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Short-term team warning signs

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Short-term team warning signs 

Post#1 » by lilfishi22 » Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:39 am

Got this idea from the latest Empire of the Suns podcast where they discussed doing an episodes on warnings signs for the Suns after the first 20 games or so (late Nov). It's kind of an early benchmark for how the team is progressing and possibly giving us some early answers to questions from this off season.

Essentially what are some warning signs to look out for by late-Nov that if they are happening then we should be worried about the team for the rest of the season and going forward?

These are mine

Warning sign 1 - If Rubio is playing more off-ball than expected/Booker still playing a lot on-ball

This to me could signal a number of things. On the positive, Booker has some how elevated his game to the point of near Harden levels of offensive godliness that he can not only be an ultra-efficient offensive beast but be the lead ball handler that is also in an elite group of passers. If that isn't the case and Rubio is playing more off-ball than we expect (and Booker is by default playing more on-ball) then I think it's a warning sign that either Booker hasn't bought into playing off-ball and/or we've spent $51m on an off-guard that historically hasn't been a good shooter and isn't doing what he does best.

Warning sign 2 - We're not competitive by late Nov

I think this is pretty obvious but should be noted nonetheless because I think there will be Jones defenders who will say it's too early to judge. While I do think it's too early to put a stamp on the team I think the fact that we're not really competitive by late Nov is real troubling because this is a better built, more balanced team and has more experience than the roster we've trotted out in the last half decade and we've also mortgaged much of our future to put this team together.

This team is built to be competitive, not necessarily playoff bound this season but competitive enough that we shouldn't be on multiple 7-game plus losing streaks by early December like last season. We have solid veterans like Rubio, Johnson, Baynes, a bunch of NBA level contributors who are entering their 4th and 5th year in the league (Booker, Oubre, Saric) and all of whom that will be playing a lot of our minutes next season. This isn't just a team of young and expectation-less players anymore. If we're 4-16, 7-13, 6-14 or 8-12 like the last few seasons then those are early warning signs that we're probably not as competitive as we realistically expected to be which is a problem considering the overhaul in expectations and team building philosophy from this past season.

So the question is, what is the benchmark for "competitiveness"? It's obviously a subjective measure and things like the schedule and injuries will affect that but in my opinion, if we're comfortably below .500 that's worrying because we only play 8 road games out of the first 20 and at least half of those 20 games are against non-playoff locks

Warning sign 3 - We're playing Ayton a good chunk of minutes at the 4

Similar to the 1st warning sign, it could be positive (e.g Baynes is really good and deserves more minutes) but ultimately I think seeing Ayton playing a lot of minutes at the PF means that he hasn't progressed much at being a dominant NBA center or that he hasn't been able to handle the defensive expectations of being a defensive anchor. We got Baynes so that he can give Ayton a bit of rest but if we're playing them together often with Ayton playing more like a finesse 4 than a physical 5 I think that's an early warning sign that Ayton hasn't progressed as much as we expected defensively and/or he hasn't owned the role of being a dominant/feared big man at the NBA level, both of which were real big question marks going into the 2018 draft.


Still weeks away from pre-season games so there's nothing much else to talk about right now. But what are your warning signs to look out for?
alamin330 wrote:This draft reminds me of the 2003 draft.
Lebron - Zion, Barrett like Melo, wade like Culver, garland like tj ford, hunter like bosh, white like Barbosa, Clarke like David West. I think this draft is actually going to be deeper though
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#2 » by bwgood77 » Mon Sep 23, 2019 12:46 pm

If we are 8-12 after 20 I'll be pretty impressed. 7-13 not terrible....6-14 would be a little disappointing. 4-16, yes would be very bad.
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#3 » by MathiasPW » Mon Sep 23, 2019 1:29 pm

if we are at the bottom percentiles in DRTG, cause that means Ayton hasn't made a jump on that end and so much of our success depends on that.
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#4 » by bwgood77 » Mon Sep 23, 2019 2:39 pm

MathiasPW wrote:if we are at the bottom percentiles in DRTG, cause that means Ayton hasn't made a jump on that end and so much of our success depends on that.


Yeah, if Ayton can't anchor a defense we won't go anywhere. Hopefully Booker steps up in this regard too. It will always be so much tougher to add players if you have to always think about having to hide Booker defensively. But if Ayton doesn't improve measurably on D, it won't matter regardless.
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#5 » by GoodBehavior » Mon Sep 23, 2019 3:31 pm

bwgood77 wrote:
MathiasPW wrote:if we are at the bottom percentiles in DRTG, cause that means Ayton hasn't made a jump on that end and so much of our success depends on that.


Yeah, if Ayton can't anchor a defense we won't go anywhere. Hopefully Booker steps up in this regard too. It will always be so much tougher to add players if you have to always think about having to hide Booker defensively. But if Ayton doesn't improve measurably on D, it won't matter regardless.


Suns are going to be in the bottom third in defense rating, whether Ayton progress on D or not.

Saric and Booker are the worst defenders at their respective position. Oubres is meh and Rubio is slightly above average (lets called it average). You're going to have a poor defensive starting five, regardless of Ayton improve or not.

The bench's defense isn't all the great either. Tyler is average. Mikal's D is overrated, but let's called him a plus defender. You have two other plus defenders (Bayes, Diallo) besides Bridges. Both of which are going to average less than <15m. The rest of the roster is cluster of defense liabilities or unknown. Tyler and Bayes are likely gone by the trade deadline. So really, you're down to Mikal and 15 minutes of Diallo as your defensive shield.
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#6 » by MathiasPW » Mon Sep 23, 2019 4:25 pm

GoodBehavior wrote:
bwgood77 wrote:
MathiasPW wrote:if we are at the bottom percentiles in DRTG, cause that means Ayton hasn't made a jump on that end and so much of our success depends on that.


Yeah, if Ayton can't anchor a defense we won't go anywhere. Hopefully Booker steps up in this regard too. It will always be so much tougher to add players if you have to always think about having to hide Booker defensively. But if Ayton doesn't improve measurably on D, it won't matter regardless.


Suns are going to be in the bottom third in defense rating, whether Ayton progress on D or not.

Saric and Booker are the worst defenders at their respective position. Oubres is meh and Rubio is slightly above average (lets called it average). You're going to have a poor defensive starting five, regardless of Ayton improve or not.

The bench's defense isn't all the great either. Tyler is average. Mikal's D is overrated, but let's called him a plus defender. You have two other plus defenders (Bayes, Diallo) besides Bridges. Both of which are going to average less than <15m. The rest of the roster is cluster of defense liabilities or unknown. Tyler and Bayes are likely gone by the trade deadline. So really, you're down to Mikal and 15 minutes of Diallo as your defensive shield.
It matters less how good (or bad) individual defenders are, as there is always a player on the opposite side who can get past his man and break down your defense.

You really need only one lockdown perimeter defender to make that guy work hard.

It matters more how efficient your coverage in closing passing lanes is, and how well your big can cover ground and make his shot difficult.

If Bookers attacker gets past him every time, it's up to Ayton to block his path to an easy layup and to Booker and the rest to make sure he cant throw an easy lob or swing the ball to an open shooter easily.

It is more about positioning and practice than individual physical abilities, so our team cann do just fine, relatively speaking, if they put their minds and hours into it.

Except for Ayton, of course, who has to carry the load for every time the defense breaks down. That's why we depend so much on him to succeed.
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#7 » by GoodBehavior » Mon Sep 23, 2019 4:44 pm

MathiasPW wrote:
GoodBehavior wrote:
bwgood77 wrote:
Yeah, if Ayton can't anchor a defense we won't go anywhere. Hopefully Booker steps up in this regard too. It will always be so much tougher to add players if you have to always think about having to hide Booker defensively. But if Ayton doesn't improve measurably on D, it won't matter regardless.


Suns are going to be in the bottom third in defense rating, whether Ayton progress on D or not.

Saric and Booker are the worst defenders at their respective position. Oubres is meh and Rubio is slightly above average (lets called it average). You're going to have a poor defensive starting five, regardless of Ayton improve or not.

The bench's defense isn't all the great either. Tyler is average. Mikal's D is overrated, but let's called him a plus defender. You have two other plus defenders (Bayes, Diallo) besides Bridges. Both of which are going to average less than <15m. The rest of the roster is cluster of defense liabilities or unknown. Tyler and Bayes are likely gone by the trade deadline. So really, you're down to Mikal and 15 minutes of Diallo as your defensive shield.
It matters less how good (or bad) individual defenders are, as there is always a player on the opposite side who can get past his man and break down your defense.

You really need only one lockdown perimeter defender to make that guy work hard.

It matters more how efficient your coverage in closing passing lanes is, and how well your big can cover ground and make his shot difficult.

If Bookers attacker gets past him every time, it's up to Ayton to block his path to an easy layup and to Booker and the rest to make sure he cant throw an easy lob or swing the ball to an open shooter easily.

It is more about positioning and practice than individual physical abilities, so our team cann do just fine, relatively speaking, if they put their minds and hours into it.

Except for Ayton, of course, who has to carry the load for every time the defense breaks down. That's why we depend so much on him to succeed.


With the way the NBA is going you, you need solid defenders at different positions. A center can only do so much. Ayton, no matter how good he becomes on D, is unlikely to correct for Booker and Saric's deficiencies. NBA coaches are too good at exposing weakness. You can run a standard 1-5 pick and roll, remove the center from the picture, and exposes Saric.
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#8 » by MathiasPW » Mon Sep 23, 2019 4:59 pm

GoodBehavior wrote:
MathiasPW wrote:
GoodBehavior wrote:
Suns are going to be in the bottom third in defense rating, whether Ayton progress on D or not.

Saric and Booker are the worst defenders at their respective position. Oubres is meh and Rubio is slightly above average (lets called it average). You're going to have a poor defensive starting five, regardless of Ayton improve or not.

The bench's defense isn't all the great either. Tyler is average. Mikal's D is overrated, but let's called him a plus defender. You have two other plus defenders (Bayes, Diallo) besides Bridges. Both of which are going to average less than <15m. The rest of the roster is cluster of defense liabilities or unknown. Tyler and Bayes are likely gone by the trade deadline. So really, you're down to Mikal and 15 minutes of Diallo as your defensive shield.
It matters less how good (or bad) individual defenders are, as there is always a player on the opposite side who can get past his man and break down your defense.

You really need only one lockdown perimeter defender to make that guy work hard.

It matters more how efficient your coverage in closing passing lanes is, and how well your big can cover ground and make his shot difficult.

If Bookers attacker gets past him every time, it's up to Ayton to block his path to an easy layup and to Booker and the rest to make sure he cant throw an easy lob or swing the ball to an open shooter easily.

It is more about positioning and practice than individual physical abilities, so our team cann do just fine, relatively speaking, if they put their minds and hours into it.

Except for Ayton, of course, who has to carry the load for every time the defense breaks down. That's why we depend so much on him to succeed.


With the way the NBA is going you, you need solid defenders at different positions. A center can only do so much. Ayton, no matter how good he becomes on D, is unlikely to correct for Booker and Saric's deficiencies. NBA coaches are too good at exposing weakness. You can run a standard 1-5 pick and roll, remove the center from the picture, and exposes Saric.


Agreed. This would be exponentially troublesome during playoffs. But let's move one step at a time.
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#9 » by In2ition » Mon Sep 23, 2019 10:00 pm

GoodBehavior wrote:
bwgood77 wrote:
MathiasPW wrote:if we are at the bottom percentiles in DRTG, cause that means Ayton hasn't made a jump on that end and so much of our success depends on that.


Yeah, if Ayton can't anchor a defense we won't go anywhere. Hopefully Booker steps up in this regard too. It will always be so much tougher to add players if you have to always think about having to hide Booker defensively. But if Ayton doesn't improve measurably on D, it won't matter regardless.


Suns are going to be in the bottom third in defense rating, whether Ayton progress on D or not.

Saric and Booker are the worst defenders at their respective position. Oubres is meh and Rubio is slightly above average (lets called it average). You're going to have a poor defensive starting five, regardless of Ayton improve or not.

The bench's defense isn't all the great either. Tyler is average. Mikal's D is overrated, but let's called him a plus defender. You have two other plus defenders (Bayes, Diallo) besides Bridges. Both of which are going to average less than <15m. The rest of the roster is cluster of defense liabilities or unknown. Tyler and Bayes are likely gone by the trade deadline. So really, you're down to Mikal and 15 minutes of Diallo as your defensive shield.

Just from having an actual starting PF and depth at that position should help improve the interior defense, even slightly. They were consistently abused by opposing PFs on the glass and in the post. The light weight SFs on the roster last year couldn't defend them in the post or keep them off the offensive glass. This made for repeated attempts and great conversion %s of the opposition all season. It may not help tremendously, but it should be good to cut down quite a few possessions and % at the rim, IMO. Overall, I do agree.
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#10 » by lilfishi22 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:08 am

bwgood77 wrote:
MathiasPW wrote:if we are at the bottom percentiles in DRTG, cause that means Ayton hasn't made a jump on that end and so much of our success depends on that.


Yeah, if Ayton can't anchor a defense we won't go anywhere. Hopefully Booker steps up in this regard too. It will always be so much tougher to add players if you have to always think about having to hide Booker defensively. But if Ayton doesn't improve measurably on D, it won't matter regardless.

Completely agree. To me, Ayton not being able to anchor a defense and Baynes playing more minutes at the 5 than we expect kind of go hand in hand. It signals to me that Ayton hasn't progressed as much as we wanted on that defensive end which necessitated Baynes playing more minutes for defensive purposes. I definitely think that's a bad sign.
alamin330 wrote:This draft reminds me of the 2003 draft.
Lebron - Zion, Barrett like Melo, wade like Culver, garland like tj ford, hunter like bosh, white like Barbosa, Clarke like David West. I think this draft is actually going to be deeper though
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#11 » by lilfishi22 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:14 am

GoodBehavior wrote:
bwgood77 wrote:
MathiasPW wrote:if we are at the bottom percentiles in DRTG, cause that means Ayton hasn't made a jump on that end and so much of our success depends on that.


Yeah, if Ayton can't anchor a defense we won't go anywhere. Hopefully Booker steps up in this regard too. It will always be so much tougher to add players if you have to always think about having to hide Booker defensively. But if Ayton doesn't improve measurably on D, it won't matter regardless.


Suns are going to be in the bottom third in defense rating, whether Ayton progress on D or not.

Saric and Booker are the worst defenders at their respective position. Oubres is meh and Rubio is slightly above average (lets called it average). You're going to have a poor defensive starting five, regardless of Ayton improve or not.

The bench's defense isn't all the great either. Tyler is average. Mikal's D is overrated, but let's called him a plus defender. You have two other plus defenders (Bayes, Diallo) besides Bridges. Both of which are going to average less than <15m. The rest of the roster is cluster of defense liabilities or unknown. Tyler and Bayes are likely gone by the trade deadline. So really, you're down to Mikal and 15 minutes of Diallo as your defensive shield.

Difference being that if Ayton's D doesn't progress then we won't improve far from the bottom third of defense going forward (season to season). Having to hide a guard on defense is one thing, having to hide a big is another. We can always move on from Saric or play him less minutes (assuming he sticks around) and we can always add more perimeter defenders so that Booker matches up with the worse offensive player but hiding a C who we will want to play heavy minutes is difficult and we, as a team, won't go far in terms of defensive development if our big man isn't up to scratch.

Obviously this will be over a few years of development and we're only talking about the first 20 games or so but I think more than anything, we just want to see continued improvement from Ayton defensively as confirmation that we're going in the right direction.
alamin330 wrote:This draft reminds me of the 2003 draft.
Lebron - Zion, Barrett like Melo, wade like Culver, garland like tj ford, hunter like bosh, white like Barbosa, Clarke like David West. I think this draft is actually going to be deeper though
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#12 » by bwgood77 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:14 am

lilfishi22 wrote:
bwgood77 wrote:
MathiasPW wrote:if we are at the bottom percentiles in DRTG, cause that means Ayton hasn't made a jump on that end and so much of our success depends on that.


Yeah, if Ayton can't anchor a defense we won't go anywhere. Hopefully Booker steps up in this regard too. It will always be so much tougher to add players if you have to always think about having to hide Booker defensively. But if Ayton doesn't improve measurably on D, it won't matter regardless.

Completely agree. To me, Ayton not being able to anchor a defense and Baynes playing more minutes at the 5 than we expect kind of go hand in hand. It signals to me that Ayton hasn't progressed as much as we wanted on that defensive end which necessitated Baynes playing more minutes for defensive purposes. I definitely think that's a bad sign.


I just hope Ayton picks up some toughness habits (screen setting, outmuscle-ing people, etc) from Baynes while Baynes is here. If it's a necessity that Baynes plays a lot due to Ayton's deficiencies, that isn't good, because Baynes won't be here too long I imagine.
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#13 » by lilfishi22 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 12:26 am

I think I put extra high expectations on Ayton defensively as compared to Booker because Ayton absolutely has the physical attributes to not just be a good defender but an elite defender. Being the #1 pick comes with those high expectations. That's a high bar for him but if he only gets to being a good defender that more than makes up for Booker's poor defense because we then have someone that can cover for defensive breakdowns which will happen no matter what elite defender we have on the perimeter. There's just more impact a good defensive big has on team defense than a good defensive perimeter player, not to say that we shouldn't care about perimeter defense because that's important too but if I was only given one defensive player to add to a position, it would be a big.

Not to take anything away from Booker because he certainly has room and the ability to get better on the defensive end but just from a team perspective, it's just more important to have a big that can defend at a high level to anchor your defense.
alamin330 wrote:This draft reminds me of the 2003 draft.
Lebron - Zion, Barrett like Melo, wade like Culver, garland like tj ford, hunter like bosh, white like Barbosa, Clarke like David West. I think this draft is actually going to be deeper though
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#14 » by LesGrossman » Tue Sep 24, 2019 1:37 pm

How bad is Ayton really? I followed the Wolves for a long time and got more and more annoyed with Towns because he visibly put no effort or throught into defense while showing off on the other end (causing ignorant "fans" to consider him a good player). I hope Ayton is just incompetent, not unwilling?
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#15 » by Crives » Tue Sep 24, 2019 2:54 pm

Biggest warning sign for me would be the players not buying in to Monty.... we need stability at HC more then anything.

Also..... If Cam looks like a normal rookie (terrible).... Jones is going to get a lot of heat from the media.
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#16 » by TASTIC » Tue Sep 24, 2019 7:49 pm

Bring KG in to work with Ayton. He could use some mongrel
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#17 » by Djedefre » Tue Sep 24, 2019 9:03 pm

Bigs are 10x more important for team D than guard players nowadays. They carry the bigger chunk of the load in p'n'r's, they have to stretch from paint to the 3pt line in an instant, they are the ones doing corrections and stopping 2nd cuts and so on. You can live with one atrocious defender outside (i.e. Armani), or even have both guards being below average on D and still have a lot of success. Rubio will help us to some extent on that side of the ball, but defensive impact he can possibly achieve is by far the smallest of any player on the court, because of his position.
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#18 » by lilfishi22 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:33 pm

LesGrossman wrote:How bad is Ayton really? I followed the Wolves for a long time and got more and more annoyed with Towns because he visibly put no effort or throught into defense while showing off on the other end (causing ignorant "fans" to consider him a good player). I hope Ayton is just incompetent, not unwilling?

I tend to lean incompetence right now over unwilling. He's just slow on rotations, gets stuck in no-mans-land and sometimes just ball watches. But with experience, being around a good defensive influence (Baynes, Bridges - calling him out during games) and hopefully playing in a good defensive scheme, we can minimise a lot of that incompetence and really put to work that length and athleticism which should lend itself to elite defense.
alamin330 wrote:This draft reminds me of the 2003 draft.
Lebron - Zion, Barrett like Melo, wade like Culver, garland like tj ford, hunter like bosh, white like Barbosa, Clarke like David West. I think this draft is actually going to be deeper though
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#19 » by lilfishi22 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:36 pm

TASTIC wrote:Bring KG in to work with Ayton. He could use some mongrel

You know damn well Sarver doesn't pay good money for worthy 1 on 1 work for his players.
alamin330 wrote:This draft reminds me of the 2003 draft.
Lebron - Zion, Barrett like Melo, wade like Culver, garland like tj ford, hunter like bosh, white like Barbosa, Clarke like David West. I think this draft is actually going to be deeper though
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Re: Short-term team warning signs 

Post#20 » by GoodBehavior » Wed Sep 25, 2019 3:16 pm

lilfishi22 wrote:
LesGrossman wrote:How bad is Ayton really? I followed the Wolves for a long time and got more and more annoyed with Towns because he visibly put no effort or throught into defense while showing off on the other end (causing ignorant "fans" to consider him a good player). I hope Ayton is just incompetent, not unwilling?

I tend to lean incompetence right now over unwilling. He's just slow on rotations, gets stuck in no-mans-land and sometimes just ball watches. But with experience, being around a good defensive influence (Baynes, Bridges - calling him out during games) and hopefully playing in a good defensive scheme, we can minimise a lot of that incompetence and really put to work that length and athleticism which should lend itself to elite defense.


Incompetence is way too harsh of a description.

Despite having a dreadful first month on D (Human Statue on D), Ayton ended up the year with a better DPRM, DWS, and DRtg than Mikal Bridges, who no one would characterize as incompetent on D. Ayton was one of the best defender on an admittedly terrible defensive team. Richaun Holmes was the team best defensive player. But by the end of the season, I thought Ayton was better than Richaun.

His weakness by far is PNR coverage. It takes big men a couple of year to get the PNR coverage right, so we'll have to see. Unlike poor PNR defender (Kanter, etc), Ayton has no physical limitation that prevents him from being elite on PNR. If Ayton is competent on PNR coverage, he would be above average on D.

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