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 - Should the Suns consider resting KD and CP3 on back-to-back games for the rest of this season?
GuarGuar: Whatever the medical staff decides I’m completely fine with. We want to be healthy for the playoffs. If they feel resting then on b2b is the best strategy then I support them 100%. Our seeding will be whatever, we should feel like we can beat anyone as long as we’re healthy.
OldAz: CP3 certainly needs to do this. He won’t, but he needs to. His ability to recover from game to game was one of the first major signs or his age catching up with him. That certainly is not going to slow down and he needs to be in the best possible shape entering the playoffs.
OTOH, KD plays a game that appears effortless and through the first few games it seems like he is getting moments of rest on the floor when he is playing more of the decoy. I would play him in these B2B games as it is a chance to experiment with more lineups without CP3 in them in preparation for this potential scenario in the playoffs.
Ethan: I don’t think so! I think Monty may not have that luxury anyway, as they REALLY need to do some musical chairs with the rotations for the next few weeks as they try to figure out some things. I also think it’s a good reminder to think about how many games off CP and KD have had due to rest. I know that’s not your typical rest, but both guys haven’t put in the normal game load on their legs this season. I think a lot of it could depend on the workload after ANY specific game, just not back to back. After that Mavs game, I think I’d want to give KD a game off!
Philip: I’m reluctant to answer this because I don’t understand load management, injury prevention, injury recovery, etc. I do, however, have experience coaching distance running, so I’ll try to draw a parallel between the two:
Part of the reason distance runners train so frequently is that they have to build up a tolerance to wear and tear that takes place during long races. That’s why, if a 5K runner races in about 20 minutes, they’ll frequently run 60-75 minutes at a slower, easier pace. The purpose is to build up a tolerance to strain, so the runner doesn’t completely lock up during those big efforts on race day.
Bringing it back to the Suns, if the medical staff has determined that KD and CP have a sufficient tolerance built up for the playoffs, I’m fine with them sitting back-to-back games. If, on the other hand, they’re still playing themselves into mid-season or postseason shape, I want them playing to build that tolerance.
Rod: I’ve never been a fan of resting healthy players but with CP3 I might make an exception. Even then, I’d make it matchup dependent. For example, next week the Suns play at Golden State on Monday with a game the following night against the Bucks at home. As we’re directly competing against GS for playoff positioning, I wouldn’t hold anything back/limit anyone’s minutes for that game and if CP3 plays excessive minutes I’d hold him out against Milwaukee. Same goes for the next B2B against the Kings and then the Sixers. The final B2B isn’t until our 80th and 81st games but by that time playoff seeds may be set and we might be able to rest several of our starters.
With KD, I think I’d just go with trying to limit his minutes on B2Bs, especially on the 2nd nights.
Q2 - How confident in the Suns’ playoff chances are you if Cam Payne remains the only true backup point guard on the Suns’ roster when the playoffs begin?
GuarGuar: Cam is really up and down. When he’s great we are pretty near unbeatable. Unfortunately he isn’t really great most of the time. He’s got big time injury concerns too. I don’t trust him going forward. That being said I still feel we are the championship favorite even without him. We have a really talented roster all around and can go Point Book if needed.
OldAz: I am still pretty confident in the Suns chances considering the trio of Book, KD, & DA stacks up really well against any other teams top 3. In fact I think the Suns will be playing more and more where CP3 (and even Payne) are playing off ball as much as they are playing a true PG role.
The more important need with Book/KD/and DA on the floor together is having reliable shooters as someone is getting left open. All of CP3, Payne, Ross, Lee, Warren, and even Shamet can play these rolls just fine and it is only 1 spot with the starters and 2 spots with the reserves when either of Book or KD are off the floor.
Referring back to question 1, this is a big reason I play KD in back to backs but not CP3 as I want to see what minutes look like without a true PG on the floor. If it does not look good, then a better PG option NEEDS to be signed (if there is one even available).
Ethan: I don’t think Cam vs. FA point guard moves the needle (sorry to jump ahead). Cam’s backup PG minutes are fine... but if CP goes down, I’m very nervous. More than likely, we’d see a Point Book or Point KD (with the second unit) before we see a Cam Payne led offense like we did in the playoffs. Cam hasn’t looked great (decision making and shooting), but I’m hoping that it may just be some rust after a LONG stint on the sideline.
Philip: Before the KD trade, this was a big reason why I didn’t consider the Suns true contenders. Nothing has changed as far as Cam Payne is concerned; his inconsistency just matters less when the Suns can roll with two of KD, Book, and CP at all times.
Rod: I can’t say that I’m overly confident with that situation but I’m not pessimistic about it either. If CP3 goes down for any significant period of time during the payoffs, I’m not at all certain that there is any free agent left out there that would make a big difference over starting Payne and playing a mix of Point Book and/or using Shamet or even Okogie to bring the ball up and then just get it into Book’s or KD’s hands and let them initiate the offense from there.
Q3 - If the Suns decide to add another PG before the playoffs begin, they will have to waive someone (other than Saben Lee who is on a 2-way contract) to create an open roster spot. If you had to decide right now who they should cut, who would it be?
GuarGuar: I’d probably cut Bazley or Ish if we had to add another PG. they both a sort of redundant and backup PG is a bigger need for us in my opinion. I don’t think we end up signing a PG though and that this is the group going into the playoffs.
OldAz: The available options are questionable at best if they would be better than Payne. Who to release is the secondary reason I am convincing myself they will be fine without a better backup PG. There are few options because as little as I care for Payne and Shamet’s game, I don’t want (or see) the Suns giving up tradable assets going into next year.
Among the remaining players on expiring deals Okogie, Jock, Craig, Lee, Ross all are playing significant roles off the bench. I count Bazley as an asset to hold onto for next year since I think the Suns have his Bird rights. This leaves Warren, Ish (who is playing some), and Biz as options to release.
Biz is the most important here as insurance for foul trouble in the playoffs, while Ish and Warren play very little. Ish is signed for next year but it’s non-guaranteed and could be signed for the same amount next season anyway. However, Warren is the most expendable because his skill set most overlaps with D. Lee and Ross. Looking back at questions #1&2, if experimenting with no true PG works then Warren as an extra scorer/shooter will be needed. If it does not then the added PG should take the place of one of those bench shooters.
Ethan: Bazley is the ONLY answer here, right? You can’t cut Bizzy because the backup Center spot can’t be thinned out any more. You can’t cut TJ Warren or Terrence because there’s still stuff to be figured out there. Bazley has got to be it. (So help me if someone writes Landry Shamet)
Philip: I won’t lose an ounce of sleep if the Suns waive T.J. Warren. He’s not going to bring Torrey’s level of production on defense and the boards, and he’s not going to bring Terrence Ross’s level of production on offense.
For the record, I don’t think it’s feasible for the Suns to add a point guard who would up their championship odds at this point in the season, so this is probably a moot discussion.
Rod: As I mentioned earlier, I’m not certain that there’s a free agent left that might make much of a real difference as a 3rd PG but if the Suns do decide to add someone, I’d pick Warren to waive. Whether we see it or not, there’s obviously a reason that he’s not getting much court time for the Suns.
Bazley is also in the running but he’s still young and the Suns might want to keep him next year so holding on to his Bird rights might trump his current lack of on the court contributions.
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, “Over their final 20 games the Suns will go...”
42% - 15-5 or better.
54% - 14-6, 13-7 or 12-8.
04% - 11-9 or worse.
A total of 493 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Should the Suns rest KD and/or CP3 when playing back-to-back games?
This poll is closed
Yes on both.
Yes for CP3, no for KD.
Yes for KD, no for CP3.
No on both but try to limit their minutes.
No on both.