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 - Reports indicate that KD will be ready to play in time for the Suns’ final 20 regular season games. What’s your win/loss prediction for this final stretch of games?
GuarGuar: My prediction is we go 15-5 over the final 20 games. Some of the back to backs are tough and I can see us resting some guys for them. I think when healthy though this group shouldn’t lose many games. I don’t expect a huge transition period needed when KD joins. His play style fits us.
OldAz: 15-5. I am guessing one loss per B2B plus one extra loss, then add another one so I don’t feel like a homer with rose colored glasses on.
Philip: The good people at Tankathon have the Suns clocking in at the 9th hardest strength of schedule remaining. However, KD’s return to the court is sure to give the Suns a boost, so let’s go with 13-7.
Rod: I want to say 15-5 but I think 14-6 is more reasonable. The remaining schedule is tough with three back-2-backs and only 2 games left against teams (Charlotte and San Antonio) that don’t have at least a slim chance of sneaking into the play-in games. Of course, if the Suns get bitten by the injury bug again that prediction could be way off.
Q2 - As Dave King showed us the other day, finishing 3rd in the West is very possible for the Suns but do they actually want 3rd or 4th? Denver and Memphis are likely locked into the 1 and 2 spots. Assuming Phoenix gets by whoever they play in the 1st round, which team would you prefer potentially facing in the 2nd round (DEN/MEM)?
GuarGuar: I would much rather play Denver than Memphis. Memphis has a lot of size and we don’t matchup as well with them. What I do like if we play Memphis is they generally play drop coverage so Book, KD, and CP should feast.
Denver I really feel we match up great with. Ayton can hold his own vs Jokic as a scorer. We have so many weapons to attack them offensively with. Not a huge size difference with both teams. Biggest concern is Jamal Murray historically turns into prime Steph Curry vs us.
OldAz: I like how this question focuses on the second round, because everything else is too tight this year to worry about because the back half of the equation (like who finishes 5th or 6th is also likely to come down to the last game). I do think we actually need to see how the Suns look with KD first so this opinion could change a lot in the next month.
As of now, I actually prefer the Denver matchup despite them being a more complete team. Even with the Nuggets finally at full strength, the Suns always seem to play them well. DA does not neutralize Jokic, but he does match up against him better than most teams which forces the Nuggets to work harder in their base offense. On the other hand, Memphis is a team that relies on length, athleticism, and getting how from 3 which has always given Phoenix fits.
This may change over the next month with KD (more length) and Okogie (athleticism) and all the shooters coming off the bench.
Philip: Despite their recent matchup, bring on Memphis. Their season seemed to fall off a cliff for a time, seeing the Grizz notch a tough 5-10 record in their last 15.. While the talent, charisma, and excitement in Memphis are undeniable, I’m not convinced they have the chops to hang with the best-of-the-best come playoff time.
I would very much like for the Suns to not have to play this iteration of the Nuggets.
Rod: It’s a close call for me but right now I think I’d choose Denver. A good part of that is just because DA players better against them (career averages of 20.7 ppg, .625 FG% & 11.6 rpg vs 15.1 ppg, .594 FG% & 9.8 rpg). Memphis also has the top defensive ranking in the NBA right now while Denver ranks 12th. But then Memphis hasn’t been playing that well lately (5-10 in their last 15 games) and if they don’t right their ship before the end of the season, I’ll easily change my mind. If they keep losing ground to Sacramento, we could wind up playing Memphis in a the 1st round as the 4th & 5th seeds or even pass them to get that 3rd seed (if we can also stay ahead of LAC) with a potential Suns/Kings matchup in the 2nd round.
Q3 - The Suns new owner, Mat Ishbia, has indicated that he will get the Suns a new G League team. How important do you believe having a G League affiliate is to the Suns moving forward?
GuarGuar: It’s not a huge difference because we can still send guys to other G league teams. But having our own nearby makes it way easier to send guys down and have them develop when needed.
OldAz: Due to all the injuries this year, the Suns have really leaned heavily on their 2 way players so it is doubtful they would have spent too much time on the G league squad. That being said, it has value as being able to get minutes for young 2-way players in a similar system gets them more ready when called on and allows focus on development. However, in rating it’s importance it falls WAY behind other factors like bringing in KD and willingness to spend into the tax to retain talent and fill out the roster.
Philip: There’s likely a tendency to scoff at the importance of a G League affiliate until you start researching names: Jordan Poole, Pascal Siakam, Khris Middleton.
These guys spent important chunks of time with their teams’ affiliates and, eventually, contributed to championships. More importantly for the Suns, these three have grown and developed their games to become contributors on contenders. That’s the whole goal. Suns fans shouldn’t look to a potential G League affiliate to find THE player to bring them a ring; they should look to a potential G League affiliate as a chance to bring in more of the right kinds of pieces.
Rod: I’ve never been a big supporter of the idea that having a G League team is a “must” but going forward I think it will definitely be at least a small plus for the Suns. While they’ve needed their two-way players on the main team a LOT this season, that won’t always be the case and it will be a good place for them to get some real game time.
On top of that, the Suns do still have some future draft picks to use and, since most of them will be 2nd rounders in the near future, being able to send them to the G League for short stints will be good for their possible development. It’s very likely that even their future 1st round picks will be late 1st rounders who could benefit from extra court time in the G League instead of sitting on the far end of the bench most of the 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, “Who is going to be the Suns 5th starter?”
82% - Josh Okogie.
15% - Torrey Craig.
02% - TJ Warren.
01% - Someone else.
A total of 646 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Over their final 20 games the Suns will go...
This poll is closed
15-5 or better.
14-6, 13-7 or 12-8.
11-9 or worse.