Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.
Current Record: 33-29, 4th seed in the Western Conference
Offensive Rating: 113.5 (17th, ↑1)
Defensive Rating: 112.0 (8th, ↓1)
Net Rating: +1.5 (9th, ↑2)
Week 19 came and went without the much anticipated debut of Kevin Durant. As a fan base, it feels as if we are stuck in purgatory. James Jones made quite possibly the most important acquisition in the history of the organization, but we are all still wondering what this team is going to look like. Send me to heaven or hell already! Preferably NBA heaven.
It’s hard to watch Phoenix Suns basketball and take any true barometer of what the pros and the cons are for the team. This isn’t adding Terrence Ross. This is adding T.J. Warren (side note: we’ve put out an APB for Warren…he wasn’t seen at all this week). This is adding Kevin Durant.
While we wait for NBA gods to judge us for our basketball sins, basketball still needs to be played.
The Suns went to 1-1 on the weak, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday and losing to the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday. The most you can take away from both of those games is how it affects the standings more than the individual performances, rotations, and offensive play sets that occurred during the games.
We’re entering the final run of the season now, as Phoenix has only 20 games left. That is plenty of time to integrate Kevin Durant, but it must happen soon. It’ll be a process.
You began to see some of the new set-based integrations that Monty and his coaching staff are implementing this past week. They began the game against the Bucks running plays that were foreign to their lineup.
The Suns started with a new set (it didn’t go well) that includes the vertical screens that KD loves for Ayton here. We talked about integrating stuff like this on our last pod. pic.twitter.com/d6nPBBaPus— Mike Vigil (@protectedpick) February 26, 2023
We should expect to see plenty of this over the upcoming weeks, as well as a minutes restriction for the incoming Kevin Durant. There will be new sets, new plays, and new initiators of the offense for the remainder of the season.
The goal? To peek at the right time. To have enough of these plays in the mental muscle memory of the Phoenix players that come playoff time, these new wrinkles catch the opposition off guard.
That is the other advantage here. Phoenix has run the same system for three years now. Sure, coaches make adjustments. But for the most part, due to the players on the roster’s consistency, it’s easy for opposing scouts and coaches to know what Phoenix is going to do.
Once KD arrives, that changes everything. Or at least a lot of things.
Player of the Week
24.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists
42.9 FG%, 16.7 3PT%, 73.3 FT%
It’s fantastic to have Devin Booker back, and he’s played 37.2 minutes per game in the previous two games. It indicates he’s feeling well enough to lead this squad again. He won’t have to carry it for much longer, thankfully.
He had a rough start against the Milwaukee Bucks, starting the game 0-for-6 from the field before scoring 11 points in the third and ending with 24 points.
One thing we need from Devin Booker is for him to regain his range from beyond the arc. The past week he was 16.7% shooting from deep, and while he passed Steve Nash for all-time three-pointers, it was a struggle getting there. Since he’s returned, he is 8-of-25 (22.9%) from deep.
Book passed Shawn Marion – my second favorite Sun of all time – to move into fourth all-time in scoring for the franchise, and he did so in true Devin Booker fashion. It was a Jordan/Kobe-esque type jumper, fading away from 16 feet over Khris Middleton.
Poetry in motion. So while he hasn’t regained his range from deep, the mid-range jumper is looking just fine.
Highlights/Post Game Podcasts
THUNDER at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | February 24, 2023:
428. Suns (33-28) vs. Thunder Post Game Pod:
429. Suns (33-29) @ Bucks Post Game Pod:
SUNS at BUCKS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | February 26, 2023:
News & Notes
Clutch Points: Suns star Devin Booker reveals true thoughts about superteam status
Hoops Habit: Did the Phoenix Suns give away too much to land Kevin Durant?
The Sportsrush: “Kevin Durant Must Stop Joining Contenders!”: Charles Barkley Makes Hypocritical Statement About Slim Reaper After Trade to Suns
Clutch Points: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar reacts to Kevin Durant trade, NBA player empowerment
Basketball Insiders: Suns Are Said To Be ‘Monitoring’ A Possible Buyout For Derrick Rose, Phoenix Wants To Add Depth At PG
Fox Sports: IS ANYTHING LESS THAN A TITLE A FAILURE FOR KEVIN DURANT?
Hoops Hype: Suns head coach on Kevin Durant debuting on Wednesday: We’ll have to see
Burn City Sports: Jae Crowder discusses the unfortunate Suns’ situation
Quotes of the Week
“Break was a good time to sit back and reflect.” - Devin Booker
“Then KD just getting in his bag and doing it on my team. Wearing the same jerseys. It was pretty cool and just seeing him and Book, he’s scoring, Book scoring, 3. Dump it off to me. It’s insane man.” — Deandre Ayton
“Well, we only had one All-Star, that’s KD.” — Devin Booker
“He’s just trying to get his legs under him and see if he can accept the physicality of playing a little bit.” — Monty Williams on Landry Shamet
“I was super excited. I couldn’t calm down for nothing.” — Cameron Payne
“We figuring it out. It’s new for all of us. Everybody is probably like, ooh, what are they going to do? What’s it going to look like? Shit, we’re trying to figure it out, too.” — Chris Paul on having new players on the team
“Just a lot of guys to play.” — Monty Williams on why T.J. Warren hasn’t played the last two games
The Suns record in February, their third best month of the season behind October (5-1) and November (10-5).
Injury Status Report
Landry Shamet (hip) is OUT
Kevin Durant (MCL sprain) is QUESTIONABLE
This Week in Suns History
February 27, 1968
Look at how young Jerry was!
2/27/68 – Jerry Colangelo is officially hired as the Phoenix #Suns' first Administrative Manager (GM), coming over from Chicago where he was the Executive Assistant to President and GM, Dick Klein. Colangelo was 28-years-old, the youngest GM in #NBA history. #TimeToRIse pic.twitter.com/fCcaDQGDsZ— Arizona Sports History (@AZSportsHistory) February 27, 2019
Wednesday, March 1 — Phoenix Suns @ Charlotte Hornets
Friday, March 3 — Phoenix Suns @ Chicago Bulls
Sunday, March 5 — Phoenix Suns @ Dallas Mavericks
It’s just like you drew it up, isn’t it? Kevin Durant (potentially) joins the Suns for a 5:00pm Arizona time game against the Charlotte Hornets. Hollywood screenwriters couldn’t have planned it better! Get Tarantino on this one, ASAP!
Clearly I’m being sarcastic, but it might be the perfect time for KD to make his debut.
The Hornets are one of the worst teams in the association, currently sitting at 19-43 and 14th in the Eastern Conference. They lack continuity, they like playmaking with LaMelo Ball’s inconsistent availability this season - he’s played in 35 games this season – and they are definitely a team that hopes to have Victor Wembanyama join the squad following the 2023 NBA Draft.
That’s an ideal game to have Kevin Durant return from an MCL sprain. KD won’t face high-leverage minutes like those in the Bucks games. How many minutes does he get? I’m assuming anywhere between 20 and 24 minutes. Merely having him on the floor will make this must-see television, particularly for Suns fans.
After their game in Charlotte, the Suns travel to the Windy City to play the Chicago Bulls on Friday. The 28-33 Chicago Bulls are an interesting team. They have all the makings of a team that could have disassembled their assets and pressed the reset button at the trade deadline.
But they didn’t.
They continue to struggle as a team, currently sitting as the number 11 seed in the east. Maybe it says something about Zach Lavine‘s value on the trade market, or maybe this is a team that believes in all honesty that they have a core in Lavine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.
Chicago is last in the league in 3PTA and 3PTM, while they are 17th in 3PT%. They are sixth in the league in rebounding, so focus will be needed on the glass.
Week 20 ends the same way Week 19 ended: with an 11:00am game on ABC against a hungry opponent. Now granted, the Suns played the Milwaukee Bucks yesterday – the number one defensive team in the league – and the Dallas Mavericks are no Bucks.
The entire nation will tune into this one as it has numerous storylines and applications. We know who Dallas is and what happened last playoffs. You’ll (potentially) have Kevin Durant versus Kyrie Irving. They began the season as members of the Brooklyn Nets, and now they’re battling it out in the Western Conference.
This, in theory, will be Kevin Durant’s third game back. Much akin to the Milwaukee game, what you want is progression. A victory would be nice as well. Especially for playoff seeding purposes.
Weekly Prediction: 3-0
I can feel 3-0 coming, and for the past few weeks, I’ve been predicting undefeated weeks for the Phoenix Suns. I think that this team really is hard to beat due to the depth that the NBA national pundits seem to not give this team credit for.
Charlotte should be a breeze. The rotations, as Monty incorporates Kevin Durant, are the only thing that could derail it. When this happens, there may be some confusion which could leave the door open for the Hornets.
Chicago can be feisty, especially at home where they are 17-13. You have to be aware of that and be ready for them to be a frustrating out. Again, they are a team that definitely believes in themselves.
As for the Dallas game, on the road, I think it’s a good “eff you” game for the Suns. I think Devin Booker has circled this one on the ‘ole calendar, and with KD by his side, he’s ready to quiet the Dallas faithful.
So I’m doing it again, Bright Siders. I am going 3-0.
What will the Suns record be in Week 20?
This poll is closed
Bringing it Home
There’s one nagging thought that I can’t get out of my mind, so allow me to work it out on this column.
I’ll start with Ish Wainwright. I love that the Phoenix Suns are bringing him back. He signed a contract to fill the final spot on the Suns’ roster earlier this week, and he rewarded the team by posting his third double-digit scoring performance of the year.
Putting pen to paper ✍️— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) February 25, 2023
OFFICIAL: Suns sign Ish Wainright to a multi-year contract! pic.twitter.com/THUSZGYHg3
It’s a smart move. With so much in flux relative to the Suns roster, you need some semblance of continuity. That’s what Ish brings. He’s someone who’s been a member of this team for the last two seasons. He understands where to be on the court right now as you push through these final 20 games and has a physical presence that can – and will – help Phoenix
Yet I am still a little sore that this team didn’t get another playmaker/distributor in the buyout market. I feel that, for the third consecutive season, James Jones did not address the proper need when he could (and maybe should) have.
I get that players who are available on the buyout market are there for a reason and generally they don’t make a major impact in the postseason, but I sure would’ve like JaVale McGee or Gorgei Diang in the 2021 NBA Finals.
Why another playmaker/distributor? Because I’m terrified that Chris Paul will crumble once again in the postseason. It keeps me up at night.
We were reminded Sunday once again what the recipe for slowing him down is as former-Sun Jevon Carter played full court press against him nearly the entire game. While Chris Paul‘s mind is elite – and he used this to his advantage as he picked apart the pick and roll against the Bucks – he physically breaks down. He played 40 minutes in that game, and when the team needed him the most, his legs weren’t there.
And yes, I will acknowledge that I had trauma when Devin Booker turned the ball over in the final minutes again. It was like the NBA Finals all over again.
I return to Chris Paul, for the sake of this conversation. What is this team going to do in the postseason when defenses are hounding him constantly, forcing the ball out of his hands, and tiring him out? Not in Game 1, but Game 5?
Paul is no longer the clutch player he was last season. A team that went 33-9 in the clutch last season — best in the NBA — is 11-15 in the clutch this season. That’s 22nd by win percentage. When the game gets close, they don’t have the one-two punch they did last year with Booker and Paul.
The Phoenix Suns in the clutch this season:— John Voita (@DarthVoita) February 26, 2023
• 40.5 FG% (26th)
• 9.7 pts (7th)
• 10.1 opp pts (24th)
• 3.9 FTA (2nd)
• 68.3 FT% (29th)
• 11-15 (22nd)
CP3 is shooting 38.5% in the clutch this season and is a -32.
The addition of Kevin Durant obviously points to more Point Booker. We are already starting to see more of it these past few games. The hope is that Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, affectionately henceforth referred to as “Devin n’ Kevin”, can drag Chris Paul across the finish line this year. Get him a ring. God knows he’s earned it.
This may be CP3’s ‘Peyton Manning’ season, the final of his career in which he rides into the sunset with a title, but he isn’t in the shape that many will remember him in.
These last 20 games, we’re gonna see good Chris Paul performances. It’s simply a fact. Charlotte does not play defense the same way that Milwaukee does. But Milwaukee reminded us of what good – or should I say great – defense looks like. And great defense flusters Chris Paul…which scares the crap out of me.