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 asked before the Suns’ 21st game against LAL.
Q1 - 20+ games into the season, the Suns have outscored their opponents in the 4th quarter only 5 times. What are your thoughts on this?
GuarGuar: I think a big portion of the 4th quarter struggles was when Booker was out. We have not had monumental 4th quarter collapses in games he has played. It was when KD was by himself and he went to the bench where we’d blow huge leads in the 4th. Obviously we haven’t been elite in the 4th even with Book back, so there are some things we need to tighten up. Hopefully when the big 3 get dimes reps together we will be a dominant 4th quarter team.
OldAz: When you consider 8 of the 20 games came with only 1 of the big 3, and the 3 games with Bradley Beal playing he was severely limited and had no chemistry or rhythm with anyone, they were basically missing 45-60 minutes of star players in those games and replacing those with a minimum salary. Add to this the fact that they were all playing together for the first time, early in the season, and running out of gas when you are outmanned becomes understandable.
Mark Twain once wrote that there are 3 kinds of lies: “Lies, Damned lies, and statistics.” In other words, this factual statistic is misleading. When Booker has played they have been much more competitive towards the end of games. I believe the 5 games included in this stat include only 1 where Booker was not playing and we should ignore the second San Antonio game where they were getting blown out and only made up 3 points.) On top of the 4 winning 4th quarters (that came in wins),they also tied in the 4th quarter against Utah and New York (both in Wins) and only lost the 4th by 1 point in the other Utah Win. They also lost the 4the quarter with Booker and KD in the second games against Golden State and Memphis, but in both cases they lost the 4th quarter by half of what they ultimately won the game by. In other words, they had big(ish) leads and only gave back part of those leads. This is 8 of their 20 games and almost all when Booker and KD were playing.
Long answer short, this does not concern me at all as the Suns have been fine late in games when 2 of the 3 stars have played and I expect this will get even better when they get more time playing together and when Beal gets back to playing heavy(ish) minutes. If only 1 star is available of the 3, then the Suns are not going anywhere anyway.
Brrrberry: Not at all surprising with all the injuries and lack of cohesion. I suppose I’ll count us lucky to have won as many games as we have. I’m still perturbed about that Spurs loss and Lakers loss in October where the 4th quarter woes definitely reared their ugly head. With the way Nurkic has been playing, if you couple that guy with our big 3 and add in an Okogie, I’m confident the 4th quarter woes dissolve at some point. I am still expecting some rough patches over the next month, while we hopefully get healthy. I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m really tired of writing “when we get healthy”! Heal up quick Brad!
Rod: This is a bit concerning when you look deeper into it. Being outscored in the 4th seems to mostly be an offensive issue as opponents did not average scoring significantly more points against the Suns in the 4th (28.1) than in the 1st (27.9) or 2nd (27.2) periods and actually scored slightly less in the 4th than in the 3rd period (28.7). Across all 20 games the Suns were extremely consistent in soring through the 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarters with averages of 30.0, 30.2 and 30.1 points respectively but then drop to just a 24.3 point average in the 4th. FG percentages in the 1st three quarters ranged between 47.7% to 50.2% while they’ve made only 41.4% in the 4th. Three-point percentage hasn’t fared well either as it’s been between 38.5% to 42.8% in Qs 1-3 but fell to 30.9% in Q4.
What’s the cause of this? Fatigue is a possibility but I won’t place all the blame there. The Suns have had to rely heavily on KD’s scoring with Beal and Book missing so many games and heavy legs will have a negative effect on shooting. Durant’s averages do drop off a fair amount in the 4th. For the season KD’s FG percentage is 51.2% but in the 4th it’s only been 42.2%. From three his percentage for the season is 49.4% (!) but that also drops to 39.1% in the 4th, still very good but a definite decline. Several of the Suns’ role players also have drops in their percentages in the 4th which could be fatigue and/or nerves caused by being asked to play a bigger role than they’re comfortable with. Coaching could also be part of the problem.
Having Book back helps and getting Beal back will help even more but there are no guarantees that the Suns won’t be dealing with injury issues again during the long season and it worries me that these 4th quarter woes might not ever completely disappear. For the time being, I will remain on the edge of my seat whenever the 4th quarter rolls around.
Q2 - What is your current opinion of Josh Okogie’s play?
GuarGuar: I think Okogie is a very fine player and I love his energy and hustle. However, come playoff time Jordan Goodwin should be getting minutes over him. Teams really load up on our stars when Josh is out there, daring him to shoot. It was a problem against the Lakers and it will continue to be a problem come playoff time.
OldAz: I see a lot of people down on JO because his shooting touch has left him (again). However, he is an absolute menace on defense and gets them a few extra possessions every time he plays significant minutes (both in rebounding and steals). I also like that he has been driving to the basket more and his passing in those cases has been pretty good.
He still needs to learn to take the wide open shots (or drive more quickly if he is not going to shoot) as it is obvious when he lacks confidence in his shot. That being said, I am still high on the young man and think his defense and tenacity outweigh the cost of letting him figure out his place in the offense. I have also proposed playing a more defensive lineup for a few minutes every game with no star, just to get more minutes where KD and Book can be on the floor together. JO, Goodwin, KBD, Little with Nurk or Metu would be a good defensive team that may not score much, but if they played to a draw in a low scoring 2-3 minutes I think it would be well worth it.
Brrrberry: I’m a huge Okogie fan and what he brings to the roster. He’s the definition of an intangibles, glue guy where his overall impact can’t quite be enumerated. He’ll be flying all over the court bringing insane amounts of energy and just generally being a pest for I’ll see he’s got 7 points on 2/7 shooting and in my head I’ll think “damn seems like he’s got 20 points!”
Just like all the players on the team they’re going to benefit from increased comfortability within their role so I’m expecting he’ll continue to get better as the year goes on. He’s an important part of what we want to do defensively when we have all our best players available at the same time and think he fits really well with our starting lineup.
Only negative obviously is complete lack of midrange game and his mechanics are all over the place from deep. He’s got a little bit of a push shot going on right now and not using enough of his wrist but when it comes off his fingers clean he makes them at a decent clip. Mostly I’m just hoping he’s in a bit of a groove come playoff time because he’s the sort of high energy, physical player that conceivably could do be a big part of us winning games when it matters most. I hope he’s a Sun for years to come, I want to see his game grow here.
Rod: I love Josh’s energy, effort and intensity but I’ve begun to believe that he’s never going to be more than a steaky shooter that can’t be relied on to produce consistently on offensive. In the Memphis game he even went 1-6 from the FT line, something that shocked me. Over the last 10 games he’s shot a respectful 35.0% from three but that average doesn’t reflect his streaky shooting. When you break it down into 5-game stretches, he shot an excellent 71.4% from three in the 1st 5 but in the 2nd 5 his 3-pt percentage plummeted to 15.4%.
I’m glad he’s on the team because of his defense and he definitely belongs in the Suns rotation... as long as he doesn’t have to be relied upon to put points on the scoreboard.
Q3 - Hypothetical question: Another team contacts the Suns wanting to trade for either Grayson Allen or Eric Gordon. Assuming the return on the trade would ultimately be a plus for the Suns, which one would you most want the Suns to keep?
GuarGuar: I’d rather keep Grayson than EG if I had to choose. Grayson has been phenomenal this season. One of the league leaders in 3pt%. His point of attack defense has been pretty impressive. I want Grayson to be the 5th starter when Beal comes back. I think he fits in the best with that group.
OldAz: This one is really close and I am also assuming the return is basically the same in this hypothetical. EG and GA really bring so many similar things to the court, and while I believe EG is a little more consistent and reliable shooter I like GAs defensive tenacity a little more and he is 6 years younger. Based on that alone, I would probably move Gordon hold onto Allen.
Brrrberry: Let’s assume there’s no chance the Suns trade Gordon since he’s on an expiring and the optics would be poor. Even if they would trade Allen I’d rather keep him than Gordon. I’m fairly certain it’s a pipe dream and really wish we had a FRP to trade because it’d be a no brainer IMO to jettison Allen if it brought back Alex Caruso. I do think we have a super poor man’s Caruso in Jordan Goodwin and that’ll likely have to suffice though. Ultimately all I want to see is this full roster be allowed a chance to coalesce because I’m certain we’d run most teams out the building. Interested to hear any names that are potentially guys we’d trade for in the comments below. I’m drawing a blank on realistic candidates.
Rod: I like both of them and think they’re roughly equal as players but I’d rather keep Allen. He’s much younger than Gordon and might have a future with the Suns. I love Gordon’s 3-pt range but at 35 I don’t see him as more than a short-term gun for hire that could start losing a step at any time in the near future. Gordon also has a player option for next season which he might decide to use to look for a bigger paycheck but the Suns have Allen’s Bird rights which means that the Suns’ cap situation will have no effect on the amount of cash the Suns can offer him to re-sign with them.
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, “When do you think Bradley Beal will return from his injury?”
35.1% - Sometime in the 3rd or 4th week of December.
36.5% - Not until January.
28.4% - I have no idea but I’m not holding my breath because I fear the worst.
A total of 148 votes were cast.
In Tuesday’s game against the Lakers, Devin Booker surpassed career 13,000 points. He is only the 3rd player to do so in a Suns uniform joining Alvan Adams (13,910) and Walter Davis (15,666). His 13,016 point total presently puts him 220th on the NBA’s all-time career scoring leaders list one quarter of the way through his 9th season.
This week’s poll is...
Are you disappointed that the Suns were eliminated from the In Season Tournament?
This poll is closed
Yes but only because it was due to a loss that counts as another regular season loss.