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Center of the Sun: 22 games left for the Suns to integrate Durant and the new-look bench

Your weekly roundup of Phoenix Suns news, rumors, notes and videos from the prior week plus a preview of the week to come.

Phoenix Suns Introduce Kevin Durant Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Current Record: 32-28, 5th seed in the Western Conference

Offensive Rating: 113.5 (18th, ↓1)

Defensive Rating: 112.0 (7th, —)

Net Rating: +1.5 (11th, ↓2)

Week 18 went by too quickly. With the All-Star game occurring in Salt Lake City, the Suns only had two games: a win against the Kings and a loss against the Clippers. We met buyout addition Terrence Ross, a man who has never met a shot he didn’t like to take.

Sandwiched in between their Pacific Division battles was a pep rally-like press conference with newly acquired Kevin Durant.

That is where much of our focus has been since the trade deadline.

We are currently living in the magical and uneasy world of “what if”. It’s tough analyzing the performance of this team without the services of Durant. You watch them play the Kings and, although the end result is victory, you find yourself asking, “what if”? What if KD was available and how different would this game look?

The loss against the Clippers, you really find yourself living in “what if” land. The Clippers are a talented squad that relies heavily on their wing depth and switchability on defense to manipulate the game in their favor. They blitzed Devin Booker on numerous occasions, which brings us back to “what if”. What if Durant is present and how often will we see those blitzes?

So much of this season depends on what will happen when KD suits up and plays. We have illusions of grandeur in our head, like a child imagining what Christmas morning will feel like or, as an adult, wondering what hitting the lottery would feel like.

KD’s influence is significant, but we won’t know what to expect until we see it. The week ahead holds many things. Anticipation. Wonderment. Excitement. We all just want Friday to get here, don’t we?

As constructed, the Phoenix Suns, starting unit currently ranks the following:

  • 25th in points (76.6)
  • 4th in three-point percentage (39%)
  • 24th in rebounds (27.6)
  • 9th in assists (18.9)
  • 11th in OFFRTG (78.4)
  • 23rd in DEFRTG (78.4)

We know the reasons why some of these metrics do not reflect the Suns’ +235 odds to win the Western Conference (per DraftKings Sportsbook), the best odds in the West. Injuries. Lack of time playing together.

As for the second team unit, here is how the reserves have fared:

  • 11th in points (36.1)
  • 28th in three-point percentage (29.3%)
  • 9th in rebounds (16.3)
  • 8th in assists (8.3)
  • 7th in OFFRTG (58.3)
  • 18th in DEFRTG (56.1)

22 games left.

Kevin Durant isn’t gonna come out scoring 29 points a game. He needs to work himself back into basketball shape, while simultaneously integrating him into a new offense. To further exacerbate that point, the Suns now have three new bench players in T.J. Warren, Terrence Ross, and Darius Bazley.

Add to the fact that we haven’t seen Cameron Payne play a game since January 4 or Landry Shamet since January 16. That is five players who are either new or rusty.

Monty Williams has his work cut out for him. When you play against a team like the Clippers, you know the head coach Ty Lue is going to make adjustments. You’re not always sure if Monty is going to. His hand is now being forced, as he is going to have to manage rotations, integrate players, and doesn’t have much time to do so.

The toughest days lie ahead for Monty Williams, and we will continue to monitor how he manages this new roster in weeks to come.

Player of the Week

Josh Okogie

21.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists

58.6 FG%, 56.3 3PT%

When Josh Okogie is your player of the week, something isn’t right, right? Or is that an added bonus?

I am of the belief that Okogie should be this teams starting small forward more times than not. I am sure that Monty Williams will navigate his lineups based on matchups, but what Okogie brings is athleticism and tenacity that is hard to replicate.

He refers to himself as “Non Stop,” and he genuinely embodies that on the court. He plays considerably bigger than his 6’4’’ size, jumping for rebounds and becoming a nuisance on defense.

He is the definition of a “eff stuff up guy”. Every team needs an eff stuff up guy.

When this team is right he would be the fifth scoring option for the starting five. And as we saw this past week, he can score. Like Shawn Marion, you don’t have to run set plays for him. His sheer tenacity will equate to scoring opportunities.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs. Sacramento Kings (W, 120-109) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Clippers (L, 116-107) FULL RECAP

Highlights/Post Game Podcasts

KINGS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | February 14, 2023:

426. Suns (32-27) vs. Kings Post Game Pod:


427. Suns (32-28) vs. Clippers Post Game Pod:

News & Notes

Hoops Hype: Devin Booker: We were probably the laughing stock of the NBA about 4-5 years ago

For The Win: Kevin Durant reportedly ‘immediately’ requested to be traded to the Suns after Kyrie Irving’s trade to the Mavericks

Sportsnaut: Phoenix Suns reportedly could target 2 All-Stars to replace Chris Paul this summer

Hoops Hype: Kevin Durant: I can see myself being in Phoenix for the rest of my career but I said the same about Brooklyn

Larry Brown Sports: Anthony Edwards has trash talk for Kevin Durant, Suns

Arizona Sports: Suns G Cam Payne ‘close’ to returning after long road back from foot injury

Burn City Sports: Only 22 games remain for the Suns, and a rough road lies ahead

Arizona Sports: Kevin Durant believes Suns can find chemistry quickly

Quotes of the Week

“T.J. is somebody I always had a lot of respect for, kept up with. I was excited for him to get back healthy and get back on the floor. To be back here and back home, I’m excited for him.” — Devin Booker

“You see him wearing No. 1? You know I had to reach out to him about that. He’s been waiting on this it seems like.” — Devin Booker on Mikal Bridges wearing jersey number 1

“Coach has to make his decision, but I can control what I can control by just going out there and playing free and play to the best of my ability.” — Josh Okogie

“I’m being asked to do a mulitiute of things so just gotta be prepared for it, you know, try to build my game up to be versatile…whatever Coach [Monty Williams] needs me to do.” — Kevin Durant

“That’s a tough trio.” — Clippers head coach Ty Lue on Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Chris Paul

Key Stat


Games left for the Suns in the regular season

Injury Status Report

Cameron Payne (right foot sprain) is QUESTIONABLE

Landry Shamet (hip) is OUT

Kevin Durant (MCL sprain) is QUESTIONABLE

This Week in Suns History

February 21, 1993

We’ve head plenty of talk this week about Salt Lake City, seeing as that is the site of this year’s All-Star Game.

30 years ago it was two members of the Utah Jazz who shined on the ASG stage. Karl Malone and John Stockton shared with All-Star Game MVP award for their performances in a 135-132 OT win for the Western Conference. The head coach of that team? None other than the Suns own Paul Westphal.

The victory for Westphal signified the second time in which a Phoenix head coach won the All-Star Game, the other time being in 1981 by John MacLeod.

Upcoming Games

Friday, February 24 — Phoenix Suns vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Sunday, February 26 — Phoenix Suns @ Milwaukee Bucks

Ah, the All Star break. We’re here already, eh? This season, like many seasons before it, crawls along. yet it goes by so fast. The Suns will return from the break well rested, and they'll need it, as they have a couple of challenging games to start the back half of the season.

First they battle Shai Gilgeuous-Alexander and the OKC Thunder. Or should I say Dario Saric and the Thunder?

How fitting would it be for Kevin Durant’s first game as a member of the Phoenix Suns to come against his former team, a team that he led to the NBA Finals in 2012, the 28-29 Thunder? ESPN thinks it may happen as the game has been moved to the 8:00pm time slot on Friday.

You have to respect the Thunder. They have talent. All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is no joke as he is averaging 30.8 points this season. He has many OKC fans forgetting about Paul George. You know, the guy he was traded for along with five first round picks? Some would say that the Thunder won that trade. Time will tell.

The Thunder are frisky and this is the first of four late-season battles between Phoenix and OKC.

Week 19 ends with an early Sunday affair against the Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee is 41-17 on the season and a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference. They take the fourth most three-pointers in the league, and on the interior they have Giannis.

Weekly Prediction: 2-0

I am seduced by the Kevin Durant possibility, therefore, I believe this team will go 2-0 on the week. The only thing that can hold us back is the production of the second team unit and the potential lack of chemistry they will have. The first team unit will be just fine.

What do you think, Bright Siders?


...and the Suns’ Week 19 record will be?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    (88 votes)
  • 51%
    (102 votes)
  • 3%
    (7 votes)
197 votes total Vote Now

Bringing it Home

We have 22 games left in the season. That’s it. James Jones has shuffled the deck and we have 22 games prior to the postseason to figure out exactly what this team is. My hope is that it is the proper amount of time to generate chemistry, primarily for the second team unit.

When you have Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, two players who can score from anywhere on the floor, you don’t have to worry necessarily about first unit chemistry.

This team needs Cameron Payne back on the floor. If we do not believe that he can return and be effective, it is the backup point guard position that the Suns need to address the other buyout market.

Again, making an addition will be tough to integrate considering the amount of time left in the season. As much as I enjoy watching him play, Saben Lee is not the answer. If the Suns were to sign him to the remaining roster spot, would you feel comfortable with him as your back a point guard come in the postseason?

The team needs to understand who they are as a bench squad, and what they are capable of. The rotations in the postseason will be limited. That is a challenge that lies ahead for Monty Williams. He has new assets and he wants to understand what they are capable of.

But he doesn’t have the time to figure that out.

He said that following the Clippers game. “”I played too many guys tonight. It’s hard for guys to get a rhythm when you’re playing that many guys.” It’s hard to create chemistry if you’re playing too many guys.

That is a challenge that we have to continue to watch for the remainder of the season. How are the Suns going to navigate those rotations in an effort to ensure continuity on the floor and victories in the standings?

Many questions lie ahead. What happens on the court will answer them.

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