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Center of the Sun: How will the Suns use Ryan Anderson this season?

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Will he start or come off the bench? And are there enough minutes for all the Suns’ wings with him in the rotation?

NBA: Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

In three weeks, the Suns will face off against the Sacramento Kings for their first preseason game of the 2018-19 season. It may only be a preseason game, but it marks the end of another long offseason and what hopefully will be the beginning of a new era in Suns basketball.

Does that mean the Suns are suddenly going to be competitive in a tough Western Conference and perhaps even earn a spot in the playoffs this year? Not likely, but all signs are that the Suns are ready to park the tank (hopefully for good) and start moving in a positive direction. Just how far will they go this season? At the moment, trying to pin that down is like trying to hit a moving target, as the roster may yet again undergo significant changes before opening night.

The team is still young, but has added two quality veterans — Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson — that should actually play significant roles on the team this year. The Suns have gone all in on rising star Devin Booker by signing him to a max contract extension. They’ve added the No. 1 pick from the draft — highly touted Deandre Ayton — to the fold as well as spending a major asset (the 2021 unprotected Miami 1st rounder) to get high value three-and-D wing prospect Mikal Bridges. They’ve also hired highly respected longtime NBA assistant coach Igor Kokoskov as their new head coach.

All they need now is a starting-caliber point guard.

Perhaps they will acquire one before training camp begins on Sept. 25. Perhaps they might wait and pick one up during the season. Perhaps Igor — who personally coached the Suns’ Summer League team this year — has already seen enough of his young point guards to believe that one of them might be good enough to carry the load this season. That last option is unlikely due to all of the reports that the Suns have been actively searching for a point guard by way of trade. But the fact that they haven’t already made a trade may be a sign that coach Kokoskov doesn’t see the need for another point guard as being so dire that they must overpay to fill that need.

We shall see how this turns out in the coming weeks.

One other question that’s been a point of speculation among fans since the Suns brought Ryan Anderson aboard is what will be his role? Until the trade, almost everyone assumed that Ariza would be the Suns’ starting power forward and that either T.J. Warren or Josh Jackson would be starting at small forward. But Anderson’s natural spot is at PF, Ariza’s natural position is at SF, and they actually worked pretty well together starting at those positions when they were with Houston. Is that now the idea for the Suns’ starting lineup, or will Ariza still start at PF and Anderson come off the bench as his backup?

A starting lineup of “PG-to-be-named-later,” Booker, Ariza, Anderson and Ayton doesn’t sound too shabby... especially from an offensive point of view. Having at least three above-average three-point snipers on the floor together should do wonders for the team’s offensive efficiency by not allowing defenders to sag off their defensive assignments and clog up the inside. Also, if the Suns can add a passable defender at PG — and Ayton can rapidly alleviate some of the concerns many have about his defensive ability — then the defense should at least be improved over last season.

Starting both Ariza and Anderson also has the side effect of finding adequate minutes off the bench for Warren, Jackson and Bridges. Having Ariza start at SF really does create a logjam at the position, one that T.J. Warren — last season’s starting SF and the Suns’ second-leading scorer — especially might not be happy with. One possibility is that one of them might be the designated PF backup for small-ball situations and that some minutes could be played as Booker’s backup at shooting guard. The simplest solution would be to move someone via trade, and perhaps that is why Ryan McDonough seems to have been dragging his feet in his efforts to bring in a new PG. Trying to find a trade that brings back a starting level point guard and ships out one of the wings — possibly one specific player — isn’t likely to be as simple a task as just trading for a PG.

As I mentioned in the beginning, the Suns will play their first preseason game in three weeks on Oct. 1, and coach Kokoskov will trot out his preferred starting lineup that night. Hopefully, he will fill us in before that day, and the point guard question will be answered by then as well.

Author’s note: At this point in time there is no new information on Devin Booker’s hand surgery. BSotS will update you on his condition as soon as more information becomes available.


Fantable Questions of the Week

1. Should the Suns start Ryan Anderson at PF and make Trevor Ariza the starting SF, have Anderson come off the bench as Ariza’s backup or something else?

2. If the Suns do start Ariza and Anderson at the 3 and 4 spots, is there any way they can find enough rotation minutes to keep T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson and Mikal Bridges happy?

3. Who do you think is the most likely point guard that the Suns trade for?

GuarGuar: 1. I think Ryan Anderson should be our starting PF this season with Ariza as the SF. If Josh/TJ took a leap this offseason then I understand if you want them starting. However, either of them taking a big jump (especially Warren) is unlikely. If the goal truly is to win now, starting Ariza/Anderson is the way to go. Those two have chemistry and a history of winning together. Ariza/Anderson also provides the most spacing for Booker and Ayton to operate. It would be really exciting to see what Booker can do with spacing for the first time in his career.

2. It’s really hard to please the trio of TJ/JJ/Bridges on the bench. All are basically small forwards so 2 of them will be playing out of position (although JJ/Mikal would be fine as a 2). There’s definitely a way to play all three enough rotation minutes, it’s just a matter of is that best for the team when it comes to winning. TJ and Josh absolutely deserve minutes based on last season, and it would be very wise to give your No. 10 pick playing time his rookie year. Hopefully one of the three are dealt in a trade for a solid point guard, so the rotations can have no issues. If not, Coach Igor has some issues to figure out!

3. It may not be the sexy option or my favorite, but trading for Patrick Beverley seems like the most likely option at this point. The Clippers have 16 guaranteed contracts (a ton of guards), so they need to get rid of one before the season starts. Damian Lillard seems completely unavailable, the price for Kemba is way too high right now, and Goran Dragic has a player option that would take most of our cap room in 2019-2020. Unless something drastically changes, it looks unlikely the Suns will acquire a top-tier point guard. So it basically leaves a combination of Pat Beverley, Spencer Dinwiddie, Delon Wright, and George Hill. That’s not a group that one can get excited about, but at least Beverley is another former Rocket and has chemistry with Ariza and Anderson! His defense would be great next to Booker. Phoenix Rockets here we come!

Sun-Arc: 1. I’m really of two minds on this subject. Starting Ariza is a given. I would prefer to start him at the PF spot and have Ryan coming off the bench behind him. But then I have to wonder which is better... TJ/JJ’s lack of perimeter shooting versus Anderson’s floor spacing? I think the answer, offensively, is Anderson’s shooting. I have been calling for 3&D guys to play all three positions around Booker and Ayton ever since free agency opened. Let Booker and Ayton play the PnR and give them spacing to work, plus hide Book on defense.

Anderson does very little for the defensive woes we have. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think the vet presence on the starting team is a good thing, as well as the shooting/spacing it provides Devin and Deandre. So I go with Ariza and Anderson as the starting forwards. But I think if we are getting smoked on defense and Anderson isn’t hitting shots JJ may be subbed in quickly.

2. With Ariza at the PF spot I think we can keep the young wings happy. But him starting at SF means someone may be the odd man out. Yes we can find 16 minutes at SG behind Booker and maybe another 16 behind Anderson at PF. Even then we are talking about 16 min x 3 positions, which equals 48 minutes total for three guys. Bridges would surely be okay with that as a rookie. Josh might be okay with it. TJ probably would not be. And to give him closer to 30 minutes he’d push out one of Bridges or JJ.

The other side of it is Bridges might not be truly NBA ready yet, which would free up minutes for TJ. But I think that is far fetched. He’s not another 19 year old rookie. He’s older than Josh. His 3 point shooting is almost guaranteed to translate. His defense may take a bit more time, but I wager he’ll be okay on that end out of the gate as well. In theory he’s a perfect wing to put next to Booker - essentially a younger version of Ariza. So you would think he has to find minutes too.

Just seems clear that one of the wings should be traded for a PG. But will that happen? And that wing should be TJ, in my opinion.

3. My guess is Patrick Beverley is the most available out of who is desirable. He’s not my favorite, though he’s pretty high up on the list. With all the PGs the Clippers have right now, seems something has to give. Milos Teodosic is, undoubtedly, more available but I don’t think he’s a good choice. The positives about Beverley are that he’s a really great defender, decent passer, good leader, and good three point shooter. The negatives are that he has an injury history and is getting older. If we get him, will he essentially put us back where we are now: starting Harrison? In theory De’Anthony Melton is the younger version of Beverley - only with more size. But I just can’t see him being ready yet.

And what are we trading for Beverley? Troy Daniels (and Isaiah Canaan?), perhaps. I’d give up quite a bit for Delon Wright, Kemba Walker, or T.J. McConnell to be long-term pieces. But if we can’t get that type of piece, Beverley is probably the best of the old guys.

SDKyle: 1. The Suns probably should start Ryan Anderson at PF. That gives me very little joy to say, but I was never thrilled at the prospect of Ariza playing 25-plus minutes a night there. Anderson is a soft, poor-defending stretch 4, but at least he’s a true 4.

Starting Anderson also gives the Suns more incentive to move one of the wings, which I want. So while I think Anderson is an extraordinarily “meh” player, I guess I’ll roll with him.

2. No, not really. TJ is the odd man out here, especially because the Suns need to make salary room to do much of any other roster tinkering. He’s just a puzzle piece that doesn’t fit that well into what’s around him. Not dynamic enough to fit next to defensive specialists, not good enough on defense to fit next to Booker and Anderson. There’s no way he’d swallow taking a playing time cut to under 20 mpg. It is what it is with him now. And what it is is a matter of time.

3. I’m awful at handicapping trade likelihood, but I guess I’d say Spencer Dinwiddie. He probably won’t cost more than the Bucks pick and change to acquire, and there’s a chance he could become a multi-year option going forward. He’s also been strongly linked to the Suns in the rumor mill, so it seems he’s at least a very strong possibility.

As an aside, he’s a possibility I can certainly live with. He’s no Lillard or Walker, but he’s functional.

SouthernSun: 1. Yes, the Suns should absolutely start Anderson at PF and Ariza at SF. Ariza operates best at SF anyway, and Anderson is now the best actual PF the Suns have had in a long time. If healthy, he’s better than Channing Frye, and arguably better than Markieff Morris, so I’m actually going to have to say he might be the best PF the Suns have had in the last 8 years.

His defense, while certainly not good, or even average, is not quite as abysmal as some are making it out to be. He’s decent in the post against other big men, but he’s slow and not good at switching onto guards. He’ll be perfectly fine in the regular season, but in the playoffs (unlikely that the Suns even get there with the way things are looking now), his role will diminish. But that’s okay. He’s a stop gap.

Having Anderson and Ariza in the starting lineup will provide the spacing needed to help Booker and Ayton shine.

2. It will be troublesome finding minutes for everyone if the Suns don’t find a taker for Warren. If they don’t, it’s still manageable. The minutes could be like this

  • (PG the SUNS traded for) 30 mins/Shaq 18 mins
  • Booker 35 mins/Bridges 13 mins
  • Ariza/28 mins/Jackson 20 mins
  • Anderson 25 mins/TJ 23 mins
  • Ayton 28 minutes/Holmes 10 mins/Bender 10 mins

Chandler’s on the bench being old. One of Okobo or Melton is traded in a trade for starting point guard. The other gets lots of time in the G league.

I know, not as much time as some of you would like for the young guys. But maybe, just maybe, giving some more time to veterans will result in less crappy looking basketball, and result in more wins. If the young guys prove themselves to be better able to contribute to winning than the guys in front of them, then they get to start. But until they do, no more free passes for extended minutes.

3. The most likely is probably Beverly, because he’s probably the easiest to obtain. Might only cost a 2nd rounder. I’d rather Dinwiddie out of that talent level group, though.

Here’s my rankings of who I actually want the Suns to trade for:

  1. Lillard
  2. Kemba
  3. Rozier
  4. D’Angelo Russell
  5. Dragic
  6. Dinwiddie
  7. Beverley
  8. ...

There is no 8. Just go out and get one of those 7 guys. Please. For all that is holy, please go get one of those guys. Give them whatever picks they want. I’m done with picks. They can have Bender too. Send a Bender truther over to their GM to tell them about how young Bender is, and explain why young = good so they should probably even just trade us their point guard for him.

Alex Sylvester: 1. I prefer Ariza to start at the 4 and have Ryan come off the bench.

I don’t see Anderson being able to play meaningful minutes on a long term basis at this point in his career. He seems like a great guy to put on the floor for a few minutes in the second quarter and if he starts to get hot from deep, give him good minutes that night. If he isn’t contributing offensively, limit him to a 5 minute night.

Not only is Trevor a much better defender, but I feel he’ll have a much more positive impact on guys like Ayton/Jackson/Bridges.

2. No, unless Ryan is getting close to 15 MPG. Those three should each be getting around 20+ minutes a night (TJ/Josh close to 30).

3. Pick any Clipper at this rate.

I know they’re in our division but the Clippers cannot possibly go into next season with all the guards they have. Patrick Beverley will continue to be my favorite option, but you never know who else it could be.

The Clippers just re-signed Tyrone Wallace to make the roster stand at 17. Maybe we could help them trim to 15.

As always, many thanks to our Fantable - GuarGuar, SDKyle, Sun-Arc, SouthernSun and Alex Sylvester - for all their input this week!


2017-18 Season Highlights

Sacramento Kings vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights / April 3 / 2017-18 NBA Season

Josh Jackson Full Highlights Kings vs Suns (2018.04.03) - 28 Pts, 6 Reb, 2 Ast!

Alex Len 17 PTS 15 REB: All Possessions (04/03/18)

Danuel House 14 Points/5 Assists Full Highlights (4/3/2018)


Quote of the Week

”I was lucky enough to get this job, and hopefully I’m good enough to keep it. I always said if you stayed around long enough, you could have a chance to make your mark in history.” - Igor Kokoskov


Interesting Suns Stuff


News & Notes

Former Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov has been given a tall task. Salt Lake Tribune

Phoenix Suns: 5 goals for Deandre Ayton in 2018-19. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit

Steve Nash Never Had to Be Anything More Than Himself. The Ringer

Phoenix Suns 2018-19 NBA Season Preview. Basketball Insiders

Presenting the 2018-19 NBA Fun Bad Team Power Rankings. Dan Devine/Yahoo Sports

The Rookie Curve: Mikal Bridges Ups the Gravity in the Suns’ Orbit. The Ringer


Suns History in Video

Phoenix Suns Since ‘68: 1993 Parade


Suns Trivia

John MacLeod was the head coach for the Suns for 13 and a half seasons from 1973 to 1987. During that time he compiled 579 wins and led the Suns to four 50-win seasons, two Western Conference Finals and one NBA Finals appearance. No other Suns head coach has held on to the job for more than 4 seasons in a row. (Cotton Fitzimmons was the Suns’ head coach for six full seasons and part of two more but did it in three separate stints.)

Only Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs head coach for 20 seasons) and Red Auerbach (Boston Celtics head coach for 16 seasons) surpass him for consecutive years coaching the same NBA team.


Previewing the Weeks Ahead

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

September 25 - Training Camp opens in Flagstaff at Northern Arizona University.

September 29 - OPEN team scrimmage at Talking Stick Resort Arena, 12 noon.

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

October 3 - Phoenix Suns vs New Zealand Breakers, 7:00 pm AZT

October 5 - Phoenix Suns vs Portland Trail Blazers, 7:00 pm AZT

October 8 - Phoenix Suns @ Golden State Warriors, 7:00 pm AZT

October 10 - Phoenix Suns @ Portland Trail Blazers, 7:00 pm AZT

  • Home games will be streamed live on Suns.com through the RISE Network.

October 15 -- Rosters set for NBA Opening Day (5 p.m. ET).

October 17 - Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks in the 2018-19 season opener!


Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was “Without adding a starting caliber point guard the Suns’ season will be...”

19% - Great because I want another high draft pick this year!

65% - A disaster and the final straw for my sanity... and my liver.

16% - I don’t care because without a starting PG I won’t watch any of their games.

There were a total of 367 votes cast.


This week’s poll is:

Poll

Acquiring a starting point guard before this season begins is...

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    A priority, even if the Suns have to overpay.
    (75 votes)
  • 55%
    Not necessary if the Suns have to overpay.
    (94 votes)
169 votes total Vote Now