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Inside the Suns: Closing lineups, preseason expectations, offensive predictions

Your weekly Inside the Suns analysis straight from the BSotS community who live and breathe the team.

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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 - A recent article gave the following 3 possible closing lineup ideas for the Suns. Which one do you like the best AND do you have another idea for a closing lineup that you prefer to any of those?

  1. Damion Lee — Eric Gordon — Bradley Beal — Devin Booker — Kevin Durant
  2. Bradley Beal — Devin Booker — Kevin Durant — Bol Bol — Deandre Ayton
  3. Eric Gordon — Bradley Beal — Devin Booker — Kevin Durant — Deandre Ayton

OldAz: 3 is the obvious answer, and the reason is “Duh!, because the coaches have functioning brains.” My initial reaction to this question was that this article must be asinine click-bait or further proof that many NBA writers don’t actually watch games or know the first thing about basketball. I had to actually seek out the article and after reading was able to stop laughing. The writer admits that option 3 is the most likely closing lineup for the obvious reason that it puts their 5 best players on the floor and would be a nightmare to guard. He actually believes it will be their most common starting lineup, but I am not ready to go there. I think they start with a far more balanced lineup, but regularly finish with #3 above.

As for the other options, #1 only makes sense if the Suns are down by a good amount and need threes, AND D. Lee is going good from deep at that time. However, rebounding is also kind of important in this scenario as is getting a stop once in a while. Swap Yuta for D. Lee and I think this is the more likely small ball lineup, but not a regular closing option. #2 is just plain silly, and the writer indicates that he likely knows it. He admits that Bol’s role on the team is far from defined, and he is clearly higher on Bol than I am (more indication his opinions are highlight driven). He was trying to get at their best defensive lineup, but unless I am 100% wrong on Bol, then swapping him for Eubanks or KBD would be a better option. Either way, I see option 3 as the closing lineup, but only until Yuta or KBD prove that they can be counted on in the clutch and then their insertion for Gordon makes the lineup far more balanced on both ends.

Brrrberry: Out of those choices, #3 is the obvious one, I’d bet a large amount of money that Lee isn’t closing any games and if he is then something went terribly wrong. IF Bol was closing games that’d be an interesting, albeit unlikely scenario, as it means he’s broken through and is making a considerable amount of impact which would be entirely scary for the rest of the league. I’ve said that I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up The issue with essentially a 3 shooting guard closing lineup is obviously defense. This is a tough question though as I’m having a hard time imagining someone as experienced, and likely dangerous as Eric Gordon, not closing the game.

Our ideal outcome here is that none of those lineups are what comes to be and we close the game with the same lineup we start it with, and that’s Beal-Book-KD-Yuta/KBD-Ayton. I’m quite certain that one of KBD or Yuta runs with that starting 4 role and if they can get in 40+ games with our max 4 guys, then we’ll be much better off come playoff time. We’re not forced to sacrifice size or shooting (especially with Yuta) and I just see that being our best overall lineup in terms of 2 way impact.

Rod: Number three is the best option for most games in my opinion and I can’t think of a better one. I can bring myself to envision times where other closing lineups might be preferable but only for a very short period, such as the final 10-15 seconds of a game where the Suns need more defense to attempt to keep their opponent from getting a good look at the basket or on one of those occasions that someone outside of that group is just having a red-hot shooting night.

Options 1 and 2 I see more as small-ball and tall-ball options that could be used at some point in certain games but I don’t see either one as a closing lineup under normal circumstances.

Q2 - Training camp begins on Oct. 3 and the Suns play their first preseason game against Detroit on Oct. 8. With so many offseason changes in the roster (plus those made at the trade deadline last season), what in terms of team play do you expect to see on the court for this first preseason game?

OldAz: This is a great question, and would be a great question even if the entire coaching staff had not also undergone so much change. I really have no idea what to expect with all the new faces AND a whole new staff. With a veteran team, my best guess is that they focus on establishing the defensive scheme and player roles on that end. On offense and player rotations, I would expect a lot of experimentation and more patience, with a lot of these to even bleed into the season to figure out. Then again, honestly, a magic 8 ball has about as much chance of being right on this prediction as I am.

Brrrberry: It’s going to be sloppy but that’s to be expected. I’m sure it’s a game that Monty and his guys are going to take a little more personally/serious than the Suns and because of that I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a game Detroit wins. Seeing 5 of our guys training together in California with a Suns assistant in recent days was great to see as we definitely need as much cohesion as possible, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than spending time on the court together 7 weeks before the season starts. As far as preseason game #1 goes, I will be interested to watch Duren v Ayton. I know Monty’s going to be in Duren’s ear telling him to take it to DA, should be fun to watch. An interesting side note will be watching Duren’s development this season under Monty. I’m expecting him to rebound the ball better than DA but hoping I'm wrong.

Rod: Preseason games always tend to be on the rough/sloppy side but I’m expecting the first one to maybe give some fans heart palpitations. With so many new faces both on the court and in the coaching staff, this is going to be all new to everyone and I don’t expect it to be pretty coming right out of the gate. But this is why they have preseason games. The Suns will get a chance to see the rough spots and have the opportunity to try and iron them out before the games that actually matter begin. The players will need time to gel and develop chemistry but I believe with the top-notch group they’ve put together, that won’t take too long to accomplish.

Q3 - The Suns’ 2020-21 team had the highest offensive rating in team history (117.2). Do you believe this team will surpass that mark?

OldAz: I think there is a good chance. The talent and collection of high efficiency players bodes well. The only question is how committed they will be to playing at a fast pace. If they do, then this record should be in serious jeopardy. I was also going to add a caveat for injuries, but unless multiples of the big 4 miss significant amounts of time at the same time, then I don’t even think this would stop their high scoring. Any combination of 3 of the big 4 being healthy with the solid bench JJ has assembled should be enough to put pressure on this record.

Brrrberry: I’m going with yes, but it’s far from a sure thing. That team had CP3 masterfully orchestrating things for 70 regular season games. We had an insane run of taking a lead into the 4th quarter and maintaining it---a good majority of that off the strength of CP3’s mastery and we had great health amongst our core players. I’m not sure how offensive efficiency is determined but I’m certain this team is going to hit more 3’s and probably score more points so my expectations would be if we are able to stay mostly healthy, then this squad ends up at the top of that statistic. At this point I’m chomping at the bit for preseason to start for the first time in ages, the suspense is killing me!

Rod: Will they is truly the question. I certainly believe that they can although that depends much on three things. First is how quickly the team gels/develops chemistry. Second is how quickly they can learn and efficiently execute Vogel’s and Young’s defensive and offensive schemes. Those two I consider relatively minor concerns in contrast to the third thing, health. While I’m not at all pessimistic regarding the health of our best players, any serious injuries during the season will at best lower the Suns’ chances at surpassing the mark set in 2020-21.

While I was tempted to add a concern over not having a “true” point guard to run the offense, I believe that there is enough talent on this team to make that a much lesser concern.

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, “I doubt many would argue that Bradley Beal & Eric Gordon were the two best offseason acquisitions this year but who is the 3rd best?

36% - Keita Bates-Diop.

19% - Drew Eubanks.

40% - Yuta Watanabe.

03% - Bol Bol.

02% - Someone else.

A total of 323 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Who is going to lead the Suns in 3-point shooting (by percentage) this season?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Devin Booker.
    (25 votes)
  • 12%
    Kevin Durant.
    (40 votes)
  • 6%
    Bradley Beal.
    (20 votes)
  • 34%
    Eric Gordon.
    (111 votes)
  • 28%
    Yuta Watanabe.
    (91 votes)
  • 9%
    Damion Lee.
    (31 votes)
  • 1%
    Someone else.
    (4 votes)
322 votes total Vote Now

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