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Center of the Sun: The Dynamic Durant, unlocking Booker, and pondering playoff seeding

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 v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Current Record: 36-29, 4th seed in the Western Conference

Offensive Rating: 114.0 (13th, ↑4)

Defensive Rating: 112.0 (6th, ↑2)

Net Rating: +2.1 (9th, —)

This week we all microwaved our Orville Redenbacher movie theater buttered popcorn, pulled up our most comfortable recliner, and enjoyed the show that was Phoenix Suns basketball. The week was highly anticipated as Kevin Durant finally donned a Phoenix uni and took the court with “Suns” across his chest. There are few weeks this season that match what this week meant to this team into this fan base.

The week started off with an easy victory over the hapless Hornets followed by a win in the Windy City. The Chicago Bulls provided more of a challenge, but the Suns ultimately pulled away at the end behind the efforts of Chris Paul and his 3-of-4 shooting beyond the arc in the fourth. Then there was the match up on Sunday afternoon against the Dallas Mavericks.

The impact of Kevin Durant was instant, and he scored 7 minutes in the clutch against Dallas, ultimately hitting the game clinching basket.

What he brings to the game – the manner in which he plays and fits in – is plug and play. Monty Williams put KD on a “minutes restriction” but we witnessed Durant play 32.7 minutes (second most on the team). He averaged 26.7 points on 69% shooting.

He has unlocked Devin Booker, who hasn’t been this wide open since the second grade. He has created mismatches that will keep opposing coaches up at night. He has provided offensive stability like we’ve never seen in the Valley.

When playing together thus far — 67 total minutes — the Suns are shooting 55.1% from the field, 45.8% from deep, and have scored 185 points. That’s a 132.2 offensive rating. They have a +31.2 net rating. Small sample size, sure, but those are nasty numbers.

I’m giddy inside just thinking about it.

KD’s arrival does come with some sacrifice. Prior to Durant playing, Deandre Ayton averaged 53.4 touches per game and .35 points per touch. In three games with KD, that has dropped to 43 touches and .267 points per touch.

DA is finding himself focused on defense and rebounding and not part of the newly installed offensive sets. Monty will have to figure out how to incorporate his offensive skill set with more regularity to not only keep him engaged, but to take pressure off his two superstars.

Player of the Week

Devin Booker

36.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 7.7 assists

56.0 FG%, 50.0 3PT%, 77.8 FT%

Devin Booker is going to be the primary beneficiary of the gravity the Kevin Durant brings. I'm not sure even Devin understands how open he's going to be. Defenses must focus on the lethal Durant, and Booker finds himself in somewhat of a Klay Thompson role. He’s peeling of weak side screens and finding himself all alone to take shots.

Prior to this week, 65 of Devin Booker’s shots on the season were classified as “wide open”. This week alone he had 6, 5 of which he knocked down.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns @ Charlotte Hornets (W, 105-91) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns @ Chicago Bulls (W, 125-104) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns @ Dallas Mavericks (W, 130-126) FULL RECAP

Highlights/Post Game Podcasts


430. Suns (34-29) @ Hornets Post Game Pod: The KD Debut:


431. Suns (35-29) @ Bulls Post Game Pod:


432. Suns (36-29) @ Mavs Post Game Pod:

News & Notes

The Cold Wire: Jay Williams Explains How Kevin Durant’s Career Will Be Looked At With Suns

Hoops Hype: Jae Crowder knew he wouldn’t be with Nets long-term: Too many guys over there looking like me, I ain’t got time for that

Sir Charles in Charge: NBA Rumors: Could the Phoenix Suns look to add John Wall for stretch run?

Burn City Sports: Devin Booker shines bright in the month of March

Arizona Sports: Phoenix Suns’ Kevin Durant can finish the job many before him could not


Clutch Points: Devin Booker’s awestruck reaction to being Kevin Durant’s teammate

Burn City Sports: The Most Impressive Thing about Kevin Durant Suns Debut

CBS Sports: Are Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns looking at an open window or a pane of glass?

Yard Barker: Luka Doncic and Devin Booker trade harsh words following dustup

Burn City Sports: Deandre Ayton is impressed with what he has seen from the Suns’ duo so far

Quotes of the Week

“He’s one of the few players I’ve been around who likes to practice.” — Monty Williams on Kevin Durant

“I feel like I’m a starter in the NBA.” — Josh Okogie

“It’s going to take me some time to get used to everything early on. As far as just having fun and getting lost in the game, I’m looking forward to doing that again.” — Kevin Durant

“It’s exciting. It’s what we’ve all been waiting on.” — Devin Booker

“It was real fun. I’m not going to lie.”— Deandre Ayton on playing with Kevin Durant

“It was solid. I felt like I should have made 4 more shots.” — Kevin Durant

“I told him’ I’m not looking for you to lead. We just want you to be yourself and hoop.’” — Monty Williams

“I thought I would be lost on a few plays, a few sets on the defensive side of the ball, but I felt like these last, what, two weeks, a week and a half of practice and being around the guys as constant communication.” — Kevin Durant

“The calmness that he has in those moments was the thing that I was aware of. Everybody else is kind of frantic in those moments.” — Monty Williams

“You guys say you don’t want everybody to be friendly friendly. There you go. We got some smoke.” — Devin Booker

“No emotions at all. It’s another game.” — Kevin Durant

Key Stat


The +/- for Kevin Durant and Devin Booker since March 1, the highest in the NBA.

Injury Status Report

Landry Shamet (foot) is OUT

This Week in Suns History

March 10, 2019

Twasn’t too long ago that Phoenix was a struggling franchise that didn’t know how to win basketball games. They had talent but they lacked the ability to close out the opposition. If they went down early, as they often did, it was over. Sure, they’d fight back in the game and make it interesting at times, but the energy used to make it a game would fizzle in the final five, and the end result was another ‘L’.

In 2018-19, a year that saw the team go 19-63, there were few bright moments. Deandre Ayton was a rookie, second leading scorer T.J. Warren was always mysteriously hurt, and Devin Booker was carrying the offensive load every night.

On March 10, Phoenix played the Golden State Warriors, a team that had appeared in five of the last five NBA Finals. They were 45-21 and a team that the Suns hadn’t defeated in 1,499 days. 17 straight for the Warriors.

The Suns started as they did most of the time, down big. Phoenix trailed Golden State by 16 points in the first quarter. Behind 37 points and 11 assists from Devin Booker, 22 points from Kelly Oubre, Jr., and 10 points/4 steals from Mikal Bridges — off the bench — the Suns came back to defeat the Warriors, 115-111.

Upcoming Games

Wednesday, March 8 — Phoenix Suns vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Saturday, March 11 — Phoenix Suns @ Sacramento Kings

Week 21 will be a shorter one; a calm before the impending postseason run that occurs in one month. Rest is key. The Suns are getting some of it now and seeing as they are integrating Kevin Durant into their system, this allows for more off days to perfect his addition. Practices have been aplenty and the intensity at the scrimmages is raising the level of Suns basketball.

Phoenix starts the week off on Wednesday back at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder. We’re not sure as to whether or not Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be playing as he has been absent since just after the All-Star break. The Suns beat the Thunder 124-115 the last time they played after SGA was a late scratch prior to the start of the game with an ankle issue.

Is there really an ankle issue? Or is this team trying to find opportunities to lose a few extra games and increase the odds of procuring a lottery pick in an effort to make a move for Victor Wembanyama? He did play on Sunday against the Utah Jazz.

Regardless of the point, this is a team that is tenacious, young, athletic, and simply doesn’t go away.

The next game has postseason implications.

The ‘’Light the Beam’ Kings are the team that Phoenix is looking up to in the standings, and a home game against Sacramento is an ideal opportunity to close that gap. Phoenix trails the Kings by two games in the standings for the third spot.

Weekly Prediction: 2-0

Kevin Durant makes his Phoenix debut on Wednesday. Screw coffee or Red Bull; the energy is the building will be something you wish you could put in a bottle and drink on a Monday morning.

OKC will pose a challenge for stretches, but not for 48 minutes. The Kings? Well that is a different story. They will pester the Suns with the top-rated offense. If the Suns can keep up with the constant and consistent scoring of Sac Town, the clutch-time minutes will determine a win or a loss.

And with Book and KD, you like those chances.


What will the Suns record be in Week 21?

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    (314 votes)
  • 8%
    (31 votes)
  • 1%
    (4 votes)
349 votes total Vote Now

Bringing it Home

17 games left for the Suns and we are beginning to ponder what the path to championship could look like. We talk of seeding, but what does it do to the path? In the standings below the Suns it is quite the kerfuffle. Teams are playing musical chairs as they try to make the postseason.

As of the authoring of this article, the Suns have a 99% chance (per to make the postseason. We aren’t focused on if we’ll be playing in the playoffs but who. The First Round is too crazy to predict this fast out, but I will ask this: Who would you rather have the Suns play in the second round?

If you end as the four seed, which the Suns have a 45% chance of holding on to, you play the five seed in the First Round. That is currently the Warriors.

If you defeat that team, you face the number one overall seed, which the Denver Nuggets currently have a 98% chance to be. If you’re the third seed, it’s the sixth seed and then (potentially) the second seed. That’d be Memphis.

What path do you want to take?

We’ll know much more about how the Suns matchup against the Nuggets soon as the teams play twice in the Suns’ final 16 games. As for the Grizzlies, the Suns are 2-2 against Memphis this season. They played all four of their games in a one month period, between December 23 and January 22. That coincides with the roughest patch of the season for Phoenix as the team went 5-11 in that timeframe.

Taylor Swift must own a Ja Morant jersey as the Grizzlies have become this season’s anti-hero in the NBA. Their brash play, their “we’re good in the west” comments, their off-court antics. The mere fact that they roster Dillion Brooks, who tops my list of ‘Most Punchable Players in the NBA’ list.

Memphis might be a volatile team, but they also possess chemistry, talent, and a budding superstar. Would you rather the Suns play them in the Western Conference Semifinals or Nikola Jokic, who dissects opposing teams like Dr. Strange. You know, before the car crash.

It comes down to controlling what you can control. You can’t control who the opponent is going to be. You can control who you are. The focus for the Suns over the final 17 is to progress, to get better every game, and to stack wins on top of each other.

They can’t look ahead, although we will.

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