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 - Fingers are being pointed everywhere as to who is to blame for the Suns’ poor performance so far this season but new owner Mat Ishbia’s name rarely comes up. Should at least part of the responsibility for it fall on his shoulders?
OldAz: Absolutely some of this is on him and I have made some comments on the board to the effect. While we can celebrate having an owner willing to spend money to compete that does not guarantee winning. We also likely have to endure some period where he learns how involved he should be personally with basketball operations.
He is the owner and can run the franchise how he sees fit, but history tells us that new owners are often too involved with basketball decisions to the detriment of the team. Based on the timing of events and what has been reported, it was Ishbia who pushed the issue on the KD trade and regardless of ones opinion on that deal, the cost was high and took a competitive young team that had all of its draft assets and changed that to a team with almost no maneuverability with significant age and injury concerns. It was a gamble that has not paid off to this point, but it was a gamble made at Ishbia’s direction.
That cannot and should not be ignored as calling that fact out will help expedite his learning curve as a new owner and maybe inform who he has making basketball decisions.
Brrrberry: I suppose Ishbia bears some culpability here in his coming on board and instituting wholesale changes. I’d guess his name isn’t brought up much because of his willingness to spend and everything else he’s done that’s been so anti-Sarver. Really he did most of what you could ever want from an owner, and that’s to spend to win, but it’s hard to tell if his high level of involvement in personnel decisions ended up being a flaw.
I’m not inclined to point fingers at anyone yet myself though if I were to point them it’d be at Durant and Book for pushing Monty out the door and installing what I’m seeing is a figure head at HC and lead assistant (Young), both guys who don’t hold star players accountable. Ishbia, Book and KD seemed to be the guys who spearheaded both the Vogel and KY hires so that’s definitely something I’d put on Ishbia. I’ve seen enough that Vogel wasn’t the ideal guy for the job. Not saying we can’t have success with him as our coach, only that I don’t believe this roster will become it’s best version with Vogel.
I’m still excited to see what we ultimately become all the same though once Beal comes back. Metu’s continued ascension is going to become a hell of a lot more important than I’d ever have imagined but I really like the firepower that Book, KD, Beal, Nurkic, Metu, Okogie and Allen provide. We’re definitely going to need some other guys to step up beyond those 7 come playoff time, but I’m not sure who it’s going to be.
Rod: Yes, he should shoulder some of the blame as well but how much is certainly questionable though. This current Suns team is almost completely different from the team that first took the court in 2022-23 and if he didn’t actually make those decisions he certainly okayed them. The Suns have only 3 players from that roster still on the team (Book, Okogie & D. Lee) and just one returning coach (Young) from that coaching staff.
I expected growing pains with all the changes and early season injuries have only exacerbated those problems. It’s been a “perfect storm” of problems so far but I also think that there’s no one person upon which all the blame can pinned. There’s plenty to go around and no one is exempt from criticism.
Q2 - Eric Gordon recently stated that he thinks he would like a bigger role and get more touches. Your thoughts on this?
OldAz: Players always want a bigger role and shooters want to shoot their way through any issues. We already expected that there would be too many players wanted the one ball on a team with this many scorers. It only gets worse when Beal gets healthy, and it is already bad because the team is playing so poorly.
Personally, I prefer what Grayson Allen did this last weekend and instead of vocalizing his frustration he simply started hitting his shots, which led to more minutes and more shots coming his way. Gordon is averaging more minutes and more FG attempts this season with the Suns than he has in the last few years. He is also hitting a very respectable percentage for the year, but since early December he has been in a terrible slump just like everyone else but has still taken 24 three pointers over those 5 games (@ a dismal 25% shooting percentage). Really need him to start hitting those shots he is getting as that is what creates the space necessary for Book and KD to operate without triple teams.
To me it is simple, start making the shots you are getting and more should come your way. (Post Rockets Game addendum: while we can’t expect 7 for 11 every night, Wednesday was a great example of what I was hoping for).
Brrrberry: I purposely left EG off my list of guys that I like moving forward with this squad because when I heard him whining to the media about wanting more shots I couldn’t believe it. Overall it’s probably symbolic of greater chemistry issues than have made their way to the public arena at this point so it’s bad news all around. If I’m taking it simply at surface level, EG can take a hike for all I care. These days he’s just not the quality of player that should be whining publicly about his shot attempts. It’s really pretty absurd. I’m hoping we can package him with Little and some second round picks for a decent backup PG like McConnell.
Rod: I’m mostly curious as to whether he had gone to Vogel - or his teammates - with this before mentioning it to the media. Either way, whenever a player publicly voices dissatisfaction of any kind with his team it’s concerning though. A look at the stats shows that his usage rate (17.1) is the 4th highest on the Suns among players that have played at least 500 minutes this season (behind only KD, Book and Nurk) and his percentage of field goal attempts per game (19.8%) is 3rd among that group so I’m wondering if there’s not more behind his statement than indicated.
Of course, he did also add “lately” to his statement so it might just be what it is and nothing more, a complaint about not getting the ball as much lately. For reference, he’s averaging 11.0 FGAs for the season but just 7.5 over the last 6 games (not including last night’s game vs Houston), half of what he averaged back in November (15.0 FGAs in those 4 games). He has a point but I would have preferred that he had kept it in house.
Q3 - Do you believe that Vogel has “lost the team”?
OldAz: I think this is a good possibility, but was likely inevitable anyway with the losses piling up as he is the easiest piece to move and most likely scapegoat with DA now in Portland. Book and KD have shown that they expect to win and put in all the effort to make themselves better but when the going gets tough, it is usually someone else’s fault.
I am sure I am not alone in being tired of watching KD and Book spend more time complaining to the refs or yelling at teammates than being the leaders they are supposed to be. Vogel, on the other hand is a defensive coach who was given a team where almost none of the players care about defense. With all the injuries he has had to cobble together lineups, and without a point guard this puts too much pressure on Booker. Then, because he has veterans to pacify (like EG from question #2) he is playing lineups based on the most proven players vs which players might fit better to an overall team concept.
To me, Vogel would be much better served to assert himself and play the players who are playing well and then those showing the most effort and energy. Until Monday, Allen and Gorden had been missing everything and the small ball lineups are killing the team. Metu, Goodwin and Little all have upside, athleticism, and more size that serve the team better than watching a veteran guard miss shots and be overmatched on the defensive end. Likewise, Udoka Azubuike has shown out every chance he has gotten while Eubanks is in a multi week funk. Unfortunately, whenever one of these young players makes a mistake, they get pulled or benched on a short leash with no opportunity to learn and grow from it (or in Udoka’s case he doesn’t even get the chance to screw up before being benched again).
In my opinion Vogel has probably lost the team because he never took charge of it in the first place and deferred to veteran players who seem very reluctant to hold themselves accountable and always have someone else to blame.
Brrrberry: He very well may have and if so, man that’s tough to swallow. Kevin Young is far from HC quality so I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that Fizdale has prior HC experience because if Vogel has legitimately lost the locker room 25 games in then there’s probably no coming back from that. In that case, for this season, Fizdale would be a decent stop gap and I’d like to think he’s got the personality to hold guys accountable, which seems to be what’s missing.
I’ve never seen sloppier Suns basketball in my life and the amount of careless turnovers is mind bending. The fact Vogel hasn’t blown a gasket on the entire team or players who continue to make them (including Book and KD) is killing his credibility and making it abundantly clear that he’s just a figure head. I’m hoping he can prove me wrong and he can right the ship because he had me fooled around preseason time.
Rod: I don’t think so (at least not yet) but it’s definitely possible. Something’s up because I just don’t see the consistent effort/energy I expect out on the court or much enthusiasm. Eubanks’ recent remark about the players asking for things to be simplified implies some dissatisfaction/frustration with the schemes. A day later though Vogel said that he was not really looking to simplify the defense because, “We have to build a system that’s going to win for us in the playoffs. We want it to be simple enough that it can be executed, but we have to build throughout the course of the season.”
I understand the reasoning behind his statement but the Suns defense has been just plain bad and he may just not have the personnel to play the style of defense he wants to play. If that’s the case, no amount of reps/practice is going to significantly improve the D which will just lead to more frustration among the players, more losses and them tuning him out more and more.
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, “The Suns should...”
11.4%- Fire Frank Vogel.
09.1%- Fire Kevin Young.
07.1%- Fire James Jones.
13.0%- All of the above.
59.4%- None of the above.
A total of 254 votes were cast.
Against Dallas, Chimezie Metu recorded a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) before halftime. The last Suns player to do this off the bench was Marcin Gortat (14 points, 11 rebounds) back on March 10, 2011 against the Denver Nuggets.
Grayson Allen’s 8 three-pointers against Dallas matched his career high, as well as the NBA’s Christmas Day high and set the Suns franchise record for triples on Christmas Day.
The Suns are now 12-9 all-time in Christmas Day games.
This week’s poll is...
Do you believe that the Suns can even make the playoffs this season without making significant changes to the roster and/or coaching staff?
This poll is closed
Yes, they can.
No, they can’t.