Joining in on this week’s edition of the Empire of the Suns round table are Kevin Zimmerman, Bryan Gibberman, Jon Bloom, Adam Green and Kellan Olson.
1. Did how the Suns play against the Clippers make you rethink your expectations for the season?
Kevin Zimmerman: Not at all. After the opener, the Suns have looked as I’d expected. They will play enough defense to hang in and survive an offensive drought as they did in the first half against Los Angeles, and they have improved on pick-and-rolls thanks to Tyson Chandler’s presence. But ultimately this team still has a way to go in terms of closing games. The execution, like last season, was limited to a clunky Eric Bledsoe and Markieff Morris two-man game.
Bryan Gibberman: Not for me, but it was conformation that the Suns have the potential to be as good as I thought. I pegged them for 50 wins so the good performance showed what they’re capable of. The defense, defensive rebounding and early season ball movement is extremely encouraging. Now, they just need some shots to fall.
Jon Bloom: I’ll be honest, I was more taken back by the opening performance against the Mavs than I should have been. I thought the Suns would win 3 of their first 4 and they nearly did despite laying an egg last Wednesday night. I still think with time this group has great potential. They’ll have to take advantage of these next two home games against the Kings and a vastly improved Pistons squad to keep up with my early expectations, however.
Adam Green: No, it did not. It’s just one game out of 82, and just as there will be times where the team looks significantly worse than it actually is (vs. Mavericks in the opener), there will also be instances where it looks significantly better. My expectations of this team being better than last year but still not good enough to reach the postseason are still intact, though if the game in Los Angeles showed us anything it’s that Markieff Morris will still be a factor this season, Tyson Chandler is still capable of being a beast, and the dual point guard lineup will be prone to off shooting nights.
Kellan Olson: It did not for me. I think this question is more geared toward the people who saw them struggling to get to 40 wins. That sure looked like a 40+ win team on Monday. Chandler had a tremendous impact on the game and is clearly benefitting both point guards. It seems like all the Suns need is more time playing together on both ends to really hit their next gear.
2. How much longer should Sonny Weems be given to prove he deserves a spot in the rotation?
Zimmerman: Until there’s good reason to believe Archie Goodwin or Devin Booker won’t cause defensive breakdowns, Weems will hang on to his minutes. Jeff Hornacek shouldn’t think about going to them over Weems, whose turnovers look more like he’s still recalibrating to the speed of the NBA. His aggressiveness must improve on offense as well, but both these things need time.
Gibberman: Head coach Jeff Hornacek has been quick with his hook on Sonny Weems in the last two games. Weems played in the first half, but not in the second. It would be unfair to knock him out of the rotation this quickly in the season. That being said, another three to four games of Weems struggling and its probably time to give someone else a look. I’d go with Devin Booker, but my guess is Archie Goodwin gets the next crack at it. I still believe by the end of the season Booker is getting regular rotation minutes off the bench.
Bloom: Four games in the NBA does not make a good sample size as far as I’m concerned, especially when you’re talking about a player coming off the bench. Remember, Sonny is making a bunch of adjustments right now. He was a starter with a clearly identified role in Europe, now he’s a reserve player getting unpredictable playing time. He’s getting comfortable with a new system and teammates and should get the benefit of the doubt along with this new group for the first 8-10 games. Regardless, if the Suns are going to compete for a playoff spot, I believe Sonny will definitely play a role.
Green: A few more games, at least, as it is not as if his minutes are taking away from a more deserving, important piece of the team. Now, if his playing time came at the expense of T.J. Warren’s, that would be an issue. That said, if Weems does not find his footing in the near future, I would not be opposed to seeing Archie Goodwin get his minutes.
Olson: It has not been pretty. Weems has struggled in virtually every aspect of his game. He has not been a good enough defender or offensive player. Some saw him as a possible Gerald Green replacement, but he just looks lost on offense when he has the ball and his shot does not look good either. His -3.22 PER through four games says it all. Then again, it could just be a rough transition the first couple of weeks. Those minutes seem destined for Devin Booker though.
3. T.J. Warren closed in the Suns’ first tight game of the season. Do you think he or P.J. Tucker should play at the end when the outcome is in the balance?
Zimmerman: I loved how Hornacek played with the rotation against the Clippers, which is to say this should be situational. Warren had it going on offense and Tucker came in before a key defensive play. Coming out of a timeout with 35 seconds left and Phoenix trailing by five, Tucker remained in and looked to be posting up Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (he was presumably in to defend Warren). The decision caught Los Angeles asleep. Tucker zipped the ball out of the post to a wide open Brandon Knight, who got a good look at a three on a pretty play drawn up that clearly confused the Clippers.
Gibberman: I prefer to go with P.J. Tucker on most nights. The starting unit has played well together thus far and can get it done on both ends of the court. I’ll take Tucker’s defense over Warren’s offense for right now. There are nights when Warren has it going that it will make sense to stick with him.
Bloom: It’s a bit of a cop out but I think it should depend on matchups. If there is a wing or big as a go-to scorer on the other side, I may lean toward sticking P.J. on him. That said, the more we see T.J. make plays on both sides, the harder it is to make that argument. I like how the coaching staff has handled bringing Tony Buckets up threw the system since he got here and am fired up to see what the future holds for him.
Green: It all depends on what the Suns need at the time. Coach Jeff Hornacek said Warren closed in Los Angeles because the team needed scoring, so it stands to reason there may be a night where defense is more of a priority and thus Tucker should play. Long-term, however, Warren should be receiving the starter’s share of the minutes, especially if he can consistently hit a 3-pointer or two, which would help space the floor. There’s no reason to rush Warren into the lineup and his scoring off the bench is key, but sooner or later your better talent needs to play.
Olson: There are a lot of circumstantial things that go into a decision like that. Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe are two good enough offensive options to not require a scorer like Warren, but he makes an impact in so many other ways on offense. Defensively, it should always be Tucker, as he’s the much better defender and rebounder. If it’s a deficit and the Suns want to run, it should be Warren.
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