Let’s continue our season preview series for the 2019-20 Phoenix Suns!
This series will explore how the Suns are seen by their Western Conference (possibly lottery bound) counterparts. I know Suns fans are all over the board on how the team matches up to the rest of the West — some of you are real high on the team, and some are real low.
So, let’s see how the Suns are seen by bloggers who don’t follow them, but are huge NBA fans in their own way.
Today, we exchange thoughts with Greg Wissinger of our SB Nation team site SacTownRoyalty.com.
Remember when both teams were terrible? Like, only a year ago?
(lol count how many current Suns are in that video)
The Suns still are terrible, but the Kings most definitely are not. The Kings went on to an exciting season, getting 39 wins behind breakout years from Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox and a host of other Kings.
So, let’s do this! We compare our teams in terms of playmakers, wings and bigs.
To be fair, I always list Booker in both the wing and playmaker categories because he IS both to the Suns. I share the opposing team comps with the other blog, and allow them to make adjustments as well.
- Suns: Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker, Tyler Johnson, Ty Jerome (R), Elie Okobo, Jevon Carter
- Kings: De’Aaron Fox, Cory Joseph, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Yogi Ferrell
First, Greg’s turn:
Let me start by saying that I like what the Suns did this offseason. I don’t know how good the Suns will be this year, but I thought the Rubio and Saric additions made a lot of sense for this roster.
That said, I’m also going to be somewhat irrational in this analysis because I like the Kings more than I like the Suns and my fragile psyche is severely dependent on feeling good about my team during the offseason. Ok, let’s do this.
This is difficult. On the one hand you have a young superstar in the making, and on the other you have Devin Booker. It’s not Booker’s fault that Fox is so great, but it does swing the analysis here. Jokes aside, those two are both very good young players. This question comes down to supporting cast for me. If Bogdanovic plays like last season, the edge probably goes to Phoenix. If Bogdanovic returns to his rookie season form, I think the Kings have the edge here. Bogi was playing amazing as a rookie but had a knee injury that hampered his sophomore season. On the hope that he returns to form, I’ll take the Kings.
Hmm. I’m not sure it’s late enough into their careers to call Fox > Booker and Bogdanovic > Rubio in the playmaking department ... but I understand Greg wanting that to be true, and being excited about the 39-43 Kings who were absolutely triggered by Fox at the helm.
Let’s look at the tale of the tape real quick:
Hmm. These guys are actually pretty close to each other as playmakers aren’t they? It’s honestly closer than I expected it to be, at all levels: per-36 minutes, per-100 possessions and advanced rates/percentages.
Clearly, I can see why Greg is so excited about Fox. That dude is so talented, and I admit that I missed on him in the 2017 draft, but only by a little bit. I had Fox ranked as the 3rd best overall fit for the Suns in the entire draft, behind Josh Jackson and Jonathan Isaac. I big-time whiffed on my top two, while putting Fox at 3rd and Tatum at 4th.
Me, on June 21, 2017, just before the draft:
After rocky rookie season in which Fox didn’t separate himself from the likes of the Suns’ Josh Jackson, this past year has been crazy crazy good for the young point guard. I really do think he’d have been incredible next to Booker.
Fox is better than Booker as a playmaker, but Booker is the better player overall.
And is Bogie better than Ricky Rubio? They are surprisingly only two years apart in age, and both have star-studded young international careers, but Rubio has a longer term pedigree of success in the league. I just have to put Rubio over Bogdanovic as a playmaker, considering Rubio was 15th in the league last year in assist percentage (percentage of passes resulting in an assisted basket).
Let’s go down to the third level: Cory Joseph and Tyler Johnson. Who’s the better player there? Across their careers, Joseph is the better passer and defender while Tyler is the better scorer and shooter. If we’re talking playmaking, which we are in this section, I think it’s a toss up between these two. Johnson’s 18.6% assist percent with the Suns last year nearly matches Joseph’s career-high 20.7% last year in Indiana.
Look, I can see both sides of this argument. But I put the Suns a little over the top. Booker > Fox, Rubio > Bogie, Johnson = Cory Joseph.
- Suns: Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre Jr., Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson (R)
- Kings: Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Trevor Ariza
I’m very thrown off by having players show up in multiple categories, but I welcome the opportunity to slander Booker unnecessarily again. On the wings it’s a competition of one of the best shooters in the NBA versus Devin Booker. Ok, sorry, had to get that out of the way.
But seriously, did you know Buddy Hield just had one of the best three point shooting seasons in NBA history? I think the Kings wings are better than the Suns. Oubre surprised me, he was better than I expected him to be after the Suns acquired him last season. I like Mikal a lot but I’m not sure if he’ll break out this year or in another year or two. Harrison Barnes is considered overpaid by many but he’s a very solid wing and fits the Kings very well. I give the Kings the edge based on their depth.
Again, I can totally understand Greg’s point of view. The Kings had a great, great season while nursing a longer non-playoff streak (12) than the Suns (9), and they’re hopeful to take the next step this coming season.
But Suns fans might remember the 2013-14 season here in the valley where every single player had a career year, and the summer was ‘huh?’ while everyone still expected an even better 2014-15. We all know how that worked out. I hope it works out better for the Kings than it did for the Suns.
They didn’t think their 39-win team was ready to grow on their own, so they paid Cory Joseph over $13 million a year to back up Fox, Harrison Barnes over $22 million a year and Trevor Ariza $12 million a year to back him up and Dewayne Dedmon $13 million year. Will that all gel? Who knows. I hope for their sake that it does.
While Harry Barnes and Ariza have longer careers and pedigrees, I just don’t see them as being much better than Oubre and Bridges. Yes, I realize I’m taking the opposite angle from the guards comp. I’m a hypocrite.
So, let’s call this one a wash.
ADVANTAGE: TOSS UP
- Suns: Deandre Ayton, Dario Saric, Aron Baynes, Frank Kaminsky, Cheick Diallo
- Kings: Marvin Bagley III, Nemanja Bjelica, Dewayne Dedmon, Harry Giles, Richaun Holmes
I think Ayton is quite good. I’m not exactly spitting hot takes when I say that. But Marvin Bagley is also very good. It’s one of those fun situations where I don’t think either fan base would want to trade their guy for the other. I think Saric is a very good stretch 4, younger and better than Bjelica. But I think Dewayne Dedmon is better than Aron Baynes (hopefully this isn’t a controversial statement), and I think Harry Giles and Richaun Holmes are better than Kaminsky and Diallo. I’ll give the edge to the Kings here.
It’s fine to like Bagley better than Ayton. Good on the Kings for that. But let’s remember that Bagley had a much smaller role for the Kings most of the year (only started 4 games all year, meaning he played a lot of minutes against backups) while Ayton went up against the NBA’s best big man every single night as a rookie.
Still, their numbers are quite comparable after a late-season surge by Bagley:
It truly is a question of depth, though. Saric is better than Bjelica, but Dedmon is better than Baynes. And I’d rather have Harry Giles and Richaun Holmes than Frank the Tank and Cheick Diallo.
So, I’ll go with Greg on this one.
Did you like this preview? Check out the others in the series:
What do you think, Suns fans? Who’s the better overall team?