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Center of the Sun: The Phoenix Suns face many critical off-season questions

The Fantable members hand out their final player grades for 2017-18.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Questions, questions, questions.

We have plenty of those but few answers as the Suns’ early off-season just seems to drag on. I know that it’s actually only been 20 days since the Suns’ season ended but it seems as though it’s been much longer than that. And as the NBA playoffs continue, I find it difficult to enjoy many of the games. It’s not just because the Suns are again sitting at home watching instead of playing in them but also because of those pesky questions that I - and probably you - want answers to now.

Who will be the Suns’ next head coach? We have no choice but to wait and see who they ultimately select but that’s the biggest question at the moment. This is a really big question to be answered as there will be many ripple effects going forward based on who they hire and how he guides the team in the future. We’ve already been told that they expect to have that person in place before the NBA Draft Lottery takes place but that’s still two weeks away.

Patience. Patience. Patience.

Then there’s the lottery drawing itself. The Suns do have the best odds (25%) to get the #1 pick out of the 14 teams in the drawing but there’s still a 75% chance that the #1 pick will go to one of the other 13 teams. The only thing that is certain is that the Suns can’t drop any further than 4th. That is only a small comfort to me. Will the Suns finally get a #1 pick in the draft? Hopefully the basketball gods will think that would be an appropriate 50th birthday gift for the Suns and their fans... but we still have to wait until May 15 to open that gift and see what we will actually get.

Patience. Patience. Patience.

No matter which spot in the draft that the Suns actually get from the lottery drawing - 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th - then we still have to wait until June 21 to find out who they will select. And of course there’s also the 16th pick that we got from Miami in the Goran Dragic trade. Will they use it to select a player or trade it? Conjecture and rumors will abound but it’s doubtful that any real news surfaces until draft day.

Patience. Patience. Patience.

Then comes free agency and the summer trade season. Those begin July 1. Everyone has ideas as to who the Suns should pursue in free agency and who they should trade for... as well as who they wouldn’t mind seeing traded away. If the Suns really want to move forward and at least contend for a playoff birth in 2018-19 then the roster will need an overhaul. A real overhaul because a tuneup and an oil change isn’t going to get them there, or even close to it.

Can Ryan McDonough pull all of this off? There are so many dominoes that need to fall just right for the Suns to get there and anyone who has read the comments sections here recently knows that there isn’t a lot of faith left in the fans when it comes to McDonough.

Several times in this article I’ve repeated the word ‘patience’. I’m not preaching to you to have it, I just have to keep repeating it to myself to remind me that I really have no other choice... not if I want to remain a fan of the Suns. And retain my sanity.

I am hopeful that this will be the final week of the coaching search and that we will have the name of our new head coach before the weekend comes or at least on Monday of next week. I’m not expecting that but I am hopeful it will turn out that way.

And as we sit back and continue to wait for all of those things to come to pass, the Fantable wraps up their post-season grades for the Suns’ players this week as they take on the Suns’ point guards.

Fantable Questions of the Week

This week we’re finishing up with the 2017-18 player grades with a review of the Suns’ point guards. As we did last week, the Fantable used the following guidelines for handing out grades:

  • A - Above average starter
  • B - Average starter
  • C - Bench/rotation player
  • D - End of the bench player
  • F - Doesn’t belong in the NBA

And once again they’ve given two separate grades to each player, one grade for their performance this past season and a second grade based on what they see as each player’s potential/future ceiling.

The players I asked them to review are Elfrid Payton, Tyler Ulis, Shaquille Harrison, Isaiah Canaan, Brandon Knight and Devin Booker. I added Isaiah Canaan to this list as it’s very possible that he will get a training camp invitation and might return to the team. I also added Devin Booker because he did play some point this season and asked the Fantable members to grade him ONLY as a point guard this time. Brandon Knight automatically gets an NA for this past season but I asked everyone to give him a grade on potential since it’s highly likely that he will still be on the team for 2018-19 season.

GuarGuar: Season Grade C- / Potential C+

Elf really played well his first couple weeks as a Sun. However, he dropped his play level significantly to finish the year. His defense still has not lived up to the draft hype and his jumpshot is broken. He did cut his hair a couple weeks ago, so maybe he can magically improve. I doubt it though and don’t view him as a piece going forward.

Sun-Arc: C / C

Started out his time with the team hot and it quickly disintegrated into very poor play. Even worse than in Orlando. What really disappoints me about that is he didn’t even use his tryout effectively. I’d drop his QO and let him walk.

SDKyle: C / C

Payton has a certain flair for distributing the ball, but his poor shooting and defense hamper how useful he actually is. He can play like a decent starter in stretches, but also can play like a complete scrub in stretches. He did his job in providing the Suns a more watchable PG for a few weeks, but that’s the most I can say of him.

SouthernSun: Season Grade - C+

Elfrid got off to a very good start when he was traded to the Suns. He was flirting with triple doubles every night. Many began to think he may be the point guard of the future. Then the malaise and general awfulness of playing for the Phoenix Suns wore on him and he started sucking like everybody else. Then management shut him down.

Potential Grade - B

Elfrid is a good facilitator and excels at going to the rim, but he’s a poor defender and doesn’t really have a reliable three point shot.

Alex Sylvester: D+ / C+

Is it worth depending on Payton to play minutes if you’re looking to be a winning team? I wouldn’t depend on it.

GuarGuar: Season Grade C+ / Potential C+

I really think Tyler was still not healthy the first part of the season. Hip/back injuries are no joke and take a ton of time to recover from. Ulis was fantastic in March/April, and hopefully that is the guy we get ALL of next season. I still have a lot of hope for Ulis as our backup PG. Hopefully his jumpshot gets better and he gets a little stronger.

Sun-Arc: D / C

Spent 80% of the season looking awful. I can give him somewhat of a pass because of health issues- but only so much because I fear that will always be an issue with him and the abuse his frame will take in the NBA. I also think he’ll never be a plus defender in the league. Having said all that, the guy has serious skills and can run a team when healthy. But he struggles with his shot. He only shot 3’s above average for one month in his two year career thus far and only attempted 29 in that month. He only hit 42 this past season. At this point I put him as a 3rd string PG and keep him on his cheap contract.

SDKyle: F / C

Let’s not mince words: Ulis by and large was horrible this season. Really bad. Even with a couple of nice games to close the season, he shot under 40% on the year with horrible defense and was even at best mediocre as a distributor. I’m still holding out hope that Ulis, at 22, still pulls it together to be a consistent bench-quality PG in the future.

SouthernSun: Season Grade - D+

Tyler sucked for most of the season after coming back from injury. He has a shaky shot, has trouble getting it off because he’s very little, and seems to only play well when it’s the end of the season and the other teams are halfheartedly going through the motions against the Suns.

Potential Grade - C

Tyler Ulis may one day be a decent backup point guard. He’s not right now.

Alex Sylvester: C- / C+

Ulis had a forgettable season, but there were a few games towards the end of the year that got my hopes up on him... to an extent.

GuarGuar: Season Grade D+ / Potential B-

Shaq was a breath of fresh air this year with his stellar defense. Unfortunately, he is pretty inept on the offensive end. His play feels like an upgraded Derrick Jones Jr. If Shaq can somehow develop a jumper, he could certainly become a full time rotation player.

Sun-Arc: D+ / C+

Thinking of Shaq as a bench player, call me a fan. I love his motor and defensive smarts. He strikes me as a fierce competitor, something this team needs more of. He also has some offensive skills, which I think he can/will improve if given the chance. Just seems like a hard worker to me. Incidentally, his PER was 15.6 – higher than any other PG we trotted out on the court this season. And his DRtg was the best as well, by a long shot. I’d love to keep him around as a backup PG on a cheap contract, depending on who we draft.

SDKyle: C / C

Shaq turned into a tiny bright spot in his fewer than than 400 minutes played. Not really gifted as a playmaker and not a very good shooter either, Harrison competed hard and played solid defense in his limited time.

SouthernSun: Season Grade - C-

Shaq Harrison is a good defender and plays with energy. He’s sort of like a worse, even more offensively challenged Tony Allen. He has no shot, no real creating ability. But he does defend well. Andre Roberson has been able to turn that exact same skill set into lots of money.

Potential Grade - C

Shaq could become a solid 20 mpg rotation player if he can develop any semblance of a three point shot. And I think that’s his ceiling.

Alex Sylvester: D+ / C+

This is now the third PG in a row that’s graded out with C+ potential. I wonder if that was a big reason the Suns ended the season with the worst record in the league?

GuarGuar: Season Grade C/Potential C

I liked how Isaiah played in his time here before the gruesome ankle injury. He had the best jumpshot out of all the backup PGs this season. His playmaking was pretty solid as well as his defense too. I would not be opposed to bringing Isaiah back as our 3rd string PG next season.

Sun-Arc: C+ / C+

He looked really good at PG for us- but I think that was in relation to what we had been seeing from Bled, Ulis, and James. Canaan still only shot 33% from three and 38% overall. He worked hard and fought through screens. He played smart, but is a limited player. I’d bring him back as a 3rd string PG on a super friendly deal, but not over Harrison or maybe Ulis.

SDKyle: D / D

Canaan did a good job getting to the line this year. That’s about it, and at his age he is what he is...a bench PG who left us in search of a bench PG.

SouthernSun: Season Grade - C-

Canaan was surprisingly good for the Suns. I think that’s about as good as he will ever be. He did a little bit of everything out there, not really excelling at any one thing.

Potential Grade - C-

As I said already, I think the past season was the best Canaan will ever be, certainly the best stretch of his career so far. But I think this was his limit.

Alex Sylvester: C / C

Will he recover from injury? Will he make the roster at any point next year? Our Isaiah experience might have come to an end.

GuarGuar: Season Grade NA / Potential B

Knight seems committed to being a Phoenix Sun now which is good. I had questions about his willingness to be here in prior years. He has said this injury has been an eye opening experience for him and I believe him. Hopefully he’s learned a ton by just watching this year. I have confidence he can be a very serviceable backup 2 guard next year if he cuts down the turnovers and bad shot selection.

Sun-Arc: NA / B+

I love the way Knight has shaped his mentality this season. I think it is inspiring and heartening overall. Do I think it will mean he’s turned a corner with his play for the Suns? Well: Maybe. I still believe a good coach can recreate him as a really productive player. Will we get that good coach? Not sure. But Knight seems to have done his part, attitude-wise. I’d like to reward that with playing time next year. I want to believe redemption is possible for a guy like him. Do I want him as my starting PG? Probably not- but I might if things really do go right. Say we draft Ayton and don’t get Kemba Walker or another starting PG, and say Knight really plays well under our new coach (I refuse to believe Triano will be our guy), If BK defers to Booker and Jackson as the first two options on offense and he buckles down on defense- then, yes, we might just want him around. But, damn, if that ain’t a ton of “if’s”.

SDKyle: NA / B

Knight has the ability to be a decent starter, but seems to have struggled throughout his time in Phoenix to find any consistency as a plus player. He could really help the Suns at his best, or really hurt them badly at his worst.

SouthernSun: Season Grade - NA

Potential Grade - B

I have faith Knight can become a decent starter in the NBA again. I’m just not sure it’ll happen with the Suns.

Alex Sylvester: NA / B-

Taking an entire season off might be a blessing in disguise for Brandon. The talent is there, it’s just a matter of finding a role where his contributions are felt, but his weaknesses are masked.

A quick reminder here that these grades are ONLY for Devin Booker’s play at point guard.

GuarGuar: Season Grade B+ / Potential A+

When Booker was a full time point guard, it did not go extremely well (outside of the Houston game). Booker was best used as a PG to close games or just for certain stretches of games. That being said, his potential at the position is still an A+. For Booker to be a truly legit superstar PG, we needed to surround him with shooters. This team had 1-2 shooters on the roster outside of Booker so it’s hard to judge. I think Devin is a 2 guard who can play the 1 at times. But it’s way too early to know for sure! He certainly has the skill set.

Sun-Arc: A- / A

I’m not a huge fan of Point Book in some ways because I think his highest calling is as a 3-level SG scorer that can absolutely torch the other team who is most effective when he can be set up for doing so instead of instigating it himself. Do I think he can play the part of a really good/great PG like Harden? Yeah, actually I do. But I hope the team doesn’t put him in that position. I’d rather there be a PG on the team in the mold of Patrick Beverly that can distribute, defend, and hit 3’s that can set Booker up to steal the show.

SDKyle: C+ / B

Booker did an admirable job filling in when he had to, but I am not a fan of forcing such a talented scorer into constantly looking to make a play for a less talented scorer. He’s turnover prone when put into this role, and his playmaking skills are solid but unspectacular. Hopefully he’s not put into this role except situationally.

SouthernSun: Season Grade - C-

Point Book seemed okay a lot of the time, but that was because when he was off the court there just wasn’t anybody else to do anything. He’s not a good point guard. He’s a shooting guard who is slightly better at passing and play making than most other shooting guards.

Potential Grade - C

If he becomes an even better facilitator, he might jump into C range.

Alex Sylvester: B / A-

This is point Booker’s grade, not Devin’s. His lack of elite quickness would limit his ceiling as a PG, but he was still able to pass well and put up good numbers overall.

Many thanks again to our Fantable - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle, SouthernSun and Alex Sylvester - for all their input!

Season Highlights

Sacramento Kings vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights / Week 2 / 2017 NBA Season (1st win of the season)

Mike James, Devin Booker & Marquese Chriss 59 Pts Combined 2017.10.23 vs Kings!

Quotes of the Week

”But from people who have worked for the Suns, and talking to some of these coaches, Robert wants to make all of the decisions. He won’t give control to the people who work for him. And the reputation of him, plain and simple. He hires them but he won’t let them do their jobs. That’s his reputation, and I’ve got to take their word for it.” - Charles Barkley on Suns owner, Robert Sarver

”I think what surprised me the most was I think the talent level. You’ve got the guys that you hear about every night. Russell Westbrook, James Harden, LeBron James, but there are guys we generally don’t hear too much about who are pretty darn good. You’ve just got to be on your toes every night. Some guys aren’t on the scouting report sometimes, but guys are capable of dropping 25 at any given night. So always got to be on your toes and just be ready to play.” - Josh Jackson on his first NBA season

Interesting Suns Stuff

News & Notes

Igor Kokoskov to get second interview with Phoenix Suns. Logan Newman/Arizona Sports

Jason Kidd will not be in second round of interviews for Suns head coaching job. Clutch Points

Despite bumpy coaching search, Sarver can still fix image of Suns. Dan Bickley/Arizona Sports

2018 Suns End-of-Season Interviews: Josh Jackson.

2018 NBA Draft Early Entrants List. Hoops Rumors

The Problem With ‘Championship Or Bust’. Spencer Davies/Basketball Insiders

NBA head coaching opening tracker: Suns face competition for candidates. Empire of the Suns/Arizona Sports

2018 Offseason Salary Cap Digest: Phoenix Suns. Hoops Rumors

Five Potential Trade Destinations For Kawhi Leonard. The Big Lead

Kokoskov followed Joe Dumars’ advice and won the Eurobasket. EuroHoops

This Week in Suns History

On May 4, 1994 , Charles Barkley hit 23-of-31 field goal attempts and finished with 56 points, leading the visiting Suns to a 140-133 win over Golden State and a three-game sweep of their Western Conference First Round series. Barkley’s 56 points tied for the third-highest total ever in an NBA Playoff game, and his 38 points in the first half set a record.

On May 5, 2010 the Phoenix Suns made national headlines when they wore jerseys emblazoned with “Los Suns.” They were worn “to celebrate diversity on Cinco de Mayo,” according to team owner Robert Sarver, but also to protest a controversial immigration law that had been recently signed by Arizona’s governor. Los Suns beat the San Antonio Spurs, 110-102 in a conference semi-final contest.

Suns History in Video

Suns Trivia

Excluding the time Devin Booker spent running point, the Suns had a total of 7 point guards on the team throughout the 2017-18 season. Eric Bledsoe, Mike James, Isaiah Canaan, Josh Gray, Shaquille Harrison, Elfrid Payton and Tyler Ulis.

Of those seven, Bledsoe had the worst +/- with a negative 24.0 and Harrison had the best with a positive 2.0. Payton averaged the most assists per game (6.2) and Harrison and Gray tied for the least (2.4). Canaan had the best three point shooting percentage (33.3%) and Payton had the worst (20.0%). Bledsoe had the most turnovers per game (3.3) and Harrison had the least (1.0). Gray actually averaged the most steals per game (1.6) and James and Canaan averaged the least (0.8). Harrison had the best overall FG percentage (47.6%) and Gray had the worst (26.8%).

Canaan had the best offensive rating of the 7 (108.3) and Harrison had the best defensive rating (104.2) as well as the best net rating (+2.9).

Previewing the Weeks & Months Ahead

May 15 - NBA Draft Lottery

May 16-20 - NBA Draft Combine 2018 (Chicago)

June 11 - NBA Draft Early Entry Entrant Withdrawal Deadline (5 p.m. ET)

June 21 - 2018 NBA Draft

July 1 - NBA free agency officially begins (12:01 a.m. ET)

July 6-17 - 2018 NBA Summer League (Las Vegas)

Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was, “If the Blazers fire Terry Stotts, do you want the Suns to pursue him for their HC postion?”

52% - Yes

48% - No

There were a total of 315 votes cast.

This week’s poll is..


Who is your LEAST favorite choice to be the Suns’ next head coach?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Steve Clifford
    (13 votes)
  • 5%
    David Fizdale
    (34 votes)
  • 6%
    James Borrego
    (38 votes)
  • 8%
    Kevin McHale
    (51 votes)
  • 6%
    David Blatt
    (35 votes)
  • 10%
    Igor Kokoskov
    (59 votes)
  • 3%
    Frank Vogal
    (21 votes)
  • 46%
    Vinny Del Negro
    (264 votes)
  • 4%
    Nick Nurse
    (27 votes)
  • 4%
    Chris Finch
    (28 votes)
570 votes total Vote Now

It has been reported that Jason Kidd and Jay Triano are out of the running for the Suns’ head coaching position.

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