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Center of the Sun: The Suns’ 2019-20 season is still far away but the season schedule is not

Will the new schedule start off easy, difficult or somewhere in-between?

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

The NBA has announced that they will release the full 2019-20 regular season schedule today at noon AZT (3 pm ET).

Last season the NBA seemed to do the Suns no favors by giving them some very tough opponents very early on... but perhaps they actually did do them a favor.

We all know how bad that team is now but hopes for the season were actually inflated following the season opening win against Dallas. They were then swiftly dashed by the seven following losses and a 4-18 record at the end of November.

If the early schedule had been easier, perhaps we might have convinced ourselves that Isaiah Canaan (waived on Nov. 28), Trevor Ariza (traded on Dec. 15 for Kelly Oubre Jr.) and Ryan Anderson (traded on Feb. 6 for Tyler Johnson) were worth hanging on to. Even worse, perhaps James Jones might have believed that they were worth hanging on to and the trades that brought Oubre and Johnson to Phoenix might not have happened.

Another season schedule which begins as difficult as that one could also be of benefit this year but I’d rather see more of a middle of the road schedule early on. Too easy and the team could get over confident, too hard and they could lose confidence. Either of those things could detrimental to any team trying to return to relevance in the NBA but a loss of confidence early would be most harmful... and it’s not self-confidence that I’m concerned about but confidence by the players in their team and teammates.

Once that is lost, teams often stop being teams and turn into a collection of individuals just playing for themselves.

At the end of last season, the Suns seemed to have developed a chemistry and identity that they didn’t have at the beginning. If they can hang on to that early in the season and build upon it, this could turn into a season that could be a turning point for the franchise. While there will be many new additions this season, all seem to be high character, high IQ “team players”, the type willing to put the team before themselves. Just the type you want beside you when you’re facing an uphill battle as the Suns are likely to face this season. The new faces buying in and becoming a part of the Valley Boyz identity is crucial for team success.

Yesterday, what might be the Suns’ 2019-20 schedule was “leaked”.

As Greg Esposito indicates, it might not be the final form of the schedule but even then, if it’s a legitimate preliminary draft, it should be very close to it.

Whether it’s the final version or not, pretty much any schedule would be considered difficult for a team coming off a 19-63 season. When the official schedule is released later today, its dissection will begin in earnest. Whatever challenges it offers, we can only hope that this newest edition of the Suns will be up to the numerous obstacles the schedule places in their path in 2019-20.

Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - The Suns were the worst rebounding team in the NBA last season. Do you think the roster changes they’ve made will have a significant impact on the team rebounding numbers this season?

GuarGuar: Playing Saric at PF over Josh Jackson and Kelly Oubre will definitely improve our team rebounding. Jackson/Oubre are undersized but more importantly they have close to zero game sense about rebound positioning for a PF. We gave up a ton of putbacks last year because they didn’t know how to help side rebound. Baynes is a good rebounder as a backup center too. I expect a decent improvement this year on the boards because our average lineup size has increased and players are in their correct positions.

Sun-Arc: Looking at this through the lens of the player replacement that has occurred, I would say no. Ayton was a good rebounder with a TRB% of 18.5. Chandler, for all his apathy, had a significantly higher TRB% of 24.3 while with us. And he’s gone. Bender (12.3) and Saric (12.1) were nearly identical in that advanced stat last season, as were Ariza (9.1) compared to Oubre (9.2), Devin Booker (6.5), Tyler Johnson (7.1), and Bridges (6.0) were all weaker in this stat than Jackson (9.7) and Melton (7.5).

Having said that, one of the biggest flaws the team had with rebounding was their defensive scheme. Igor asked four guys to sprint back on defense, leaving the center to get what they could without any team block outs. If they could learn to block out more, we might get out of this chamber of the basement we’ve dwelt within.

SDKyle: I do think the Suns’ rebounding will improve. First, Dario Saric, whatever his faults, is a demonstrably better rebounding PF than either Kelly Oubre or the departed T.J. Warren, who between them accounted for a lot of minutes at the 4 spot last season.

Second, Dragan Bender is gone and the majority of big man bench minutes will probably go to Aron Baynes, a better rebounder than Bender.

How significant the improvement will be I am not certain, but on paper the Suns shouldn’t be worse than an average rebounding team.

SouthernSun: I think the Suns will be a substantially better rebounding team next this season. They added a slightly better backup center, and replaced one of the worst players in the league (Dragan Bender) with three players of varying degrees of better than him at PF (Dario Saric - way better, Frank Kaminsky - a good bit better, Cheick Diallo - slightly better). Just having three actual power forwards on the team (who are all at least playable NBA players) instead of one awful one should do wonders for the Suns rebounding. Not only that, but Ricky Rubio is no slouch in the rebounding department (for a PG).

Alex Sylvester: Yes. I think the frontcourt combination of Ayton/Baynes/Diallo should be able to swallow up a bunch of rebounds and make up for the lack of rebounding at the PF position (I know Diallo plays some 4). Not sure if this group will be able to even crack the top 20 in rebounds but it’s certainly an upgrade from last year.

Q2 - What do you believe Mikal Bridges needs to improve on to take the starting small forward spot away from Kelly Oubre Jr.?

GuarGuar: I think Mikal is already more valuable than Oubre as a basketball player because of his elite defense. That being said, Oubre fits the starting lineup better because he is an off the dribble scoring threat. Kelly can create his own offense, and that’s desperately needed with Booker being the only player who could do that most of last year. Ayton barely dribbled all of last year which was bizarre, so hopefully that changes. So for Mikal to take the starting spot this year, he needs to start creating his own shot. I expect our closing lineup to be Mikal over Saric though.

Sun-Arc: Mikal would need to really improve his strength and shooting. Those are the only two items keeping him from the starting position. I believe he can be a consistent 38% perimeter threat, but he really has to work on it because his shooting motion is not consistent. Kellan Olson did a great job of pointing out the oddities of his shooting recently. And, interestingly, he didn’t have as many issues at Villanova - so his shooting woes are curious. For corner threes, for instance, he shot 57.1% in college but just 32% this past season. Curious indeed.

He seems to be working on the strength, based on statements from him. That will be huge because that was the only other issue for him this past season. He is capable of doing so many things well and is able to make winning plays on both ends. He has one of the best chances on the team to be a very badly needed 3&D player this season. Having said that, who is the other player with this potential? Kelly Oubre. And he’s standing in Mikal’s starting spot.

SDKyle: Simply put: become a sniper. Bridges is actually already a better defender than Oubre...and I expect that gap to widen this season. But Bridges doesn’t bring enough dynamism to the offense as a merely average make a serious play to be the starter he needs to be knocking down close to 40% of about 5 three point attempts per game while continuing to be a versatile and effective defender.

If he does that, and Oubre doesn’t improve as a shooter, I could see Bridges making a strong case to get the starting nod.

SouthernSun: His three point shot. Not that Oubre is much better than Mikal at shooting from deep, but he can do a lot more on the offensive end, while also being a pretty decent defender. However, Mikal is so good defensively that if he had a truly respectable three point shot, it would make him the clear cut starter.

Alex Sylvester: To be honest, I don’t think there’s much that Mikal can do this season to steal the starting spot from Kelly. However, there is a world where Kelly could come into camp unmotivated and comes out the gate slow. What I’m alluding to is I don’t believe there’s a world where Mikal ‘steals’ the starting spot from Kelly, but there’s an off chance that Kelly squanders the opportunity to lock down his role with the Suns moving forward.

Q3 - Complete the following sentence. ”If the Suns are over .500 at the end of November...”

GuarGuar: If the Suns are over .500 at the end of November, it’s because Deandre Ayton made a big leap as a defender. Center is the most important position for a defense, and we need him to improve big time in that area going forward. I have confidence he can with a year under his belt and a better coaching staff.

Sun-Arc: If the Suns are over .500 at the end of November I will have raised my eyebrows pretty high to get a better look at what is going on. But I won’t get my hopes up just yet unless they start out with a really tough schedule. It’s a long season and I want to see them compete hard all the way till the end and show us a lot to be excited about.

SDKyle: If the Suns are over .500 at the end of November, I’ll be thankful to be enjoying a competitive basketball team for only the second time in the last decade. Maybe that’s not the funniest or most clever response, but screw it... my Suns fandom has lacked this basic thing for so long now that I’d just want to savor that simple thing.

SouthernSun: If the Suns are over .500 at the end of November, they should make an attempt to trade for an impact player. Whether that’s Blake Griffin, Aaron Gordon, Kevin Love, Serge Ibaka, or someone else. I wouldn’t include Saric in the deal if I were them, unless he’s underperformed (and that seems unlikely if the Suns are .500). However, I’m of the opinion that the Suns should attempt to trade for an impact player today, tomorrow, yesterday, a month from now, and in December too.

A realistic scenario is that the Suns get more production from Ty Jerome than they probably initially expect to. Which makes Tyler Johnson expendable. Which frees them up to use his large expiring salary, presumably alongside Kaminsky’s, in a deal for a guy like those mentioned above. Those two plus picks are enough for either Gordon or Ibaka. Getting Griffin or Love would require more salary go out, which probably means trading Kelly Oubre, which I doubt the Suns do. So I believe the Suns top two trade targets will be Gordon and Ibaka.

Or, perhaps Saric is playing so well that they decide PF isn’t even a position they need to upgrade, so they don’t do anything. That’s the only situation where I’d be okay with them doing nothing.

Alex Sylvester: “I will assure myself not to overreact but at the same time appreciate how far we’ve come”.

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

2018-19 Season Highlights

Full Game Recap: Suns vs Magic | Dec. 26, 2018

Devin Booker Full Highlights 2018.12.26 Suns vs Magic - 35 Pts, 8 Asts, CLUTCH!

T.J. Warren 24 PTS: All Possessions (12/26/18)

Quote of the Week

Interesting Suns Stuff

News & Notes

NBA Daily: Grading The Offseason – Phoenix Suns. Basketball Insiders

Suns’ Ricky Rubio on Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton: ‘I can help them reach the level they deserve’. Sporting News

Booker Continues to Show Commitment to Phoenix Through Second Annual Basketball ProCamp.

Ranking Devin Booker’s 3 most dominant performances from last season. Clutch Points

Phoenix Suns NBA awards: All the winners in team history. Hoops Hype

Phoenix Suns: 3 big questions heading into 2019-20. Hoops Habit

Suns History in Video

Suns Trivia

Last season the Suns had 28 different starting lineups. 17 of them combined for an 0-32 record, the other 11 were 19-31 and one of those (T. Johnson/Booker/Oubre/Bender/Ayton) had a positive W/L percentage (.571) in the 7 games they were the designated starting 5. The most used starting lineup (Melton/Booker/Bridges/Warren/Ayton) was 4-11 (.267).

Previewing the Weeks (and Months) Ahead

August 12 - 2019-20 NBA Regular Season schedule to be released.

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 8 - Phoenix Suns vs Minnesota Timberwolves (preseason), 7:00 pm AZT

October 10 - Phoenix Suns @ Sacramento Kings (preseason), 7:00 pm AZT

October 12 - Phoenix Suns @ Portland Trail Blazers (preseason), 5:00 pm AZT

October 14 - Phoenix Suns vs Denver Nuggets (preseason), 7:00 pm AZT

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.

Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “For the Suns to have a reasonably successful season, their defense needs to improve to...”

37% - At least close to 20th.

55% - Somewhere between 15th and 20th.

08% - Better than 15th.

There were 275 votes cast.

This week’s poll is about Ricky Rubio. Over his NBA career he has averaged 7.7 assists per game. In his six seasons in Minnesota, he averaged 8.5 apg. In his two seasons in Utah, he averaged 5.7 apg.


How many assists per game will Ricky Rubio average in Phoenix this season?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    8 or more.
    (146 votes)
  • 31%
    More than 6 but less than 8.
    (69 votes)
  • 0%
    6 or less.
    (2 votes)
217 votes total Vote Now

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