Inside the Suns: Suns’ Big three bucket getters, goodbye Cameron Payne, hello Bol Bol

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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 - Book, Beal and KD averaged 27.8, 23.2 and 29.1 points per game (respectively) last season, an 80.1 ppg average for 3 players. Do you think this trio will average about the same total ppg this season, more, less and which one do you think will be the Suns’ leading scorer in 2023/24?

GuarGuar: I think overall the trio may average slightly less than they did last year. It’s certainly possible that they average the same of even more. We saw Booker’s averages skyrocket whenever he played alongside KD. I think Book and KD will be very tight for the scoring leader in our team. I’ll give KD a slight edge though and Booker to lead the team in assists.

OldAz: The easy answer is to say that there is only 1 ball so all their averages will go down. Personally, I think this is flawed logic and as crazy as it might sound their per game averages could actually increase. The last few years, KD took between 18-20 shots per game at about 55%, Book was around 20 and Beal was between 18-20 both around 50%. I would even include DA in this logic, and he only took 12-13 shots at about a 60% rate. This totals between 68-73 shots per game amongst those 4. In previous years, those 3 were the #1 scorers on their teams and would attract a LOT of attention. That can’t happen when they all play together, so it actually stands to reason that everyone could get easier shots than before and thus, shoot a higher percentage.

The only question is if they can all still average 68-73 shots between them. I looked across the league and many teams average around 90-92 shots per game. Depending on the rotation patterns I could absolutely see the top 4 options on the team getting 70+ shots out of that 90. The Warriors top 4 of Curry, Thompson, Poole & Wiggins shot 68 shots per game last year on a team that averaged 92 shots. Likewise the top 5 Celtics (Tatum, Brown, white, Smart & Brodgdon) accounted for about 70 shots on a team that took about 88 shots a game. Basically, this is enough evidence to me that each of these guys could still get their recent average in shot attempts AND those shots could be cleaner and more open so surpassing those scoring averages is certainly attainable.

As for who the leading scorer will be, it could be any of the 3 of them and will likely be up to the defenses they are playing against. My money would be on Booker as this is clearly his team despite all the talent around him.

Dan-Fly: I think KD’s and Beal’s points may be down a little but Book’s up. Beal will be the de-facto point guard and concentrate more on getting others involved more than scoring himself.

KD won’t be the only one on his team to score big, so it won’t be his main focus anymore, concentrating on other things to help the team win, and that’s a good thing. Last year we saw how Book was helped by KD’s presence and it will be even better with defenders having to guard so many other good shooters, making his life so much easier. Of course all three can and will go off whenever necessary.

Brrrberry: I’m expecting 75-80ppg average from the 3 of them. I so badly want Ayton to make this a big 4 so we can spend this season tracking the Suns being the first team to have 4 guys averaging triple digits! Let’s go DA! Their total average when playing together I’d put at a bit under 75 but as the season plays out and guys miss time due to injury, that cumulative number will eek up because on nights when only two of the stars are playing the average could get pretty close to 60 for just two of them. These are mind boggling numbers for a trio, it’s exciting even being able to speculate about such a thing. I saw a clip of Beal getting up shots the other day and man is his shot beautiful.

Rod: I think overall it will be about the same total for all three or maybe a little lower depending on the minutes each plays. Everyone should be able to cut their minutes down at least slightly (especially with Eric Gordon coming off the bench) without really hurting the team’s ability to score. Plus if DA just averages just the same 18 ppg he averaged last season, we’re looking very good offensively.

This team will likely play at a faster pace than last season which would provide more scoring opportunities for everyone which shouldn’t cut into anyone’s shot attempts and with all three of them on the court together I find it hard to believe that open shots won’t be coming more often as long as they keep the ball moving.

As for the scoring leader, I’m picking KD simply because he will be sharing in the PG duties the least of the three and will be able to concentrate more on just getting open and putting the ball in the bucket. And we shouldn’t assume Beal will wind up the Suns’ 3rd leading scorer behind KD and Book. In 2019/20 and 2020/21 he averaged 30.5 and 31.3 ppg so he’s very capable of being right there in the mix for top scorer this season.

Q2 - Your thoughts on the Suns trading Cam Payne to the Spurs?

GuarGuar: It makes sense from the standpoint that we should be paying $26 million in tax for 1 year of Cameron Payne. However we really are thin at point guard now, and we must heavily believe in Jordan Goodwin. Payne was very inconsistent the past 2 years when he played, and he was also injured often. I get the move and it gives us some flexibility for a possible move later on this year. Not a needle mover trade by any means.

OldAz: Makes perfect sense to me when you factor in the cap savings of almost $25M (after Bol was added). He was likely going to be competing for the 2nd/3rd PG position with Goodwin. When you consider guard minutes available per game after Book, Beal, and Gordon you probably only have ~12 minutes for those two players anyway (barring injury) and Goodwin is both cheaper and has more upside. Finally, I felt that the Suns needed a 3rd Center for injury and foul protection, so that was a higher priority roster need at the moment. Jones offloaded Payne and picked up a larger Trade Exception that could be used mid-season once he sees what this team actually needs and after the new parts all play together.

Dan-Fly: I’ve had some time to think about the trade, and I see some subtle benefits, these include:

  1. Giving Cam a chance to play more (if they keep him)
  2. Generating a near seven million TPE which can be used for another trade now or future
  3. Opening a roster spot for Bol who we intended to sign
  4. Giving Goodwin a bigger role and chance to develop
  5. Saving some 30 million dollars even after Bol
  6. Show the intent of Vogel to use Beal and Goodwin as the main playmakers, which would have left Payne on the bench eating up 30 million dollars of Mat’s money. And frankly, he isn’t worth.

Brrrberry: I like the Payne trade and even more so the decisiveness from the front office. They tried to bundle him for McConnell, Indy didn’t bite so what did the Suns do? They got rid of him for a trade exception which will likely make it easier to acquire the type of player they’re wanting to round the roster out with.

Suns in the past would’ve had every team in the league thinking/knowing they were desperate for a PG and never got one anyhow. Best to let the window of opportunity come our way. Not to mention all this worry about the lack of a pure PG is interesting to me now that I’m viewing it through a new lens. 4 of the top 5 (Nash/Kidd/CP3/Stockton) pure passing, floor general type PGs of all time won ONE RING. Guess how many total seasons those vaunted floor generals played in total to accumulate that one ring? 76 seasons. 1 ring. It’s almost like having an all time great, pure PG is the last thing you want if you’re trying to win a ring.

Rod: I have a bit of a soft spot for Payne but I think it’s best for everyone. In Goodwin the Suns have a younger defensive minded player - who still has some potential to improve - to take Payne’s spot in the rotation and Payne gets a fresh start on a new team. Payne also gets to play for one of the NBA’s best ever coaches in Pop who might be able to work some coaching magic that would aid CP15 in actually improving his game a bit. The $6.5 million TPE the Suns got back in the trade works out well IMO because the Suns can take their time and use it (or not) later when their roster needs may become clearer.

Q3 - Your thoughts on the Suns signing Bol Bol?

GuarGuar: Bol Bol is going to get a lot of hype but I’d be shocked if he cracked our regular rotation unless somebody got hurt. He may have some special highlights but he’s been a bad NBA player in his short career. Maybe giving him a very specific role will unlock him? I don’t know. But he’s definitely worth a flier on for a 15th man on the roster. Low risk, potential really high reward. Most likely scenario thought is he just rides the bench all year.

OldAz: “Whatever”. I did feel that the one roster hole was a solid 3rd string center. It is a physical position where injuries and foul trouble can be an issue. However, I thought Biz was actually the best option because he is a veteran who focuses on defense and does not require a lot (or even regular) minutes. I am also not a fan of Bol Bol’s highlight reel that shows him trying to be what he is clearly not. The Suns don’t need a Center who tries to dribble and take it coast to coast after a rebound. We don’t need a center jacking up 3’s at a low %. We need a center who will defend, rebound, and make shots when the defense leaves them open. On the other hand, we are talking about the 3rd string Center as DA and Eubanks are clearly better and at 24 he certainly has more upside than Biz, so it certainly can’t hurt to give him a shot.

Dan-Fly: Signing a 23 year old seven footer with skills for the min, is all upside. He seems durable and Vogel has another option for defending certain players and I think he will be a surprise to many. He isn’t an All-Star, but can be a good role player, basically taking Cam’s spot. No offense but Cam has hit his ceiling and I don’t see much future improvement there. Bol is just getting started and and has lots of potential for improvement, at very little risk to the Suns. All upside.

Brrrberry: Rooting for Bol and grow as a player and contribute this season will be really fun. He’s on the record as being a big KD fan so hopefully he turns into a basketball junkie like KD, and flourishes because of that. I’m an eternal optimist so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Bol turns into a 6MOY type player for us THIS season. I’ve already given thought to how we’re going to retain him if he goes off like I’m anticipating.

Rod: Bol Bol is kind of a question mark for me. I remember being very impressed by an article I read on him long ago when he was 15 or 16 and thought he had exceptional potential. He’s yet to live up to those initial impressions but I don’t think it’s because the tools aren’t there, I just don’t think he’s figured out the NBA yet.

At the vet minimum, he’s a low risk signing that the Suns aren’t counting on to suddenly figure it all out like they did when they signed Michael Beasley back in 2012. Beasley was a go for broke long-shot bet (which obviously didn’t pay off) and Bol is more like a minor side bet that could pay off big but won’t break you if it fails. It was a good move by Phoenix to sign him.

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, “The Phoenix Suns current roster...”

39% - Is good to go as is!

59% - Still needs a few minor tweaks before the season begins.

02% - Has some major flaws that need to be fixed!

A total of 470 votes were cast.

This week’s poll is...

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