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
Author’s Note: These questions were asked and answered before the trade between the Suns, Blazers and Bucks was announced.
Q1 - Complete this sentence: Replacing Deandre Ayton in the Suns starting lineup with Jusuf Nurkic is _________.
GuarGuar: Replacing Deandre Ayton in the Suns starting lineup with Jusuf Nurkic is brainless. Ayton is by far the superior player between the two. I get that DA has his issues with effort and consistency. We all are frustrated by him, I understand that. But trading him for a center that’s going to be 30 in a year and has not been the same since a major Achilles injury is not the answer. Ayton is the better defender and offensive player. It would be a massive mistake to deal Ayton for Nurkic straight up.
OldAz: Short sighted. I was going to hedge on this and add “unless. . .” But that path is simply too narrow based on what we have seen so far. Most of the comments I have seen on this topic start with the assumption that the organization, and Book, and KD (etc) are simply tired of DA and ready to move on. To me this is mind reading and confirmation bias at work as we have no real evidence that these things are true, and the Suns have been really good about keeping these types of intentions in house under James Jones. The fact is, DA is expected to be the 4th best player on this team and is highly productive. He is also the only trade chip they have currently so you only make a deal if it clearly makes the team better.
Downgrading at Center to a player like Nurkic makes sense, but only if they also get a second player who is in that $15-$16 mil range AND will rightfully earn 25 minutes a game on this roster. Getting 2 or more players in the $5-8 mil range (cough Caleb Martin) does nothing to make the team better as the upgrade at the 5th starter is nowhere near as big as the downgrade at center.
I have been on board if Toronto gets involved and the Suns end up with OG and Nurkic, but in reality this is short sighted too. OG is in a contract year and will likely want more money and a bigger role (like all the mind readers assume about DA). This trade becomes bad if you lose OG after a year or are forced to trade him at the deadline for a longer term contract in the same range. If he leaves after 1 year, there is no mechanism to replace him so then the deal is DA for Nurkic straight up (hope they won that 1 championship). Like I said, most of the deals we have heard so far (even the unlikely ones) are short sighted.
Brrrberry: RISKY: Nurkic HAS to be healthy for us to be a top 3 contender if he ends up here and the chances of that are probably 50/50 come playoff time. IF DA followed up last seasons playoff dud with a summer of video games, the bare minimum training. and was likely to come into camp in mediocre physical condition compared to what he’s capable of, then it’d be a risk that would almost be necessary to take. We can’t afford a repeat of 2023 playoff Ayton in the 2024 playoffs. I think the odds of us seeing something closer to 2021 playoff Ayton are quite a bit stronger than us getting a healthy 15/10+ Nurkic whose able to play 32-36mpg in the playoffs. He’s shown a commitment this summer I’ve never seen from him and I think he’s on an upward trajectory at this point. I’m apt to hold onto him unless someone of OG Anunoby ilk is the 2nd player coming back with Ayton.
Rod: Stupid. There might be a better way to describe it but that was my first reaction to the idea. No matter who the Suns might also get back in the trade, it still boils down to DA being replaced by an unreliable (injury-wise) player at the 5 which is going to create problems on the court. From what I’ve been hearing, Nurkic starts off the season playing well but his leg problems just get worse as the season wears on and his minutes need to be cut back. The last thing the Suns need is a center who might be pretty much used up and nearly unplayable when the playoffs begin.
Q2 - What’s the minimum number of games that you think each of the Suns’ Big 3 (Book, KD & Beal) need to play in during the regular season for the Suns to win the 1st seed in the Western Conference?
GuarGuar: I think if Booker and KD play 68+ games and Beal 60+ games we have a great shot at the 1 seed. The 1 seed should be a big goal for the team this season. It is such a huge advantage and we saw that in last years playoffs. I think we are the best team in the West and so if our big 3 plays a lot of games together I think that top seed is ours.
OldAz: I am not sure how much I care about the 1 seed if they can all get to the playoffs healthy and playing well. Also, I think it is more about how many games they play together than how many they each play, along with the timing of those missed games. We just need to hope for relative health for all 3 and for any missed games to overlap (sacrifice a few losses), be spread out, and come in the early and mid season. As for a number, if 2 of the 3 get to the 65 games to qualify for regular season awards and the 3rd misses 25 games or less, then the Suns are in really good shape.
Brrrberry: I’m going to say 65 because that’s the new threshold for end of season awards and if I know those guys like I think I do, I think all 3 of them are interested in receiving those personal achievements along with the team success. The basketball world has its eyes on this team and I think this group of guys is ready to meet expectations so I’m expecting if they’re anywhere within that realm of the 3 of them playing 180-200 games we’ll be right there at or near the top of the WC regular season.
I do think there’s a legit benefit to having home court for as many series as possible and I think organically due to the sheer amount of talent we’ve got we end up in that spot. Even if Book or Beal are out for some period of time we have EG to plug and play so it’s really most important that KD and Ayton are the ones that stay healthy.
Rod: A bare minimum of 60 and I wouldn’t guarantee that would be enough, just enough to give them a fair shot at the #1 seed. More is always better but we all know that any of the Big 3 playing in all 82 games is one of the longest of longshot bets. As long as the Suns can put at least two of their Big 3 on the court, they’ll be in that game. If two of them are out at a time, that’s going to hurt unless someone else unexpectedly steps up.
The guy that I’m most concerned about missing time is Durant. With Eric Gordon on the bench, he could basically step in and cover for Book or Beal in the starting lineup without much of a drop-off but who can come close to replacing KD? If he misses 20 games or more, it’s going to make getting that #1 seed difficult.
I hope that they’ll all be healthy for at least 65-70 games but whatever happens during the regular season, my main hope is that they’re all healthy at playoff time no matter what seed they wind up with.
Q3 - The Suns still have one open two-way roster slot. Since two-way players are limited to 50 active games and the Suns presently have no G League team to send them to for playing time, should they wait on filling that slot or go ahead and fill it before the regular season begins?
GuarGuar: I think it might make sense to fill it now so that player can have a whole training camp with the team. I think that would be pretty helpful for said player. That being said it’s such a marginal move that either way is fine. I hope this is our last year without a G-league team. Ishbia has hinted this offseason that he will be buying one again soon.
OldAz: On this team I don’t see the 2-way players getting much run unless there is an injury need. From this perspective, we are not sure what type player they will need until the need arises so it is better to wait. However, if there is a player they like, then go ahead and sign them and I think you can make them inactive for those early games when everyone is healthy. Then again I am not sure how that part works.
Brrrberry: I’m sure they’re keeping their eyes peeled for the right guy to fill that slot so I’m going to assume it’s something that’s filled when they find a solid fit. We’re so stacked that I just can’t see a scenario where whoever fills that final 2-way slot gets any minutes so a developmental prospect like Azibuike would be what I’d hope to see.
Rod: Honestly, I think the only reason to use the remaining two-way slot early is if something changes and the Suns wind up waiving Wainright to add someone else on a standard NBA contract and then use the two-way to re-sign Ish. With no G League team to send them to, two-ways won’t get much court time unless they’re assigned to some other team’s G League club where they would be under some other team’s control. They would be getting playing time but wouldn’t necessarily be working on the things that the Suns want them to work on there.
All the two-ways are going to be far end of the bench guys this year and waiting until at least after preseason ends to use it could get them a fairly nice prospect that didn’t make the final cut on some other team’s regular season roster.
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, “Should the Suns sign JaMychal Green before training camp?”
15% - Yes.
85% - No.
A total of 270 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Maintaining which Suns player’s health is most important this season?
This poll is closed