The Phoenix Suns have been up and down. There was the rough start, followed by a winning streak, and now they’ve lost three of four.
I guess we should start calling them the Suns of Anarchy?
Anyway, coach Frank Vogel has work to do if he wants to have a happy new year that includes an NBA title.
With a few weeks to go before Dallas comes to town on Christmas Day (and a couple of months before any last-minute trade deadline shopping sprees), here’s what’s on Vogel’s holiday wish list. It’s time for the Suns to start getting serious.
An inspiring new Book
Most people don’t like books for Christmas. It’s sort of like giving somebody homework and calling it a present. But the guess here is that Vogel would love an inspiring new Book to read from now until June when the NBA Finals start.
And that’s with Booker still learning the position in this offensive system, as he’s played a little more than half of Phoenix’s total games this year.
Booker is pretty far off from league leader Tyrese “who the Suns could have drafted” Haliburton, who’s dishing out close to 12 assists per game.
But we’ve seen Booker do some amazing things before. Maybe his next challenge could be to hand out 15 assists per game for an extended healthy and winning stretch?
Why not? We’re only at the start of Act II of Book’s NBA story.
A visit (or two or three) from an old friend
The holidays are about friends and family, so Vogel should invite Monty Williams over for dinner.
The Pistons under Williams didn’t win a game in the month of November and are closing in on a 20-game losing streak. It’s hilarious because I could coach you and any 15 people you know to 20-straight losses.
I haven’t watched the Pistons much this season, because why would I? But they’re getting blown out more and more often. That always leads me to think the coach isn’t doing his job. But I respect Williams so much for what he did here in turning around the Suns that I’m going to extend him the benefit of the doubt.
Anyway, if Vogel could just get Williams and the NBA’s version of the Washington Generals on the schedule more often, the Suns would look like the 2015-16 Warriors or the 1995-96 Bulls or … you get my point.
A Milton-Bradley Beal in action figure
Beal has been one of the best guards in the NBA over the past decade, not that anyone would know it. The guy was playing in Washington for a team that couldn’t dodge bullets if they were standing behind the shooters.
And now that Beal has a chance to play for a winner, he’s been out with a bad back, which is completely reasonable since he had to carry the Wizards franchise by himself all those years.
But if he’s healthy enough to play on Christmas Day, and every game after that, no one will be happier than Vogel.
Board games and glass cleaner
The Suns are a middle-of-the-pack rebounding team. They’re 16th in team rebounds per game, 11th in defensive rebounds and 16th in offensive rebounds. (Maybe the problem wasn’t ALL Deandre Ayton?).
The offensive rebounding isn’t that much of a concern. If you shoot a high percentage, there aren’t that many offensive rebounds to go get.
The defensive rebounding will need to improve. Defense ends with a rebound. The Suns are giving up an average of 14 second-chance points per game. For context, Phoenix hasn’t lost a game by more than 12 all season.
From watching the games, it looks like Nurkic is doing his job. He just needs some help. Maybe that means the Suns need more size? More energy? More of both?
According to NBA.com, the team’s box-out rate is pretty strong. So, Vogel just needs someone willing to attack the glass with more recklessness.
But can he keep it up? And at just 6-foot-5, how much rebounding production can we reasonably expect?
The answer could be Drew Eubanks, who’s big and athletic. To cherry pick some stats to show the potential, Eubanks had 18 total rebounds against the Nuggets, Knicks and Warriors in about 46 minutes. That’s 14 rebounds per 36 minutes.
Then the question becomes whether Eubanks and Nurkic could play at the same time? Maybe in limited minutes with Booker, Kevin Durant and Beal. Maybe.
My guess is that Vogel wants a new glass cleaner.
New Super Hero memorabilia
Durant has entered the NBA’s top-10 in all-time scoring.
The Durantula could catch Carmelo Anthony and Shaquille O’Neal this season. In two years, he could threaten to move Michael Jordan out of the top five. In four or five years, he’ll be challenging Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.
Durant probably won’t catch LeBron James unless the ageless wonder known as Benjamin Buckets gets kidnapped by cartoon aliens and he misses a season or two, like that time it happened to Jordan back in the ’90s. (That’s a "Space Jam" joke, kids. It’s what we do around here.)
But we should all appreciate what we’re seeing. Scorers like Durant are once in a generation.
If Durant can keep doing what he’s doing and win a championship in Phoenix, we could be debating where to put his statue in a few years -- to the left or to the right of the Jerry Colangelo statue.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Phoenix Suns need to get serious; here's what coach Frank Vogel needs