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
Author’s Note: All questions were submitted to the Fantable members before the Suns/Blazers game on Tuesday.
Q1 - Is it too early to call the Suns’ Big 3 a failure?
GuarGuar: It is way way way too early to call this Big 3 a failure. They have only 24 minutes on the court together. Beal will come back in a couple weeks and we hopefully should have 4 months to gel before the playoffs. It’s been a very disappointing start no doubt. But we have a big picture mindset and shouldn’t make any irrational judgments yet.
OldAz: Yes, it is too early. Some amount of injury concern was baked in and we knew that it was going to take time to gel with all the new players. No one saw it being as bad as it is, but the injury concerns have come in on the heavy side so far as well. The excessive amount of injuries so far certainly is reminiscent of the fatal flaw of the Nets super team experiments the last few years, so it may be too early now, but whatever light we might see at the end of a tunnel may actually be a train in this case.
Brrrberry: WAY WAY WAYYYY TOO EARLY. Naturally I’ve got my concerns about Beal but I still do that trade every single time even with hindsight. In an odd way I wasn’t fussed much about the ankle, (1) because it’s an injury that couldn’t happened to anyone and why the NBA gives flagrant fouls for reckless closeouts that look inane and (2) I wanted the Suns to sit Beal until January 1 and really allow his back to heal which now allows that to happen.
As question #2 below alludes to, the Suns have had 13 different starting lineups in 26 games, which is bound to lead to .500 or so ball. CP3 was a lot more impactful than I think a lot of people realize(d) and we went from having about as much continuity as any team in the league to the least. It’s a tough transition meshing with a completely new set teammates and we’re going to need every bit of 82 games with how things are going in order to develop into the team everyone expected heading into the season. Unfortunately it’s pretty apparent to me that it’s going to take some luck on the injury front and relying on luck is never ideal. Prayers up.
Rod: Yes. It’s not even the Big 3 that concerns me, it’s the rest of the team and the coaching staff to a certain degree. As I heard someone say not long ago, teams love to load up on 3&D players to compliment their stars but the Suns seem to have only 3 OR D players to try and fill those roles with. Other than the Big 3 (and Nurk for the most part), their best defensive players aren’t much of an offensive threat while their best three-point shooters aren’t great defenders. If they load up their lineup with shooters, the defense suffers and vice versa. The problem is finding the right balance in their lineups, not the Big 3.
Q2 - Through their first 26 games, the Suns have had 13 different starting lineups. What are your thoughts on this?
GuarGuar: We’ve had so many injuries it’s not shocking at all. Booker, Beal, KD, EG, Grayson, Okogie, and Little have all missed time this season. Those are all core rotation guys except maybe Little/Okogie. And it makes it that much harder to gel with all the lineup shuffling that’s been going on.
OldAz: Part of it is understandable with the injuries with some experimenting to find the right mix. The base 3 of Nurk, Book and KD is obviously set, and it seems Vogel has settled on GA as the stand in until Beal is healthy. The final factor appears to be that 5th starter we have been debating since the summer.
As far as that position, I wish Vogel would show a little more patience and allow some chemistry to develop. Instead, it seems like he tries something new every couple games (some 3 guard looks with EG, JO getting some run, then Metu, and currently Little). Additionally, the multiple changes impact the young players as it makes them tentative and afraid to screw up which might lead to Vogel moving on the the next option. All of these 5th starters (except the EG 3 guard stuff - Yuck!) have potential, but I don’t think Vogel is giving these enough time to percolate and let that player get comfortable.
Brrrberry: 13 different lineups in 26 games makes me think our 14-12 record makes perfect sense. There is way too much talent, parity, etc in the league these days in that you can’t fly by the seat of your pants and win games at a .600+ clip.
I am less than impressed by the supposed offensive mastermind, highest paid assistance in the league we’ve got. My buddy said that’s on Book and KD and that they want figure heads in the coaching staff, and I tend to agree with him. Not that we don’t have a decent bunch of minds in the coaching staff, but more so we’re lacking discipline at all levels. If the coaching staff (and players) can’t instill a disciplined system then we’re going to ultimately continue to underwhelm.
Rod: In many ways, I believe this is the root of many of the team’s problems. On top of the constantly changing starting lineup, there’s very little continuity from game to game. Only 4 times has the same starting lineup played in consecutive games. Over the Suns last 9, they’ve had a different starting lineup in each. Remember that 7-game win streak back in mid/late November? In the first 5 of those games the Suns had the same starting lineup. Other than that they had a another lineup start in 3 consecutive games once and had 2 other different lineups start in only 2 consecutive games.
With a team made up of so many new players that aren’t used to playing together, this lineup chaos only hinders the development of chemistry and cohesiveness. I also just saw a report that the Suns have played at least 5 games with 5 or more players out due to injury, which is tied for 6th most in the NBA. That’s 5 games with 5 or more starters/rotation players MIA. The only team with more (6 games) and a better record is the Lakers which only has 1 more win than Phoenix and an equal number of losses. All of the rest have worse records and the overall W/L record for ALL teams when playing with 5 or more players out is .270.
When/if they can finally get more stability/consistency in their starting lineup and player rotation I expect things to get better, both offensively and defensively. Until then, I’m expecting mostly more of the same.
Q3 - What is your current opinion of Yuta Watanabe’s play?
GuarGuar: Yuta has been pretty disappointing which hurts me to say. I was high on him coming into the season. He’s not shooting the 3 ball as well as we were hoping. He’s actually been in a funk the past couple weeks and now he’s been pressing and making his overall game even worse. It’s clearly in his head right now his pace of play has been completely different. I am still hopeful he can turn it around.
OldAz: When the Suns signed him, I expected a poor man’s version of Cam J who was a reliable spot up shooter who would see plenty of open shots and would give effort on defense even if often overmatched. He has had a few moments where the shooting has worked, but I think the inconsistency in the rotations and the stars being out have hurt his ability to get into rhythm and for teammates to learn where he will be and where he likes the ball.
His position also became redundant and he was relegated to limited minutes once EG was signed and GA was acquired via trade. Being the 3rd shooter and 4th guard (or 5th if JO is considered a guard) off the bench when the team is fully healthy is not a recipe for consistent minutes. Even at his best I am not sure he gets minutes over GA, EG, or Goodwin. Obviously, his play so far has been a disappointment, but when you load up on so many minimum contracts you cannot expect everyone to work out perfectly.
Brrrberry: Yuta has played awful. Confidence is obviously in the dumps and he’s rushing all his looks a la Shamet. He’s not showing any of the pump fake and penetrate for a closer look or better passing angle game that I know he has. I’m just glad he’s on a minimum 1 year deal and not a 10M annual multi year deal because if he doesn’t turn it around we’re not stuck with him.
I was really high on his potential impact coming into the season so it’s caught me a tad bit by surprise but I’m not too fussed about it as Metu is bringing everything I had hoped we’d get out of Yuta anyhow and I’m expecting Metu to continue to improve if we get any semblance of cohesion amongst lineup pairings.
Rod: I wasn’t as high on Yuta as some seemed to be when his signing was announced but I thought he was a good addition to the roster. I saw flashes of talent early on but lately he’s been mostly a liability whenever he’s been on the court. Both his FG and 3PT percentages (35.0% and 34.8% respectively) are below his career averages and he hasn’t provided much on the defensive end.
Before his quad injury, his shooting numbers were better (38.2% FG, 37.2% 3PT) but they fell off a cliff since returning from that (28.0% FG, 30.4% 3PT). It’s possible that the quad injury is still bothering him but it could also be a lack of confidence... or perhaps a bit of both. Whatever the problem(s), he’s not presently a productive player and shouldn’t be playing much until he gets his A-game back.
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, “How do you rate the Suns’ coaching so far?”
00%- 5 (Great)
36%- 4 (Good)
45%- 3 (So-so)
15%- 2 (Poor)
04%- 1 (Bad)
A total of 287 votes were cast.
During Tuesday’s game against Portland, Kevin Durant extended his franchise-long streak of scoring 25+ ppg to 22 consecutive games. He has a total of 713 points through his first 23 games of this season, the most in franchise history in the first 23 games and the most in his career through his first 23.
Devin Booker’s 8.2 assist per game average is tied for the 6th best APG average in the NBA so far this season.
This week’s poll is...
The Suns should...
This poll is closed
Fire Frank Vogel.
Fire Kevin Young.
Fire James Jones.
All of the above.
None of the above.