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Phoenix Suns Weekly Reset (12/18/23): Tough week went by, will this week get any better?

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 Coduto/Getty Images

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

That was always going to be a dangerous week, but losing yet again at Beal-Roulette was no fun for anyone. Now the Suns continue to try to mix and match the next few weeks.

But the real problem for this team is defense. On-ball defense. Help defense. Switching defense. You name it, it’s a problem.

While Durant and Booker are good defenders, they’re really only playing defense in spurts to hang onto their energy through the fourth quarter. That’s two of the starting lineup. Jusuf Nurkic is trying his butt off, but teams know how to neutralize him — get him on the perimeter and force him to defend while chasig someone to the hoop. Why? because the Suns don’t have anyone who switches or rotates in behind to pick up the slack. They just get past Nurk and get all the way to the rim. Ugly.

Josh Okogie can guard 1+ positions — meaning he can usually get his guy and help on another — but he’s so bad at shooting that the other end is a total adventure and usually makes him a net neutral, or worse. And nobody else can even guard their own guy reliably, let alone help on someone else’s.

And then there’s the other end.

None of the defense-first supporting cast shoots well enough to make the other team care of about them on the other end — Yuta Watanabe (35/35 shooting), Jordan Goodwin (39/31), Bates-Diop (39/25), Okogie (41/27, runs himself off the line) and Nurkic (47/27). Those numbers are a dream for the opponent. That’s why we’re seeing more of Chimezie Metu and Nassir Little, who are putting slightly better splits (50/35). According to Stathead, there are 40-ish bench players (across 30 teams) around the league beat even the best of those shooting numbers, so mayyyyybe I’m being a bit harsh here.

But none of Suns defense-first guys are really clamping down on grabbing a real role. Frank Vogel is giving these guys a chance to do that, too. Someone(s) really needs to take ownership and soon.

Snapshot of the week:


Let’s move on to this week!

Only two games this week before the holiday weekend and both on the road. First, they visit the Blazers — who are much healthier than the last time these two met — in Portland.

And then they visit the Sacramento Kings who are almost certain to be playing a full lineup like they’ve had for the past year and a half. The Suns need to figure out what those guys are drinking to stay so healthy!


Injury Report

  • Bradley Beal (ankle) was ruled OUT on Sunday. Coach Vogel said there would be something more definitive provided on Monday about a timeline, but the scuttlebutt is 2-3 weeks. Beal was walking around with crutches, wearing a Nike slide (no boot) on Sunday.
  • Damion Lee (meniscus) is still a ways away but making real progress. Expects to play before end of season.
  • Josh Okogie (strained hip) is day-to-day.

Stat Me, Dave!

The Suns have had a whopping 13 different starting lineups in only 26 games. 13. THIRTEEN.

And the most frequent had played only 6 games together.

By comparison:

  • first place Minnesota has had only 3 starting lineup changes all year
  • second place OKC has had 4
  • third place Dallas has had 12; the most frequent has covered 12 games.
  • fourth place Denver has had 6, with 2 of them covering 21 of their 27 games

Need I go on? The Suns need stability, not only among the Big Three but also among the top reserves.


Notable Quotes from the Week that Was

“Most of the film was 1-on-1 defense. Guarding your man and then when we don’t where is the help coming from. How can we show a tighter shell,” Head coach Frank Vogel on a late-night Saturday film session taking his team back to basics on defense.

“Today, I woke up a lot better, I can put a lot of weight on my foot. I can walk around. Very promising.” — Bradley Beal on feeling a lot better as he walked around with crutches but but no boot. We will get a 2-3 week timeline pretty soon.

“You feel bad because the guy works at it.” Wizards coach Wes Unseld, who coached Beal the last two seasons he was in Washington.

“It would’ve been nice if he had finished that, but I just told him to slow down and take your time,” Durant to Chimezie Metu, who attempted a drive that would have looked great upon finish, but they were behind in a close game needed him to just get the ball in the hoop.


YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO

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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!!!

Minor update on the cap sheet. The Suns have signed Theo Maledon to fill their third two-way contract slot. Maledon is a still-young point guard but really should not be counted on as a savior for the Suns. They really need a much more proven table-setter to help close out fourth quarters by getting the ball to guys that can finish.

The Suns really need two things:

  1. Upgrade on the Okogie / Bates-Diop / Watanabe / Little / Metu brand of small power forward who can defend multiple wing sizes and add secondary 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 consistently but we haven’t seen it yet.
  2. Upgrade on 4th ball handler who can initiate offense in any 5-man lineup, from driving and hitting HoFers on catch-and-shoot, or pairing with one or none of them at a time while the others are resting/out. The Suns had hopes that there 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. As of today (and since Dec 15), everyone can be traded. The only complication is that Bradley Beal still holds his ‘no-trade clause’ which allows him to choose his next team.

The Suns, as a second-apron team, have some trade limitations, but can still do some interesting things between now and the end of trade deadline in February 2024 anyway.

  1. CAN aggregate salaries this year, in both directions
  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

Do the Suns beat the Blazers and Kings this week?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    2-0
    (28 votes)
  • 63%
    1-1
    (81 votes)
  • 14%
    0-2
    (19 votes)
128 votes total Vote Now
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