The 2019-20 NBA season is four days old and we’re already having a rollercoaster of a ride in Phoenix. After beating the Sacramento Kings 124-95 for the team’s home opener, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Phoenix Suns’ center DeAndre Ayton is suspended 25 game for violating NBA’s Anti-Drug policy.
According to Wojnarowski, the NBPA is already planning an arbitration case to “reduce or rescind penalty, based on belief positive test falls under CBA provision of ‘unintentional ingestion’.”
However, with the 2018 1st overall pick perhaps missing a quarter of the season, is there any reason to believe in this team?
Let’s go back to a simpler time, before Woj drop bombs all over the hopes and dreams of a fan base that has been stomped on for years, Wednesday night. The team looked sharp throughout the win over the Kings and no better than in the second half where the Suns gave up 36 points and put up 70. With a win like this to start the season, hype seemingly reached an all-time high within the Suns fanbase. That type of hype is intoxicating and can fill anyone with the belief that their team can make a playoff push. Usually hype is the gateway to the glaring pit of depression which is where most Suns fans have lived since 2010. And with the news of Ayton’s suspension, that hype immediately crashed and turned back into the depression the fanbase has been stuck with for years.
It’s no secret the West is a nightmare this year with perhaps every team looking competitive. Even the team that in-theory aren’t playoff contenders have talented players to make it interesting. In terms of talent alone, the Suns have what it takes to compete within the conference and even nip at the heels of the eight seed. Off this game alone, it appears the Suns have filled their point guard hole and has a solid enough bench to keep the team afloat while the starters sit. They may not have the experience to keep up with the Warriors, Lakers, Jazz or Rockets, but there’s a lot to like with the Suns after this game.
New point guard Ricky Rubio had a solid debut for the team, posting up a double-double (11 points, 11 assists), while also posting up six rebounds and a team high four steals. He opened the offense up and had it moving like a well oiled machine, helping ease a lot of pressure off star Devin Booker. Forward Dario Saric was ok, only putting up seven points, four rebounds and not really standing out as a player. That’s kind of the situation he’s in since everyone else in the starting rotation is a better scorer than him but as the fifth guy in the lineup, he doesn’t need to light the world on fire for the team to succeed.
The best part about this win was how spread out the scoring was, as the Suns didn’t rely on a 50 point game from Booker to keep the team afloat. While Booker led the team in points (22), Kelly Oubre Jr. got 21 to go along with his nine rebounds. DeAndre Ayton had a double double (18 points, 11 rebounds) and looked a lot better on the defensive side, creating trouble in the paint against the Kings. The bench came out with 45 points and handle their business when the starters sat.
However, this is where we have to come back to reality and to that Woj Bomb. The Suns will not have Ayton for a while and it all depends on his arbitration case. Regardless, the Suns will need to focus on filling Ayton’s and the team has some options to do so. Center Aron Baynes is a solid veteran that can add a level of grit and toughness to the team while Ayton is gone and Frank Kaminsky isn’t a stud but had a bit of success against the Kings with nine points and four rebounds.
Also, you definitely make an argument this win might not be as massive as it seems. The Kings aren’t exactly a model franchise as they fire the coach who just got them their best record since the 2007-08 season and brought in Luke Walton to replace him. The Suns also won their first game last year and we all remember how bad the season was. The team won big but this suspension can easily let all the air out of the team and revert them.However, this Suns team feels like a new squad after all the changes made since that win over the Dallas Mavericks. The team has a great coach in Monty Williams, executed on both sides of the ball and beat a team that was fighting for a playoff spot last year.
This entire season depends on how long Ayton’s suspension will be for. If he can either chop it down to around 10-15 games or even a clean wipe, the Suns could be in the clear. I think a 35-40 win season isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility, especially if the team takes huge leaps. However, If it’s the full length, it’s going to be tough for the team to recover from this.