Welcome to “Inside the Suns,” your weekly in-depth analysis of the current Phoenix Suns squad.
First up is the Fantable – a roundtable of Bright Siders who give their thoughts on the latest Suns issues and news.
Fantastic questions of the week
Q1 – If the Suns are “backtracking” with roughly the same squad as last season, what do you think head coach Monty Williams could/should do to make the 2022/23 Suns better than the 2021 Suns /22?
GuarGuar: Monty needs to be much more flexible with our defensive scheme. We played drop cover in pick and rolls 95% of the time last year. The fact that we weren’t able to adapt and play other patterns was our demise last season. I want to see Monty experiment more with other defensive coverage so that we are experienced and ready for the playoffs. This team was schematically more versatile but the loss of Willie Green apparently changed the situation.
OldAz: It’s easy for me because I’ve been saying it for about 8 months now. The 12-15 minutes that Book is NOT on the floor should ALL have DA, Mikal and Cam J on the floor with 2 bench players. The offense must go through these 3 in these important minutes. DA, Mikal and Cam need to be pushed to improve and they need to be allowed to wrestle as well. Specific sets must be run to force the ball to DA at different spots on the floor and dribble and all of this must be to maximize any development they can achieve during the regular season.
It will also mean more minutes where CP3 and Book will be on the floor with saves, including a save center, but they should be able to hold their own despite those minutes. Even if it costs the team 6-8 wins, they will be much better prepared come playoff time and beyond.
Cliff30: Play CP3 less and give it an occasional match. I don’t care if he doesn’t like it. You’re the coach, not him. And use Ayton more on offense. It can be forced at first. But he has to take more than 15 shots per game. Because if we’re the same team, the biggest opportunity for improvement is Ayton’s growth. Prioritize his development over regular season wins and hope we reap the rewards with a more confident and playoff-qualified Ayton.
Rod: Generally speaking, I think Monty needs to be more flexible. He doesn’t make quick adjustments in plays both in attack and defense. He also tends to hang around players too long when they have bad matches. Of course, when a shooter is having a bad night, you have to give him a chance to get out of a slump, but I think he gives some players too much of a leash.
He also needs to involve DA more in the attack during the 2nd half of games. I don’t believe it’s planned that way, but I think it gives CP3 and Book a bit too much freedom to freelance in the 2nd half.
Q2 – Where are they at right now, ranking the top 5 teams in the West?
GuarGuar: 1. Clippers – Best talent when healthy. Very versatile.
2. Warriors – Defending Champions and Upcoming Youngsters.
3. Suns – Best league record last year and improved youth core.
4. Nuggets – Should be healthier this season. They went to the conference finals the last time they were healthy.
5. Timberwolves – Should be a great defensive team and their size will cause issues.
OldAz: 1. Warriors – Until someone proves otherwise, they are.
2. Clippers – If “right now” assumes Leonard and George are healthy, with their new additions, it’s going to be a pretty good basketball team.
3. Suns – Could be a higher seed if that’s what they pursue in the regular season, but should prioritize development and be happy with a top 4 seed.
4/5/6. I cheat and list the Nuggets, Mavs and Grizz all together in this place. There’s little separation here because Denver has experience as a unit if they stay healthy, the Mavs have a great player and good new plays but who knows how it will all go, and Memphis might be the top or bottom of this group depending on how hard-hitting and long-lasting JJJ’s loss is.
Cliff30: 1. Warriors – These are the champions, they bring back the full squad and despite some aging pieces they actually have a lot of upsides on their roster with Poole, Kuminga and Wiseman. So hard to go with any other team.
2. Suns – I want to give credit to the Mavs for beating us. But we fought in this series and they lost their second best player. This team is always very good. I still think they’re the second best team even if they don’t make the kind of significant addition I’m hoping for.
3. Nuggets – They have Jokic and now they should get Murray and MPJ back. I thought of ranking them above us. But the thing is, they aren’t guaranteed to recover the pre-injury version of Murray after a major injury with a year of rust. And MPJ is just back until his next injury. So, even if on paper this group could challenge us, we will see if this group is really complete.
4. Mavericks – They have Luka so they will compete. Losing Brunson is huge. But they add that Christian Wood, McGee and Tim Hardaway Jr. are coming back at some point. It’s a weak supporting cast, but it’s an all-star league and they have a great one.
5. Grizzlies – It’s disrespectful to put them here. Ja is electric and they finished 2nd in the West with 56 wins. But I think JJJ’s injury is concerning and West is really, really good. I mean I’m leaving out two LA teams that with health have the best duos in the conference and could easily win it all, not to mention a NON pesky team that could add their best player and a Timberwolves team who added an all-time great defender. Certainly a lot of things that could happen to make my list very silly at the end of the year.
Rod: 1. Warriors – They are #1 mainly because they won everything last season, but the lowest rating I would consider for them is #2.
2. Clippers – This year’s LAC team is the most talented they’ve ever had. If everyone stays healthy, this could be their year.
3. Suns – Without any major changes, they will still be very good. If DA is more involved in attack and still plays well, putting them at No. 3 might underestimate them.
4. Nuggets – With Jamal Murray back and the rest of the squad healthy, they will be a tough team this season.
5. Timberwolves – There are 2/3 other teams I considered putting here, but I consider Minnesota a wild card with their acquisition of Gobert and the move of KAT to PF. If it works, the T-wolves could give other teams fits trying to play them.
Memphis, Dallas and New Orleans (with a healthy Zion) could also make the top 5.
Q3 – If Kemba Walker is acquired by the Pistons, do you think the Suns should consider signing him?
GuarGuar: Kemba’s knees are a real problem and the only way I would consider getting him in is if we have another reliable backup guard. We cannot count on Kemba to be purely our replacement. His injury history is too big to ignore. But there are definitely upsides with him and it piques my interest in having him as my end-of-rotation guy.
OldAz: It all depends on what Kemba is looking for. If he wants more guaranteed minutes or thinks he’s better than he actually is at this point, then “No thanks”. However, if he’s humble and looking for an opportunity like Cam Payne did a few years ago, it might be worth it. He’s projecting similar plans to Cam Payne for this season but has more upside potential IMO, so having competition at the PG save point could boost one of their games enough to make a difference. It also depends on the other options available in the trading scenarios.
Cliff30: I have no idea if he would be happy in the limited role here. But if he’s willing to pass the MLE to come here, then he has to be willing to accept that role and we’d be lucky to have him. And it’s a great fit. Certainly a much better addition than Schroder. There is obviously a risk of injury there. But if he can be healthy and right, we’d have a legitimate 20 ppg scorer coming off the bench.
Rod: If he’s willing to play for the vet minimum, then I’m all for it. There are durability issues, of course, but he can still play great any night, as evidenced by a 44-point, 8-assist, 9-rebound game he had last season against the Wizards on 12/23/21. Due to his recent injury issues, I wouldn’t want him in Cam Payne’s place, but I think having them both on the bench would give the Suns some extra PG firepower at a great price.
As always, a big thank you to our Fantable members for all their extra effort this week!
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Last week’s poll results
Last week’s poll was “Cameron Payne…”
39% – Coming off of a bad year last season and he’s better than his stats indicate.
61% – Has returned to its normal state after exceeding the previous year.
A total of 292 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is…
Where do you rank the Suns (without KD) in the West this year?
Lower than 5th.
241 voices in total