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Center of the Sun: With the first pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns select DeAndre Ayton...and then?

There’s still plenty of work left to do after the matter who the Suns select.

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NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Although the debate between drafting DeAndre Ayton or Luka Doncic with the first pick in the NBA Draft isn’t over, there will still be a full summer’s worth of work ahead for Suns’ GM Ryan McDonough regardless of who he selects. The draft is simply the first step in trying to return this franchise to respectability, winning and ultimately contending.

There are a lot of holes yet to be filled and the moves that the Suns will need to make following the draft will be different depending on who they decide to draft. Using their other draft picks to try and fill them is at best wishful thinking so the Suns will have to be active players in free agency and aggressively seek out trade partners to fill those holes with quality vets.

One thing that they will have going for them in free agency is the fact that only a few other NBA teams will have a significant amount of cap space free. As BSotS’ Dave King pointed out in his April 15 article on the Suns’ cap flexibility, they can open a little over $18 mil in cap space to offer free agents. As the Suns can’t get to that level without renouncing their rights to Alex Len and Elfrid Payton and waiving all of their non-guaranteed player contracts, I don’t expect the Suns to go all in off the bat and spend like drunken sailors on their first shore leave in 6 months.

And I don’t expect the Suns to go after any big name free agents or that they will make any plays for high profile restricted free agents. Making a big splash would be nice but going after solid veterans that can either start or play big rotation minutes makes more sense for a team that’s trying to build around it’s youthful talent.

If they are going to try to bring in a player that might have a big impact, they will probably try to do that through a trade. The Suns have accumulated quite a bit of assets that could be very useful in trades. Unlike seasons past, the expiring contracts that the Suns possess (over $26 mil combined in the Chandler, Dudley and Daniels contracts) could prove very useful when dealing with cash strapped teams looking to shed future salary obligations.

But the exact course that the Suns will take will ultimately depend on who the Suns select with that #1 pick this year.

This week I’ve asked the Fantable for their opinions on what the Suns should do this off-season if they decide to take DeAndre Ayton in the draft. Next week we’ll take a look at what moves would be more appropriate if they decide to select Luka Doncic instead.

Fantable Questions of the Week

1. This week we’re going to assume that the Suns draft DeAndre Ayton with the #1 pick. Following that, what should be their priorities for building a team that can actually win games next season?

2. List your preferred starting lineups for next season and bench depth.

GuarGuar: 1. Assuming we draft Deandre Ayton the next step is to find a legitimate starting point guard for the season. Kemba Walker is someone who I have mentioned before as a candidate to trade for. With only one year left on his contract, we certainly have the assets to pull off the trade and I think he would fit well in Phoenix. The next step would be to sign quality veteran free agents like Ariza, Mbah Moute, Smart, Beverly, etc. Maybe even trade for a Kevin Love to fill the starting PF position. Filling out the roster like this should get us close to 40 wins if not more. The X factor in our future success is Josh Jackson. How much he progresses is how far we can go as a team next season. If we fill out the roster like I mentioned above and Josh takes a big leap, we can certainly be in playoff contention. You have to remind yourself sometimes that Booker is only 21 and still has a LOT of room left to grow. Very exciting!

2. Assuming we draft Ayton my preferred starting lineup/bench depth for next season would be:

  • Kemba/Ulis/Shaq
  • Booker/Knight/Daniels
  • Jackson/Reed/House
  • Ariza/Chriss/Bender
  • Ayton/Chandler/Sauce

If we draft Ayton, McDonough obviously feels he can be a good defender/rim protector in the league. So assuming that, this team will still be a negative defensively (but much better from last year), while being a top 10 offense hopefully.

Sun-Arc: 1. Building around the combo of Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton should be a simple idea - though acquiring the right players may be difficult. That simple idea is putting lots of quality versatile 3&D players around those two. Why? Because I see them having a deadly inside-outside game and both deftly able to pass out of the double team to find open teammates. But also because Booker, and possibly Ayton, will max out as an average defender.

Josh Jackson or T.J. Warren are great cutters, but both are problematic after drafting Ayton unless one/both can hit a three with at least average percentage from at least one location. My money would be on JJ working out over TJ as an outside shooter, defender, and shot creator. But if he’s not a knock-down perimeter shooter, then the last two positions on the court damn well better be.

At PG, a Patrick Beverley type player would be fairly ideal. He’s had some health issues- but when playing he’s shown he can be a perfect complimentary player. Avery Bradley, Scary Terry Rozier, Kemba Walker, and Tyreke Evans would be good to some degree. I think Terry is a pipe dream and Bradley will be very expensive. Kemba may be our best move via trade. Tyreke would be a plausible fall-back option (nearly 40% from three, 6’-6”, and a plausible defender). Drafting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (SGA), if available, could be a good future option.

At PF, Mo Harkless, Tobias Harris, Patrick Patterson, would all be good targets this summer - in that order. Draft-wise, I don’t really see a great option at PF besides Wendell Carter and Miles Bridges - and we’d have to trade up to get them.

At SF in the draft at #16 there are several potentially good 3&D wings that are versatile. My preference there right now are Jacob Evans, Zhaire Smith, Keita Bates-Diop (KBD), Shake Milton, and Donte DiVincenzo- in that order. I think they may have immediate impact and only one (Zhaire) is a one-and-done.

So, let’s say we swing a trade of #16+TJ+MIL 1st (+maybe one of our future first rounders) to Portland for Harkless+#24. And let’s say we draft KBD with Portland’s pick and pick up Avery Bradley as our big FA acquisition. I assume we’d have to give up rights to Williams, Reed, Payton.

I’d like to say we bring back Williams or a center FA. But I’m assuming we blew our wad on Bradley in this case, so we are left with our young & lacking tandem big men getting left over minutes…

2. Starting line ups and (minutes per game):

Bradley (32), Booker (34), KBD (18), Harkless (38), Ayton (32)

Defense and shooting. At the 1-4 positions, all those players have a really good chance of hitting threes at a better-than-average percentage- possibly three of them over 40%. And if Ayton can hit some threes too, look out!

JJ may be supplanted for KBD, but he’s very helpful coming off the bench in this scheme.

Everyone should be average or above-average for defense in that lineup minus Booker. I happen to think Ayton will be able to defend well at the next level. Maybe wishful thinking- but he’s got the ability.

Rotation players:

Knight (14), Harrison (12), JJ (30), Bender (10), Chriss (20)

Some of that assumes Bender and Chriss actually progress- particularly with Dragan. If he can improve and increase his 3pt shooting and hit 4 of 10 attempts per game as he did in some games, he’d be a damn useful player around Booker and Ayton. Chriss seems to have a better shot at being useful - so we’ll see.

Everyone has some ability to play defense. Knight and Bender may only be average or worse, but the other three may be able to cover for them. Knight and Bender can hit 3’s, and possibly JJ. Maybe Harrison picks up his shooting to go along with his hustle.

Some line ups like Bradley, Harrison, JJ, Chriss, and Ayton could be scary defensively, whereas Bradley, Booker, JJ, Harkless, and Ayton could be scary offensively.

SDKyle: 1. I actually don’t have a heck of a lot to say here that’s new from what I’ve promoted consistently in the past. The Suns should use their later draft picks, future draft picks, and as players like TJ Warren, Davon Reed, Troy Daniels and Dragan Bender to try to acquire a respectable starting PG via trade. Options include Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry, and perhaps even Kyrie Irving or Damian Lillard. For a guy like those last two I’d be ready to put our unprotected 2019 on the block along with basically anyone else not named Booker, Ayton, or Jackson.

In terms of free agents my top priorities would be Aaron Gordon or Derrick Favors with Gordon the obvious preference, and I’d look at adding role players like Trevor Ariza to the mix as well.

2. So after some of that going down, my preferred two-deep lineup would look something like this.

  • PG: Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight
  • SG: Devin Booker, Brandon Knight
  • SF: Josh Jackson, Trevor Ariza
  • PF: Aaron Gordon, Marquis Chriss
  • C: Deandre Ayton, Alan Williams

After that in no particular order would be a collection of pieces we didn’t trade to make the trades and room possible for those guys.

SouthernSun: 1. With Ayton drafted used the Suns #1 overall selection, there are still a couple of holes that need to be filled, namely at point guard and power forward.

The Suns could go a couple of different ways here, but I’m going to suggest an avenue I feel is not only realistic, but an extremely likely one.

The Phoenix Suns need to get Kemba Walker.

The trade will look like this:

  • Suns send - Jared Dudley, Tyson Chandler, Troy Daniels, Marquese Chriss, 2018 #16 pick, 2018 #31 pick
  • Charlotte sends - Kemba Walker, Marvin Williams

If a future protected first is necessary to get it done, add it in.

The Suns release their rights to Elfrid Payton and Alex Len, and cut Alan Williams (if he cares enough about playing in Phoenix, he’ll sign back up for an even smaller contract, I doubt many teams are interested in him right now after his injury).

Suns then go after Derrick Favors and Avery Bradley in free agency. Maybe they are able to get Derrick Favors for something along the lines of 4 years/48 million, Avery Bradley for 4 years/32 million.

The Suns have added defense, 3 point shooting, and high quality veterans, all in one summer.

2. They go into next season looking like this:

  • Kemba Walker/Brandon Knight/Tyler Ulis
  • Devin Booker/Avery Bradley/Shaq Harrison
  • Josh Jackson/TJ Warren/Danuel House
  • Derrick Favors/Marvin Williams
  • DeAndre Ayton/Dragan Bender

Alex Sylvester: 1. After drafting DeAndre Ayton (so, reality), the Suns must do all in their power to upgrade two positions: PF and PG. Let’s start with the PF situation.

The Suns at this point will have Ayton/Bender/Chriss/Chandler/Dudley/Williams at the PF and C positions.

Realistically, I would prefer to trade two of the four bigs listed here: Bender/Chriss/Dudley/Chandler.

Let’s say it’s Chriss and Dudley in this situation.

The Suns should sign Luc Mbah A Moute to a 1 year overpay deal to be the starting power forward next to DeAndre Ayton. I think his defensive versatility for switching and his three point shot allows for a very good pairing with Ayton. Your frontcourt rotation would then be LBM/Ayton and Bender/Chandler or Williams.

Let’s now explore the PG position.

I would prefer not to have to depend on Brandon Knight to be the starting point guard next year. Is it possible? Sure. But it should be the last resort in my opinion. I like the idea of trading a few assets to acquire Kemba Walker on an expiring deal. I think Kemba could be bad for a decent price based on his looming free agency.

In our PF scenario, we traded Chriss and Dudley. Let’s say we make this trade with Charlotte...

  • Hornets get: Chriss/Dudley/MIL 1st/PHX #31 overall
  • Suns get: Walker

Charlotte picks up two valuable picks along with an expiring contract and a young lottery pick with potential. They can now officially start the rebuild.

2. Your 2018 Phoenix Suns:

Kemba Walker/Devin Booker/Josh Jackson/Luc Mbah A Moute/DeAndre Ayton

Brandon Knight/Troy Daniels/TJ Warren/Dragan Bender/Tyson Chandler

Walker/Chandler/Mbah A Moute/Daniels/Bender/Chriss/Dudley/Ulis will no longer be under contract by next summer (2019 free agency).

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

2017-18 Season Highlights

Bulls vs Suns Full game NBA Highlights| November 28 2017| NBA

Devin Booker Full Highlights 2017.11.28 at Bulls - 33 Pts, 9 Rebs, 4 Assists!

T.J. Warren 25 Points Full Highlights (11/28/2017)

Quotes of the Week

”There were opportunities to go (places) where things are already made, but to have the opportunity to be here at the ground level and help rebuild this organization is something I was very intrigued, happy and excited to be part of.” - Corliss Williamson

“I think it helps you when you have an edge to you on the court, especially when you’re a big guy. You have to do all the dirty work, boxing out, rebounding. It’s a battle down there. So the more you can incorporate that into your workouts and the way you approach the game I think it helps you become more effective on the court.” - Corliss Williamson

Interesting Suns Stuff

In honor of the role Josh Jackson’s ‘lucky underwear’ played in the Suns finally winning the #1 pick in the NBA Draft Lottery, the Suns may be making a slight change in the flag that the Gorilla waves during home games.

News & Notes

Moore: The case for Suns to draft Deandre Ayton with No. 1 NBA draft pick. Greg Moore/AZCentral Sports

Phoenix Suns hope Corliss Williamson’s ‘Big Nasty’ playing style rubs off on big men. Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

Suspension double standard? Steve Nash keeping an eye on Cavs situation. ABC15 Arizona

2018 Phoenix Suns Mock Draft Tracker: 1st Pick.

2018 Phoenix Suns Mock Draft Tracker: 16th Pick.

Moore: What would an NBA title mean to Phoenix Suns fans? Everything. Greg Moore/AZCentral Sports

This Week in Suns History

On June 4, 1976, The Phoenix Suns lost Game 5 of the NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics 128-126 in a triple overtime thriller that has often been called the greatest game ever played in NBA history. At the end of the second overtime, Suns player Gar Heard made a buzzer-beating 20 foot jump shot - “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” - to force the third OT.

Suns History in Video

Suns Trivia

In 1985, Bulgarian Georgi Glouchkov - a 6’8” forward - became the first Sun to be born outside America and the first player from an Eastern bloc country to play in the NBA. He was with the Suns for a single season before being waived. He never played in the NBA again but returned to Europe where he played professionally until 1997. The Suns selected him in the seventh round (148th pick overall) of the 1985 NBA Draft.

Previewing the Weeks (& Months) Ahead

June 4 through 20 - Pre-draft workouts continue

June 11 - NBA Draft Early Entry Entrant Withdrawal Deadline (5 pm ET)

June 21 - 2018 NBA Draft (7 pm ET)

June 24 - Last day for potential restricted free agents to exercise player options.

June 25 - NBA awards show.

June 29 - Last day for decisions on player, team and early termination options, unless individual contracts specify otherwise.

June 30 - Last official day of the 2017/18 NBA league year. Last day for teams to make qualifying offers to players eligible for restricted free agency.

July 1 - Official start of the 2018/19 NBA league year. July moratorium begins. NBA free agency officially begins (12:01 am ET) and free agents can begin reaching verbal agreements with teams. Restricted free agents can sign an offer sheet. Teams can begin signing players to rookie scale contracts, minimum salary contracts, and two-way contracts.

July 6 - July moratorium ends (11:00am CT). Teams can begin officially signing players, extending players, and completing trades. The two-day period for matching an RFA offer sheet signed during the moratorium begins.

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

July 13 - Last day for teams to unilaterally withdraw qualifying offers to restricted free agents.

July 15 - Last day for teams to issue required tenders to unsigned first-round picks; those players become free agents on July 16 if not tendered.

August 31 - Last day for teams to waive players and apply the stretch provision to their 2018/19 salaries.

September 5 - Last day for teams to issue required tenders to unsigned second-round picks; those players become free agents on September 6 if not tendered.

Late September (specific dates TBA) - Training camps open.

Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was, “Trading down in the draft would be...”

37% - A mistake under any circumstances.

63% - Fine if the haul in return was big enough.

There were a total of 426 votes cast.

This week’s poll is:


The Suns best off-season acquisition (other than the player selected #1 in the draft) will probably come by way of...

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Free agency.
    (68 votes)
  • 71%
    A trade.
    (297 votes)
  • 11%
    One of their other draft picks.
    (48 votes)
413 votes total Vote Now

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