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. But first, the following graphic shows the current Western Conference standings plus the probabilities for teams winning each playoff spot.
Graphic courtesy of PlayoffStatus.com.
Fantable Questions of the Week
Q1 - If everyone is healthy after the All-Star break, what do you think would be the best 10-man rotation for the Suns?
GuarGuar: Starters: CP, Okogie, Booker, KD, Ayton
I think this should be the starting lineup against most teams. I’d only start Craig if we are playing a team with elite wing players (Celtics, Clippers, Pelicans, etc)
Bench: Payne, Ross, TJ, Craig, Jock
Ross and Lee are both guys who can catch fire and I think we have to make a decision on which one should get the backup sg minutes. I’d still play Craig for defense and Jock makes it harder for teams to get away with double teaming our guards.
OldAz: Okogie should be the 5th starter. Period. No debate in my mind based on his hustle, strong defense, and his willingness to play team basketball on the offensive end. I would also convert Ish to a regular contract as I believe he is a valuable backup at the PF spot on this team, unless a PG option becomes available that is notably better than Payne.
Based on that, here is how I see the team:
- PG: CP3, Payne, (S.Lee 2Way)
- SG: Book, Ross>D.Lee>>>Shamet
- SF/Wing: Okogie, Warren
- PF: KD, Ish=Craig (>=?) Bazley
- C: DA, Landale=Biz
The “top 10 “ is an interesting question because everyone from #5 through #15 is pretty tightly grouped. You also have some players that are better when the need is defense (Shamet & Biz) as opposed to offense (D.Lee, and possibly Ross & Warren). On top of that, you only have 1 backup PG since S. Lee is not playoff eligible but don’t really need a 2nd PG if Book &KD handle the ball and even Okogie is bringing it up some. Personally, Payne is not in my top 10 and I wouldn’t break it down by the normal position structure as the backup shooting guards, small forwards and even “power forwards” are all basically interchangeable. Thus, my next 5 would be Ross, Warren, Craig and Ish along with one of the centers (depending on the opponent). There is just no reason to be constructing an all bench lineup with this team if everyone is healthy.
This may be unrealistic because Monty is not going to marginalize Payne and Shamet, but the question asked me who I thought the best 10 man rotation would be.
Philip: Starters: Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Torrey Craig, Kevin Durant, and Deandre Ayton.
Rotation: Cameron Payne, Damion Lee, Terrence Ross, TJ Warren, and Bismack Biyombo/Jock Landale (This is matchup dependent. Some games it needs to be Biyombo because of rim protection; others, it should be Jock because of his significantly better offense).
The Suns still have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to playable roster spots. I don’t think most fans will lose sleep if this team goes 12-13 deep, and that’s before seeing what Bazley is going to bring to the table.
Rod: Right now I’d say the starting lineup should be CP3, Booker, Okogie, KD and Ayton. Once we get past the starters, I’m not quite so certain.
For the primary backups, you have to pencil in Cam Payne at the point. It’s his job to lose and with Saben Lee the only other PG on the roster, I don’t think he’s in too much danger... but if the Suns bring in another PG to fill their final open roster spot???
At SG I’m going with Ross. Choosing between him and Damien Lee wasn’t easy but I think Ross has a better all-around game.
At SF, I’ll go with Warren for the moment. Having two guys in the 2nd unit (him and Ross) that can score a lot of points on any given night would be great.
At PF I’m going with Torrey Craig. He has his faults but they should be minimalized playing more with the 2nd unit than the 1st.
At center... another hard decision. Since I’m forced into making a choice, I’ll go with Landale who has a more well rounded game than Biz. On certain nights where the team needs more rim protection I’d want Monty to give Biz the nod though.
As for Ish, Shamet and Bazley... well, so far we haven’t seen Bazley on the court. As Monty has used Shamet to fill in at the point in the past, he might slot in as the 3rd string PG and SG. And Wainright, well right now Ish won’t be able to play for the Suns anymore unless they decide to convert his two-way contract into a standard one.
As it stands, this team has some pretty good depth all the way to the end of the bench which makes coming up with a “simple” 10-man rotation not an easy task!
Q2 - Is Josh Okogie possibly playing himself into a nice, new long-term contract with the Suns this offseason?
GuarGuar: I’d like to see a larger sample size with Josh but if he keeps this up he’d be a great long-term signing. He’s offensively limited but he has great aggressiveness and can draw fouls pretty well. His energy and defense are obviously very good. I think he should be our 5th starter.
OldAz: I believe so, but he might also be pricing himself OUT of the Suns market. Since I stated in Q1 that Okogie should be the 5th starter and get every chance to cement himself in that role, it obviously follows that I think he should be resigned longer term. However, he is on a very affordable deal and the Suns really don’t have full or early Bird rights (I don’t think). It is conceivable that he gets an offer elsewhere that is more than the Suns are allowed to match. Hopefully, he plays well and both parties want to stick together and signs a 2 year deal that allows him to stick long term.
Philip: Does Josh Okogies deserve to make more than Damion Lee ($1.8 million)? Torrey Craig ($5.1 million)? Cameron Payne ($6 million)? Landry Shamet ($9.5 million?)
Regardless of what you feel about Landry, I can’t imagine Josh making more money than him. I don’t think he has proven himself enough to make much, if any, more than Cam Payne. Damion Lee is probably on his way to a nicer deal somewhere next season as well.
Because of that, he might be on his way to earning about $5 million a year. If that counts as a “nice, new long-term contract,” then, yes.
Rod: It’s possible but the Suns do not have his Bird rights and will have no cap space to offer him a better contract next season. As a non-Bird Rights player, the team can only offer him up to 120 percent of his previous salary in order to re-sign him. The only way they could better than that it is to offer him at least a part of the taxpayer MLE (expected to be just under $7 mil in 2023-24).
Q3 - TJ Warren is playing on a 1-yr vet minimum contract and was basically a throw-in in the trade for KD. What do you believe he needs to do to stick around in Phoenix past this season?
GuarGuar: I doubt TJ sticks around longer than this season because I feel like he wants to be somewhere where he has a larger role. That being said if we win a championship and he has a great playoff run I can see us really trying to retain him.
OldAz: Easy. He needs to be willing to resign for close to what he is making this year. The Suns options are going to be severely limited to fill out the roster next year so the vet minimum will likely be all they can offer Warren. Based on this, I think the Suns are going to want him back as long long as he simply plays like he has been and provides any value off the bench. Essentially, I think the choice on whether he sticks around will be more about his choice than it will be the Suns.
Philip: TJ’s chance at extending his stay in Phoenix is dependent on his 3 point shooting. I can’t imagine the Suns keeping an average-to-below-average defender around who only shoots 33% from 3. Ideally, his shots will be easier in Phoenix than they were in Brooklyn, so that should give him a chance to raise his percentages. If not, I don’t think there will be much reason to keep him around.
Rod: First off, he’s got to stay healthy (not counting minor injuries) for the rest of the season. It doesn’t matter much how well he plays if he’s going to miss a lot of time due to injury. Over the last three seasons, he played in 4 games in 2020-21, ZERO games in 2021-22 and 27 this season (he was inactive for the 1st 23 games of 2022-23) and missed quite a few games back during his first few years with the Suns.
Second, that old offensive flair of his that got him the nickname of “Tony Buckets” needs to still be there. His cutting/slashing style should work well with the Suns and having a reliable scorer off the bench is a plus for any team.
Unless he does get fully back to his old form, I doubt he’ll get any offers for much more than the league minimum during the offseason which would help the Suns retain him. As Phoenix doesn’t have his Bird rights, they would either have to bring him back on a vet minimum contract or use at least a portion of the taxpayer MLE. If they would have to use the TPMLE to keep him, I doubt they do it unless he plays out of his mind good for the rest of this season.
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, “Did the Suns pay too much for KD?”
13% - Yes.
42% - They paid a little more than I think was fair but it’s still acceptable.
45% - No.
A total of 972 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Who is going to be the Suns 5th starter?
This poll is closed