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Center of the Sun: Suns offseason plans start with the draft but do they hinge upon it?

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Who the Suns draft is important but it’s not likely to be their most important decision this summer.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

With the NBA Draft just three days away, that is understandably the hot topic among Suns fans. From our poll last week, fans overwhelmingly believe (77%) that the Suns will simply take the best player available with the 6th pick in the draft rather than that trade up, down or out of the draft.

There is still much debate over which prospect is the “best player available” though as well as who will still be available when the Suns turn to pick comes round. Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett are almost universally projected to be taken with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd picks but from 4th on down the predictions vary. With the Lakers trading the 4th pick to New Orleans as part of the Anthony Davis trade and the rumors that the Pelicans are shopping that pick, the uncertainty grows.

The Suns have specific needs that must be addressed at point guard and power forward but this draft isn’t likely to supply an immediate answer to either of those problems. Whether this assumption turns out to be true or false, the Suns can’t afford to bank on whoever they select in the draft being an immediate solution. That means that they should already have plans A, B, C, D, etc. in place for free agency and trades to address those issues.

At the moment, the Suns will likely start free agency and the new NBA year with very limited cap space. They certainly have options to create more (renouncing cap holds, waiving non-guaranteed contracts, waiving and stretching Tyler Johnson’s $19 mil salary) but having cap space to use doesn’t guarantee getting the free agents you want to spend it on to accept your offers. The fact that Phoenix isn’t exactly a prime free agent destination makes doing something like waiving and stretching Johnson’s contract at the beginning of free agency a gamble. Renouncing Kelly Oubre Jr.’s Bird rights to remove his $9.6 mil cap hold (and the right to go over the cap to re-sign him) carries it’s own risk.

The Suns will undoubtedly make moves to free up some cap space but how much will depend on how open they are to taking chances. My bet is that they will be relatively conservative when it comes to clearing cap space and focus on trying to make their biggest splash through trades this year. Whether they do it this summer or mid-season as Bright Side’s Evan Sidery suggested last week might depend on the level of interest other teams show in the Suns’ potential trade offers this summer. If the return offers aren’t good, we might see a relatively quiet summer for the Suns.

That’s not what fans want to see happen even though it might be in the team’s best long-term interests.

Whatever the plan for this summer is, James Jones needs walk the fine line between being aggressive and reckless. By that I mean aggressively pursuing free agents and trade deals while avoiding excessive risks that could also backfire.

Where exactly does that line lie? Quite honestly, I don’t know.

I just hope that Jones does.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - What would the Suns roster look like going into training camp with the best possible (but still fairly realistic) outcomes in the draft, free agency and player trades this summer?

GuarGuar: Best possible roster if front office wants to cash in all chips (I understand it’s a low chance):

  • Booker-Ish-Melton
  • Beal-Tyler?
  • Bridges-Ellington
  • Aminu-Cunningham
  • Ayton-Holmes

How it’s possible: Trade TJ, JJ, Okobo, #6, #32, 2021 Suns First (Top 4 protected), 2023 Suns First (Top 4 protected) for Bradley Beal. Waive and stretch Tyler Johnson’s contract or restructure his deal. Use remaining cap space to sign Al-Farouq Aminu. Use vet minimums on guys like Ish Smith, Wayne Ellington, Dante Cunningham.

Sun-Arc: For fans, ‘best possible outcome’ hardly ever equals ‘somewhat realistic’. Given that... here goes:

We swing a draft night trade with the Pellies that includes #6 + Johnson + Warren + Okobo + MIL pick for Jrue Holiday. We also trade a future 2nd round pick + Jackson for a pick around #20-24. We then bring on Mirotic + Oubre + Holmes + Danny Green. (The Pels decide to go younger and move on from Jrue, replacing him with Lonzo Ball. Warren provides a scoring punch from all over for them.) We draft Grant Williams.

Starters: Holiday, Booker, Oubre, Mirotic, Ayton

Bench: Melton, Bridges, Green, Grant Williams, Holmes

Outside of Jrue, there is more shooting. Outside of Mirotic (and Book), there is more defense. Jrue has a lot of targets and can whip the young guys into shape on offense and defense. Mirotic finally gives us that stretch four and can really space the floor for Ayton and Book.

I see the team as playing 9-deep most nights (Melton and/or Williams getting scant minutes), with a bench that has great defense/energy and some outside shooting in Bridges and Green.

SDKyle: Basically, an ideal summer would see the Suns address the PG and PF deficiencies while moving on from the players who aren’t working out.

  • PG: D’Angelo Russell, Tyler Johnson
  • SG: Devin Booker, Jarrett Culver
  • SF: Mikal Bridges, Kelly Oubre Jr.
  • PF: Julius Randle, Jeff Green
  • C: Deandre Ayton, Richaun Holmes

SouthernSun: After seeing recent reports that the Nets are likely to renounce their rights to D’Angelo Russell if they sign Kyrie (which seems pretty set in stone now), I’m starting to actually believe it’s a possibility the Suns may be able to finally get an actual starting point guard after two seasons of G league call-ups and second round rookies manning the the most important position on offense.

Here’s my best case but realistic scenario.

  1. Suns take Coby White at #6 (it seems like they’re going to)
  2. Suns waive and stretch Tyler Johnson
  3. Suns sign D’Angelo Russell
  4. Suns trade T.J. Warren and #32 to the Utah Jazz for Jae Crowder
  5. Suns go go over the cap and re-sign both Kelly Oubre and Richaun Holmes
  6. Suns sign Anthony Tolliver for the veteran minimum
  7. Suns bring back Dragan Bender for the minimum

This gives the Suns the following roster:

  • Russell/White/Melton
  • Booker/Jackson
  • Oubre/Bridges
  • Crowder/Tolliver/Bender
  • Ayton/Holmes

Alex Sylvester: It’s really difficult to map out a specific sequence of moves I want the Suns to make, but here is the ideal way this summer plays out:

Starters: Dinwiddie, Booker, Oubre, Randle, Ayton

Bench: Johnson, Bridges, Jackson, Hunter, Holmes (?)

I wanted to visualize a different bench but it’s going to be difficult to secure all three of Spencer Dinwiddie, Julius Randle and Oubre. On top of that, you’d have to retain Holmes as well and my best guess at this point is Richaun will be on a different team next year.

If we made a move pre-draft to get Dinwiddie I’d love to see De’Andre Hunter fall to 6, but who knows if that’ll actually happen.

Q2 - What do you actually expect (realistically) that the Suns roster will look like going into training camp?

GuarGuar: What I actually am expecting our roster to look like:

  • Beverley-Melton-Okobo
  • Booker-Tyler
  • Oubre-Mikal
  • Vonleh-Clarke
  • Ayton-Holmes

How it’s possible: Suns trade back and draft Brandon Clarke. Suns trade T.J. Warren for more draft picks and creating extra cap space. Suns sign Oubre to deal. They sign Pat Beverley and Noah Vonleh using remaining cap space.

Sun-Arc:

Starters: Johnson, Booker, Oubre, Randle, Ayton

Bench: Melton, Bridges, De’Andre Hunter, Holmes

I know, kind of boring. I think that is the realistic scenario. In this scenario, the team can sign Oubre, Holmes, AND Randle by unloading Warren and Jackson with the #32 and MIL pick to Atlanta. We take Hunter at #6 because Culver is gone and White isn’t a ready-player yet and doesn’t really help us.

Again, a 9-player line up, though this one has less shooting AND less vet presence. Still, with Ayton’s ability to shoot from outside (and apparently the range is growing), he and Randle can take turns playing in the paint. Johnson is a stop-gap for another season and a possible trade by February for a long-term starting PG option.

SDKyle: Realistically I expect them to probably end up with stopgap solutions and to push their chips in at a later date.

  • PG: Tyler Johnson, Darius Garland
  • SG: Devin Booker
  • SF: Mikal Bridges, Kelly Oubre
  • PF: Taj Gibson, some rookie
  • C: Ayton, Holmes

SouthernSun: Suns will almost certainly disappoint me. I expect this is how the summer will shake out.

  1. Suns take Coby White at #6
  2. Suns trade #32 and TJ Warren to the Cavs for JR Smith, waive him, get some extra cap space
  3. Suns sign Darren Collison
  4. Suns sign Taj Gibson *
  5. Suns re-sign Oubre and Holmes
  6. Suns sign Anthony Tolliver to vet minimum
  7. Suns bring back Bender on the minimum

Suns go into next season like this:

  • Collison/White/Melton
  • Booker/Johnson
  • Oubre/Bridges/Jackson
  • Gibson/Tolliver/Bender
  • Ayton/Holmes

* Gibson is a stand in for “average power forward obtained through free agency”.

Alex Sylvester:

Starters: Collison, Booker, Oubre, Thad Young, Ayton

Bench: White, Johnson, Bridges, Jackson, Bender

Either scenario is better than what we dealt with last year but I really hope we’re closer to number one as opposed to number two in terms of how things play out!

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


Season Highlights

Josh Jackson 2018-2019 Season Highlights


Quote of the Week

“I take my summers really seriously and my family knows that. If they want to come see me, they’ll come visit. Other than that, I’m here working out all the time and getting ready.” - Mikal Bridges


Interesting Suns Stuff


News & Notes

Phoenix Suns: 5 options for pick No. 32 in 2019 NBA Draft. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit

NBA mock draft 2.0: Phoenix Suns trade up to get forward De’Andre Hunter. Duane Rankin/Arizona Republic

Injuries in Finals, inevitable offseason power shifts bad news for Suns. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Mikal Bridges Spends Offseason in Phoenix, Connects with Coach Monty Williams. Suns.com

Dark horse candidates for Phoenix Suns at No. 6 in NBA Draft. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports


This Week in Suns History

On June 20, 1993, the Suns were down 3 games to 2 in the NBA Finals but had a 98-96 lead on the Chicago Bulls in the final seconds of the 4th quarter. The Bulls had the ball and, although Westphal’s sole instruction on the play was for none of the players to double-team any of the Bulls (even Michael Jordan), Danny Ainge left John Paxson to try and either steal the ball or foul Horace Grant, who had missed all five of his shot attempts in the game and wasn’t a good crunch-time free throw shooter. Grant saw Paxson alone 25 feet from the basket, fired a perfect pass to him and Paxson made a three pointer with 3.9 seconds left, giving the Bulls a 99–98 lead. A last second shot attempt by Phoenix’s Kevin Johnson was blocked by Grant and the Bulls won the series 4-2.


Suns Trivia

It was during the 1970 playoffs that Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn gave the Suns’ former home, Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the nickname “Madhouse on McDowell.”


Previewing the Weeks (and Months) Ahead

June 20 - NBA Draft 2019

June 29 - Last day for decisions on player, team and early termination options (unless individual contracts specify otherwise).

June 30 - Last day for teams to make qualifying offers to players eligible for restricted free agency. NBA free agency officially begins (6 pm ET) and free agents can begin reaching verbal agreements with teams.

July 1 - Official start of the 2019/20 NBA league year. July moratorium begins. 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)

July 6 - July moratorium ends (12 noon ET). Teams can begin officially signing players, extending players, and completing trades. The two-day period for matching an RFA offer sheet signed during the moratorium begins.

July 13 - Last day for teams to unilaterally withdraw qualifying offers to restricted free agents.

July 15 - Last day for teams to issue required tenders to unsigned first-round picks (those players become free agents on July 16 if not tendered).

August 31 - Last day for teams to waive players and apply the stretch provision to their 2019/20 salaries.

September 5 - Last day for teams to issue required tenders to unsigned second-round picks (those players become free agents on September 6 if not tendered).

Late September (specific dates TBA) - Training camps open.

October 22 - NBA 2019-20 regular season begins.

October 31 - Last day that teams can exercise team options on the rookie scale contracts of former first-round picks.

December 14 - Suns vs Spurs in Mexico City.


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “What is the most likely thing that the Suns will do with the #6 draft pick?”

77% - They will just draft the best player available at #6.

09% - They will trade down in the draft.

11% - They will trade out of the draft.

03% - Somehow they will trade up a spot or two!

There were 230 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Which hole in the Suns’ roster is the most important to fill this summer?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    Point guard.
    (176 votes)
  • 17%
    Power forward.
    (51 votes)
  • 22%
    They’re equally important.
    (67 votes)
294 votes total Vote Now