Welcome to “Inside the Suns,” your weekly in-depth analysis of the current Phoenix Suns squad.
the 64-17 The Suns have just one regular season game remaining before they have a bye week to prepare for their first-round playoff series. Who they will face in this series will not be determined until Friday night, when the winner of the 9th/10th seeded matchup faces the loser of the 7th/8th seeded matchup. The Timberwolves or Clippers will likely end up becoming the Suns’ first-round opponent, but the Pelicans or Spurs could surprise everyone and jump past one of those two and take that spot for themselves.
Frankly, I hope Spurs beat all the odds to get 8th and it’s not just because I think they would be an easier 1st round opponent. It would be just another little icing on what has already been a spectacular season to hit the Lakers and the Spurs out of the playoffs.
I obviously hold a grudge. I won’t apologize for that.
And now, on to the Fantable – a roundtable of Bright Siders giving their thoughts on the latest Suns numbers and news.
Fantastic questions of the week
Q1 – Which Western Conference teams – if the Suns play them at any point in the playoffs – are most likely to extend a streak with the Suns to a full 7 games?
GuarGuar: The Warriors, Clippers and Grizzlies are the 3 teams I can see pushing us to the brink of a series. Warriors and Clippers are great defensive teams and can cause a ton of trouble with their heavy defense. They also have big stars. Memphis has a dynamic point guard which is an area we struggle to contain given our personnel.
Sun-Arc: Anything is possible, so any team COULD stretch things to 7 games or even defeat the Suns. I would say the most likely teams are the Clippers (if Kawhi and PG are healthy), GSW and MEM. These three teams have players who measure up well against us. All three could be a real threat.
UTA are a very good team, but they have been good lately and I don’t see the playoff clashes in their favor. And we seem to be sort of our own DAL, so I don’t fear them on the same level. Same with MIN, NOP and SAS although I don’t see any of these last two teams succeeding in the play-in tournament.
Southern Sun: Memphis looks pretty good. Golden State, if healthy, would have a chance. I don’t really worry about anyone else. To be honest, I’m not worried about any western team. The Suns dominate when everyone plays, and it looks like almost everyone on the roster except Dario will play. It sounds so strange to say, but I’m worried about more Eastern teams.
Alex S: I’ll say the Clippers.
Now that PG is back, there’s evidence that this team already has the ability to squeeze the Suns to 6 (last year). Would I plan a series of 7 games? No, not without Kawhi. But this team fits Phoenix better than anyone else in the West.
A good coach, depth, shooting, multiple wings and top 10 *talent* is no small feat. Golden State is the other option to choose in my opinion.
Stem: While it’s possible that any WC team could extend a streak to a full 7 games, I think the most likely culprit would be the Grizzlies. They have talent, youth, depth and a very good coach in the person of Taylor Jenkins. The Warriors would be my second choice, but I think it would take a few relatively bad games for the Suns to take a series with the Suns beyond six games. The Suns are not unbeatable but I think their biggest obstacle in the Western Conference is themselves. No matter who they’re playing against, they can’t let the other teams get an early lead and expect to come back and win in the 4th quarter when the playoffs start.
Q2 – Which bench player(s) do you think are most likely to step in and have a BIG game for the Suns at some point during the playoffs?
GuarGuar: Cam Payne is definitely the obvious answer. We really rely on him to change the pace and lead the attack at times. Cam Johnson looks set for a playoff breakout. I predict many games where he finishes games on Jae.
Sun-Arc: Am I allowed to say them all? I feel like we might need everyone to have big matches (relatively per player) to go all the way. But certainly Payne, Johnson, McGee, Shamet and Craig will have to play extremely well for us to be the last team standing.
And if we get over 25 points in any game, send Ish Wainright, right?
Southern Sun: Cam Johnson will be an integral part of the Suns’ bench offense throughout the postseason. Landry Shamet will probably explode for a big game once or twice (over 20 points). Cam Payne will probably do the same. Aaron Holiday has a chance of doing it too, I just think maybe the others are more likely to do it.
Alex S: The Cams will both have big games, I’m 100% sure of that. I think JaVale and Landry could each have 1 game specifically where their impact could be different in a win versus loss.
I think Torrey will be a stable piece, but don’t expect him to be the main difference in all games.
Stem: The logical suspects are both the Cams and JaVale McGee. We’ve seen all three of them have really good games at times and I suspect all and maybe all have at least one game during this championship run where they’re one of the main contributors. Even Shamet or Craig could be hot any night. It’s one of the things I like about this team. They have a plethora of threats that could light up the scoreboard any night.
Q3 – If (God forbid!) the Suns don’t win everything this season, do you think they could make a major roster change this offseason?
GuarGuar: I think if we don’t win it all, James Jones will seriously consider trading Ayton and shaking things up. I disagree with that, but I’m just saying how I think things could happen. The whole expansion has been weird so far.
Sun-Arc: Interesting question. I think the answer would depend on why we lost. Whether it was because of a minor injury or two; probably not. If a few major players have totally underperformed; some key people being displaced might be possible.
Overall, us fans feel really good about the team, as does the front office. Yet they are always looking to improve. That said, there are several players on expiring deals that we can’t use in trades (Payton, Biyombo, McGee). Sure, they could let these guys walk, and they could. This would potentially be a “marginal improvement” and not a major change.
Just for fun, I was looking at what it would take to trade for LBJ (not that I want to do that, mind you). It would take Crowder, Saric, Payne, Craig and Johnson. I just don’t see a huge trade like this happening. I don’t see the team “exploding”. There have been too many successes in the past two seasons, plus our core is tight and well balanced.
I think they’re basically running it for another season.
Southern Sun: The Suns are about to commit a LOT of money. If they don’t win it all this year, I could see them moving in the offseason. Perhaps a major move involving one or more of the youngsters. Not for an old star, but for someone a bit older than the young core and with more scoring or creative ability.
As CP3 ages, it will decline a bit. And the Suns have no one to create the offense for him. Without CP3, things are suddenly not so easy for young people. The offense is a little harder to find. They’re going to have to do something about it eventually. Booker will eventually need another star next to him who is a real scoring machine, once CP3 is gone. Maybe even before that.
Alex S: *If* we don’t win it all, that’s where I think Ayton becomes a big question mark for the Suns’ long-term plans.
He could be the piece that moved in an S&T to bring a big name back to this hypothetical where the Suns would like to shake him up. Am I anticipating this to happen? Probably not.
But it is a possibility!
Stem: I would say it is very unlikely but possible. However, that would depend on the circumstances. If it turns out injuries are stopping them dead, I doubt it. It’s going to take something drastic — like a first- or even second-round exit unrelated to injury — to get them to do anything approaching a major change in the offseason.
As always, a big thank you to our Fantable members – GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SouthernSun and Alex S. – for all their extra effort each week!
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Last week’s poll results
Last week’s poll was “Who do you think is the most underrated Suns player?”
51% – Jae Crowder.
25% – Cam Payne.
12% – Landry Shamet.
12% – Someone else.
A total of 308 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is…
Who do you think will be the opponent of the Suns in the 1st round?
New Orleans Pelicans.
San Antonio Spurs.
86 voices in total