Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.
The Suns ended a mostly ugly season with another ugly loss in Dallas with all their starters on the bench. The 19-63 finish makes it their second worst season record ever, eclipsed only by their initial season as an expansion team.
It was a kind of relief that it finally ended.
Within a few short days, the Suns also seem to have set the tone for the offseason by stabilizing their front office. James Jones is now officially the Suns’ general manager, Trevor Bukstein is the assistant GM and new hire Jeff Bower is the Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations. Jones is at the top of the ladder and will take the lead role in the front office.
Whether you like the results or not, at least the Suns moved swiftly once the season was over to put some clear cut structure in place.
It may seem odd to some that the person with the least front office experience - James Jones - was given top-dog status but I like having him as the face of the front office. Players around the league know and trust him. Free agents (and their agents) will likely feel more confidence in dealing with him than his predecessor. What Jones lacks in front office experience should be made up for in the experience of Bower and Bukstein.
Of course, it’s still to be seen just how well the Suns new front office trio will do. I don’t blame anyone for being skeptical. Optimism in regard to the Suns organization hasn’t been rewarded in quite some time.
The question of whether head coach Igor Kokoskov will be retained next season hasn’t officially been answered yet. It seems relatively safe to assume that his fate at least hasn’t been decided on yet due to the silence on this issue from the Suns. The Kings, Grizzlies, Cavaliers and Lakers all cut ties with their head coaches quickly and the Kings have already filled their empty HC spot with former Lakers’ coach Luke Walton. Time will tell but I’m betting that Kokoskov will be given one more year at the helm.
It should be another interesting summer for the Suns. Hopefully, it will be a fruitful one as well.
Fantable Questions of the Week
1. What is your opinion on the hiring of James Jones as GM and Jeff Bower as VP of Basketball Operations?
GuarGuar: I’m fine with it to be honest. I wasn’t a fan of hiring McHale or Paxton, given their poor history. James Jones is unproven as a GM, and I’d rather have an unknown than somebody who has been known to be bad as a GM. Jones obviously made some questionable comments throughout the season, but he’s made some solid transactions in his short tenure. Even though Bower doesn’t have the best rep, he was a part of the Pelicans and Pistons making the playoffs. He’s experienced, something we desperately need. At the end of the day none of this matters if Sarver is the one who is truly making the decisions.
Sun-Arc: I’m in a wait-and-see mode on this, but for now I am yawning so hard my jaw aches.
a) I’m glad Bower has some experience, but that he wanted this job makes me suspicious he couldn’t get one anywhere else (except for maybe at the Lakers?).
b) Jones seemed to do a pretty decent job with the trades and player relations, but its yet to be seen whether he will be any good in the long run.
SDKyle: I’m not really sure. I like that Bower has experience, and I’ve said Jones hasn’t done anything particularly disqualifying in the job. There just isn’t anyone in this office who has taken the “next step” with a franchise before. This really is a time will tell situation for me.
SouthernSun: I neither love this or hate this. I must admit, I was hoping for something better. Like perhaps David Griffin. But hey, at least this guy has held high level positions in NBA front offices before. That’s something the Suns haven’t listed before as a requirement for a high level position in their front office positions.
One thing that rubs me the wrong way a little though is that somewhere I read that he will be answering to James Jones. I think it should be the other way around. But whatever. Hopefully he can help fix those little issues like other GMs saying they have no idea who to contact in Phoenix for trades. Like, maybe he can send a mass email entitled “Alright fellow NBA front offices, we the Phoenix Suns have our ducks in some semblance of a row for the first time in like 9 months, and here’s who you call when you want to talk” or something like that.
I’m okay with the Jones hire as GM. He seems to be pretty good with player relations, which is something the FO lacked for awhile. I just think Bower should be 1a instead of Jones.
Alex Sylvester: I put it in one of my comments on a BSOTS article but I could not have seen this front office making a better move than what they did in hiring Jones and Bower.
That’s not to say I have zero skepticism of this. Jones is still very inexperienced and we’ve seen how those moves have worked for the Suns lately. Will Bower be good with simply being a voice in the room and not the ultimate decision maker? Stan Van Gundy vouched for Bower on NBA The Jump which is a good sign.
But this FO will need to steady the ship as soon as this summer. Let’s see what happens!
2. This one is a two-part question:
A) What are the pluses and minuses in bringing Igor back as HC for another season?
GuarGuar: I’m for bringing back Igor next season. The biggest plus is consistency. Booker has already had 4 coaches in his 4 years here. I really don’t want that number to be 5 in 5. I honestly have trouble judging whether Igor is actually a good or bad coach. Our roster construction was horrible and something very few coaches could do something good with. The negative of bringing Igor back is if he actually is a bad coach. He had questionable decisions and rotations throughout the season, so hopefully he improves in that regard.
Sun-Arc: Should Igor stay or should he go now…
Bring him back! (Pros)
- Consistency for the young pups
- Would (presumably) be able to get to his more complicated schemes
- Would have a year of experience behind him this time
- Presumably more player development (though that is not a given)
Bring him back? (cons)
- Doesn’t seem to know how to work an offense around a dominant big man and a PnR with Ayton more.
- Not great at rotations, time outs, and communicating (apparently, at least somewhat)
SDKyle: Pluses - Bringing Igor back provides stability. Stability for the players, and also for the organization as a whole. It might somewhat help the Suns reputation, but probably not much.
Minuses - Bringing Igor back returns a coach who won just 19 games. He doesn’t seem especially inclined to adjust his philosophy to fit his team.
SouthernSun: The pluses of bringing Igor back
Continuity - Having this many coaches in this period of time can’t have been great for the development of the young guys. Particularly when all of these coaches have been so bad at coaching.
Development maybe? - The young players, some of them anyway, seem to have developed a little bit under Igor. But that might just be because, well, that’s what young players tend to do. Particularly those drafted with valuable top 5 draft picks. If it took a great coach to coax a smidgen of development out of them they probably wouldn’t have been getting drafted in the top 5.
The minuses of bringing Igor back
He doesn’t seem to be a very good coach - He was given more overall talent than the Suns had last season, and lost more games. 2nd worse record in franchise history. His rotations were awful. He doesn’t, to me, seem to have a strong connection with the players. None of the players praise him much that I’ve heard.
Alex Sylvester: Pluses
- Another year to refine his offense
- The franchise not quickly jumping to conclusions
- We sucked last year
- Igor still has a ways to prove he can coach an NBA franchise
- His communication barrier and his lack of relatability might hurt what we do this summer
B) What are the pluses and minuses in firing Igor?
GuarGuar: If you fire Igor for a more established coach who is available, that would probably be a plus. The problem with firing Igor is what message does that send about our organization. If you can’t win with an extremely young roster with no point guard or power forward, you’re going to be fired in a year? If we fire Igor I highly doubt any solid coach would want to come here. We already got pushed aside by Bud and Fizdale last summer.
Sun-Arc: Yer Fired! (pros)
- His ‘new coach smell’ has worn off. Time to get a new one for freshness.
- Presumably it would be someone better, but I have my doubts with this owner that is possible.
- Maybe get someone that knows how to utilize PnR offense and Ayton in particular.
You’re fired? (cons)
- More turnover, youngins have to learn another system, more tribulations
- Presumably someone worse than Igor will be hired since this latest firing in a chain of them would attract even fewer suitors. The only ones wanting the job would have to be really desperate.
SDKyle: Pluses - Firing Igor rids the Suns of a coach who won just 19 games. It would send a message that sucking isn’t tolerated anymore, and provide an opportunity to hire a better coach.
Minuses - Giving Igor the axe is a bit of a chaos move. It could potentially result in a worse hire, and might further damage the Suns reputation. Though probably not by much.
SouthernSun: The pluses of not bringing Igor back
Cutting bait early - If you don’t feel confident that this is your guy, move on. Rip the bandaid off.
Other options - There are a couple of intriguing coaching options that just became available.
The minuses of not bringing him back
Continuity - The Suns would be firing yet another coach, furthering the turmoil the young players have been dealing with ever since they got here.
Development - Maybe Igor actually is responsible for the slight development some of the young players have shown, and it’s not just that they are super talented young players drafted with valuable top draft picks who are experiencing the NBA and developing over time despite his influence.
Alex Sylvester: Pluses
- The Suns showing they won’t stand for losing
- The potential to find a veteran NBA coach
- More chaos with this franchise
- The Suns already have a lot on their plate this summer, firing Igor is another added issue
3. Fantable Favorite Performances of the Season
The Game The Utah Jazz Fans Cheered Devin Booker | 59 For Book
Devin Booker Full Highlights 2019.03.10 Warriors vs Suns - 37 Pts, 11 Asts, 8 Rebs!
Deandre Ayton Full Highlights 2018.12.23 Suns vs Nets - 26 Pts, 18 Rebs, 3 Blks!
Deandre Ayton Full Highlights 2019.03.04 Bucks vs Suns - 19 Pts, 12 Rebs, 3 Blks!
Kelly Oubre Jr. Full Highlights 2019.03.04 Bucks vs Suns - 27 Pts, 13 Rebs, 3 Blks!
Mikal Bridges Full Highlights 2018.11.04 Suns vs Grizzlies - 14 Pts, 5-6 FGM!
The above are just a few of the “best performances” suggested by our Fantable members. We’ll have more next week!
As always, many thanks to our Fantable - GuarGuar, SDKyle, Sun-Arc, SouthernSun and Alex Sylvester - for all their extra effort every week throughout the season!
107.5 vs 116.8
Those are the season per game points averages for the Suns and their opponents. That’s a negative 9.3 point differential. Only the Cleveland Caviliers had a worse point differential this season (negative 9.6). Only seven teams averaged scoring fewer points per game than the Suns this season but two of them (Orlando and Detroit) made it to the playoffs. Only two teams gave up more points per game than the Suns (Washington and Atlanta).
End of the Season Book Report
35.0 mpg, 26.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 6.8 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg, 4.1 TO, 3.1 PF
46.7% FG, 32.6% 3PT, 86.6% FT
Random Stats: Following the All-Star break, the Suns’ win/loss percentage was .348 (25th). Their pre-AS break W/L percentage was .186 (30th).
Win/Loss % by month:
- Oct. - .143 (28th - 7 games)
- Nov. - .200 (28th - 15 games)
- Dec. - .313 (27th - 16 games)
- Jan. - .133 (27th - 15 games)
- Feb. - .111 (30th - 9 games)
- Mar. - .333 (23rd - 15 games)
- Apr. - .400 (17th - 5 games)
Statistics courtesy of NBA.com and/or Basketball-Reference.com.
Dallas Mavericks vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | April 9, 2019
Jamal Crawford CRAZY 51 Pts At 39 Years Of Age! | April 9, 2019 | Suns vs Mavs
Quotes of the Week
”Anytime you can look in the mirror and actually be honest with yourself, I think that’s where growth happens.” - Tyler Johnson
”They (Suns) had a lot of confidence in me and in growing me. They gave up a lot for me. I don’t take that for granted” - Mikal Bridges (Note: Bridges was the only Suns player to play in all 82 games this season and started in 56.)
”Us as players, we don’t want to be known as losers. Believe that. So, going into the summer you try to find the most ways to stay motivated and get better and lead this team to get wins.” - Devin Booker
End of the Season Rookie Report
Deandre Ayton - 30.7 mpg, 16.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.9 bpg, 1.8 TO, 2.9 PF
Mikal Bridges - 29.5 mpg, 8.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.9 TO, 2.5 PF, 33.5% 3PT
De’Anthony Melton - 19.7 mpg, 5.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.5 TO, 2.3 PF, 30.5% 3PT
Elie Okobo - 18.1 mpg, 5.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 2.4 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.3 TO, 2.1 PF, 29.5% 3PT
Ray Spalding - 11.3 mpg, 4.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.6 bpg, 0.7 TO, 1.8 PF
George King - 5.9 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.0 PF
Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.
News & Notes
Suns hope to redirect future, find stability amid lost season. Cronkite News
Phoenix Suns: Top 10 moments of the 2018-19 NBA season. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit
Mikal Bridges has second-best steal-to-turnover ratio from a rookie ever. Clutch Points
Bickley: Larry Fitzgerald may be key to Suns’ future. Dan Bickley/Arizona Sports
This Week in Suns History
On April 15, 1989, Phoenix retired the No. 44 jersey of Paul Westphal, who averaged 20.6 ppg in six seasons with the Suns. He was named the team’s head coach for the 1992-93 season, leading them into the NBA Finals against Chicago.
On April 17, 1989, the Suns beat the Sacramento Kings 140-85. It was their largest ever margin of victory (55 points).
The Suns’ largest margin of victory this season was 21 points in their opening night game on Oct. 17, 2018 against the Dallas Mavericks (121-100). Their worst loss of the season was by 37 points to the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 25, 2019 (132-95).
Previewing the Weeks (and Months) Ahead
April 21 - NBA Early Entry (draft) Eligibility Deadline (11:59 p.m. ET)
May 14 - NBA Draft Lottery 2019
May 14-19 - NBA Draft Combine 2019 (Chicago)
June 10 - NBA Draft Early Entry Entrant Withdrawal Deadline (5 p.m. ET)
June 20 - NBA Draft 2019
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “Do you want Igor Kokoskov to remain as the Suns’ head coach next year?”
82% - Yes.
18% - No.
There were 206 votes cast.
This week’s poll is...
If the Suns had started this season with the roster they had after the All-Star break...
This poll is closed
It would have changed nothing.
They would have won maybe 5 more games.
They would have won 5 to 10 more games.
They would have won at least 10 more games.