The Phoenix Suns haven’t had an offensive rating at or above league average since the 2013-14 season. For six years, Phoenix has toiled in porous offensive attacks. And over the last four years, under the watch of four head coaches and two general managers, they finished anywhere from 28th to 30th three times.
So, it’s understandable why GM James Jones and head coach Monty Williams will go all-in on providing a huge jolt to their offense this offseason even with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton on their roster.
There is plenty of potential for the Suns to leap from No. 28 in offensive rating to the top 15, but many factors have to fall in their favor. And many of those fall outside of their 22-year-old primary franchise building block.
Best Case Scenario
For the Suns to take this considerable leap forward, we would be remiss not to hit on Booker’s potential of taking another leap entering into his five-year, $158 million max extension. After averaging 26.6 points and 6.8 assists on a 58.4 true shooting percentage, what’s the next level Booker will reach? I’m certainly not going to put a limit on him, because more often than not, he surpasses my original expectations.
As the focal point of Williams’ new system, Booker could average anywhere from 27-30 points per game while his TS% finally eclipses 60 percent. It’s incredible Booker was able to achieve 58.4 percent even though his three-point percentage cratered to 32.6.
The 1B to Booker’s 1A is Deandre Ayton. If Ayton takes the next step in Year 2, as other No. 1 picks such as Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis did, it changes the whole calculus for the short- and long-term outlook for Phoenix. Bumping up his numbers from 16 points and 10 rebounds to 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 1.5 or 2 blocks per game would go a very long way towards him reaching his sky-high potential.
The more I dive deeper into this all-important 2019-20 campaign, Ricky Rubio and his potential to regain his Minnesota form looms large. When he first joined the league, Rubio was brilliant at pushing the pace at warp speed, but it went away once he was placed within slower offenses under Tom Thibodeau and Quin Snyder.
Now surrounded by offensive talent like Booker, Ayton and Oubre, Rubio’s effectiveness should return with brilliant team efficiency. Not only will Ayton be helped immensely by Rubio’s dishes, but someone like Oubre will feast in transition opportunities when the veteran floor general wants to get easy buckets. If all goes well from this aspect, it will be a distinct change from year’s past within the Suns’ offense.
Another new addition like Dario Saric adds more playmaking aspects plus shooting from deep as well. If Williams is able to peel back the onion and utilize Saric’s underrated passing ability, it will add another trap door for defenses to deal with. Also, if Saric is able to be an optimal floor-spacer, it’s going to do wonders for Ayton and Booker.
Even though many haven’t really went with this angle, Rubio and Saric truly do hold the biggest key to an offensive turnaround in 2019-20. That’s why their worst-case scenario could be disastrous if it goes another direction.
If all of these ingredients mix together and create a more effective offense, there’s no reason not to believe the Suns will finally have a top 15 offensive rating for the first time in six years. At this point in time, I would lean on that actually happening when you zoom out and see the improvements made all across the margins.
Worst Case Scenario
As I alluded to before, Rubio and Saric adjusting poorly to Williams’ system would be very worrisome. Both have their own red flags on both ends (Rubio = consistency on offense; Saric = defense altogether). If the negatives shine brighter than the positives, it’s going to put tons of pressure on Booker and Ayton once again to carry additional weight on their shoulders.
Speaking of Ayton, what happens if he doesn’t take that leap? Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns had their Year 2 leaps, but will the Bahamian big man? I doubt there’s any real chance of stagnation, but the worst-case scenario needs to analyze exactly like. Ayton staying where he was on offense while not improving defensively would be a crippling sight to the Suns’ short-term success.
An underlying factor from a worst-case scenario point of view is Bridges’ three-point shooting. What happens if the career 40 percent shooter from deep during his college days at Villanova still struggles with consistency? It’s going to bring plenty of questions, especially if the hitch on wide-open corner looks continues to creep up.
Bridges shot 33.5 percent last season, so that number needs to reach the 37-38 percent threshold to feel really confident about the ‘Nova version of the No. 10 overall pick returning on the offensive end. Alongside that point, more aggressiveness needs to be seen from him as well. If the shooting and passiveness stays around, it’s going to dip the Suns’ offensive ceiling lower than many expect it to land.
The Suns’ $158 million man in Booker won’t be bringing the ship down, but the new additions like Rubio and Saric plus their 2018 rookie class will play a heavy factor into where this offense lands during an all-important season where legitimate progress needs to occur.
Since 2015, here is where Phoenix’s offensive rating has finished: 2015 - 28th, 22nd - 2016, 30th - 2017, 28th - 2018. If this continues, there’s going to be little progress seen. I would lean towards the breakthrough finally occurring, but four players really hold the key to help their superstar combo guard push the Phoenix Suns out of irrelevance.
If all goes well, the 2019-20 Suns could be the 2018-19 version of the Sacramento Kings, playing smart, efficient basketball with a deep roster that allows them to keep the pace up for 48 minutes.