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Center of the Sun: After Summer League, Suns fans must settle in for the long wait for the 2019-20 season to begin

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How will the Suns fare when the new season begins? Let the discussions begin!

NBA: Summer League-China National Team at Phoenix Suns Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Summer League Suns Scoreboard

Phoenix Suns vs Memphis Grizzlies L (79-69)

Phoenix Suns vs San Antonio Spurs W (79-78)

Phoenix Suns vs China W (94-64)

It’s July 15 and Summer League is over for Suns fans. All that is left to us is the long wait for next season.

But it’s not as if nothing will happen between now and opening night In just six weeks, the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup will be held in China from August 31-September 15. Unfortunately, no Suns players will be on Team USA but shortly after it ends, NBA training camps will open.

Let me repeat that. NBA training camps will open... in only 8-9 weeks. Shortly after that, preseason games begin and not long after that we’re finally back in business as the 2019-20 NBA regular season opens on October 22.

That still leaves about 8-9 weeks of almost complete boredom for NBA fans but I’m sure we can still find plenty of Suns related things to discuss and debate during that time. Speculating on possible summer time trades, the signing of free agents on make good training camp contracts who are hoping to gain one of the final end of the bench roster spots and, of course, how soon this new Suns team will mesh together and perform next season under new head coach Monty Williams will all be fair game.

The Suns have been remade but all of James Jones’ restructuring means little if Coach Williams can’t take all the pieces he’s been given and put a smooth running team on the court. I like Monty Williams and I believe that Jones and company worked with Monty find the best players possible to fit his vision of what he wants the Suns to be.

The Suns have added experienced and high IQ players that - for the most part - are above average three point shooters. Even rookie first round draft picks Cameron Johnson and Ty Jerome fit that mold. Everything that’s been done so far looks as though it is to put a stronger supporting cast around Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.

Without a doubt, Booker and Ayton will be options 1 and 2 offensively. Ricky Rubio’s job will be getting the ball into their hands at the most opportune moments. Dario Saric’s and Kelly Oubre Jr.’s roles will be opportunistic scoring... Saric mostly from the three-point line and Oubre from on the move and taking advantage of whatever opportunities present themselves.

At least that’s how I envision it. If it all works, the Suns should be able to trade offensive punches with almost any other team in the association.

Defensively... well, it’s still a question mark as to how much better this team will be on that end of the court this season. I do believe they will be improved on that end but aren’t likely to get out of the bottom 10 in defense. But even moving into the upper half of that group would be an improvement.

I, like most fans, can’t wait to see how all this will work out next season.

Unfortunately, we all do have to wait though.

I won’t tell anyone to “be patient” until then because I know how much many Suns fans have grown to hate that phrase after having heard it so many times before.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - What do you hope to see from Monty Williams in the type of offense he will run?

GuarGuar: I hope we play at a faster pace than we did last year. Not only do I think this benefits Book, Ayton, and Oubre, but I also think Rubio has the type of game that can thrive in a fast pace offense. Also like everyone, I expect Ayton to have a higher usage given how talented he is.

I’m really curious to see how Monty uses Booker. For most of last season, Booker ran pick and rolls almost 45% of the time during a game. It wasn’t until the end of last season Igor realized there’s other ways to utilize Booker when teams are trapping him on PnRs. I hope we don’t have to witness that same learning process from Monty this year. If a team is doubling Booker in a pick and roll, have him run it a lot less and put him off ball. He’s a phenomenal off ball player running off screens and cutting. Now we have a functional point guard to help in these scenarios too!

Sun-Arc: Honestly I’m not sure what to expect from Monty Williams. I don’t remember how his teams played. What I expect to see is a lot of offense run through Booker and Ayton, since Jones has stated that. What I HOPE to see is…

  • Rubio running pick-and-roll with Ayton to perfection. Can they replicate much of Nash-Stat? I sure hope they can.
  • Sure, a lot of the offense will go through Booker too - and a lot with the ball in his hands. But I hope he’s playing off ball more than on next season.
  • I hope to see a lot of sets that forces the defense to collapse around Rubio/Ayton/Booker/Oubre, leaving shooters wide open. And I hope they hit their shots.
  • I still want to see pesky defense predicated on steals and a lot of fast-paced transition offense for our young team.
  • I hope to see the ball moving around without seeing a hand-off to Ayton 23 feet from the basket. Namely, I’d like to see the ball moving around the perimeter to find the open man.

SouthernSun: I’m really hoping to see Monty utilize Ayton more. Getting him more touches in spots where he can look to score would be huge. Any Suns fan probably wants them to play fast, but really, whatever would be most effective. If slowing it down will produce better results, then I’m fine with that. Last season the Suns basically just swung the ball around on the perimeter from one player who can’t score to another. Seeing some well executed halfcourt sets would be a breath of fresh air.

Alex Sylvester: I want to see a few things from Monty and the offense next year:

  • Prioritize Ayton early in games. Don’t allow Deandre to mentally check out and make sure he’s engaged to maximize his impact on the court. Low post touches, P&R’s, maybe even attempt a three from the top of the key.
  • Put the playmaking responsibility on Rubio/Saric. I’m glad Devin got the chance to improve his playmaking last season but this year should be all about increasing his efficiency and his energy levels on the defensive end. How do you do that? Allow Ricky and Dario to do what they do and create for others.
  • Fast pace. We’re still going to be one of the youngest teams in the league and this year we should have substantially better depth. I believe Bridges/T Johnson/Baynes are all guys that could get 20+ minutes a night. Ayton shouldn’t be getting more than 32 MPG and Booker/Rubio/Oubre should be limited so they can stay healthy throughout the 82 game season.

Q2 - With a few exceptions (Rubio and Baynes), adding offensive weapons seems to have been the priority for James Jones this offseason. I think that having Kelly Oubre Jr. and Tyler Johnson from the beginning of the season should be a plus defensively. Do you believe that the Suns’ defense will improve much from last season?

GuarGuar: Well, it’s pretty hard to end up worse than last year! But I do think we will be quite a bit better defensively this year. We can talk about how we have more “defenders” on our roster this year. But my main reason is I expect defensive leaps from both Booker and Ayton this year. Ayton has experience and needs to develop into at least somewhat of a rim protector. I think the assistant coaches Monty has hired will help DA take that next step. Booker has quality NBA players all around him now for the first time in his career. Book’s shown to be “fine” defensively when we’ve been in competitive games, the problem has been we rarely were in those type of games. He knows he can’t be slacking like before now that we have an actual NBA roster. I think it’s possible we crack the top 20 in defense this year. Which would be a very positive step given this roster is more offense-oriented.

Sun-Arc: The defense couldn’t be much worse. But it might not be any better, depending on how much the team gels behind Williams and his (hopefully strong) defensive schemes. Replacing Melton and Jackson with Jerome/Okobo and Cam Johnson will likely not improve the man-on-man defense. But there is a chance the team could play better team-defense. Maybe.

I do think the starters should (hopefully) look better with a bit more stability (no firing of coaches, firing FO personnel, or having disgruntled stars in the first week would help). With Oubre, Johnson, Rubio, and Baynes on board through training camp and beyond will be a big difference from the past three seasons+.

SouthernSun: I believe that the Suns defense will improve enough to slide them up to like 25th in DRTG. A full season with Kelly and Tyler, plus Baynes, Rubio, and Saric should be enough to help on that end. But the real improvement will be on offense. I expect the Suns offense to be middle of the pack or better.

Alex Sylvester: It’s hard to not think this team will improve defensively when they were near the bottom of the barrel last season.

Do I think it’ll be a dramatic improvement? No, considering your best players still have obvious flaws on the defensive end. But could I see this team being able to hit around the 20th spot in DefRTG if things go well? Sure. I think the main influences on this will be Deandre becoming a true presence on defense with his talent, Oubre/Bridges each taking another step as an impact wing, and Baynes’ impact on the 2nd unit.

Q3 - Have you been impressed by anyone on the Summer Suns roster?

GuarGuar: Jalen Lecque has really impressed me (I’m sure this is a common answer). He’s a lot more polished than I thought he’d be. Good handles, ok in pick and rolls, and a really solid slasher. His defense was very impressive too. We say this about a lot of players, but Jalen is really a good jumper away from being a positive NBA player. The raw talent is certainly there. I look forward to watching his development.

Sun-Arc: I’m going to say I have not been really impressed with anyone in summer league. The biggest standout to me has been Harper (from Auburn), just because he was by far the most dynamic in the one game I was able to watch (game 2). He scored at will against Robinson of the Knicks, which was impressive.

People might point to Lecque, but I think he’s just been ok thus far. His defense has been better than I expected (meaning there was some), but he fouls quite a bit. He has poise, is really athletic, and shows potential- but not enough that he jumps off the page just yet.

Ray Spalding looks like he could be a good 5th big to have aboard to keep an eye on him. Seems to have some skills that are trying to work themselves out. But there could be other bigs that would be better to have at the same time.

SouthernSun: Like everyone else, I have been impressed with Jalen Lecque. He looks really good out there. Athleticism is off the charts. He plays hard and fights on defense. He can get to the basket. He even seems to have decent court vision. He needs to spend a lot of time in the weight room, and then do the T.J. Warren thing where he goes to a gym everyday and shoots a thousand three pointers.

Alex Sylvester: Lecque. He’s the one guy that was on the roster that could have value to the Suns moving forward. For a guy so young to be able to have such an efficient impact on the game while playing the toughest position on the court in terms of efficiency? Add his athleticism to the equation and you potentially have a real NBA player in the next couple of seasons.

As always, many thanks to our Fantable - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SouthernSun and Alex Sylvester - for all their extra effort every week! (SDKyle was unable to participate in this week’s Fantable.)


2018-19 Season Highlights

Milwaukee Bucks vs Phoenix Suns Game Highlights, 11.23.2018

Devin Booker Full Highlights Suns vs Bucks 2018.11.23 - 29 Pts, 7 Assists

Jamal Crawford Game-Winner


Quote of the Week

“I think when he puts it all together, he’s going to be scary.” - Assistant coach Willie Green on Suns’ rookie Jalen Lecque


Interesting Suns Stuff


News & Notes

Aron Baynes Can Be Ideal Complement To Deandre Ayton In Phoenix Suns’ Frontcourt. The Runner Sports

Kelly Oubre Jr. Gets An Opportunity To Prove Himself With New Suns Contract. Brendon Kleen/Forbes

Jalen Lecque’s Potential Shining Throughout Summer League. Suns.com

ANALYSIS: How does Cameron Johnson fit in with his new team, the Phoenix Suns? The Daily Tar Heel

Phoenix Suns Gorilla Involved In Altercation At Glendale-Area Gentlemen’s Club. The Onion (humor)

Organizational overhaul finished for Suns, quest for ascension begins. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Phoenix Suns: 3 takeaways from 2019 NBA offseason. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit


Suns History in Video

Top 10 Career Assists of Steve Nash


Suns Trivia

New Phoenix Suns point guard Ricky Rubio is 18th in all-time career assists per game with an average of 7.66 apg. Only four active NBA players have a higher career assists per game average (Chris Paul - 9.66, John Wall - 9.22, Rajon Rondo - 8.45 and Russell Westbrook - 8.40).


Previewing the Weeks (and Months) Ahead

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 - Phoenix Suns vs San Antonio Spurs in Mexico City.


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “The Suns and Kelly Oubre Jr. will reach an agreement on a new contract...”

53% - Sometime this week. (You were right!)

26% - In about a month after some more negotiating.

05% - Right before training camp starts like with Bledsoe.

16% - It won’t happen and he will eventually take the qualifying offer instead.

There were 623 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Who will win the Suns’ starting small forward spot during training camp?

This poll is closed

  • 84%
    Kelly Oubre Jr.
    (391 votes)
  • 13%
    Mikal Bridges
    (63 votes)
  • 1%
    Cameron "Dark Horse" Johnson
    (9 votes)
463 votes total Vote Now