clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Center of the Sun: The Suns made more roster changes last week but have they done enough?

It’s a long time until the season begins so more moves could be on the way.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NBA: Summer League-Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

While I hated to say goodbye to Jared Dudley (again), I have to admit that it was the right move for the Suns. Duds was a good mentor for the young Suns but wasn’t really going to get much court time this season unless there were significant injury problems. But as a player, he just wasn’t a good fit for this team anymore as they try to move forward and build for the future. I wish him nothing but the best of luck in Brooklyn.

The acquisition of Richaun Holmes from Philly - which was made possible by the Dudley trade - is a good although relatively small move. Holmes is a leaper and can play above the rim which is something that Alan Williams just couldn’t do and it makes him a better fit with the team whether he winds up as the second or third string center. And I expect him to move into that second spot sooner or later as he can also run the court on the break, something that you’re not going to see Tyson Chandler do very often these days. Not only should he make a solid backup for Deandre Ayton but also the rest of the team should only have to make minor adjustments to the way they play whether it’s Ayton or Holmes on the court with them.

I like what the Suns have done so far in this offseason but there is one question mark that remains... the point guard position.

There is plenty of time to make a move before the season begins but the options have dwindled down to making a trade. There are no more good free agent options and even if there were the Suns long ago used up the cap space they had available to make anyone an offer.

At this point, Brandon Knight is the de facto starting point guard of the Phoenix Suns. That might change between now and the beginning of the season but it will take a trade and Knight is very unlikely to be a part of that trade... if it happens. My bet is that it won’t but you can count me in with the people who don’t necessarily think of that as a bad thing considering all of the other changes that were made and the new additions to the team.

I’m willing to give Knight the benefit of the doubt and see how well he can mesh with this new Suns team. Yes, it will be a very different team than the last time Knight played and it will also have a new coach with different offensive and defensive schemes.

It might just work.

It should at least work better than last season.

I really hope that it works.

And if it doesn’t, there might be some trade options at the mid-season trade deadline that aren’t available right now. If not... well, let’s try to not dwell on that possibility too much.

No matter whether fans are optimistic or pessimistic, if the Suns make no major changes to the roster before the season opener you still have to wonder how this team will perform once it hits the court. As they are presently constructed, what might be their strengths? What might be their weaknesses?

Those are the questions that I asked of the Fantable this week.


Fantable Questions of the Week

If no major changes in the Suns’ roster take place before the regular season begins...

  1. What would you say are it’s potential strengths?
  2. What would you say are it’s potential weaknesses?

GuarGuar: 1. With a 21 win team there really weren’t a whole lot of strengths last year (if any). However, we’ve made quite a few roster moves this offseason and our team should be much better. I think one of our biggest potential strengths will be scoring. Not only will our spacing be better (thanks to Knight, Mikal Bridges, and Trevor Ariza), but also we have multiple shot creators on this team. Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Ayton, Knight all can create their own offense. With Igor’s heavy ball movement system in place we could be near top 10 in offense this year.

Another potential strength for us this year will be our bench. Elie Okobo/Davon Reed/Mikal/T.J. Warren/Holmes is a very solid 2nd unit that balances each other out. The bench could be a very big boost for us this year. There’s enough playmaking, shooting, and defense in this group to make some noise.

2. Defense is probably going to be a big weakness again for this Suns team, especially if Ayton is a bad defender. Ariza, Mikal, Reed, and JJ should help some but there are a ton of defensive liabilities on this team. On the bright side, we can’t possibly be worse at defense than last year! Being able to switch a lot more should help in a big way. Switchability is definitely the way the NBA is trending on defense now. Adding Ariza, Mikal, and Reed (healthy) this year is big.

Another potential big weakness for this team will be lack of experience. We are 95% finally done tanking this year. Booker wants to make the playoffs and so do all of us. However, the West is even more stacked and this team is extremely young. In all likelihood the Suns are a 33-36 win team. Can this young team avoid frustration and drama in another possible losing season. A big worry of mine is if we are sub 40 wins and Booker becomes unhappy. I wish we added a PG like Kemba Walker this offseason to put me at ease. Hopefully Brandon Knight becomes good again.

Sun-Arc: Still vacationing in Hawaii... but...

1. Potential Strengths:

  • Youth: we still have one of the youngest teams in the league, if not the youngest
  • Switchable wings/forwards: Ariza, JJ, Bridges, Reed, and to a lesser extend Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss are all versatile enough to create defensive problems to opposing teams.
  • Floor-spreading gravity with one of the league’s most athletic and gifted centers in Ayton. We saw it in the SL and I think it’ll carry over to the real season.
  • Booker: torching people from all over the court with the new found spacing he has with Ayton, Ariza, and Bridges (and possibly Reed, Knight).
  • Josh Jackson’s versatility and athleticism on both sides.
  • Coaching: after SL, I’m a believer in Igor Kokoskov. The defense looked strong and there were some masterminding plays on offense that were spellbinding. This could be really good.

2. Potential Weaknesses:

  • Point Guard Position (still): Knight may end up being really good, Shaquille Harrison might emerge as a high-end NBA rotation player, and Okobo might have a break out season; but I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch.
  • Back ups: we could have a decent rotation with the depth at wing/forward we have, but if Chriss and/or Bender don’t really come around to being good players the bench won’t look so great. Also, the non-shooting duo of JJ & TJ will hamper any line up to some degree unless they look much better this year.
  • Center position: Ayton will be at least decent as a starting center, IMO. But he might not be great. Tyson Chandler is probably still good at rebounding, but beyond that...? And if one gets injured who’s covering that position... Bender?

(Authors note: Sun-Arc returned his answers the day before the Suns acquired Richaun Holmes.)

  • Shooting: It may have been improved with Ariza and Bridges (and maybe Knight?) but it still isn’t lights out. Our defense will have to be extremely upgraded to cover for what we lack there. And if these guys don’t shoot well our offense will look a lot like last year’s: IE: dead-last.

The view from our place at 3500ft elevation as I wrote these answers.

SDKyle: 1. The Suns’ biggest strengths could be rebounding and (gasp) shooting. Assuming Knight is the starting PG, he rebounds his position well. Booker likewise. Warren isn’t bad overall and is quite good on the offensive boards, Ariza isn’t a slouch (though undersized at the 4) and Ayton should be above average even as a rookie.

As far as shooting, I figure Knight and Booker can fill it up on any given night, Ariza can shoot, and Ayton is at least a decent midrange threat. We also have several bench options who may be solid shooters as well.

2. The biggest weakness by far remains defense. Neither Knight nor Booker is a good defender, Warren is mediocre to bad, Ayton may or may not be ok there this season. That leaves Ariza as the sole starter who figures as a plus defender, and he may be guarding much larger men on the regular. As much as it sucks to say, I think the Suns are probably still a bottom 5 defense in the NBA.

SouthernSun: 1. I see several potential strengths for this Suns roster. It’s ability to switch and guard multiple positions, when certain lineups are implemented.

They could also have a good second unit, mainly because the talent on the team is all so young and relatively similar, that the backups aren’t necessarily that much worse than it starters. If one of Jackson or Bridges starts, the replacement will probably have around the same level of production as the starter. If Knight starts and Shaq or Okobo is the backup, one of them is demonstrably worse than him. Now that I think about it a little more, this more bodes poorly for the starters than it does bode well for the reserves.

The Suns have a lot of guys who are decent or better for their positions at passing and setting up their teammates for plays. Or at least have been lauded for their potential in that area. Guys like Booker, Knight in his secondary ball handler role, Ayton, Jackson, and Bender. Unfortunately, they’re all just decent or slightly above average (again, for their positions), and that can’t make up for the lack of an actual starting caliber point guard on the roster. Now if they had one... the passing with this team could be pretty beautiful.

The ability to really kick it into high gear and play fast and score in transition. Wings like Booker, Jackson, and Knight, as well as athletic bigs who can really run the floor like Ayton and Holmes. I really like the addition of Holmes a lot actually. He’s not gonna win us any more games than Len would probably, but he might, and he’ll look really cool doing it. That man has some fun dunks. He might have, as has been mentioned before, that kind of Gerald Green fire in him that helped ignite the Suns on occasion during his tenure here. Rim rattling dunks sometimes do get the team fired up. And if there’s one thing Holmes provides, it’s that.

Booker is a definite strength of the team. The Suns have one better scorer than many of the leagues teams do. He’s perhaps top 5, but almost definitely a top 10 scorer in the NBA. They can’t take THAT away from us.

2. The biggest weakness the Suns have is lack of a point guard. We all saw how rough it looked when Okobo and Shaq tried to get the ball to Ayton in summer league. And they are 66% of the Suns point guards. The other 33% just came off an ACL injury and has never truly thrived in a lead ball handler role, having played his best basketball as a secondary ball handler to guys like Eric Bledsoe, or bringing it up the court and dumping it to Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee (and before you say Booker is our Giannis, no, he’s not as good at running the team as Giannis is). When people said “those plays will look a lot better when Booker is the one passing Ayton the ball,” I couldn’t help but shake my head. I mean, maybe they will? But not by much. Booker is a decent playmaker in a pinch, but he’s not a point guard. Jackson has playmaking potential but that’s all it is right now. Okobo just started playing point guard like last Thursday, and Shaq Harrison is more likely to lay the ball up against the backboard and then directly into an opponents hands without touching the rim than to make a good pass.

Inexperience is another killer for this squad. They just don’t have experience. Ariza is a nice touch, but he doesn’t make up for the fact that these are guys who either can’t drink legally or just became able to last year, going up against a bunch of grown men every night. With nobody on the roster who truly knows how to run an offense.

Three point shooting is going to be a problem. Sure, Bridges looks like he can shoot, but won’t he be eating a lot into Troy Daniels minutes at backup SG? So essentially a wash? Josh Jackson looks like he’s maybe improved his form, but his percentages at summer league were pretty abysmal. Ayton may be able to hit from NBA 3 point range, but I certainly don’t expect him to be a bomber. Ariza helps here too, but we will still be heavily featuring several players who simply are not good at shooting the three. Looks like the teams spacing will be relying a lot on Booker’s and Ayton’s gravitational pulls.

Alex Sylvester: 1. Strengths

Versatility: The Suns will present a countless amount of lineup options that could present matchup issues for the opposition. The beauty in picking up players like Trevor Ariza and Mikal Bridges is having legitimately tough matchup decisions to make, as opposed to in years past where the lack of talent on the roster dictated who played where. Add in players like Josh Jackson, Davon Reed, Devin Booker, etc. and you have multiple players that can play 2 or more positions.

Multiple Scorers: The Suns will have three potential 18 PPG scoring threats in Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and T.J. Warren. Throw in Brandon Knight and even Josh Jackson and you could see a team that has 5 different players that can put in 15 PPG.

Young Star Power: This strength is no guarantee, but the Suns presumably will be led by two stars under the age of 22 years old in Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.

2. Weaknesses

Main Defensive Anchor: When you think of the elite teams in the NBA, there always seems to be one star player that is a major plus on the defensive end of the court (Draymond, Horford, CP3/Capela, Embiid, etc). The Suns do not have a particular player that will be depended on to be a forceful defender. This will be an interesting dynamic to see play out throughout the year, but at this point there is no answer as to who this player can be on the roster.

Inexperience: This weakness is a combination of youth as well as cohesion. The Suns still will be represented by one of the youngest rotations in the entire league but will also be challenged to find camaraderie amongst the roster as well as the brand new coaching staff. Will Igor be able to make an impact right away? We shall see.

An Identity: Who do the Suns want to be? Whether you are a team that is competing for an NBA championship or you are an up and coming young roster, it is crucial to have an identity to build and continue to grow.

The Warriors? Shooting. The Rockets? Analytics, Warriors Jr. The Sixers? The Process. Spurs? Team basketball.

You get my point. Are the Suns trying to be a knockoff version of Philadelphia? This season is the best chance for the Suns to form a league wide identity that could serve useful towards acquiring more talent in the years to come.

(Authors Note: Alex also went on vacation this week... to Italy! He may be out of touch with us for a while but I hope he has a great vacation too.)

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


2017-18 Season Highlights

Phoenix Suns vs. Sacramento Kings / Week 11 / 29 Dec ‘17 / FGH

Devin Booker 26 pts 3 threes 3 asts vs Kings 17/18 season

TJ Warren 26 pts 10 rebs vs Kings 17/18 season


Quotes of the Week

”I first off want to thank Robert Sarver and the Suns organization. It’s truly been the best 7 years of my life. There’s been no better feeling then being a Sun! To all the Fans that opened me with open arms and embracing me I truly love you guys and the city. Phx is home!” - Jared Dudley

”He has to know to learn the personalities of the team, with new guys coming in, who to push, who to be encouraging with. He understands that... He has a good understanding of just life, and understanding people, understanding his role.” - Jared Dudley on Devin Booker becoming a team leader


Interesting Suns Stuff


News & Notes

Shot Clock: Phoenix Suns making big changes to team. Greg Moore and Scott Bordow/AZCentral (VIDEO)

Devin Booker, other young Suns react to Jared Dudley trade. Logan Newman/Arizona Sports

Why the Phoenix Suns will find their point guard in 2019. Vavel

Moore: Phoenix Suns still need to add a point guard in offseason. Greg Moore/AZCentral Sports

Phoenix Suns mailbag: Who’s the point guard? Who’s the backup center? How will they do? Scott Bordow/AZCentral Sports

There’s More to Mikal Bridges Than Meets the Eye. Michael Pina/Vice Sports


Suns History in Video

Mike D’Antoni Phoenix Suns 7 Seconds or Less Playbook


Suns Trivia

Of the Top 10 shot blockers in Phoenix Suns history, only five of them were centers: Mark West (#2 with 897), Alvan Adams (#4 with 808), Andrew Lang (#6 with 509), Alex Len (#8 with 344) and Oliver Miller (#9 with 336).

The Suns’ all time leader in blocked shots was power forward Larry Nance with 940. #3 is Shawn Marion (SF/PF) with 894, #5 is Amar’e Stoudemire (PF) with 722, #7 is Alvin Scott (SF) with 371 and #10 is Garfiel Heard (PF) with 303.

The combined block totals for the centers vs the non-centers in the top 10 is 2,894 vs 3,230, a difference of 336 total blocks.


Previewing the Weeks (and Months) Ahead

August 4 -- NBA Africa Game 2018

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

Aug. 31 thru Sept. 15 - 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup (China)

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.

September 7 -- Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 Enshrinement Ceremony

September 21 -- First allowable date for players participating in preseason NBA Global Games to report to their teams (no earlier than 11 a.m. local time)

September 22 -- Training Camps open for all teams participating in preseason NBA Global Games

September 24 -- First allowable date for all other veteran players to report to their teams (no earlier than 11 a.m. local time)

September 25 -- Training Camps open for all other teams

October 1 - Phoenix Suns vs Sacramento Kings, 7:00 pm AZT

October 3 - Phoenix Suns vs New Zealand Breakers, time TBD


Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was about guaranteeing the contracts of Shaq Harrison and Davon Reed.

”The Suns should...”

84% - Keep them both.

03% - Keep Shaq and drop Davon.

09% - Keep Davon and drop Shaq.

04% - Drop them both.

There were a total of 313 votes cast.


This week’s poll is:

Poll

Without any further roster changes, what are your expectations for the 2018-19 Suns?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    They should be good enough to challenge for the 8th playoff spot.
    (52 votes)
  • 29%
    They should be good enough to break even in wins and losses (41-41).
    (133 votes)
  • 53%
    At best they are a 30-35 win team.
    (241 votes)
  • 4%
    I doubt that they will win 30 games.
    (21 votes)
447 votes total Vote Now