Inside the Suns – Topics: Cam Payne, meeting expectations and three-point shooting

Welcome to “Inside the Suns,” your weekly in-depth analysis of the current Phoenix Suns squad.

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 – We are halfway through the season. Are the Suns above, at, or below where you thought they would be before the season started?

GuarGuar: They are slightly above what I thought they would be at the start of the season. I expected a hangover period but I didn’t expect an 18-game winning streak afterwards. They rode and still won despite injuries and Covid stuff. We are currently the 1 seed and I expect us to keep it.

Sun-Arc: They’re above what I thought they’d be – partly because I couldn’t imagine they’d be any better than last season, as part of my ‘Suns fan inferiority complex’ created by 10 years of misery. I thought we would be in the top 4 all season. But leading the league at the halfway point, I wouldn’t guess.

A lot could still go wrong this season, but the team seems really determined to make it to the finals so far. Of course, the past two weeks have shown flaws in the team’s ability to beat the league. But some adversity is a good thing for them. They have to learn that they still have to earn it.

The teams I’m worried about seeing the Suns play these days are pretty thin. GSW, UTA, MIL, BKN, plus the strong-looking MEM, the hot-firing MIA, and maaaaybeeeee the Bulls and PHI (we’ll see). Basically, I think our record is where it should be given how well we’ve played in that 18 game streak. Just come back to this wave towards the end of the season.

Southern Sun: Probably above. I didn’t think they would be the top seed. I thought they’d be up there, maybe they’d get some from time to time, but they were the pretty clear seed for a while. I think they will rest Book and CP3 a bit more as we approach the end of the season and might drop a bit, but who knows.

Alex S: Hard to say they were below what I expected when they are the best team in the league in terms of records. I would honestly say they are a bit ahead of what I expected due to the massive winning streak we had earlier in the year.

I had a feeling the start was going to be a bit slower due to fatigue/injuries/etc, but it turned out to be the opposite.

Now the real test will be staying motivated in February/March basketball while the playoffs are still a ways away. This is where you need your bench to step up their game.

Stem: With the Suns on every team’s radar after reaching the Finals, I thought a 58-win season might be their cap, but now I think they can do better than that as long as they stay motivated. I had high hopes for the Suns this season, but I didn’t really expect anything like that historic 18-game winning streak. Players seemed to publicly downplay the importance of that streak, but I’m sure it made a lot of players play harder every night back then, which played a big part in their standings today.

Q2 – It has been suggested that the Suns may need to try and find a backup point guard upgrade and move on from Cam Payne. What do you think about this idea ?

GuarGuar: Payne has definitely shown regression this season. If it’s due to his injuries earlier this year, I don’t know. I hope that is what is happening. He was shot and the shots just didn’t fall. I would like to see him involve others more. Elf hasn’t been amazing either, so maybe a trade would be what we need. He looked unplayable in our games against Warriors.

Sun-Arc: I’m one of those people who think Payne will get his groove back. However, the worse his results are, the more my patience wears thin. If we could replace Payton with someone better, I would be for it. If Schroeder wanted to play behind CP3 again, that would be pretty cool – and I think he would be an upgrade from this current form of Payne.

Still, Dennis is clearly a jerk and doesn’t seem to get along super well anywhere. I trust Jones to know what to do here. He and some of the players have an inside track on what Schroeder really looks like in a locker room (JJ can just ask LBJ).

Who else is available and better than Payne? Probably nobody. And that could mean we stick with Cam Payne and hope for the best.

Southern Sun: I love Habob. However, yes. The Suns need another goalie who can score and create. A wing that can do those things would be great, but really the ones that can are stars, and the Suns aren’t going to trade midseason what it takes to get one. So keep it. Eric Gordon is probably available. Go and get it. Have him literally take every minute of backup guard. In the playoffs, always have two of him, Book and CP3 on the field at all times. Payne is awesome once every 10 games when he plays. The rest of the time…

Alex S: It’s worth exploring if the deal is good, but I’m not urgently looking for an upgrade if I’m the Suns. If Jalen Smith could get you a legit upgrade to this job, then sure! But I’m more concerned about wing depth beyond Cam J/Mikal/Jae to be honest.

Stem: It is an idea worth exploring. Payne has never been a great distributor, and his FG (38.8%) and 3-point (31.9%) percentages this season are among the worst of his career. There hasn’t been much improvement over the season, but there has been (he shot 36.4% from three in the last 10 games, but his FG% was still only 39.6%) which was not enough to allay my doubts. I don’t think it’s something you want to gamble on and acquire someone you just hope will be better. I would if the returning player was a clear upgrade. I love Cam Payne and really don’t want to trade him but I’ll get over it pretty quickly if they can bring in a more productive player to replace him.

Q3 – The Suns are currently 5th in 3-point percentage but 25th in 3-point attempts. Should they shoot more than three?

GuarGuar: We really only get good looks. We take a lot of mid-range shots as a team and we’ve been better at not settling for 3 seconds. Maybe we should take a little more but I don’t want us to force anything. Our attack has been excellent this year.

Sun-Arc: If they should shoot more than three… two thoughts on that:

  1. Why argue with what works?
  2. Hell yes they should, but there is a glitch preventing them from doing so.

The problem with the No. 2 is that the team doesn’t take advantage of Ayton’s gravity potential, which would open up more shots. In my opinion, he should average 18 shot attempts per game. He is currently trying 11.6, which is slightly higher than last season. It can help so much more. And we know that the more involved he is on the attacking side, the more he enjoys defending at a high level.

Ayton can draw 2-3 defenders into the paint when he is dominating there, which means someone on the outside is open. They must take advantage of this force MUCH more than themselves.

Related: Cam Johnson Needs To Shoot More. Having him on the court with Ayton more, if they use DA gravity, could help him average 4.5 threes per game instead of 2.5, which would make a big difference.

Southern Sun: The Suns’ two starting goalies are two of the best midrange scorers in the league, so it’s not that surprising. Also, their backup ball handler isn’t an amazing 3-point shooter. So again, no wonder. Oh also, they don’t really have active stretching at the moment. So again, no wonder.

They draw exactly the right number of three for the personnel they currently have.

Does that mean maybe they should make a move that would change that staff a bit? May be.

I’m all for consolidating talent for the playoffs. And if the player they bring back is a really good shooter, that’s likely to lead to increased attempts.

Alex S: I think they are fine as is. They have a weak block/lob threat duo in DA and JaVale. They have two big mid-range threats in CP and Book. As long as the quality of attempts is still high, I don’t need them to change what they’re doing. It clearly works more often than not.

Stem: For the team in general, no. When they hit three, they shoot more. When they don’t go down, they don’t drop all three but focus on scoring more from inside and midrange. Some teams live or die by all three and I don’t want the Suns to become one of them. Cam Johnson should definitely shoot more threes and still should shoot more period.

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 “Do you prefer the NBA to…

88% – Keep playing games even when using many replacement players.

12% – Postpone games when multiple players are absent due to health and safety protocols.

A total of 353 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is…

Survey

Will the Suns end the season with more than 60 wins?

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