Contributing Writer: Byron (@NotRyanMcD)
Hello Valley boys, and Valley girls.
Time to give you all my early season takeaways from the first 7 games of this new and exciting iteration of the Phoenix Suns.
Unless you’ve been under a self imposed blackout from all things Suns due to the re-signing of a certain tall goofy backup big (cough – @TheRealestJMark – cough), then you have probably seen the new look Suns’ amazing start to the 2021 season. Now, I’m writing this on Monday, which means I had a little bit of cold water poured onto the blazing flames of my 5-1 excitement on Sunday when the Clippers bludgeoned the Suns during the first half. However, the embers were set ablaze again during that thoroughly entertaining second half comeback.
Today I’m going to focus on what I’ve seen from several key players, rather than the entire team, or else you would need to set aside the kind of time it takes to get through a @TheIVPointPlay newsletter, and I doubt I’m as worthy of your valuable time as David is.
Let’s get right into it.
Chris Paul. That’s the paragraph. Just kidding. Chris hasn’t been the most efficient shooter during his first few games in the Valley, but he has made the ones that really mattered. Whether we’re talking about he and Booker icing a game with back to back shots, or Paul’s three (THREE) buzzer beater makes against the Kings (granted, only the last one counted), he has shown himself to be just as clutch this season as he ever was. It makes sense not to think we will necessarily get the 2020 All NBA player version of CP3 in his age 35 season, but he was still playing like one just a few months ago in the Bubble.
I don’t foresee too much of a decline as long as he stays healthy, doesn’t have to play a ton of minutes, and doesn’t have to take too much of the scoring burden on himself this season. He is still learning where his new teammates like to get the ball, and where they will be most effective, so give it time, and I think you’ll begin to see a pretty good chemistry start brewing between him and Book, and especially (and more importantly), between him and Ayton.
Devin Booker has been a touch underwhelming until the game against the Clippers, but I feel fairly safe with writing that off as just some early season adjustment troubles. Half the roster is brand new, including 40% of the starting lineup, and not only that, one of those new additions is a Hall of Fame point guard.
He seems a bit timid at times, but I believe that is partially due to trying to emulate Paul a bit, now that he’s playing with him everyday and seeing how he goes about playing the game. However, I fully expect both Paul and Monty to tell Booker to just be Book. He was already great. No need to emulate a completely different style of player. Also, one small thing to factor in during these early days of the season, Paul and Booker will be taking plenty of shots throughout the season. There’s no reason to think they will always be this unselfish and pass up this many looks that they would often probably take. They are getting everybody involved, making sure everybody eats, and part of the end result of that will be that they will have a bit of the pressure taken off themselves later in the game or even later in the season. If Mikal has been a threat from the get go (and Cam Johnson, and Jae Crowder, and Galloway, etc.), then opposing defenses are going to have to key in a little less on the Suns’ superstar backcourt, and pay more attention to the tertiary players than they would probably like. Don’t worry. Book is gonna Book. Just give it a little time.
Ayton had a rocky start for a little while there, but has really come alive here in the last couple games. He is learning how to fight for position to be where he needs to be without fouling. That’s where a lot of those quick fouls were coming from. Also, as I mentioned before, there will be a bit of a learning curve while Ayton and CP3 learn how each other play, and Paul figures out where to get Ayton the ball to be most effective. Ayton sleepwalked to 18 and 11 with good defense last season. There’s no way he performs worse this year with Paul’s tutelage and ear screaming.
Mikal has been everything I would hope for him to be so far this season. He seems to have really found his long lost college stroke from three, which, along with his excellent cuts to the basket and go-go gadget arm driven defense, has turned him into the perfect wing to play alongside the Suns star trio. In fact, if he keeps this up, we may have to start talking about the Suns star foursome. But that will be a topic for another day. I’m sure people like David are already chomping at the bit to write something much better and more detailed than I would be able to about his emergence.
Jae has also played up to expectations (I mean, pretty much everybody would have to be, considering the start to the season we have seen from this team, right?). He is the probably the strongest guy on the team, an absolute brick wall. He is able to deal with the sturdier gentlemen that prove to be a bit too much to handle inside for his lanky forward cohort. He can do that, while also being able to stay in front of the quicker wings in the league as well, making him excellent at switching onto just about anybody the other team can throw his way. We even got to see some minutes with him at the 5 spot the other night, which I expect to see more of throughout the season when the situation calls for it.
Jae’s 34% from three isn’t eye popping or anything, but when you factor in that he is shooting 50% from three on wide open opportunities (thank you, 7SOL podcast that I listened to earlier for that little tidbit), and understand that he will be getting a TON of open looks playing next to players with the gravitational pulls of CP3, Book, and Ayton, it starts to look a little better.
The Suns bench mob has played about as well as you could hope for, despite being without the Homie Dario for the first stretch. Dario has since returned, and the bench mob has looked like a true force to be reckoned with.
Dario can will his way to a few baskets when you really need it. Cam Payne is dishing and worming his way around defenders, getting to the rim for very entertaining acrobatic finishes that you wouldn’t expect to see from someone who was literally out of the NBA last year until Monty came calling with a Bubble opening.
Cam Johnson is thriving in an increased role off the bench, taking a ton of shots, and showing that he is more than just a shooter (which Suns fans who watched him last season already somewhat knew). Seriously, Jae starting and being in a catch and shoot role, and Cam being one of the primary go to weapons off the bench, is the perfect situation for those two right now. I don’t doubt that Cam may one day be the starting power forward, but for now, he is exactly where he needs to be.
Langston Galloway has done exactly what you would expect– shoot a myriad of threes at a very efficient rate– though in less minutes than I initially expected him to get. Moore has not had a chance to play much in the regular season yet, which I didn’t foresee, but there are a ton of guys on this team who probably deserve minutes, and sometimes, there simply won’t be enough to go around. He’ll get his shot at some point. I just hope he stays happy and engaged. He was a sometimes starter/solid role player on a decent sized contract prior to coming to Phoenix for the veteran minimum, and it’s probably kind of a letdown for him not to be playing. But, Jones acquired him for a reason, and it sure is nice to have a “too many decent bench players who deserve minutes” problem, rather than a “should I put in Elie Okobo, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque, or a cardboard cutout of an actual rotation worthy NBA player strapped to roller skates to create a diversion?” kind of problem.
Jevon has had a bit of a shooting slump (okay, a gaping chasm of a slump at about 11% from deep and 29% from the field), but when he is on the court he is always doing what we’ve come to expect from him. Being a bulldog on defense, fighting for 50/50 balls, and giving 100% every single second he’s on the court. Effort is a skill, and Jevon has that in spades. Hopefully he sticks to what he’s good at and doesn’t attempt to replicate the shooting of Galloway. Jevon shouldn’t be taking the same kind of shots Langston does. The slump he is in currently is the primary reason he’s only playing around 11mpg. As soon as he gets hot again, I fully expect Monty to inject some more Bulldog into the 2nd unit minutes.
Speaking of Jevon Carter, it’s time to present a new and meaningless award that I have decided to create. The Christmas Williams Bench Hype Award. Named after former lovable Suns bench hype men, Alan Williams and Dionte Christmas. As you may have guessed from the way I worded this paragraph already, the recipient of this award, which has been decided by a panel of voters including me, myself, and I, is Jevon Carter!
Below are a few vids of Jevon getting hype on the bench, celebrating his teammates. These were sent to me by Hyrum, a member of Suns twitter, who you can follow @ItWasOnAccident, and then I bumbled my way through somehow adding the fun little arrows into them.
4. We like to call this one “The dip”
5. My personal favorite, “Twinkle Toes”
That brings us to a close. I hope you enjoyed this.
You stay classy, Suns Twitter (and those of you who stumbled upon this elsewhere).
Editor’s Note: Everyone please give @NotRyanMcD a follow on twitter and welcome him to the team!