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.
Fantable Questions of the Week
Q1 - One criticism of the Suns is that they will have no true point guard in the starting lineup. Do you think the Suns will have any problems initially with running an offense without a true PG?
OldAz: Short answer is “No” The Suns have 2 all-NBA level guards in Beal and Booker who handle the ball well and are willing passers (both had over 5 APG last year). It would have been great if JJ would have drafter Halibuton over Stix, but the Suns will be just fine in the backcourt this season.
For the entire decade that the Suns were missing the playoffs I was clamoring for them to get a “true PG” and I think McD botched it badly when he alienated Dragic, because Goran was a pretty good example of a “true PG”. Likewise, I was ecstatic when Rubio was signed because he fits that mold and I believe that style player is super important in getting a team from bad to decent. However, that style of player is very rare in todays NBA and it can be argued that they have not historically been necessary to winning a championship.
Among the assist leaders last year were Chris Paul, Mike Conley, Russel Westbrook, and James Harden. Only 2 of those would be considered “true” point guards and how many rings have they won collectively? Likewise, what is the difference between a PG and SG if the PG is going to have 2+ shot attempts for every assist? Among last years league leaders in assists per game (at least 6 APG, min 30 games and 20+ mpg) only Ben Simmons, Paul, Harden and Conley, and Halliburton had LESS than 1.5 shot attempts per assist. I think they will be just fine with Beal and Booker.
Brrrberry: I’m just not fussed about the roster lacking a true floor general, at all. I made mention of the fact that 4 of the top 5 assist guys in NBA history (Stockton, Kidd, Nash and CP3) played over 70 seasons. They won one ring and that was a way past his prime Dirk carrying the Mavericks. With one ring in 70+ seasons with those all time great floor generals running the show, it almost seems to indicate that the last thing you want if you’re wanting to win a ring is a historic assist king running the show.
We’ve assembled, on paper, one of the most offensively talented rosters that’s ever. If we’re referring to simply scoring, we have 3 super stars. Once we gel together as a unit, it’ll be pretty apparent that we’re lacking absolutely nothing on that end, especially in comparison to our peers. I do think we’re looking to add another solid rotation PG at some point prior to the deadline but it’ll just be an ancillary piece and we’ll be a juggernaut regardless of whether that comes to fruition or not.
Rod: I think there could be an adjustment period because it’s a new thing for everyone (especially with so many new faces on the team) but I don’t think it will last long or be much of a problem. The Suns have too many talented, high IQ guys to make it too tough to adapt to. Other teams have made it work without a “true” point guard, someone who looks to set up others first instead of scoring themselves. A few of them have great distributors at other positions to help facilitate the offense, the Suns are going to try and make it work with several very good distributors (Book, Beal and KD) at multiple positions. I believe it will work well as long as the Suns play at an up-tempo pace and don’t try to walk the ball up the court giving the opposition plenty of time to set their defense.
Q2 - With all the player movement these days, do you think that NBA team rivalries are more in the minds of fans than players?
OldAz: Absolutely, and I think it has been this way for a while. As player salaries have skyrocketed, being a professional athlete has become more like a fraternity and players are more and more disconnected from the common fan. As a result, players are friendly off the court and most of the narratives we hear are total inventions.
Draymond Green and KD supposedly have “beef” but were sitting together at a team USA game last week. The days of Pete Rose plowing someone over just to win an exhibition game are long gone. Likewise, when Buck Showalter tried to enforce rules like not fraternizing with the other team before games it didn’t work at and the Diamondbacks success after Buck left is often credited with moving on from much of that old school mentality.
It’s nostalgic and fun to still view sports through the lens of “our team” and “our players” but in reality, this has not existed for a while. Finally, before anyone tries to blame this just on the player, teams know this too which is why the Suns moved on from popular players like Oubre and Rubio when they had a chance to improve their chances of winning. It’s a mercenary league all around.
Brrrberry: Players are so chummy with each other these days that it seems to not be much of a thing with players. From a Suns fan perspective, I usually hate whoever our matchup is in any given round of the playoffs and that’s been the case for ages. Oddly enough, I didn’t have any hate for this years Nuggets team and that was the first time I ever recall watching a Suns playoff series and not completely despising the opponent. I think most of that stems from the fact that I’ve always felt we got the short end of the stick from the refs and the Nuggets just completely out classed us, not needing any special treatment from the refs.
I know I’m in the minority with this just from reading other Suns fans comments here---there’s a lot of dislike for the Lakers, Mavs, Spurs etc and at this point I don’t dislike the players on any of those teams. I think the Warriors will be an interesting rivalry this year because you already know CP3 wants to kill us so it’ll be must see TV whenever we play the Warriors, and Klay Thompson drives me crazy so I’ll definitely look forward to crushing the Warriors.
Rod: I’m of the belief that they’re much more important to us fans than the players these days. For example, other than Book (8 seasons), DA (5 seasons) and Wainright (2 seasons), there’s no one on the Suns’ roster that’s been with Phoenix for more than one season so it’s difficult to believe that traditional team rivalries mean much to most of them. For them there are probably some individual player rivalries each may have that have more meaning to them which likely have nothing to do with whatever team they happen to be on.
Q3 - What are your thoughts on the NBA’s new mid-season tournament?
OldAz: I am cautiously optimistic. The fact that all the games (except the championship) will count in the standings helps a ton as it sets the baseline for success really low. Those games in November and early December were of limited interest already, and they still count at least as much as before. The odd thing to me is that the Championship game does not count. That should be the most important game to make this work and it becomes an 83rd game for those 2 teams.
The prize money seems like a lot to the average fan, but to an NBA player this becomes a glorified exhibition game. This is especially true for the starters who already make a ton of money and have been finding creative ways to load manage. This is the one element I can’t get on board with, especially because it would have been so easy to fix. If every team has 80 games scheduled (including the Group stage games) and 2 games TBD, then why couldn’t the NBA schedule everyone 79 games with 3 games TBD. That way the Tournament Championship still counts towards the season and there is every reason for the star players to bring their “A” game.
I actually like the idea, but I think the NBA left a major gap that will cause the whole thing to fail when the top players in the Championship treat it like an exhibition and severely limit both their minutes and their interest in playing full speed.
Brrrberry: Guess we’ll have to see how it all plays out but I just can’t see it being something that piques my interest any more than a regular Suns game. It’s something the NBA drummed up to get the casual fans eyes who don’t watch most every game like I do. I know it’s a model that had a lot of success in soccer so maybe it grows into something more interesting that it appears to me atm.
Rod: Honestly, my excitement level regarding this tournament is just slightly above zero. That may change eventually but, as all but the championship game will be worked into the regular season schedule, the individual games will still be important to me. The fact that it will begin - and end - very early in the season (Nov.3 - Dec. 7) makes it a little more interesting as the regular season will have just barely started (Oct. 24) and teams will be fresh and possibly a little less motivated to “load manage” their better players during these games. It will be interesting to follow the tourney progress but winning it is way down on my list of priorities for the Suns this season.
If you want a little more incentive to win it all, there needs to be a bit more at stake than just some extra bucks. The championship game won’t even count in the standings but if the NBA did something to sweeten the pot a little - such as the winner earning an automatic tiebreaker for playoff seeding - then I’d be a bit more interested in trying to winning it.
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, “Where would you rank the Suns as an NBA title contender?”
30% - 1st
23% - 2nd
27% - 3rd
13% - 4th
05% - 5th
02% - 6th or lower
A total of 382 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
The NBA’s in-season tournament is...
This poll is closed
A really good idea!
A near meaningless gimmick.
Ask me again after we see how the 1st one works out.