As we continue the bad off season talk about the Phoenix Suns, this week we turn to SI.com and their annual “NBA Top 100” for 2020 in which they inexcusably snubbed Suns center Deandre Ayton but otherwise gave acceptable rankings to Devin Booker, Ricky Rubio and the rest of the gang.
Clearly, this was another attempt by national writers besmirch the good name of the Phoenix Suns franchise with a smear campaign that’s bordering on shameful. We know they lay awake at night, cooking up scheme after scheme to embarrass the Suns owner, employers, players and fans.
And here’s just one more to throw in the bubbling cauldron of boiling shite called Phoenix Suns off season analysis by anyone who fails to live and breathe Suns basketball.
Missed the cut: Ayton and Saric
SI.com openly snubbed the likes of Deandre Ayton and Dario Saric, the Suns’ projected starting big men this coming season, along with Marvin Bagley III, Dennis Schroder, Landry Shamet and a handful of young starters across the league along with some super-subs.
That’s fine on the surface, especially when you consider the kind words they shared in their “we snubbed these guys” analysis:
Deandre Ayton, Suns: It’s only a matter of time. Ayton is already a better player than he was when he joined the league a year ago, and will have a chance to develop in a healthier on-court ecosystem this season with the signing of Ricky Rubio and the full-time return of Devin Booker. With a bit more seasoning, expect Ayton to become a Top 100 fixture.
Dario Šarić, Suns: Šarić will always go out of his way to fit in on a team, sometimes to his own detriment. A Top 100 talent is there. Whether Šarić has a Top 100 disposition is up for debate. Floor spacing and cutting have real, tangible benefits to an offense. They also don’t allow Šarić to tap into the full extent of his game, forcing him to scrap for opportunities as he goes.
They even did all the cool accent marks on Saric’s name! How sweet of them, as they patted the Suns big men on the top of the head.
But then I looked back a year ago, just ONE YEAR AGO, and Saric was ranked 54th in the league after a sophomore season where he made 39 percent of his threes for the upstart Sixers. A year later, he’s not even on the list.
There are 450 players in the NBA, so a Top-100 list basically names the top 25 percent of players in a league where more than 50% of its teams make the playoffs. And knowing that the Suns will definitely have Ricky Rubio and Devin Booker on the list already, can we really expect national writers to include FOUR of the Suns players among the league’s top 25 percent?
No. We cannot expect that. So I was okay with those snubs. Even considering their obvious blinder-bias to the wondrous qualities of Kelly Oubre Jr. and Mikal Bridges.
I’m fine. It’s fine.
Until I read who DID make the Top 100 list...
Check out these smalls that I never ever rank higher than Deandre Ayton in 2020:
100. Andrew Wiggins
99. Terrence Ross
96. Kyle Kuzma
87. Jeff Teague
79. Julius Randle
And that’s just the first few that made my eyes roll with the scroll bar.
Let’s focus on the BIG men ranked ahead of him. How many of these guys would you want over Ayton in 2020? Not all six right? Maybe not any of them at all?
98. DeAndre Jordan
97. Jarrett Allen
93. Bam Adebayo
88. Jonas Valanciunas
83. Jaren Jackson Jr.
Of the six players, Ayton is #1 in points per game, #1 in steals, #1 in minutes, #2 in rebounds, #2 in assists, #2 in offensive win shares, #3 in effective field goal percentage, #4 in total win shares, and #5 in blocks.
And it’s not about just rewarding playoff appearances. Only ONE of those six big men (Jarrett Allen) were in the playoffs last year.
Yet they have Ayton ranked dead last out of these six for THIS COMING YEAR.
So while I can say that, objectively, the league-worst Phoenix Suns should not expect half their rotation to rank in the top 25% of players in the league ... I mean, come ON.
Look at the list yourself. I see no way Ayton ranks below at least half the bottom 50 players in the league right now.
They’ve got Rubio ranked in the 70s and I can’t disagree with that. He’s got some very good qualities (passing, defending, sexy hair, swag, a new tag line ‘Sans Fan’) and some not-so-good qualities so 73rd looks about right.
73. Ricky Rubio
Ricky Rubio has played eight seasons in the NBA, and still his shot has yet to come around. That single issue forces him to play at a deficit. Whenever Rubio delivers some timely, clever pass, what goes unsaid is that they should happen even more often, if only the defense had reason to honor the threat of his scoring. Rubio shoots a passable percentage from mid-range when opponents leave him wide open and finished better around the rim last season than he ever had previously. It just isn’t enough to consistently leverage an opponent’s attention against them, forcing Rubio to work uphill to create anything at all for his teammates. There’s only so much a playmaking guard can really accomplish when he shoots just 31% from beyond the arc. That he sits at No. 73 on this list in spite of all this is a credit to everything else he has to offer. Defending at a high level, reading the floor well, and actively keeping your teammates engaged can go a long way.
The part I don’t like is that Rubio was ranked 57th just a year ago. Why drop 16 slots? Is it just because the national writers hate the Suns (because they do, they absolutely do)? Imagine if Rubio had actually signed with the Pacers like everyone thought he would? Would he have dropped 16 slots?
Maybe the evidence is in the write-ups. A year ago, SI.com was excited about Rubio’s potential growth as a shooter after he’d made a career high 35% of his threes in 2017-18. Now a year and 31% from downtown later, they’re down on that again.
Okay fine. It’s fine. It’s all fine.
A favorite Sun continues to rise up the ranks, this time reaching all the way into the 30s after coming in 50th a year ago.
They still don’t want to call Booker a good passer, but all the other comments are spot on and the ranking is pretty good too. Maybe that’s because Ben Golliver didn’t do the rankings this year.
34. Devin Booker
It’s possible that Devin Booker has endured more bulls--t—or goats--t?—over the last four years than anyone else in the NBA. The Phoenix Suns, organizationally, have been a weight around his neck; four head coaching changes, squandered draft picks, roster mismanagement, and chronic losing don’t exactly foster the best developmental environment. It might even help to get the man a proper point guard, as we’ll finally see this season. Given all that, we can say unequivocally that Booker is not the reason that the Suns have been a terrible basketball team. Yet he also only does so much to improve their station due to the narrow scope of his game.
Booker is a high-level scorer who doesn’t yet excel at anything else. Phoenix played Booker as a Hardenesque point guard last season as a matter of practical necessity, but what playmaking he did was largely a function of driving the entire offense. If you control the ball and make any kind of effort, you can rack up assists. You’ll also rack up turnovers, as Booker did in droves, in part because he just isn’t a star-level passer quite yet. Too many of his feeds from the pocket bounce off of knees and ankles. Too many of his lobs float wildly off-course. Booker can do some impressive things with the ball, just not those—at least with the level of consistency one would expect of a franchise cornerstone. The same is true of the vast majority of the league. As of now, Booker’s only real sin is that his game isn’t quite as complete as the NBA’s best players.
The defense is, at best, inattentive. Booker shoots well, but his long-range accuracy has been spottier than expected. It remains to be seen whether Booker can really be himself in a role off the ball alongside another high-usage star, though to this point he’s seemed less comfortable when not in control. So let’s not rush praise for Booker beyond what he’s proven to be: a promising scorer who’s taking real steps, year over year, to flesh out his game.
Ranked ahead of Booker are De’Aaron Fox (which makes sense after he led the Kings to a 39-win season), C.J. McCollum (four straight playoffs) and DeMar DeRozan.
The Top 30 are to be revealed the rest of the week, but the Suns inclusion on the rankings is complete.
To recap, Booker jumped a couple dozen spots but new additions have been hit by the ugly stick. Rubio dropped 16 slots, while Saric dropped more than 50 slots all the way out of the Top 100 entirely. And Aron Baynes isn’t even mentioned either year. I’m sure @BaynesFanClub’s heart is broken over this.
Here’s the Top-100, in case you didn’t notice the links earlier: SI Top 100 for 2020
Have at it, ‘Sans fan’. What do you think of the these rankings?