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Center of the Sun: The Phoenix Suns still have many questions to address during the offseason

The Fantable tries to answer a few of those.

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

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Training camp will open on September 25 for the Suns which leaves them 57 offseason days to find some answers. Some moves might be made during training camp but that really wouldn’t be a great idea for a team that is committed to winning unless it’s a relatively small move... or an unexpected deal that’s just too good to pass up.

The Suns’ roster definitely looks better than last year’s but it could still be improved. Brandon Knight has been penciled in as the Suns’ starting point guard but few fans are more than guardedly hopeful at this prospect. I happen to be one of those few. That’s not to say that I believe that Knight is going to suddenly turn into a top notch point guard. He has never been that. Not in Detroit, not in Milwaukee and not in Phoenix.

But can the Suns really get another point guard this summer that is really a major upgrade over Knight? At this point in time, I don’t really think so. There’s no one left in the free agency market worth going after, even if the Suns had any money left to spend. Although numerous names have come up as trade possibilities, few of them seem like significant upgrades overall and others rely on their present teams doing the unlikely and putting them on the trading block.

But there’s still time and there have been many times in the past that one team or another has made a trade that I never saw coming.

Perhaps that will happen this summer and the Suns will be on the winning end of that trade.

But trades are give and take propositions. To get something, the Suns would have to give up something in return. Returning from an ACL tear and With two years and $30 mil left on his contract, Brandon Knight has virtually no trade value... especially after his horrid 2016-17 season attempt at playing the sixth-man role. The problem for the Suns is that they have few players that have good trade value that they might actually want to trade.

Yes, the Suns do have all of their own future 1st round draft picks (as well as the Milwaukee 1st) to trade but I wouldn’t give those up easily, definitely not in an overpay for what might only be a moderate upgrade. The Milwaukee pick, yes. The Suns’ own future 1st round picks, no. You only trade those for a sure thing... someone like Kemba Walker (if he becomes available) at least.

While point guard is the biggest question mark for the Suns, there are still other trades that might be made and the question of who the Suns might offer up in return in those trades.

Those are some of the questions that I asked of the Fantable this week, plus who gets the nod at backup point guard if the Suns decide to stand pat at that position before the season begins.


Fantable Questions of the Week

1. T.J. Warren or Josh Jackson? There’s been a lot of talk about trading both of them lately. Which one do you believe has the highest trade value and which do you believe could have the most positive impact on the court THIS SEASON with the Suns?

2. Marquese Chriss or Dragan Bender? If you could trade one of them, which one would you prefer to keep?

3. Shaquille Harrison or Elie Okobo? Which one would you pencil in as the backup point guard?

GuarGuar: 1. Josh Jackson definitely has the higher trade value right now between him and TJ. That’s mainly because of his potential upside. TJ is probably at the level he will be during his prime. A midrange specialist who doesn’t pass or play defense isn’t very intriguing (although TJ is very good scoring inside). For this upcoming season it’s more likely TJ has a bigger impact than Josh, although I’m hoping JJ takes a big leap. With Josh it really just comes down to his jumpshot and slowing things down. When he rushes every play and chucks up contested midrange bricks, that’s not good. I’m confident in time JJ will be more impactful than Warren.

2. I’ve always been on #TeamChriss. I still believe in his upside and what he can offer on both ends of the court for this team. He had a really bad offseason last year and that carried over big time into season 2. He still showed flashes last year when he was healthy and got minutes. Marquese has been working out almost every day this offseason and I’m confident he’ll be more impactful this season. Not being gifted minutes this year should help him too. I’d definitely trade Bender before Chriss. Dragan definitely has a higher floor than Chriss, no doubt about it. It’s just Bender’s floor is pretty low, so risking that for a higher upside guy in Marquese makes more sense to me. Dragan‘s summer league was not very encouraging either.

3. This is a tough question but as of right now I’m going to go with Okobo. Okobo has 2 NBA skills (3 pt shooting + passing) while Shaq only has 1 skill in defense (which he is elite at). Considering who will play on the 2nd unit this season I’ll side with Okobo. Having a floor spacer and playmaker for guys like Reed, TJ/JJ, Holmes, and Chriss is more important than just another defender. It’s very close though and this is assuming Okobo is actually solid. In a vacuum Shaq is probably the better player, but considering the 2nd unit Elie should be the backup.

Sun-Arc: Oy, those are tough questions...

1. Trade: TJ, keep JJ. I honestly don’t know which has a higher trade value, but I think JJ is a more two-way player and will end up being overall a better player. He plays better defense (which we are in desperate need of), is quicker and more athletic, and shot better from 3 as a rookie than TJ did in his fourth season. Tony is, however, a scoring savant - and a positive throw-back player that throws off opposing teams. He’s a third option on a good team, and could be a really valuable guy on our team. But if I have to decide, I keep JJ on this team and trade TJ to a team like the Bulls that needs more scoring.

2. Trade Chriss, keep Bender. But this one is close for me. Again, I don’t know who has more trade value, but I think Bender has more potential to fit the modern NBA. He’s clearly a better perimeter shooter, and with potential to be over 40% from outside. Chriss has far better advanced stats on defense, but I think Bender is passable on that end and could get better with more strength. Chriss is more athletic, aggressive, and more physical but also has a lower BBIQ. Bender is more cerebral and just needs to grow a pair. The problem for me in deciding is I really have no idea which has more likelihood of breaking through their issues. So in the end I go with the guy that fits the modern NBA more. Chris’s would clog the middle next to all three centers we have.

3. Play Harrison, send Okobo to the NAZ for a couple of months (or until Knight goes down with an injury). Though I have not seen enough of Okobo to know for sure, that’s my guess decision today. Harrison will be a massive change-of-pace from Knight coming off the bench, which could really disrupt opposing teams. He’s bigger, athletic AF, and relentless on both ends. I’d love to have Okobo feel like he has to match Shaq’s intensity to get on the court. Though I really like what I saw from Okobo and think he has promise. Honestly, I saw a bit of Dragic in him - but not a 20 year old Goran; instead a 24 year old mid-maturity Goran. There were some smart-heady plays, great passes, solid effort on D, and a desire to make the right play above all.

SDKyle: 1. This answer may seem contradictory because I’m firmly on the record saying the Suns should be shopping Warren... but Warren has more trade value than Jackson and is in a better position to make a positive near-term impact. This is less in praise of Warren than it is an acknowledgment that Jackson has yet to prove he can be even a quality rotation player. Last season he was an inefficient chucker and turnover machine, and Summer League did little to dispel concerns about those things.

Warren, while I’m sure other GMs recognize his limitations and may be squeamish about his price tag, is a better NBA player today than Jackson is.

2. I’d keep Chriss. I’m not a fan of Bender’s timid game. Give me Chriss’ “bad attitude” over Bender’s “oh God don’t pass me the ball please” outlook.

3. As of today I’d really have to give the nod to Shaq on the basis of his experience and defensive ability. I think Okobo is more talented and will be a better player than Shaq, but the Okobo I’ve seen so far is not that close to ready to play heavy minutes for a team trying to win games. I think he needs time to learn the NBA game and adjust to the speed at this level.

SouthernSun: 1. I’m really not sure which of Jackson or Warren will be starting this season. If he’s still here by game 1, then I’m leaning Warren.

As for which has the highest trade value, it’s Jackson and it’s not even close. Jackson was the #4 pick last summer, and had a pretty good second half of the season. He’s flashed all sorts of potential, and he still has everything that made him the #4 pick. Warren basically is what he is at this point. A guy who can put points on the board, and defend at a mediocre level, but doesn’t pass very well, and is detrimental to spacing. A team would be much more likely to listen if the Suns offered a package centered around Jackson than a package centered around Warren.

Warren will have the more positive impact on the team this season I imagine, since he can already score inside the 3 point line in a number of ways, on decent efficiency. Jackson can do a little of a lot more things than Warren, his potential is much higher, but he’s not as good at one thing as Warren is at scoring inside the arc.

2. Marquese Chriss is better than Dragan Bender right now. He just is. By both the eye test and advanced statistics. He was statistically the Suns best defender other than Shaq Harrison last season. He also has had more games where he looked like an actual NBA player than Bender has.

Really, the only thing Bender has on him right now is being better at shooting threes, but he’s not worlds better at it. And being better at shooting threes only helps if you actually create space for the rest of the team to operate. And Bender doesn’t do that, because players don’t actually attempt to guard him when he gets the ball (probably because they assume it will leave his hands within a fraction of a second of him getting it).

Bender is not better defensively than Chriss. The stats don’t back that up. That’s just you seeing a few plays here and there where Bender looked like he moved his feet well, and you forgot all the other times he got absolutely embarrassed by opposing players. I remember during a Locked On Suns podcast a few weeks ago, Brendan Kleen was talking about Bender’s flashes of defensive potential, and the only example that popped into his head was one time Bender’s rookie year when he blocked LaMarcus Aldridge.

Jim Coughenour made a great point the other day in the comment section of an article. He said that Chriss needs to mature, and Bender needs to become more aggressive. Then he asked which was more likely to happen, a 20 year old maturing, or someone going from being ridiculously passive to being aggressive. The answer is the 20 year old maturing. And that one is already statistically better than the other one anyway.

I certainly hope Igor can make Bender look less like a bust this season, but it’s pretty sad that now we are all crossing our fingers and hoping the 2016 #4 pick even becomes as good a player as Channing Frye. Remember when he was supposed to be some cross between Boris Diaw and Andre Kirilenko?

If the Suns could get the same value back for Bender as for Chriss, I’d rather trade Bender and keep Chriss. But I honestly am not even sure either is worth much more than a 2nd round pick at this point. Chriss is probably worth a bit more though. He’s shown more so far.

3. What a horrendous choice. I really wish this question was “Harrison or Okobo, which should be the third PG behind the serviceable PG the Suns traded for, and his backup Knight?” But here we are, wondering whether a player who just started playing point guard this year, or a G League call up who can do nothing else but play defense and miss layups, should be the first guard off the bench.

I guess for now I’m going to have to go with Shaq. I hope and pray that Okobo surprises me, and the league, and turns out to be good. However, most 2nd round picks are out of the league in a couple years, so I’m not getting my hopes up.

If Igor is able to teach Shaq how to shoot like he apparently did with Rubio, that would be pretty awesome. Then he wouldn’t be a complete liability on offense like he is now. But I doubt that.

Shaq’s defense will be more valuable initially than Okobo’s mystery box. So he gets the nod.

Alex Sylvester: 1. I won’t let Summer change my opinion drastically on players. Therefore, I’m sticking with Josh.

With question marks at nearly every position in the starting lineup on the defensive end (Brandon Knight, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton specially... Trevor Ariza will be good), I’m going to stick with the belief that JJ can make tremendous strides on the defensive end this year.

Yes, you can send me advanced stats that show Josh was bad on defense. But I watched enough crappy Suns basketball last year to know that the whole damn team was bad on defense. With being paired with Ariza and having a big body in the lane, I like the fit of JJ in the starting 5.

Jackson also has to have more trade value. Young top 5 pick with multiple years of control on a rookie deal.

In terms of who will have a bigger impact THIS season, I lean a little bit towards Josh, but T.J. could absolutely have a better year.

2. A classic question...ehh give me Chriss. I’ve at least seen him accomplish some things on an NBA court worth noting. Not sure where he fits in but it’s up to him to earn his role.

Bender will never have a dominating impact on a good team at the rate he’s progressing. I don’t what he’ll become, but a massive bust seems to be the most likely projection unfortunately.

I have some faith Marquese could mature and work harder with competition.

3. Shaquille Harrison.

Elie should end up being a wonderful steal for Phoenix. Maybe even the future starting point guard position could be his. But what I’m looking for next year involves Shaq Harrison.

Since there have been no moves made for a vet PG (plz happen), might as well prioritize defense in the 2nd unit. The Suns need to do all they can to improve from their dead last defensive ratings, so giving 10-15 mpg to a defensive pest would seem fair.

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


2017-18 Season Highlights

Atlanta Hawks vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights January 2, 2018 2017 18 NBA Season

Devin Booker Full Highlights 2018.01.02 vs Hawks - CLUTCH 34 Pts, 7 Asts, MVP Chants!

TJ Warren Full Highlights 2018.01.02 vs Hawks - 31 Pts, 15-21 FGM!


Quotes of the Week

”Being around all these, really, legends of the game, mentors of the game — I’m just being a sponge here, taking all the information I can in and enjoying it.” - Devin Booker (on being at the USA Basketball minicamp)

”I just take it day by day. I control what I can control and everything else worked out. Once you start worrying about those other things... it starts getting involved with your work ethic and playing with your mind.” - Shaquille Harrison


Interesting Suns Stuff


News & Notes

Trevor Ariza Brings Championship Pedigree to Phoenix. Suns.com

Devin Booker practicing with NBA’s best at USA Basketball minicamp. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Jared Dudley: Suns’ direction was ‘tough to see at times’. Kevin Zimmerman/Arizona Sports

Phoenix Suns: 3 reasons signing Trevor Ariza was a good move. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit

Harrison hopes hoops tournament, NBA career can keep on going. Dave McQueen/Kansas City Star

Shot Clock: Your Phoenix Suns starting five (VIDEO). Jay Dieffenbach & Scoot Bordow/AZCentral Sports

  • (Author’s Note: For some reason they spend the first 30 seconds talking about the Tour de France.)

Suns History in Video

Meet The Most UNDERRATED Star in NBA History


Suns Trivia

Former Suns’ point guard Kevin Johnson played for 12 NBA seasons and spent 11.5 of them in Phoenix. His rookie season (which he started in Cleveland before being traded to the Suns at mid-season) was the only one with the team in which the Suns did not reach the playoffs. He is the Suns’ all-time leader in points scored in the playoffs (2,026), years in the playoffs (11) and playoff games played (105).

KJ also holds the NBA record for the most minutes played (62) in a single NBA Finals game in the Game 3, three overtime, 129-121 Phoenix win in Chicago on June 13, 1993.


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

11.5% - They should be good enough to challenge for the 8th playoff spot.

30.0% - They should be good enough to break even in wins and losses (41-41).

54.0% - At best they are a 30-35 win team.

04.5% - I doubt that they will win 30 games.

There were a total of 447 votes cast.


This week’s poll is:

Poll

If you could somehow bring back a former Suns’ PG - in his prime - to play for this years team, who would it be?

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    Steve Nash.
    (291 votes)
  • 10%
    Kevin Johnson.
    (40 votes)
  • 8%
    Jason Kidd.
    (30 votes)
  • 1%
    Another Suns PG.
    (4 votes)
365 votes total Vote Now