As training camp and preseason come to a close and games are about become real, our staff considered what surprised us so far with this new Phoenix Suns team.
Just to give you a quick recap, in terms of personnel the Suns have — takes deep inhale — a new front office, new player development staff, new training and medical staff, new coaching staff, 11 new players out of the 15-man NBA roster, a new G League affiliate general manager, and a whole new G League affiliate team.
The only things that have NOT changed? The constant personnel changes. The owner (not unrelated). Four of the players. Only one of whom has been with the team more than a year. And most of the arena and franchise office support staff.
Based on that, we really did not know what to expect with the new Suns, except what we’ve seen year after year: total chaos.
Or, in Marcin Gortat’s poorly translated Polish words, which has now become a meme that could last longer than crappy goats...
Lol— Marcin Gortat (@MGortat) October 21, 2019
The Suns had a tumultuous off-season that led most national observers to scoff and deride, and then ultimately predict somewhere from 27 to 35 wins this year — a bad record over 82 games, for sure, but a major step forward from the mere 19 and 21 wins of the previous two seasons.
All new point guards. All new power forwards. Did I mention 11 new players out of 15? The only player or coach who’s been with the franchise more than one season: shooting guard Devin Booker.
So, forgive us if the predictions we made the last few months were pulled from places where the sun don’t normally shine.
Let’s look back on our pre-training-camp takes via Bright Side, or one of the podcasts we share here, and see how close we were to getting it right.
What’s one thing you KNEW would happen but were MOST wrong about?
Evan Sidery (Bright Side, and Locked On Suns): I did not expect Frank Kaminsky to play as well as he did. If you listen to Locked On Suns, you would know I’ve been really low on Kaminsky leading up to the season. Well, I’ve definitely been proven wrong. Kaminsky looks like he’s going to be the backup power forward in the Suns’ rotation from opening night on.
Dave King (Bright Side, and the Solar Panel): I was SURE the Suns would play slow-mo ball. Monty Williams’ track record from head coaching was to slow the game down to a snail’s pace to improve efficiency. But they played with Top-3 pace through the first three of four games in preseason, and finished Top-10 in pace as we head into the regular season.
Paul Bisceglia (Fanning the Flames): Biggest thing I was wrong about was Frank Kaminsky’s ability to be a factor on the rotation. I assumed he was going to be an end of the bench guy, but he has really earned steady time during the preseason.
Brendon Kleen (Bright Side, and Locked on Suns): I was POSITIVE the rookies wouldn’t be part of the rotation. That proved to be completely wrong. Cam Johnson was thrust into the first unit during training camp because of injuries, while Ty Jerome played himself into a backup point guard battle that in my opinion he won. As always, the lesson here: Listen to nothing I say.
Greg Esposito (Suns Solar Panel): The Valley Boyz merchandise. (Cue the abuse in the comments section.) I loved the spirit of it, what it stands for and how it’s helped bring the team together. I’m a huge proponent of how it has helped to galvanize a fan base but I was expecting so much more from the design itself. The clip art skull logo proved me wrong.
Sam Cooper (Bright Side, and The Timeline): I think I speak for basically everyone reading this when I say that I didn’t have a ton of faith in Frank Kaminsky coming in. Did I think he’d be a solid plug-and-play backup? Sure. But I thought there were better options in FA when the Suns signed him, like the defensive-minded Noah Vonleh. Kaminsky made a mockery of that opinion by coming in and averaging 13/5/3 off the bench on 47/42/86 shooting in preseason. He’s still a streaky player and I’d be shocked if he shoots anywhere near 42% from distance for a full season, but he scored in a number of ways and showed off very solid playmaking as well. For preseason alone, he may have been the Suns’ MVP.
What’s one thing you got RIGHT that might have been considered a ‘hot take’ at the time?
Sam: Maybe it was just blind optimism, but I didn’t want to believe that the Suns would hire Monty Williams to be their head coach in 2019 without a firm belief that he has put in the effort to modernize his coaching strategy. So far, the change has been for real. The Suns finished top 10 in pace in preseason and shot 4 more threes per game than they did under Igor. Who knows if this will stick, but so far Monty has been true to his word and I’m a huge fan of that.
Greg: Fire up the hibachi because this take is coming in pipping hot. I think Frank Kaminsky is the starter at PF by the beginning of December. Saric’s tendency to start slow from beyond the arc and Frank’s hot preseason start make it possible. So join me in Kaminsky Kove. The water’s warm. That or “Brothel on 2 Wheels” will be the fantasy basketball name of the year.
Brendon: I did write something about how Frank Kaminsky had a shot at keeping the momentum going from his strong close to last season, but admittedly I toned down my optimism after it became clear Kaminsky would be playing the 4. That’s probably the most daring thing I said during the off-season. It sort of came true.
Evan: I thought Ricky Rubio would lead the NBA in assists. How’s that for a hot take, everybody? Through preseason, though, maybe it doesn’t sound so crazy. Rubio has been doing very well setting up others, especially Deandre Ayton. Don’t be surprised if Rubio floats around the top of the league in assists throughout the 2019-20 campaign.
Paul: On the flip side, Ty Jerome really proves himself as well. Most people anticipated Tyler Johnson would be manning the backup PG duties, but Jerome really showed that he is actually ready to compete competently at an NBA level. Something a lot of our previous rookies didn’t really show.
Dave: I knew that Rubio and Dario Saric would be good fits with Monty’s pass-first style, and they showed those skills in preseason. I also knew that Cam Johnson, would be better than people expected, because of his maturity and shooting stroke. He’s even better than I expected, though. I now think CamWOW gets 20+ minutes a night off the bench this season, even in October.
Want to hear more from this group on season-preview talk? Here you go! We did a podcast over the weekend to prep for the season opener!
Season Opener on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. at Talking Stick Resort Arena
vs. Sacramento Kings!
How about you guys? Let’s hear your thoughts on these questions!
- What’s one thing you were MOST wrong about?
- What’s one thing you got RIGHT that people said was a hot take at the time?