whose coaching strength is supposed to be defense) or if it’s just due to the Suns not having that many great defenders on the team. That thought’s a bit more concerning than it being a coaching issue to me.
Q2 - What is your current opinion of Keita Bates-Diop’s play?
GuarGuar: He’s been in a funk the past week or so. I really like his defense and energy. He’s definitely a much better shooter than Okogie. But Metu has definitely outplayed KBD the past few games and I can see Keita losing minutes to him soon. I still think he was a very solid minimum signing and is a quality player. He’s just in a funk right now offensively.
OldAz: I pretty much would echo everything John Voita said in his recent risers and fallers series of articles. I had high expectations for him, but really didn’t know what to expect. He got off to a slow start, and once he found his footing he had a few really good games and a lot of forgettable ones. You can see the talent, and I am interested to see what he can do when the Big 3 are all playing and we start to see some consistency in the rotations.
The Suns have a lot of players that are either really good on offense or really good on defense. KBD seems just “OK” on both ends, but with the right combination on the floor I think he still might work his way into a role. For now, he is squarely in that last 4 off the bench and outside any real shot at rotation minutes in my mind. I just haven’t seen many shifts where I find myself thinking KBD has earned more minutes than he is seeing (like I have done regularly with Metu so far this season).
Brrrberry: He’s limited in a sense but can be effective. I like his game defensively but don’t see enough out of him offensively to feel any sort of way if he’s not getting a lot of minutes. I feel like he could be more opportunistic on that end but seems to spend a bit more time ball watching than is beneficial for anyone. That’s probably not entirely on him as the whole team gets out of sync often enough that it’s a weakness ATM.
I’d really like to see Yuta find his way and if that comes by way of a reduction in minutes for KDB, I’m all for it. Yuta is struggling with rhythm and confidence as much as anyone on the team. He’s rushing his shots more often than not and that’s not a recipe for consistency. That said, he doesn’t have any issues with the mechanics of his jumper like Shamet did. He’s a legitimate 40%++ guy from 3 when he’s comfortable in his role. I want him to find comfort within the scheme because he’s decent defensively and if we can have a guy out there that can sink 2-4 3s in a quick spurt, that’s the type of game activity that breaks other teams backs.
Speaking of scheme, is Kevin Young really an offensive maestro who should be the highest paid assistant coach in the league? I’m not so sure about that.
Rod: I’ve been a bit disappointed in his scoring but otherwise happy with his game, especially his defense. The problem is that he needs to be more of an offensive threat, especially from three, for him to be really effective playing alongside the Suns’ Big 3. Hitting 26.3% from three (and just 26.1% on corner threes) just isn’t going to cut it, plus I’ve seen him miss some bunny shots at the rim too.
For some reason all of his scoring percentages this season are below his career averages and his FG percentage is at a career low of 40.0%. Hopefully his shooting will trend more toward the mean as the season progresses but if they don’t I could see him dropping out of Vogel’s player rotation whenever the Suns’ roster is at or very close to full strength.
Q3 - What are your thoughts on the possibility of the Suns making a significant trade before the trade deadline?
GuarGuar: I really hope we don’t trade for a starting point guard. I know the common opinion is we need one, but I want to full send this Point Book plan. I think it’s going to be spectacular when the Big 3 all play.
The offense should be humming big time and we won’t have the lulls we’ve had this season when none or just one of our stars are on the floor. I’m not against acquiring a backup PG though! I don’t know what other big flashy trade we could make. I’m very against trading Grayson he’s been fantastic for us. I think this pretty much will be our team come playoff time.
OldAz: I just don’t see it. I figure they will make a small move (like Crowder type who is only making a couple million) but really don’t see them making any big moves and even PJ Tucker is on the books for $11M. For one, the Suns don’t have the assets to trade and few salaries that can be aggregated to bring back a player making any significant money. I don’t think they want to move Allen, so anyone making over $10M would require 4-5 contracts to match salaries, or Little plus a couple other pieces. I just don’t see many trade targets that carry any real salary with them.
Also, it would be bad form to take in players who accepted a deal to come play here and then trade them away. This isn’t about who really did take a cut rate deal to sign here, and instead is more about the perception of future players who may be willing to sign a minimum deal with the team.
Brrrberry: I want McConnell or Caruso, one obviously being a whole lot more likely than the other. I’d trade Grayson Allen for McConnell if given the opportunity and I’m a big Grayson Allen fan. He’s a solid player, worth every penny of his salary BUT if we have our full lineup he is not as important as a bench point guard IMO.
Caruso makes us essentially unstoppable but I think another contender would be able to trump what we could offer quite easily so it’s basically a pipe dream. McConnell is situated behind Hali and another recent first round pick in Nembhard so I could see the Pacers as being possible trade partners. I could easily make an argument that Allen makes them a better overall team than does having McConnell as a 3rd PG though McConnell is playing excellent in the minutes he’s received, much like Allen. It’s simply a fit thing for this particular Suns team as I do think Allen is a more valuable player to a majority of team, just not our Suns this year.
I do feel like there’s other names out there that I’m just not privy to ATM so definitely wouldn’t be surprised if we made a trade before the deadline. Interesting time to be a Suns fan, can’t wait for the Warriors game tonight.
Rod: I honestly don’t see a significant mid-season trade happening... unless some clearly great opportunity falls into the Suns lap. There may be some “shuffling of the deck chairs” type trades that might make the team slightly better overall but the Suns just don’t have the trade assets to pull anything big off without sending out someone that they don’t want to trade (Book, Beal, KD). Add to that the fact that there are already so many new faces on the team trying to learn how to play together, shuffling the deck in any way at mid-season could prompt a step backward in team chemistry which wouldn’t be wise IMO.
You never know though, I don’t expect the Suns to sit idly by without at least exploring trade options and sometimes what initially seems like a small trade can make a significant difference if it returns someone who just fits better than those you sent out.
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, “Are you disappointed that the Suns were eliminated from the In Season Tournament?”
59% - Yes.
31% - Yes but only because it was due to a loss that counts as another regular season loss.
10% - No.
A total of 162 votes were cast.
On Tuesday night, Devin Booker passed Mark West for the 10th most regular season games played by a Sun and after last night his career total sits at 545. Number one on the list is Ring of Honor member Alvan Adams with 988 regular season games as a Sun over 13 seasons. Including the 78 total playoff games Adams played in, he is the only Sun to ever play in over 1,000 games (1,066 total) for Phoenix.
This week’s poll is...
How do you rate the Suns’ coaching so far?
This poll is closed