Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
First up, the Fantable — a round table of Bright Siders who give their takes on the Suns latest issues and news.
Fantable Questions of the Week
Q1 – If the Suns do wind up with Kevin Durant, where would you play him… small forward or power forward?
GuarGuar: I’d definitely play KD more at the 3 but I’m sure that he’d play both positions a ton. It really would depend on the rest of our roster after we acquire him. I doubt Mikal and Cam Johnson would still be on the team in this scenario.
OldAz: This question is premature because we don’t know what the Suns give up in this hypothetical scenario. 2 starters are eligible to be included ( 3 really, but no one thinks CP3 is a possibility). If only 1 of Mikal or Crowder is included, then the answer is easy and KD slots into the vacant position. Mikal can’t play PF and Jae can’t play SF. This question is only difficult if both Jae and Mikal are included, and then I still think the answer would be decided based on who else the Suns sign and where they fit best. KD is a Swiss Army knife that can play whatever position is needed to put the 5 best players on the floor.
Cliff30: Depends on who is still left on the team. If we still have Jae, I guess he would remain the PF and KD would be the SF. Although I don’t really think the designation would be all that important. If Cam or Mikal still remain I’d guess they’d be the SF and KD would be the PF. But again I don’t think the designation matters all that much. The defensive assignment is going to be matchup specific.
If none of them remain, then I think we’re getting an addition. My preference would be a defense and rebounding oriented PF and KD at SF. But it might just not be possible to find that upgrade at this point in the off-season. So maybe we’re stuck with Dario or Craig as a starter which obviously isn’t ideal.
Money wise it wouldn’t make sense that all five of those guys are gone, so TC at SF and KD at PF or KD at SF and Dario at PF are the worst case scenarios for our starting five. The KD and Dario pairing is the only one where they would really be entrenched into the more traditional SF/PF roles. And that’s more about Dario’s limitations. KD is fine in either spot as far as I’m concerned.
Jim C: I think ideally I would lean towards small forward being his preferred position, but construction of the roster might dictate otherwise. The good thing about KD is that if the Suns need a PF he can do that. If they need a SF he can do that.
Durant’s career averages of 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game would have put him second behind Ayton for rebounds and tied with JaVale McGee for the team lead in blocked shots last season. Durant’s ball handling skills allow him to play SF… or even SG. Last season Durant averaged 6.4 assists per game, which would have put him second on the Suns behind Chris Paul. Durant is pretty much good at everything, which gives him great flexibility as a nearly positionless player.
I probably like him more at PF next to Ayton at this point. If it worked with Crowder at PF… Durant could figure it out. Rebounding should be better, not worse. KD isn’t a banger, but he stretches the floor on offense and can always move to SF and let a player like Dario Saric deal with a specific matchup if needed.
Rod: It will depend a lot on who would be left on the Suns’ roster following the trade but KD is listed as 6’10” and 240 lbs. The average height of NBA power forwards in 2021/22 was 6’8.2” and the average weight was 227 lbs so playing him at the 4 would be fine even though he’s played the majority of his career at the 3 spot. The Suns defense is so switch happy that position designations can quickly become irrelevant on D. If the Suns retain either Mikal or Cam J, then I would prefer one of them at the 3 and KD at the 4 in the starting lineup. If both are gone, KD would be my choice at SF.
Q2 – Do you think that the Suns could successfully “go big” at times this season with various 2-man combos of Ayton, Saric, Biyombo and/or Landale at the PF and center positions? And which two do you believe could be the most successful paired together on the court?
GuarGuar: For us to really succeed at those big lineups Ayton would have to become a very capable 3 point shooter. We’d need him to space the floor on offense. With no spacing the offense would have major issues at times, even if the defense improves.
OldAz: Yes, not just “could” as I think the Suns “should” explore this more. Any “best” combination absolutely has DA in it. The interesting question will be if the Suns are willing to let DA play the 4 in these combinations as he has expressed a desire to do. I think they should as DA needs opportunities to improve his ball handling and passing if he is going to maximize his skills.
DA and Saric should be really good on offense as Saric is a able to pass, can stretch the floor as a 4 and can hold up in a post role if playing the 5. On Defense, however, he is pretty limited and DA would have to be the 4 full time on that end of the floor. DA and Biz on the other hand would be the best defensive pairing, with switchability on defense and DA being the 4 on offense. This could be great or it could be terrible, all depending on how well DA develops as a PF. I can’t speak to Landale in any pairing as we just have not seen whet he will bring in this offence.
Cliff30: It depends on the matchup. I think that Dario as a point forward with Ayton would certainly be an intriguing combo on offense. The problem is Dario then being matched up with wings on the perimeter on defense. I think Ayton and Biyombo paired well together on defense when they shared the floor. But the fit on offense isn’t great unless Ayton starts shooting threes at a significant clip (which I think he can and should). I think we could see both of those things in small spurts this season. I’m in wait and see with Landale. He hasn’t gotten enough minutes in the league for me to have a strong opinion on what he’s capable of. And I’d guess his minutes are mostly going to come in short spurts due to injury.
Jim C: Ayton and McGee actually did work when Monty Williams finally went with them in the playoffs against the Pelicans in game five. It was 21-18 in the first quarter of that game when the two were finally put on the court together. The Suns finished the period on an 11-2 run to take a 32-20 lead and never looked back. The Pelicans never got within single digits until a push in the fourth quarter, but even that only got them within seven points. Monty didn’t go back to that lineup.
Based on that very small sample size…why not? Biyombo is more of the prototypical shot blocker which allows Ayton to move more freely away from the basket. I think Ayton prefers that to being the player tasked with protecting the rim. Ayton eats up a lot of space, but he isn’t a shot blocker. Offense might be tough though…
I think Saric might end up being a great complement. Saric is tough and can shoot threes. He can actually do a little distributing too. I don’t know why, but I always think of him being a little bit older. Dario is only 28. He’s coming off an ACL surgery, but at his age I don’t see why he can’t have a very productive season. I think he’s a good fit with Ayton and would also be good alongside Durant (if that happens).
Rod: I’d like to see this at times especially with DA and either Dario or Jock on the court together but only in certain circumstances as there’s not enough talent there to make it a starting lineup. Dario or Jock could provide spacing for DA (or Biz) to work on the inside with their 3-point shooting. With KD also out there at the 3, that would give the Suns three guys on the court at 6’10” or taller which would make fighting for rebounds less of a challenge for Phoenix.
Q3 – The Suns are in win now mode so they don’t really value young, unproven players but do you think they could still benefit from having a G League team… again?
GuarGuar: Having a G League team can only bring benefits. I was very disappointed by us selling our team. I hope one day we get it back because using it to develop youth is very beneficial. Look at what Toronto has done through their G-League system. I can’t imagine Sarver buys the team back though.
OldAz: To me the value of a G-league team is in letting a young player get minutes within the offensive and defensive systems of the parent club. However, this is done for the rare occasion when one of those young players uses that time to be a significant contributor sooner than they ever would have. I used to think this was very rare, but Jordan Poole’s contributions to the Warriors last year have me questioning that opinion. If Landale, Washington or Wainright are struggling, having a G-league team running the same principles could be a big benefit in getting them ready for when they are needed to step up and contribute for the main club.
Cliff30: I’d love to rail against Sarver for being cheap here. But ultimately I just don’t think there’s that much benefit to the G-League. I don’t think playing at that level is all that helpful towards developing for the NBA. And even when players do have success there, they usually don’t end up contributing with the team that employed them in the G-League. Because guys on the fringe of the roster are the constant victims of roster churn.
Christian Wood is really a unique example of a guy that really did develop in the G-League playing multiple seasons there before making the jump, and the team he broke through with was the Pelicans. But then he went to Detroit to truly breakout, and then he’s a FA so he headed to Houston. So I think it’s more important that you scout the G-League and grab a guy that you think can help rather than spend a lot of time developing them. And it seems like the Suns do, because that’s exactly how we got Cam Payne.
Jim C: Sure they could benefit from it. I don’t think it’s the end all be all, but here are a few reasons why I wouldn’t abandon that avenue of player development completely.
Pascal Siakam, Rudy Gobert, Danny Green and Khris Middleton. All of these guys spent varying amounts of time in the G-League. Siakam was the Finals MVP. That’s four outstanding players from the last 14 seasons, and there are plenty of other NBA success stories. Not something that should be a major part of any team’s strategy, but it can definitely reap rewards.
Rod: I was upset (to put it politely) when the Suns sold the NAZ and believe that now they probably need a G League team more than when they had one. When the Suns were bad, they couldn’t afford to send any halfway decent players to the NAZ Suns for long because they needed them on the main roster. Now they have a good enough team that they can send younger players down to the G League to give them playing time/reps that they need to develop. During the regular season, they won’t get those reps with the main team even in practice because they don’t really get much of an opportunity to practice in between games.
If Stix had that opportunity, Jones might not have given up on him so quickly. Even with older guys like Wainright and Washington on two-ways it wouldn’t hurt to have them staying sharp by spending some time playing in the G League rather than just sitting in street clothes on the sidelines when they’re inactive (two-way players can only be active for 50 games per season).
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members for all their extra effort this week!
Interesting Suns Stuff
Dario Saric Set To Play For Croatia In EuroBasket
Bobby Marks outlines the question marks with Phoenix Suns | NBA Today
What Happened to the 12 Players drafted before Devin Booker?
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “Where do you rank the Suns (without KD) at in the West this year?”
13% – First.
25% – Second.
41% – Third.
15% – Fourth.
04% – Fifth.
02% – Lower than 5th.
A total of 544 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is…