It’s mailbag time, and for the first time since June’s draft, we’re back with an offseason edition! With a month away from media day and training camp, many readers are curious about what improvements we will see with the young roster this season. Also, will the Suns make a move via trade? Let's dive straight into it.
do you think JJ has a good chance to win ROY?— Abdalla Ali (@ArabGD1) August 23, 2017
I have to ask this to many NBA pundits out there. Why has Josh Jackson’s buzz suddenly disappeared compared to the likes of Lonzo Ball and Jayson Tatum? Not only do I believe Jackson is in line to have a surprising debut season for Phoenix, but he’s right up there on the short list, in terms of winning Rookie of the Year.
Outside of Philadelphia’s duo (Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz) and Ball, I have Jackson with the fourth-best odds before their rookie years begin. And with how Tatum will be relegated to a bench role this season in Boston, that eliminates him for me.
Personally, with how high Phoenix’s front office is on Jackson, I don’t see how he is not starting on opening night. After they selected him, general manager Ryan McDonough spoke about how Jackson would slide right into the role PJ Tucker vacated when he was traded: Take on the best scorers night-in, night-out and grow from the experience.
Not only will Jackson’s defensive prowess show through, but his innate playmaking ability for a wing will be something to pay close attention to. As I broke down after he was drafted, the former Kansas Jayhawk will allow for much more opportunities for others whether it’s in transition or setting up bigs down low in the post.
I’ll throw this stat line out for my initial prediction for Jackson: 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.8 blocks per game. Where does this land him in terms of the ROY discussion? Not enough to win it likely with Simmons and Ball, but I’m finding it hard to leave one of Phoenix’s main building blocks alongside Devin Booker off of the All-Rookie 1st Team for sure.
What do you think Bender and Chriss will have improved the most in this year?— Richie McKone (@Unknownmckone25) August 23, 2017
Whether we want to realize it or not, this is a huge year for both Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss. As Gerald, Yusuf, and I spoke about on the Bright Side Podcast earlier this week, they will need to not only prove their value to Phoenix more but also around the league. When rumors were running rampant about Kyrie Irving to the Suns, Bender was a main focal point in discussions but many league executives were already low on the 19-year-old Croatian.
After a rookie season that was plagued by injuries and putting him in spots where he was destined to not show his full capabilities (ex: having Bender defend a wing on the perimeter one-on-one), expect a big rebound year from Bender. Personally, I think Bender will end up leapfrogging Chriss in terms of overall potential once he’s able to show off his playmaking and knack to impact many facets of defense.
I’m still very high on Bender, as is the Suns front office. And after Booker and Jackson, I would rank Bender in terms of ranking their young core.
Heading in from year one to year two, there’s a lot of inside buzz around 2016’s No. 4 pick. Dependent upon what happens with both Alex Len and Tyson Chandler, Bender is well on his way to seeing tons of minutes at both the four and five, including seeing him out there with Chriss according to McDonough.
While in Las Vegas for Summer League, Bender showed a more consistent perimeter touch as his confidence gained during the week. There were points in contests, especially against Memphis and Utah, that he looked like a top five pick, which is always a very encouraging sign.
With Chriss, he will need to show he’s more than a rim runner who takes advantage with his athleticism. Also, it looked like he gained a little too much weight and I expect to see him slimmed back down to a four-type physique unless they want to build him out as a center.
Simply put, this is a huge season for the both of them and I think they will help their stocks in Phoenix and around the league once next summer rolls around.
In terms of what I believe Bender and Chriss will improve on the most in their sophomore campaigns, it is first gaining more on-court chemistry together as we see them together for extended minutes at a time.
For Bender individually, expect to see a prospect who helps open up the offense with his vision for a 7-footer, and sees 20 minutes per game consistently. Chriss, on the other hand, will still be a work in progress on defense but we might start seeing him stretch the floor a little more alongside an ever growing repertoire of post moves, which he said was one of his main priorities to work on when he spoke at Summer League.
With the haul that Cleveland got for Irving, do you think that the suns should have just given up JJ and Bledsoe for him?— Corban Ford-Watson (@CorbanfordNBA) August 23, 2017
Absolutely not. Why sacrifice seven seasons of Jackson, who the Suns had as their top prospect on their board before the draft, for two seasons with Irving where immediate results are critical? Also, with Phoenix not on Irving’s preferred destinations, a commitment long-term would’ve been needed before pulling the trigger. Sure, Irving could have recruited DeMarcus Cousins or DeAndre Jordan to join next July, but where would that put in the West?
As the Suns front office has realized, staying patient and following a plan to a T is the way towards contention. McDonough has been extensively studying how Oklahoma City and Golden State rose to prominence with their young cores, and they want the third installment to occur in the Valley here soon.
After Jackson was drafted, here’s what McDonough had to say:
“We thought Josh Jackson was the best player in the draft, and people say, “Well, he’s the best two-way player.” Last I checked, the game is played two ways, you don’t just play one. We really like Josh, his talents. We really love his fit with our roster. I think if you look at the entire draft class, and obviously, I’m biased, but every team’s roster and which player in this draft fits a specific team the best, we think the fit with Josh Jackson to the Phoenix Suns is perfect. We think with him and Devin Booker, and TJ Warren, we have three of the better young wings in the league. We think Josh’s defensive ability and athleticism, his length, his passing ability all really complement two very talented offensive wings in Devin and TJ. And we love his competitiveness, we love his fire, we love his toughness.”
Like McDonough mentioned, the game is played two ways and a duo of Irving-Booker would surely help one side it could be disastrous on the other.
For the price Boston has to pay, it was smart for the Suns to stay smart as they did when Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and Cousins were also put on the trade block.
Did the Suns make an offer for Kyrie?— Pocket Litter (@Fortissimosity) August 24, 2017
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro throughout the process, indeed they did. We do not have exact details from Phoenix themselves obviously, but the rumored offer of Bender, Bledsoe, and the Miami 2018 first rounder sounds pretty realistic to me.
Phoenix did not need Kyrie, they wanted him. So, why give up a lot of saved up assets for a two-year rental?
After Irving, I’ll throw this name out for who makes the most sense for a possible trade down the line: Anthony Davis. Alongside Boston’s picks and players to offer, the Suns are in the best position to appease New Orleans’ demands whenever Davis wants out which seems it could be coming way sooner than Pelicans fans hoped.
Just like it was for Jackson, will we see Danny Ainge vs. McDonough once again? It’s definitely a possibility.
Can we expect Bledsoe getting moved at the deadline? Or before the season?— eric mueller (@darthmueller) August 24, 2017
I would say moving Bledsoe before the season has sailed, but his value will not be getting any higher as his contract continues to play out as we approach 2018-2019. With how young this roster is, the fit still is questionable in terms of age but McDonough and Co. still see the best basketball ahead of him. It’s entirely possible we see Bledsoe play out his contract here and then letting him walk then.
However, when I spoke with McDonough about how flexible Phoenix is throughout the next few summers, especially next, he said the following:
“We like the core of our group. Obviously, it’s a young team, so we’ve had those opportunities come our way. I think more will come our way. Maybe over the course of the summer, maybe even around the trade deadline or next summer.”
This one-on-one interview was in mid-July, but it shows with how their assets are really playing out toward next summer a move could be coming one way or another.
Whether Bledsoe gets moved in February, June or not at all, it will all depend on how the season progresses. If Phoenix falls back quickly, we could see them putting Bledsoe on the block while his value is still high, but they have stuck by him through constant trade chatter so it’s hard to say whether they will pull the trigger on a deal or not at the moment.
Who's on your all time Suns team? (15 man roster)— melife00 (@melife00) August 24, 2017
Here’s my 15-man roster, in no specific order: Devin Booker, Charles Barkley, Walter Davis, Alvan Adams, Dick Van Arsdale, Steve Nash, Paul Westphal, Shawn Marion, Amar’e Stoudemire, Jason Kidd, Tom Chambers, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Dennis Johnson, Connie Hawkins
That should have been the actual roster on NBA2K18, I think.
I want to make a myplayer to add to the Suns when nba 2k18 comes out. Which position and player type should I make?— Tj Horst (@TjtheGinger) August 23, 2017
Honestly, with Devin Booker already rated an 86, I would be curious to see how he would be rated with his playmaking and defense boosted up just a little bit. That could be the realistic results for Booker in his third year in real life anyways, where future stars always make their jumps to legitimacy around the league.