Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.
I’m sure most (if not all) fans have had thoughts of what they would do if they were the head coach of the Suns. Well, I put our Fantable members in that hypothetical situation and asked who would be their starters and "bench mob" (assuming that Dudley and Ulis were fully healthy and Len had signed his QO) if the season were to start tomorrow with only the players presently on the team to choose from.
Here's what they decided.
I don't think a Marquese Chriss/Dragan Bender front court is ready yet to start. I think we can experiment with it throughout games but it's not ready to start IMO if we don't want to be absolutely destroyed. I am starting Josh Jackson over TJ Warren because I feel there is no point in delaying the inevitable. We didn't draft JJ at 4 for him to be a bench player. We envision him being a key starting piece so let's throw him into the fire right away.
I think this second unit has a lot of potential. Tyler Ulis and TJ could be a dynamic duo if they develop chemistry. We know how much better TJ plays if he has someone setting him up. Bender could also bring some secondary playmaking to this unit which would be very valuable. Hopefully his 3 pointer falls at a higher % this year. Davon Reed obviously stretches the floor and provides some much needed perimeter defense. Sauce brings his post scoring which really helps round out this unit.
I'm not playing Jared Dudley and Alex Len in the rotation. I think we all realized we need to go full youth this year after watching the growth of our youngins post All-Star break. I'm not a fan of Len at all so I have no problem watching his brick hands sit on the bench. Even though I suggest starting the season with Tyson Chandler at C, as some games go on I am very open to starting the Quese/Dragan front court. This season is all about developing #TheTimeline so letting our youth get a lot of run is most important.
I'm the coach? Great! We'll be sure to get a super high draft pick next summer.
I have Jackson starting because of fit next to Devin Booker and Chriss, providing a strong defensive and energy boost to that line up. Hopefully it rubs off on everyone. With Eric Bledsoe, Booker, JJ, Chriss and Len this unit should be at least average defensively, which would be a welcome change from last year. I also think JJ's ability to create his own shot (something TJ has trouble doing) will help open up opportunities for everyone else, particularly Bled and Book. His passing, ball handling, and ultra-fast transition offense should also elevate our starting five.
Len becomes mainly a defensive presence. On offense I plan to play him more on the inside and not ask him to shoot from outside much. I will also try to keep his hook shots from happening. Lastly, I will force him and Bled into a room to work on their PnR passing and lobs until Len's hands are confident enough to make those plays on a consistent basis.
For the bench: TJ fits better on the bench between Reed and Bender's defense. Plus he thrived with Ulis as the PG last season. Tyler knows how to hit TJ on his cuts better than Bled. All five of these guys are at least passable on both offense and defense, so I see them as an above average bench unit in the league on both ends. If we switch out JJ & TJ, I think both units function at a somewhat lower level (starters less defense, bench less offense). Thus I think this arrangement is the best way to allow all our players thrive.
I see a lot of 'positionless' basketball happening this season, with lineups based on taking advantage of mismatches. I also see really pushing the pace and being an aggressive offensive transition team predicated on pressure energetic defense. We want to recreate a more effective two-way brand of the Suns of Anarchy. Mayhem on both ends that should be fun to watch.
I see playing Len pretty short minutes, averaging 20 mpg this season. Bender and Chriss will see more time at the 5, each averaging 8 mpg there. Alan Williams will pick up the remaining 12 mpg. I will also play Bender and Chriss together with the hope they look to set each other up for scoring opportunities, each playing an inside-outside game as they improve their 3pt shots and scoring in the paint.
I also see playing JJ and TJ together as the forwards along with Bender, Booker, and Bled/Ulis for an aggressive team that moves the ball around. I'd like to play Bender and JJ as dual primary distributors in half-court set ups if the transition game breaks down, allowing the other three players to streak and cut to find open shots.
Last season, Earl Watson used a line up of Ulis, Bled, Barbosa, Booker, and Len/Williams to some positive effect. Crazy small ball. We could see that line up again only with Reed instead of Barbs, which should be more versatile defensively.
Lots of other line up possibilities as well. I see using those line ups opportunistically to ensure guys like TJ, JJ, Ulis, and Bender get to play extended minutes in plenty of games this season to keep them engaged.
I chose my starting five because I think they're the best five-man unit the Suns can put out there right now and are a good mix of veterans and youngsters. The most contentious call for me was to start Jackson over Warren, a decision I made because I want Jackson's defense in the lineup alongside Booker on the wing, and because I think Warren pairs well with Ulis and provides the second unit a scoring punch it would otherwise sorely lack.
Spot minutes for the others until they prove they deserve more.
I'm going to start the season with a mix of youth and vets in the starting lineup.
For my starting 5, I have Bled out there with Book, TJ, Chriss, and Chandler. These are the 5 best players at their respective positions that we have currently.
Bledsoe is the obvious choice to start at point. When he comes out of the game, Ulis should be able to keep the offense humming along with decent options off the bench alongside him (especially once Jackson hopefully replaces Warren in the starting lineup, immediately giving Ulis an offensive focal point in TJ).
Booker is also the obvious choice at starting SG. Davon Reed will be a quality guy backing him up. He was selected precisely because he is a plug and play 3 and D wing who can spell Booker for stretches immediately. Derrick Jones Jr will be a fun victory cigar (on the rare occasion those are necessary), but I don't expect him to really have much of a future on this team.
The Suns might opt to start the season with Jackson at SF, and I think that he should overtake the starting spot by the end of the season if he is as ready as most of us project him to be, but initially I think TJ should get the starting nod until Jackson proves he's definitely the better player. Once Jackson overtakes Warren in the starting lineup, Warren can hopefully get comfortable (and maybe even be happy and thrive in) a role that is perfect for him: the 2nd unit's offensive focal point. I expect Dudley to get around 5-10 minutes per game at SF and PF. He's still one of the better players on this roster, despite what some may think.
Despite the flashes Bender showed in summer league, Chriss is still the better NBA player at this point. A lot of people were too hard on him this summer when he had a less than stellar showing at SL. He had packed on a lot of weight and it was new for him to be playing at that weight, on top of being the #1 option on offense most of the time. I believe much of that weight is muscle, and I believe he will surprise his doubters this season when he shows up cut with 15-20 extra pounds of muscle that he didn't have last season (after he sheds the few pounds of fat that came along with it). He won't get bullied in the paint as much by larger post players, but he will still have a significant athletic advantage over the vast majority of them. Bender may have the skills, but Chriss has the athleticism and the confidence. He wants to throw it down on everyone. I like that. A lot. Bender will come off the bench and hopefully stay healthy this season. I'm curious to see what he does with 15 minutes per game this year. I expect a significant improvement over last season. He's added some muscle and now I think he just needs to adjust mentally. He just doesn't show that confidence yet that Chriss has, and he'll need it if he wants to survive in this league and come anywhere close to his enormous potential.
At center I'll be starting Chandler. He's still the best 5 we've got. He had an extremely efficient offensive season last year, with an Ortg of 129 (one of the top offensive ratings in the league). He averaged nearly a double double with about 9ppg and 11rpg. His defense has fallen off a little bit, but when you've had around 25% of the NBA's 20 rebound games over the last couple years, you're still a quality center, and certainly deserving of starting on the Suns who's next best option is Alan Williams. Alex Len being back on a qualifying offer puts us in an awkward position. I suppose it's got to be him and Williams fighting for the backup minutes. You probably give Len a few more than Williams since you want to give him one last chance to prove he's even worth a roster spot, especially since Williams is already locked up for three more seasons.
As you can see, my lineups are more "Try and win" than "Just play the youth all the minutes they can handle and see what happens." And I think that's okay. I think the Suns (and every other team), should play the players that give them the best chance to win, at least until it becomes painfully obvious that they simply aren't winning.
I decided to join in this week as I have a slightly different take than everyone else. I would at least begin the season with Dragan Bender as my starting power forward. I think this would increase the ball movement in the starting five on offense and improve the defense. Defense is also why I chose Alex Len over Tyson Chandler as my starting center. Chandler is the better rebounder but Len is the best shot blocker on the team (1.3 blocks per game in just 20.2 minutes per game). I'm starting Josh Jackson over TJ Warren because he should also increase the ball movement in the first unit as well as improve the defense.
Moving Marquese Chriss to the second unit gives them an athletic inside power player that they would lack if he was on the starting unit and Bender was the backup 4. Tyler Ulis will love having at least one high flyer that he can toss alley-oops to when the second unit is on the floor together. Just because Chriss is moved to the second unit doesn't mean that he will get fewer minutes than last season. I would expect the PF minutes to be fairly evenly divided between him and Bender plus they will probably be on the court together at times.
Overall, I just think that the players on these two units would play the best together. I might not stick with them for long but those are the lineups that I would start the season with.
Once again many thanks to our Fantable... GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle and SouthernSun!
2016-17 Season Highlights
Suns vs Mavericks on April 9, 2017
Both Tyler Ulis (20 pts, 10 ast) and Alex Len (14 pts, 10 rebs) had double-double performances.
Quote of the Week
"It's like going from a name brand to a generic. Very, very disappointing." - ESPN's Paul Lukas commenting on the Suns' new uniforms.
News & Notes
Get your calendars ready— NBA (@NBA) August 14, 2017
We’ll announce the full 2017-18 NBA regular season schedule at 6pm/et!
Happy homecoming at Marian Catholic for Phoenix Suns guard Tyler Ulis. Chicago Tribune
Phoenix Suns’ Eric Bledsoe holds backpack giveaway. WBRC FOX6 News
My Sophomore Crush: It’s time for the Suns to unleash Dragan Bender. The Step Back
Suns news: Josh Jackson addresses Kyrie Irving trade rumors. Clutch Points
Suns news: Eric Bledsoe intimidating other dads supporting daughter in gymnastics. Clutch Points
Phoenix Suns: 5 goals for Josh Jackson’s rookie season. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit
NBA outlines schedule changes in memo to teams. ESPN
Two of the Top 10 Alley-oops from the 2016-17 season belong to the Suns & Marquese Chriss
Suns History in Video
Alvan Adams played all 13 of his NBA season for the Suns. He ranks 2nd on the list of all-time leading scorers for the Suns with 13,910 points. He also ranks 1st in total rebounds (6,937), 3rd in assists (4,012), 1st in steals (1,289) and 4th in blocks (808). Alvan played in more games (988) and more seasons (13) for the Suns than any other Suns player.
In his rookie season (1975-76) Adams made the All-Rookie First Team, was named NBA Rookie of the Year and was selected to play in the NBA All-Star game.
November 9, 1988 his jersey number (33) was retired and he was added to the Suns’ Ring of Honor.
He is currently the Suns Vice President for Facility Management for the Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Statistics courtesy of Land of Basketball.com.
Previewing the Weeks/Months Ahead
August 31 - Last day teams may waive players and apply the stretch provision to their 2017/18 salaries.
September 5 - Deadline to sign second-round draft picks (picks become free agents if not given a required tender)
Late September (specific dates TBA) - Training camps open.
October 17 - Day One of the 2017-18 NBA Season!
Last Week's Poll Results
The question was, "What do you think of ESPN's 30 win prediction for the Suns?" The results were:
09% - Too high.
51% - Dead on.
40% - Too low.
There were a total of 446 votes cast.
This week's poll is...
What do you think of the Suns' new uniforms?
This poll is closed
I like them!
They're okay but nothing to get excited about.
I hate them!