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Center of the Sun: Suns got their number one target, Monty Williams, as new head coach

With an experienced head coach at the helm, hopefully better days are ahead for the franchise.

Indiana Pacers v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns 1, LA Lakers 0

Okay, it really wasn’t a game but don’t believe that it wasn’t a win when Monty Williams chose to become the Suns’ head coach over taking the same position with the Lakers.

Is Monty the coach that will ultimately lead the Suns back to the promised land (aka - championship contention)? Perhaps, but that’s really a question for the future. For now, the question is whether he can lead this team back to simple respectability and contention for a post-season playoff appearance.

I believe he can.

Not only does he have head coaching experience, but also in his five years as the head coach for New Orleans he coached two very different rosters there to the playoffs. That tells me that he probably can adapt his coaching to the personnel at hand and to changing situations.

In his first year as HC, he took over a team with an All-Star point guard (Chris Paul) and a strong supporting cast (Marco Belinelli, Trevor Ariza, David West and Emeka Okafor) to the playoffs. The following year, Paul was traded to the Clippers and Williams was suddenly coaching a rebuilding team.

That first rebuilding year wasn’t pretty as New Orleans finished 21-45 in a lockout shorted season but NO didn’t cut bait and run. They instead gave Williams a four year contract extension. He repaid their faith in him by leading that rebuilt team (with only one player from the previous playoff team left on the roster) back to the playoffs in 2015.

Bowing out quickly in the first round after losing 0-4 to the eventual NBA Champions (Golden State), Williams was fired by New Orleans and Alvin Gentry (whom long-time Suns fans are well acquainted with) was hired to take his place. It should be noted though that Gentry failed to take the Pels back to the playoffs the following year even with a mostly unchanged roster.

If you take that as an implication that Monty might be able to do more with less, then the Suns could be just the place for him.

Here’s a little bit of Monty’s philosophy on working with a young, rebuilding team from back when he was coaching the Pelicans:

The Suns obviously have holes in their roster that will need to be filled during the offseason and adding strength wherever possible will be the job of James Jones and Jeff Bower. Those things we can only speculate on at this point but the players already on the roster are known commodities. They - for the most part - are what the 2019-20 team will have to built around.

There’s a lot to take care of this summer and taking stock of what the team already has is the first step in moving forward. From there, determinations on who will stay, who will be let go and who will be on the trading block will be made. That’s why I asked the Fantable for their their opinions not only on Monty Williams’ hiring but also on the players presently on the Suns’ roster.

Fantable Question of the Week

1. What’s your reaction to Monty Williams getting a 5-year deal to become the Suns new head coach?

GuarGuar: I’m very pleased with the Monty Williams signing. 5-year deal tells me a lot. This is truly “our guy”, or at least the guy we will give more than 1 year to coach this team. Monty has a great reputation around the league and is well respected. His offensive philosophies when coaching New Orleans were questionable, but it’s very possible he has evolved since then, given the league has changed so much from 5 years ago.

Williams is a true leader of men. And that’s something not only our players need, but our entire organization. We have lacked a stable, experienced leader for a long time here. I think it’s very possible Monty ends up being that guy for us.

Sun-Arc: My first reaction was relief. Deep relief. My second reaction was more relief, but this time that we didn’t lose out to the Lakers on coaching choice (though LBJ may want Lue, I imagine the fans would prefer Williams). My third reaction was… “wait and see” mode. I truly hope THIS is the moment the team turns it around. But I thought that a year ago when they hired Igor too. This time I’m not pining as much hope on anything. I’ll just have to see.

SDKyle: Pinch me...did something go right for my poor Suns? I think it’s good news that the Suns managed to sign an experienced head coach whom they had reportedly targeted from the outset and whom at least one other team wanted. This flies in the face of the narrative that the Suns can only get rookie coaches or those with nowhere else to turn.

The hard work is still ahead. Nobody is confusing Monty with Gregg Popovich, and he still has to do his part to get a 19-63 team respectable. But his hire is, I am hoping, a step in that direction.

SouthernSun: Monty! Yes sir! I’m very excited for this. This team has been without a decent head coach for so long that Monty is a breath of fresh air, and he’s not even a super great coach. Getting Monty is like being handed a burger from Five Guys after having eaten nothing but little bits of nuts you picked out of squirrel dung for the last half decade. Is the burger THAT good? It’s no steak, sure. But at least it’s not little itty bitty pieces of nuts you had to dig out of squirrel crap. And it’s not the McDonald’s McChickens or Jack in the Box tacos that you were afraid you were going to get. So definitely a win.

Monty is very well respected around league by both players and coaches. He’s a great motivator, and should be able to relate to and connect with the young core the Suns have in place. He also may help draw some free agent interest. He’s experienced. We know he can at least get a team of comparable talent to a halfway decent record. When we were asked for coaches we would be interested in on a Fantable back before Igor was hired, I listed Monty then if I recall correctly. I think he will be great for this team.

Alex Sylvester: I’m a big fan of this move, mainly for the reason that the Suns (Jones and Co) had a plan and went out there and executed. The fact that we were not only able to acquire the best available coach to our organization but give him the stability with a 5 year deal? That is a sign that shows me this team under new leadership might be finally heading in the right direction.

2. Last year, at the end of the season I asked the FT to grade/rank all of the players using the following system:

  • A - Above average starter
  • B - Average starter
  • C - Bench/rotation player
  • D - End of the bench player
  • F - Doesn’t belong in the NBA

This year, I asked them to do it again and give grades based on where they saw each player now without regard to “potential”. The following charts their answers.

Author’s Summary: Looking at the composite rankings, the Suns have one above average starter, one slightly above average starter, two average starters, one borderline average starter/bench rotation player and two solid bench/rotation players for Monty to work with. That’s just seven players that should be getting regular minutes in any team’s rotation. It doesn’t sound like a bad starting point until you realize that three of those seven players all play the same position (Bridges, Oubre and Warren).

Some of the younger players will, of course, improve over time but potential wasn’t a consideration here. Attempting to arrive at some sort of baseline for where the players are right now based on their performances last season was the objective.

Fantable member remarks:

GuarGuar: Booker is the only “A” on this team, and I don’t see a case for anyone right now that’s close to his level. Ayton currently I have as an “average starter” which is good for a rookie. I expect him to enter “A” category soon with his loads of potential. Mikal currently isn’t a “great” starter because of his inconsistent offence, but he should be a big impact player for us in the future if he develops.

Josh Jackson currently is borderline unplayable on winning teams by advanced metrics. I still buy his potential, but currently he is well below average. Okobo and Melton are also below average NBA players, but have the potential to be key rotation guys. Troy Daniels is a quality backup shooting guard and I will stand by that!

Sun-Arc: AYTON: With his efficiency and skill level, he appeared to be better than most opposing starting centers. Better than half of them, at least. So the A grade from me was not based on potential. But I would say it was very close to being an A/B for his rookie season.

BENDER: I dunno. He was starting for the end of the season and helped the team play better. That doesn’t seem like a solid D level. But it was hard to say he’s a rotation player either, because I really don’t know what he is. Then I pictured him playing as the backup PF or C on the spurs and believing that he could actually play well in that system. Possibly better than Poetl, who started for them in the playoffs. Again… I dunno.

BRIDGES: I believe he was pretty damn close to average starter, as long as you believe he provided above average defense to go along with his below average offense. Which I think he did. Potential is much higher, but he’s got some holes to fix to be an A player.

JACKSON: ugh. At times he’s a B and other times he’s a D bordering on F. And there were moments he was an A. I settled on C, someone that should have a very limited role on a good team. Or a really big role on the worst team, which he did.

JOHNSON: He was good, but not all THAT good in most games. Hard to rate him. I think someone that is a fringe starter makes sense until I see more of/from him.

MELTON: I feel he’s already at a decent backup PG level. I think he has high potential too.

OUBRE: this was difficult too. I loved watching him play for us. Definitely a starter, which he was not in WAS. I have not seen enough to even say he’s a fringe A, so a solid B right now.

WARREN: Again… difficult. In many circumstances for many teams he’d be a solid starter (B), I think potentially even on a playoff team. But in just as many I could see his best position coming off the bench. So I waffled between the two levels for him.

SDKyle: No comments.

SouthernSun: Ayton had a great rookie season, and he will be an all star big man one day, but as of now he’s just an average starting player.

Bender is garbage and belongs in Europe or China.

Booker is a superstar so he gets the A.

Mikal is a very good defender already, but he can do very little on offense as of now, so he gets a C.

Jamal Crawford should retire but I couldn’t give him an F because of that huge game at the end of the season.

Troy Daniels is a playable 3 point specialist, but can do nothing at all other than that.

Jimmer is also garbage and belongs in Europe or China with Bender.

Richaun’s fine.

Josh Jackson is wildly inconsistent and seems to have a lot of talent, but he’s just not a good basketball player right now.

Tyler Johnson is a solid bench combo guard.

De’Anthony Melton can defend fairly well (comparatively), but is not as good at it as Mikal and has even less other skills than Mikal does. But at least Melton isn’t the next guy on the list, Okobo, who is pure trash, thanks McDonough.

Kelly is a God walking amongst mere mortals, but seriously, he proved himself to be a solid defender as well as having some offensive ability as well, so I’ll give him the lofty praise of being an average starter.

Ray Spalding doesn’t belong in the NBA and is only on this team because there’s a small chance they want to try and go after Rozier this summer for some reason.

TJ is a good scorer, but can do nothing else at even an average level, and can’t stay healthy (maybe).

Alex Sylvester: Anything A+ implies at least all star potential. Devin obviously didn’t make the all star team but he is playing at an all-star level. As long as the Suns aren’t last in the west next year, I can see him making it.

Deandre has all star potential but how soon can he hit that level? I’m thinking three years.

The biggest jump on my grades from actual production to ‘potential’ are the young PGs. Melton had the biggest jump because his defensive upside is massive and as long as he becomes competent on offense, he could be good. Okobo has an offensive game but is just young and needs time.

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

Season Highlights

DeAndre Ayton’s Best Play From Every Game Of The 2018-19 Season!

Quotes of the Week

“In past years, I was one of the younger guys, actually. There were other guys who were being more vocal and leading that way, but here, not only did I have to lead by example, but I had to be the voice sometimes... I had always been with somebody who led by example and come in and be professional and make sure I was getting my work done. Now, I’m worried about other guys and making sure they’re on top of their stuff as well.” - Tyler Johnson

Interesting Suns Stuff

News & Notes

2018-19 Season Rewind: Tyler Johnson.

By the numbers: The last five years of Phoenix Suns coaches. Jake Anderson/Arizona Sports

Kevin Durant praises Suns’ hiring of Monty Williams. San Francisco Chronicle

6 young point guards that the Phoenix Suns should target in the offseason. Clutch Points

Phoenix Suns: 5 takeaways from the 2018-19 NBA season. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit

This Week in Suns History

On May 6, 1968, the Phoenix Suns acquired their first ever player during the NBA Expansion Draft by selecting 6-5 guard Dick Van Arsdale from New York. Van Arsdale, is still affectionately known as “The Original Sun.”

Suns Trivia

When Jamal Crawford scored 51 points in the season finale at Dallas, he became the oldest player in NBA history to score at least 50 points and the first to do so with four different teams. His 51 points are also the most ever scored by a player coming off the bench since starts first began being recorded in 1970-71.

During the season’s closing weeks, Devin Booker became the youngest player ever with 50+ in consecutive games which combined with Crawford’s 51 made the 2018-19 Suns only the 10th team ever to have multiple players record 50-point games in a single season.

Previewing the Weeks (and Months) Ahead

May 14 - NBA Draft Lottery 2019

May 14-19 - NBA Draft Combine 2019 (Chicago)

June 10 - NBA Draft Early Entry Entrant Withdrawal Deadline (5 pm ET)

June 20 - NBA Draft 2019

July 1 - Official start of the 2019/20 NBA league year. July moratorium begins. NBA free agency officially begins (12:01 am ET) and free agents can begin reaching verbal agreements with teams. Restricted free agents can sign an offer sheet. Teams can begin signing players to rookie scale contracts, minimum salary contracts, and two-way contracts.

July 5-15 - NBA Summer League (Las Vegas)

Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “For the Suns, hiring a new head coach with previous head coaching experience is...”

75% - Very important.

22% - Important but not a deal breaker.

03% - Not important.

There were 253 votes cast.

This week’s poll is...


Do you believe that the Suns are finally on the right track to returning to respectability?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    (168 votes)
  • 3%
    (10 votes)
  • 45%
    Ask me again when training camp begins.
    (147 votes)
325 votes total Vote Now

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