We’re more than a month away from the start of the 2019-20 NBA season. After what felt like years for the season to start, we’ll finally get to see how the Phoenix Suns look after an offseason of change. One starting position that hasn’t been decided for the Suns is at small forward as it’s between forwards Mikal Bridges and Kelly Oubre Jr.
There’s a lot to like with both Oubre and Bridges. Bridges is the prototypical three and D wing who showed glimpses of brilliance on the defensive side. Oubre, traded in the middle of the season from Washington, has become a fan favorite in the Valley who plays with a lot of heart and passion. In the 40 games he played, Oubre averaged nearly 17 points per game for the Suns, a career high. Compare that to Bridges’ 8.3 points per game and you can see the gap between the two. While it was Bridge’s first season in the league, Oubre has been growing considerably since he was taken in 2015. For a team looking to win now and get that third scoring option secure behind Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton, Oubre can fill that spot perfectly.
Defensively, Bridges was solid for the Suns, averaging 1.6 steals a game, leading the team. Oubre, on the other hand, was right behind the fresh face rookie with 1.4. Both men were close to each other in the defensive rating with Bridges possessing a slight lead (112 to 113.5). Both men bring a lot of energy and hustle to the defensive side and though Bridges played slightly better, Oubre’s offensive potential makes up for it.
While Oubre is better right now, Bridges’ growth from year one to two can make all the difference. The Suns last season seemed more than willing to let Bridges play. He had the sixth most minutes on the team and starting 56 games. The team was bad last year but the Suns clearly felt confident in him and wanted him to grow. Bridge’s can potentially be an elite three and D player. He has the size and skills necessary to hang with anyone in the league, he’s slightly more efficient with the three ball (33.5%) than Oubre (32.6) and fills a role that’s vital for the Suns.
We all know that Booker and Ayton are the stars/primary scorers of the Suns, the team needs to fill in the holes around them. Bridges has the potential to be that third guy for the Suns. However, Oubre can potentially be that guy too. While he may not possess the high ceiling that people believe Bridges has, he’s a four-year vet who’s grown each season. He’s got a lot of passion and heart for the Suns and that helps greatly for a team that is lacking that on the court.
Oubre is the clear cut option for starting small forward for the Suns. He’s a better offensive talent and isn’t far behind defensively.
However, it’s vital for Bridges growth that he gets a lot of minutes playing and I expect that to be the case, as the sixth man. For a team that needs to take a step forward, the Suns can’t afford to not play their best players right away. The team is desperate for wins, especially if Booker gets restless with the losing. Oubre is just a better player right now and the Suns shouldn’t be in the tanking business anymore.