Phoenix Suns Mailbag: The Bag Knight

Nov 18, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago Bulls center Pau Gasol (16) dunks the ball in the second half against Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Bulls defeated the Suns 103-97. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 18, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago Bulls center Pau Gasol (16) dunks the ball in the second half against Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Bulls defeated the Suns 103-97. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports /

Does anybody still want to trade Brandon Knight for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or C.J. McCollum? Anyone?

If you are wondering why I said that…

Yes, that was after just the first game of the season. Maybe this is just one guy. The point is this: Don’t be too quick to judge.  People have flipped so quickly on Knight that it’s almost like robots programmed to have a certain response.

Look, I liked the trade more than some other people did (despite the fact that the Lakers may still have a good pick). I did not expect that he would be able to just take complete control like he has done twice in the past three games. He’s fearless attacking, and he’s smart enough to put moves on defenders and get space. He’s also in the right spots to be effective on the glass while pulling secondary point-guard duties as well.

So appreciate Knight, and appreciate the team. They’ve been playing really good basketball. I was as annoyed as anyone with the first half of that Denver game, but the way they fought back from it left me feeling great. That ability to just keep grinding through adversity is what allows lower seeds to be competitive in a playoff series.

That should really be the Suns’ realistic goal this season. Get the seven seed, take the Spurs or whoever to six competitive games, and feel good knowing that you’ve got the makings of something.

Speaking of making the playoffs in the West, let’s get going with the questions

(By the way: I held the mailbag until today because I did not want everything here to become dated by a 35 points loss or a  major injury yesterday)

@DANYO_SAN: with how the Rockets Grizzlies & Pelicans are playing right now safe to say playoffs have to happen for suns this year?

Let’s assume for argument’s sake this scenario: The Grizzlies, Rockets, and Pelicans all miss the playoffs. At that point, the Suns are in with no question at all.

The reality is that Memphis is probably fine. They still have the ability to just break teams’ wills on a nightly basis. They’ll make it. That leaves three spots for five teams: Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Utah and Phoenix.

Dallas is 9-4 and looks annoyingly good for what they have. Utah is a defensive headache whose offense is just so…ugh. Houston is secretly a big problem because James Harden barely cares and they have a lot of injuries.

New Orleans is out for me. I think they could be a good team when healthy, but the hole just keeps getting bigger and bigger and they don’t have what it takes to escape it. When they lost on a 43-18 night from Anthony Davis, they’ve used up all the superstar power they have.

If the Rockets get things in order, it would not surprise me if they, the Mavericks, and Jazz ended up as the last three. It all depends on the effort of the Rockets, and the Suns. The Suns can do better than these teams, but the question is always whether they will bring it enough times to get enough wins.

I would not call it a lock until we see if Houston figures it out. If that happens, it just comes down to the Suns not having games like the Pistons loss.  I love the way the Suns are playing, but I am not quite prepared to bet that yet.

Swahee H.: What is our biggest weakness?

The easy answer is the inconsistency. For the Suns to be a good team, they can’t allow this to happen.

They can get away with this stuff against a so-so team like the Nuggets. Other teams aren’t having it. Often lost in great comebacks like this is that something made a feel-good comeback necessary in the first place.

The problem all season has been that not enough players have been reliable. Tyson Chandler SUCKED against Denver the other night. Markieff Morris has been incredibly unreliable. The Suns just don’t know if they’ll have enough on any given night. Once they realize there are too many off nights, they have to scramble to try to eek out a win.

Sometimes it works because night takes over. Sometimes it fails. The Suns biggest flaw is that they just don’t get it in gear enough to be as good as they could.

Barry U.: The team is 4-0 against opponents under .500 and 2-5 against teams over .500. What is necessary to pull out more wins against quality opponents? Certainly, some of the games were winnable (Clippers in LA, Chicago, etc.)

This goes along with the previous question. The Suns need reliable contributions, especially down the stretch. That used to come in the form of crunch time Markeiff Morris. Now, he decides that shots like this are what he needs to take in close games.

He has 17 seconds to make a move or try out this new phenomenon called passing, but he does that? That’s why they aren’t doing well in crunch time. As i noted before Brandon Knight went into beast mode.

The Suns have a 129.6 offensive rating in the clutch and  a 144.0 defensive rating. Those numbers rank fourth best and second worst. They are also 29th in clutch assists.

The Suns don’t quite have a single go-to guy in those situations, but they also don’t move the ball well enough to make up for that. In fact, that’s the one problem with the Suns’ offense: In terms of ball movement, it’s quantity not quality.

The Suns are 23rd in pass-to-assist ratio. While the ball movement has been praised, there are times when it is fool’s gold. When the Suns try to slow the pace in halfcourt sets, it sometimes ends up like this.

There’s passing, sure. However, there’s not a lot of movement off-ball or passes that put teammates in a position to succeed. It’s just pass, wait, pass again, wait again, and shoot. Teams that move the ball well make passes that set up scorers, not just give the next guy a turn to try to create a shot.

It’s kind of like working on schoolwork with friends. Each person stares at the question for a few seconds before silently handing it over to the next person to let them deal with it. This proceeds down the line until everyone realizes that no one else knows the answer either. Fortunately, schoolwork doesn’t have a 24 second clock that requires someone to just say “Screw it” and write in a random answer.

The Suns need less of that and more of this

Even though it ends with Bledsoe isolating (and making a badass shot), this is more what the Suns need. They are setting screens and making quick decisions, forcing defenses to move and create mismatches.  Sometimes Knight will get space off that screen. Sometimes Morris will get left in that corner. That’s what creates assist opportunities and productive offense.

The Suns need more of that, especially in crunch time, to get these winnable games against good teams.

@DANYO_SAN: with Cavs over cap & Porzingis in NY possibility of trades for either Love or Melo without selling the farm?

Kevin Love is not being traded. He’s playing great right now, and the Cavs won’t break up this core no matter what the price tag.

As for Carmelo Anthony…

Do people really want this? Do people really want the Suns to give up some of their assets for a 31-year-old isolation scorer who still might not be fine after a knee problem? I don’t. I’m admittedly a Melo cynic. He’s extraordinarily talented, but I don’t think he can be the best player on a championship team, at least not anymore.  I also think it’s a bad idea to build around a guy his age.

I don’t think the existence of Porzingis matters either. He’s very good, but he may not be the kind of impact player that prime Melo was. I think the Knicks hold onto him as long as they keep being decent like they are now.

I think the Suns should be looking for a mega-deal, but I do not think it is Love or Melo. I also do not think it is DeMarcus Cousins. There’s a patience element to this. The Suns will get there due as long as the front office continues to collect assets and maintain competitiveness.

This mailbag is dedicated to Marcelo Huertas’ ankles and credibility as an NBA defender. May both rest in peace.

I’m going to call this mailbag to a close. A lot of you asked very similar questions, and I appreciate the enthusiasm and activity. Please continue to ask more questions and read the rest of our content.  Enjoy the team while it is good before a three game skid ruins all the fun. Out.