Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.
It’s difficult to remember that last time I felt truly confident about the Suns before a new season began. By confident I mean going into that new season just knowing that the Suns were going to do well and wondering how far they might get in the playoffs. Those days are gone, and for far too long, I’ve instead found myself wondering how bad the team might be and when they might eventually just get close to the eighth seed again.
As training camp is almost ready to begin, this season is no different. I am feeling a bit more hopeful and optimistic than in recent years, though. Whether you like the changes that the Suns have made during the offseason or not, they at least look like changes aimed at putting a better product on the floor.
This season is supposed to be the one in which the Suns put the tank out to pasture and alter their trajectory. The rebuild has been mostly painful to watch, and it is by no means finished, but a quote by Sir Winston Churchill may be appropriate here:
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
The Suns have stocked up on young talent as best as they could and have added some quality veterans in hope of putting a more competitive team on the floor this year. I have hope that this year will be the beginning of a turnaround for the Suns, but I’ve learned to temper my optimism over the years.
On paper, the changes look good but, like almost every other Suns fan, I have my doubts. Unfortunately, doubts and worries have seemed to be most common things shared by Suns fans over the past few years... not to mention disappointment.
I could go on and on just naming the things that I have doubts about, but instead, I’ll mention the one thing I am certain of... Devin Booker. I have no doubts about his talent, drive or determination. I don’t even have any doubts about Booker’s defense anymore. That’s because I’ve accepted the fact that he’s never going to be a great defender. And that’s okay, as long as we can put some great defenders on the court with him, which is the direction in which the Suns seem to be moving.
As for his hand, I’m also certain that won’t hold him - or the team - back for long.
Everything else is at least partially an uncertainty to me. As uncertainty tends to give me heartburn, I won’t continue to speak on it myself... but I did ask the Fantable about some of their biggest doubts and worries going into this season.
Fantable Question of the Week
1. With training camp set to begin on Tuesday, what are your three biggest concerns/worries/doubts regarding the Suns this season?
GuarGuar: I can’t believe training camp is beginning Tuesday! It feels like this offseason went by much faster than last year. Maybe that’s because the end of the 16-17 season was actually very fun while last season was a complete nightmare from opening night until April. For the first time maybe ever, when last season ended I felt relieved from torturing myself rather than feeling sad that there’s no Suns basketball to watch. I’ve slowly crept back out of my shell and I’m really starting to get excited for opening night, and that scares me. I still have a BUNCH of questions, worries and concerns. Here are my biggest questions/concerns:
1. What in the world are we doing at point guard? This is probably the chalk concern, and it makes no sense for me to act like this isn’t my biggest issue either. Look, I’ve been patiently waiting ever since the Knight trade for another deal to be done that gives us a starting point guard. And as I write this, a trade has still not been done. That trade was 25 DAYS AGO! I’ve refreshed Shams and Woj’s Twitter timelines an unhealthy amount of times over the past 25 days. I’m honestly trying to see the thought process of Ryan McDonough if he doesn’t acquire a starting point guard. Like, did he not watch last season???
- You liked riding the Tyler Ulis elevator?
- You were fine with that ball hog Mike James, Ryan?
- Josh “G-League” Gray, you were cool with that McD?
- You enjoyed watching Elfrid Payton, McStunna? What about his hair flopping more than James Harden?
- Speaking of hair, how’s your former star Eric “I Dont wanna be here” Bledsoe doing? Talk to him on Twitter lately, Will McDonough’s son?
I mean if McNinja honestly enjoyed watching our point guard play this year, then I understand why our PG rotation consists of a G League call up, another G League call up coming off a broken ankle, and two second-round rookies. They probably don’t have the drama of the group from last year, but as of right now they are all 2nd/3rd string quality point guards. And I actually like all of those guys, but none of them are starting quality right now, not even close. But McDonough wants us to be the most improved team in the league? Hopefully one of Melton/Okobo pans out and can possibly be a starter long term, but as of right now neither is ready. At this point I’m actually getting nervous McDonough isn’t going to make a deal before the season. And if he doesn’t…
2. What are our rotations going to looks like? How many minutes is our lottery pick, two-way wing, Mikal Bridges going to get this year? Because in his way are Booker, Ariza, Anderson, Warren, and Jackson. Not to mention possibly guys like Troy Daniels or Davon Reed. Many people consider Bridges the 3rd best prospect/young player on our team, behind Booker and Deandre Ayton. I’m possibly one of those people. It would be wise to get our very talented and polished rookie decent playing time this season. He should be ready to contribute to winning basketball and shouldn’t be a liability. But with this current log jam of wings he may not even get a minute on opening night. I can’t blame Igor either, because are Josh and TJ supposed to play 18 minutes a night or play power forward to get Mikal minutes? This is another reason why I was so confident McDonough had a deal for a point guard lined up. He’s fine with this massive log jam?
3. Will the team stick to their word and not tank this season? From a long term view this might be my biggest question. Last season we had quotes from Robert Sarver about how he thought we had a .500 team. We’ve heard Bledsoe talk in the past about how we were gonna make the playoffs and then we ultimately rested him 2nd half of the season. Beginning of the summer we heard Booker say he’s done missing the playoffs and McDonough say he wants the Suns to be one of the most improved teams in the league. We acquired Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson, but we acquired Jared Dudley, Leandro Barbosa, and Tyson Chandler in the past few years and that didn’t stop the tanking. Who’s to say if we have a rough start McDonough won’t deal Ariza to a contender come trade deadline? I actually believe that we won’t tank because I value Booker’s word more than anything, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried.
- Why is Darrell Arthur still on our roster in late September?
- Could McDonough and Booker clash over possible tanking?
- Did Josh Jackson actually improve or was Summer League a clue at his lack of development?
- If McDonough doesn’t make a trade who are the roster cuts?
- What actually happened to Booker’s hand?
Sun-Arc: Do I have worries? As my people say, Oy vey! Yeah, I’ve got worries. Including doubts, concerns, and even insecurities! No point guard trade while attempting to celebrate Yom Kippur — has the team no decency? Alright, enough with the stereotypes and onto the commentary.
The question is specifically about this season - not long term. So I’m going to concentrate on that based on what I would like to see this season. Namely: Better overall play, a big leap forward for JJ and player development.
1. The point guard situation is No. 1 for me right now. Knight was not going to help much, so I would be just as happy rolling with Shaquille Harrison. But that does mean I’d be all that happy. I’d like to have Kemba Walker, Patrick Beverley, Delon Wright, Terry Rozier, or Goran Dragic (in that order) on the team before training camp via trade. But Spencer Dinwiddie and even Milos Teodosic would be better than what we have right now. All the guys I mentioned are on expiring contracts- so we could still be open to FA next summer if they don’t work out.
Without a true starting-level PG I know the team will have far less success and the young guys will be stunted in their growth. Now’s the time to start shifting the culture. That has to include a PG that can run a team.
2. Josh Jackson’s leap forward in year two. This feels really critical for future success. I’m not going to put too much importance in what he did at SL on offense. It was awful and was out of control. What bothers me about it, though, was that everyone else was disciplined within Igor’s system. Not JJ. I hope Igor learned he has to have a tight leash on Josh on offense. JJ was pretty good on D, and next to Harrison, Reed, and Ayton they looked very good in SL. So- there’s that.
My hope is Josh puts his effort in on the defensive end. Defense, crashing the boards, transition scoring, athletic plays and generally disrupting the other team is what I want to see from him this season. I think if he does that and stays within Koko’s offensive system he can become a game changer this season.
If he doesn’t- well, that bodes poorly for the team’s future. Its not all hinging on him- but we need the very best of Josh (along with others) to smell true success.
3. Developing the other young guys. I’m not as worried as some about playing time. That’s not what I’m talking about. Outside of Booker, I look at everyone else we’ve drafted and see less development than I would expect. Even T.J. Warren, who I think is truly gifted and smart player, should be a better all-around player. I’ve seen enough of him to know he’s capable. Bender has not developed nearly enough. Then there are the Expendables: Alex Len, Marquese Chriss, Tyler Ulis, Alan Williams, Archie Goodwin, Tyler Ennis, Alec Peters. The jury is still out on Harrison and Reed, while the very early results look promising, there’s a lot to prove. Plus there are Mikal Bridges, Elie Okobo, De’Anthony Melton and possibly George King.
There is a pattern over McD’s term of not developing players well. The NAZ team has not helped much at all. This has to end. We need the G-league, developmental, and main coaches to bring these guys up right. Not all of them will become true rotational pieces- but we need better than 1-to-10 odds. Not every player will be a ready-made star like Booker. TJ, Harrison, and Reed (latest SL version) give me hope its possible. But I’m still worried.
SDKyle: My three biggest doubts and concerns:
1. The PG problem
The lack of a starting quality PG is a huge concern for me. Even given my low opinion of McD’s roster-assembling acumen, I thought he couldn’t possibly fail to rectify this problem this offseason. Yet here we are at the dawn of training camp with only G Leaguers and late draft pick rookies available to man the point.
I understand that Booker and Ayton will spend a lot of time with the ball and so a ball-dominant PG isn’t necessary or even desirable, but what the Suns have right now is not acceptable to me.
2. Youth movement.
Young player development is hugely important for the Suns rebuild to succeed, and we’ve had less than fantastic results the last few years. Booker is a gem, but what of fellow lottery picks Dragan Bender and Josh Jackson? We need to see a lot of improvement from at least one of them or the rebuild might take another step backwards. Jackson seems the likelier candidate to me.
3. Meet the new boss.
I have no reason to think Igor Kokoskov won’t be a superior coach to our last two at least, but I feel it would be an omission on my part not to raise a rookie NBA head coach as being at least a “doubt” headed into the season. “Koko” has a tall task before him. He has to teach quite a few fundamentals at both ends of the floor, juggle a somewhat imbalanced roster, and instill a winning spirit in a group that aside from a couple of newcomers has tasted an awful lot of defeat in its collective NBA career. Will he prove equal to such a big task? We’ll start getting some answers soon.
SouthernSun: 1. Point guard rotation
I am extremely worried about the point guard rotation. As it stands, the player who will be the Suns starting point guard on opening night is one of two players who are both on non-guaranteed contracts with the worst team in the NBA. One would think that if they were starting caliber point guards, they would have a guaranteed contract with the worst team in the NBA, at least. But no. They were both in the G league last season before joining the Suns. So here we are, with Suns fans resigning themselves to the fate of watching their young team be led by the worst rotation in the NBA, at arguably the most important offensive position in basketball.
2. Marked Improvement over the previous season
I doubt the Suns show much marked improvement this season over last with the team as it now stands. Without a point guard that wasn’t picked up out of the bargain bin at a second hand store, I don’t see this team winning many more than 30 games.
3. Suns ability to garner free agent interest next summer
Without making a run this year and perhaps at the very least winning 35-plus games and actually being in playoff hunt conversations throughout the season (like the Nuggets last year), I doubt the Suns will be able to entice any high level free agent to come take some of their cap space next summer. Not the ones the Suns want anyway. Kyrie just recently said he thinks the Celtics can “build something special.” And he’s certainly not leaving a team he’s undeniably “the man” of, that is a surefire eastern conference finals team next season, to come to a Suns team that struggles to win more than 30 games. Kemba may think about it, but he’ll almost certainly have better options, with better teams, who will pay him just as much money. Without making a trade for a good player now, the Suns simply won’t be good enough this season to get a max guy to come to the valley of the sun. Their best bet is to trade for one now and then spend the entire season making them feel as much like family as possible. Hopefully somebody at least like Beverly or Dinwiddie is traded for by Monday morning, when you’re reading this. But I doubt it. Because Suns.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable - GuarGuar, SDKyle, Sun-Arc and SouthernSun - for all their input! (Alex Sylvester did not participate this week.)
2017-18 Season Highlights
Best Of Phoenix Suns | 2018 NBA Season
Phoenix Suns G Devin Booker | 2017-2018 Raw Highlights
Quote of the Week
“We want to make you proud.”— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) September 21, 2018
- Coach Kokoškov pic.twitter.com/qbAZNFCfKD
Interesting Suns Stuff
Kevin Johnson had one of the most underrated five year stretches in NBA history (89-94):— Paul Headley NBA (@PaulHeadleyNBA) September 17, 2018
58.3 TS% (including 49.8% from the field at just 6-1)
Teams won 55, 54, 55, 53, 62, 56 games over that span.
That's a crazy good run. pic.twitter.com/mBLeSJZ1X3
News & Notes
Phoenix Suns: What to watch as they head to training camp. Duane Rankin/Arizona Republic
Can Suns’ Devin Booker Follow In Steve Nash’s Footsteps? Clutch Points
The Phoenix Suns May Be 2018-19’s Most Improved Team. The Runner Sports
Shot Clock: Trade coming for Phoenix Suns? (VIDEO) Greg Moore and Rick Morin/AZCentral
Phoenix Suns: 5 goals for Mikal Bridges’ rookie season. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit
Best Case, Worst Case: Phoenix Suns. The Ringer
Suns History in Video
In honor of Raja Bell's birthday, take a look back at the clothesline that shocked the NBA! pic.twitter.com/dj25I7Rja9— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) September 19, 2018
In 1987, Richard Bloch (the Suns’ original owner) was considering moving the team to Toronto or Anaheim. This was part of the reason that then-Suns General Manager Jerry Colangelo led an ownership group that purchased the team from Bloch for $44 million.
Previewing the Weeks Ahead
September 24 - Media Day! First allowable date for veteran players to report to their teams.
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 p.m. AZT
October 3 - Phoenix Suns vs New Zealand Breakers, 7:00 p.m. AZT
October 5 - Phoenix Suns vs Portland Trail Blazers, 7:00 p.m. AZT
October 8 - Phoenix Suns @ Golden State Warriors, 7:00 p.m. AZT
October 10 - Phoenix Suns @ Portland Trail Blazers, 7:00 p.m. 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 “The Suns should...”
59% - Play it safe with Booker and not let him return until the full six weeks have past.
41% - Let Booker play earlier if he says he’s healed and ready to go.
There were a total of 180 votes cast.
This week’s poll is:
If the Suns don’t bring in another point guard, who should start during preseason?
This poll is closed