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Will Devin Booker make his first All-Star Game? Deandre Ayton for ROY? My 2018-19 Phoenix Suns season predictions

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Lots of questions to tackle here before the most anticipated calendar year of Suns basketball in a long time.

NBA: Phoenix Suns-Media Day Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, we’re back to talking about basketball games that actually matter following a treacherous stretch of Las Vegas Summer League and preseason action. On the day of the Suns returning to regular season play, it’s time to unveil all of my predictions on the Suns, plus even some general thoughts about the NBA as well.

From player stat line averages to who I see making the All-NBA teams, sit back and parse through all of my ramblings below.

Notable Suns player stat line predictions

Devin Booker - 27.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 7 assists while shooting 40% on 3s. Booker makes his first All-Star appearance, barely by the way, becoming only the third player in NBA history to put up 27-5-7 on 40% clip from deep behind Larry Bird and Stephen Curry.

Deandre Ayton - 17.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks on 61% shooting. Ayton wins Rookie of the Year, narrowly edging out Luka Doncic and Jaren Jackson Jr.

Josh Jackson - 12.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists with a big leap noticed along the way in playmaking and taking smarter shots under new head coach Igor Kokoskov.

Trevor Ariza - 14 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists while shooting 38% on 3s. Ariza’s veteran presence will rub off on Jackson and Bridges in a very positive way before he joins a title contender next season.

Mikal Bridges - 8.1 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists on 38.5% from beyond the arc. Bridges starts off slow, but he earns plenty of playing time in the second half of the season to finish off strong.

T.J. Warren - 15.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists while carrying a career-high field goal percentage. Warren thrives in his super sub role off the bench as Phoenix’s sixth man. Whether he’s kept around past this season is still up in the air, but he surprises everyone along the way during his fifth year with the Suns.

Ryan Anderson - 11.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists while shooting 37% on 3s. Anderson gives way in the second half of the season to the younger players, but his veteran leadership and shooting will be a nice addition alongside Ayton.

Dragan Bender - Bender puts up nearly identical stats from last season, but in a role where he barely sees the floor as someone planted near the end of the bench. Bender’s team option for $5.9 million is declined later this month, pushing the Suns’ projected cap pace up to $40.4 million if they also stretched Ryan Anderson’s contract.

Will the Suns make a trade during the season for a point guard? Who could it be?

Yes, there’s absolutely no way the Suns finish this season, let alone their next 30 games, without making a move. Thinking that Jamal Crawford is a reputable answer at point guard is bad. Sometime between December-February, Phoenix will make a trade out of nowhere. However, it will not be for a big-name point guard like Kemba Walker or Terry Rozier. Instead, it will turn out to be New York’s Trey Burke for a second-round pick as he gives way to Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox.

No surprise, it’s very familiar to the Elfrid Payton situation from last season. I think the Suns save assets like their own first round-pick and the Bucks pick, plus whatever else needed, to make an all-in push for Damian Lillard next summer. As you’ll see in my playoff predictions, I actually don’t have the Portland Trail Blazers making the playoffs, resulting in a rebuild going down.

However, that doesn’t mean we won’t hear reports of them trying to land names like Walker and Rozier, but ultimately come up short again when refusing to offer significant value chips.

I expect Plan B would be going aggressively after Rozier in restricted free agency, a contract for 4 years between $70-75 million (17.5-18.75 million annually).

Before we move on, I do want to say though that I believe De’Anthony Melton will be the one who stands out from Phoenix’s current rotation who shines in the season’s post All-Star break stretch. I had Melton ranked as a lottery prospect on my big board, and I’m not backing off him being an impactful two-way guard during his rookie campaign whenever he receives minutes.

Win-loss prediction

After making the proclamation on Locked On Suns previously during our schedule release show, I’m not backing off the claim of Phoenix improving by at least 10 wins. With myself expecting Booker to make the All-Star leap on top of Ayton being above-average immediately, that should push them from 21-61 to 32-50 this season.

Simply put, I think Booker and Ayton will be too good together for the Suns to slip below 30 wins for the fourth straight season. I don’t expect them to be anywhere higher than 13th or 14th in the Western Conference standings still, but progressions from Phoenix will definitely be noticed around the league.

However that places the Suns in terms of chasing max free agents will be intriguing to follow. A name like Walker could be interested in joining Booker and Ayton if he believes he is the missing link.

Bonus: Bold offseason proclamation

Playing off what I mentioned earlier about Lillard, I see plenty of star movement going down this summer. Even more than the past two years. The term “pre-agency” has been taken to new extremes led by Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler, now expect even more of it next summer when Anthony Davis breaks the internet.

Yes, I believe Davis will request a trade out of New Orleans with one guaranteed year left on his contract (player option for 2020-21) after the Pelicans are bounced again in the playoffs. Here’s the curveball: You will here plenty of how Phoenix is the sleeper team who isn’t on Davis’ shortlist who is willing to offer a lot. If Davis actually does this, it will result in the biggest trade in NBA history. Plenty of young talent and picks heading New Orleans’ way as they hit the reset button.

Davis’ shortlist will likely include the Lakers, Celtics, Sixers, and Knicks. All big market teams who are championship contenders. Who knows, maybe he throws the Warriors on his list too. In order to compete with these teams, who will have plenty of draft capital and young assets available (Jaylen Brown, Brandon Ingram, Markelle Fultz, Knox/Ntilikina), Phoenix would need to blow the Pelicans away with an offer. Here’s what I think could get them in the room: Josh Jackson, Mikal Bridges, 2019 Suns first-round pick, 2020 Bucks pick, 2021 Suns pick top-three protected. Phoenix could also throw in Anderson as an expiring as well.

Poll

If Anthony Davis requests out, would you offer a package built around Josh Jackson, Mikal Bridges and valuable first-round picks?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    Yes, no hesitation
    (296 votes)
  • 28%
    No, if he leaves Suns are screwed
    (120 votes)
416 votes total Vote Now

Personally, if Ayton and Booker take their expected jumps forward, adding in Davis would make them a sleeper out West. Title contender? Not right away, but if Davis was won over to stay long term, that’s a frightening sight to behold for opposing terms.

The more realistic option on this list, as stated previously, would be convincing Portland to move Lillard following a bad season. Something along the lines of Jackson and Bridges plus their 2019 pick could get it done quickly before draft night. I would place way bigger odds on this scenario happening over Davis, but I do see both being moved anyways.

Also, John Wall will be moved to either the Magic or Pistons before his super-max extension kicks in with Washington. I have the Wizards finishing as the No. 7 seed, disappointing many making them hit the reset button themselves. Wall’s contract is an albatross, one that Phoenix shouldn’t get involved on but worries me to no end, but a desperate team like Orlando or Detroit makes plenty of sense to take the bait.

As you can see, plenty of movement I believe is on the horizon as we inch toward the 2019 offseason.

Miscellaneous NBA predictions (Playoff seeding, awards, etc.)

Western Conference

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. Houston Rockets
  3. Utah Jazz
  4. Denver Nuggets
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder
  6. Los Angeles Lakers
  7. New Orleans Pelicans
  8. San Antonio Spurts

Eastern Conference

  1. Toronto Raptors
  2. Boston Celtics
  3. Indiana Pacers
  4. Philadelphia 76ers
  5. Milwaukee Bucks
  6. Miami Heat (counting on Butler trade here soon)
  7. Washington Wizards
  8. Detroit Pistons

NBA Season Awards

MVP - Kawhi Leonard

DPOY - Anthony Davis

6MOY - Terry Rozier

MIP - Brandon Ingram

ROY - Deandre Ayton

All-NBA 1st Team - Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis

All-NBA 2nd Team - Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Nikola Jokic

All-NBA 3rd Team - Russell Westbrook, Victor Oladipo, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid

And there you have it, all of my season predictions, including a bold offseason one predicated around more player movement.

What do you think is in store for the Suns during this season? How will Booker and Ayton fare, plus will it be enough to lure in max-caliber free agents?

How about trades? Will the Suns make a point guard trade, or wait to go all-in until next summer?

There’s plenty of questions to unravel with the Suns, but basketball is finally back after being away for months. I’m ready, are you?