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Center of the Sun: Is the next Jimmy Butler in this year’s Draft class?

Probably not but GMs can’t afford to simply dismiss that possibility.

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Miami Heat v Phoenix Suns Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

While we’re waiting for the Draft and discussing who the Suns should select, I’m sure I’m not the only Suns fan that has been watching the NBA Finals. One player in the Finals that reminds me that you can’t really count on “older” rookies taken later in the draft as having lower ceilings than their one-and-done counterparts is Jimmy Butler.

This guy has been playing some of the best basketball I’ve ever seen yet he was not a highly coveted prospect in the 2011 draft. After four years of college (three at Marquette following one at Tyler JC), he was drafted by the Bulls with the 30th pick and eventually surprised everyone with how good he would become.

Remember that draft? The Suns took Markieff Morris at 13, infamously passing up the opportunity to draft Kawhi Leonard who was later selected by San Antonio at 15. That certainly was a mistake but - as we know now - so was passing on Butler. At the time, taking Jimmy Butler at 13 would have probably been laughed at but in hindsight it would have still been a steal that could have altered the downward path the Suns were already on.

Of course, Jimmy’s story isn’t typical but it is one of many that should be remembered when considering draft prospects. I’m sure that James Jones is well aware of this but I’m also certain that won’t stop him from selecting a young one-and-done player if he sees the talent he wants there. Jones, unlike recent Suns GMs, isn’t too far removed from actually playing on highly successful NBA teams (3 NBA championships in 2012, 2013 & 2016) and may have just picked up what it takes to build one.

At least that’s our hope.

Are the Suns going to simply take the best player available at 10 in the draft or will they trade up or down on draft day? If they trade down, will they do so to add another draft pick or pick up a player as they did last season when they traded the 6th pick to Minnesota for the 11th and Dario Saric? What they do with this year’s draft pick should give us some idea as to what might come in free agency as they’re unlikely to attempt to sign a free agent who plays the same position as the player they just drafted. And then trade ideas would hinge upon the remaining perceived holes in the roster left to fill and/or pure roster upgrades.

Jones could play it safe this year and try to just make the Suns better by adding more depth to the roster or attempt to go for a home run. I honestly believe he’s smart enough to have many plans ranging from one extreme to the other though. As each offseason domino begins to fall, he will assess the options open to him and not set aside the idea of going all in IF the right opportunity presents itself.

There’s a lot of tough competition in the West and it isn’t likely to get any easier in 2020-21. Thankfully, in Monty Williams the Suns finally seem to have a head coach that is capable of leading them back into contention, plus a solid base/core of players to build upon and some positive momentum to carry over from the end of 2019-20.

In many ways, this should be the most interesting offseason that the Suns have had in years. They are finally on an upward trajectory and all of the moves they make will determine how high this team ultimately flies rather than if it will even get off the ground as in the recent past.

Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - There are lots of rumors about free agents that the Suns are supposedly interested in. In order of preference, who would be your top 3 free agent targets?

GuarGuar: My first preference would be D.J. Augustin. We need a stable backup point guard. We saw with Cam Payne in the Bubble how much that can boost our bench. Now if Payne emerges into that guy full time, that’s great. But DJ has done some great things for the Magic the past few seasons. And Rubio does miss time every year, so he’s very capable of being a spot starter too.

Jerami Grant would be my #2. We need athleticism and defense and he brings both. His jumper has improved but he isn’t a knockdown shooter. He would bring great versatility to our team.

Christian Wood would be my #3 as long as we don’t plan on making him the starting PF. He’s most effective as a center and so if we go after him for that role I would be very excited. I’m not a fan of bringing him in to play a lot of power forward minutes next to Ayton. We need spacing (even though he can hit the occasional 3).

Sun-Arc: I’ll give four, because the first one has a huge caveat:

Fred VanVleet – we desperately need our great guard off the bench, and also an heir apparent for Rubio as he ages out. Sure, we could resign Ricky (and I love the guy), but he’s been playing pro basketball for 15 years already and seems to be slowing down a tick. Fred is a better shooter and defender (at this point) who can make nifty passes. He’s a proven winner.

Having said that, if we are able to draft Hayes or Haliburton in the draft, or pick up a good option for this position in a draft day trade, I would not want to offer FVV the big sum of money it would require.

Jerami Grant – Nearly THE perfect 3&D power forward we really need next to Ayton. DA can make up for Grant’s weak rebounding, and Grant really proved he can be very useful in the playoffs.

Christian Wood – This guy would be, at worst, a really good big off the bench and able to play either position. He could even start for an injured Ayton in a pinch. He has some glaring weaknesses and is really not proven at this point. It’s a gamble, but one probably worth taking as long as it doesn’t cost more than $11m/year. Over that and I’d rather bring back Saric at $6-7m/year.

Justin Holiday – a “good-but-not-great” 3&D wing we could really use, particularly if Kelly gets traded and we don’t pick up any likewise wings in the draft. Justin has his limitations, but would be an excellent rotation player next to Booker, Rubio, Bridges, and/or Ayton.

SDKyle: Christian Wood: I rank Wood at the top because I think he’s the best combination of talented and a realistic target for the Suns. He’s a high efficiency medium volume scorer who is nothing special on defense but also isn’t a liability there.

He’s not physical enough to guard many opposing 5s straight up, and that’s a bit concerning in an era where defensive versatility is demanded, but he’s a good player who I think could only benefit from being on the floor with a real center of attention like Booker.

Serge Ibaka: I’m giving in and listing Ibaka even though I’m skeptical he’ll actually sign for what Suns fans seem to envision. I think if he was going to sign a cheap “I’m just a vet looking to help out however I can” deal, he’d stay put or join a team like Boston or Milwaukee.

That said, the guy can still really play defense and make the most of his offensive opportunities.

Bogdan Bogdanovic: The Suns need another scoring guard. Bogdan can shoot the triple, but he has more offensive game too. He can pass well enough to be a secondary playmaker or augment a backup PG. He’s restricted, but reportedly unhappy in Sacramento. Worth a look.

SouthernSun: Fred VanVleet - This would almost certainly require a sign and trade of either Rubio or Oubre, but it puts a talented guard in his prime who can shoot, score, and pass, next to Booker for the foreseeable future. I adore Rubio, and he is a floor raiser extraordinaire, but he limits the ceiling of a teams offensive capabilities due to his lack of gravity, and he is only getting older, and has played professional basketball since George W Bush was in office.

Christian Wood - Probably the best chance at a possible “star” the Suns have in free agency. He’s not a sure thing, and his fit next to Ayton is questionable, but he looked really really good this season.

Davis Bertans - I know Jarami Grant is the sexy pick here that everyone loves, but he can’t rebound to save his life and he’s not as much better defensively than Bertans (though he is most certainly better defensively) than Bertans is better than him offensively. This guy would streeeeeeeeeeeeeetch the floor for Booker like no other player the Suns have any possibility of acquiring. You want more open shots for Booker? Bertans has ridiculous gravity. He shoots like 40% on contested pull-up threes. He’s insane. And while his injury history is a bit sketchy, his shooting doesn’t rely on athleticism at all. He’s basically a taller Kyle Korver. Kyle lasted quite awhile.

Q2 - If you could add a prime 1992-93 season Charles Barkley to this Suns team without making any other changes, how good do you think they could be next season?

GuarGuar: With prime Charles we would be a championship contender next season. Booker, Chuck, and Ayton would be such a dynamic trio. A legendary talent like that would instantly boost us to the top of the Western Conference. Especially with Booker and Ayton getting better each year.

Sun-Arc: Prime Chuck on the same team as this past season? Holy cow… instant contender. There would be very few teams that could deal with Sir Charles these days, particularly without the hand-checking that Barkley had to deal with in his day. He was like P.J. Tucker, only bigger, much quicker, more athletic, and able to pass like Nash, shoot and handle like Paul Pierce, and rebound like Drummond.

I can imagine Barkley posting up inside and passing out to a cutting Booker or Bridges for a layup or perimeter three. I can also see him charging towards the basket pulling defenders in just to throw up the “oop” to Ayton at the rim. Not to mention what he and Ayton could do on the boards. ALL the rebounds would be the Suns. I could also see Chuck outletting to Ayton running down the floor for the easy transition slam.

I’d love to see him brutally yelling at the young guys telling them where to be with those crazy-mad eyes. He absolutely turned the Suns around with his leadership in 1992-93. He’d LOVE playing with Bridges and Cam, but also fix Ayton’s squeamishness for good. He never played with a center as big and talented as Ayton (apologies to West), and would love playing with a co-star like Booker who can take over on offense. Those two as a combo would be absolutely deadly for opposing defenses.

Ah, my dudes, too much fun to imagine.

SDKyle: I think adding a prime Sir Charles elevates the Suns to legitimate contender. Charles and Ayton together are a nightmare for opponents on the boards and Rubio finds a lot of opportunistic buckets for both. With that much gravity in the frontcourt, Booker feasts.

The defense still isn’t elite, depth is still a big issue, and this team is still not a lock against any top 5 west opponent. But with that extra legitimate star they are right there.

SouthernSun: Man I have no idea. He was amazing but... I don’t think he’d fit well next to Ayton and today’s game is entirely different. They’d make the playoffs for sure, but... maybe 4th seed? Maybe?

Let me build a roster from scratch around Sir Charles and we can win a championship though. Give him a sidekick like Book and surround them with 3 and D guys and they’ll do some damage.

As always, many thanks to our Fantable members - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle and SouthernSun - for all their extra effort every week! (Alex S did not participate this week.)

2019-20 Season Highlights

Phoenix Suns BEST Plays From The Bubble 8-0 Record!

Devin Booker - Bubble MVP/Super Scorer

Cameron Johnson - Phoenix Suns - 2020 Orlando Restart Offensive Highlights

Ricky Rubio 2020 Full offense HIGHLIGHTS | 2019-20 NBA SEASON RESTART

Quotes of the Week

“Whatever we do, it’s gotta be at a high level. We can’t have a ‘show up’ mentality.” - Monty Williams

“Those were some of the most competitive practices that I have coached as a head coach in the NBA.” - Monty Williams on the Suns’ practices in the bubble

News & Notes

Breakthrough: Episode 1 (VIDEO).

Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams saw intense practices carry over into strong play in bubble. (VIDEO) Arizona Republic

5 best free agent signings in Phoenix Suns history. Clutch Points

Suns coach Monty Williams says Kai Sotto could open NBA ‘pipeline’. ESPN Philippines

Consensus Mock Draft: In first look after Lottery, Edwards seems like lock at No. 1.

Draft Prospect Scouting Videos

Tre Jones Draft Scouting Video

Grant Riller Draft Scouting Video

Zeke Nnaji Draft Scouting Video

This Week in Suns History

On October 12, 1979, Don Buse made Phoenix Suns history with Phoenix’s first ever 3-pointer late in the first quarter of the 1979-80 opener against Golden State. He made two in one minute. Paul Westphal hit two in the 3rd, each finishing 2 of 2. Alvin Scott went 0-1, the Suns finished 4 of 5 on threes and beat Golden State 97-89 at home.

On October 16, 1969, 4-time All-Star Connie Hawkins made his NBA debut for the Phoenix Suns in a 116-114 win over the San Diego Rockets. Hawkins got his first double-double as a Sun in that game with 16 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. He averaged a double-double for the 1969-70 season with 24.6 ppg and 10.4 rpg.

Interesting Suns stuff

Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker Coming Of Age! Suns Making Playoffs In 2020-2021 Season?

Why Mikal Bridges is the Phoenix Suns SECRET WEAPON...

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs Deandre Ayton in Generation Gap

Suns Trivia

After being unfairly blackballed and denied an NBA contract for several years, Connie Hawkins successfully sued the NBA and won his right to play in the league. The NBA then flipped a coin to determine whether his rights would go to the Phoenix Suns or the Seattle SuperSonics. After losing an earlier coin toss with Milwaukee over which team would get the first pick in the 1969 draft, the Suns luck turned good the second time around and Hawkins was on his way to Phoenix.

Important Future Dates*

November 18 - NBA Draft.

November 19 - Deadline to tender Saric & Carter AND decline/accept team options on Kaminsky & Diallo.

November 20 - Free agency begins.

November 25 - Moratorium ends (noon).

November 30 - Okobo’s contract becomes fully guaranteed.

December 1 - Target date for opening day for 2020-21 season training camps.

December 25 - Target date for 2020-21 season opening night.

MLK Day is January 18, 2021.

* Author’s Note: All dates except the Draft date and possible opening night date are my own approximations based upon the previous tentative schedule supplied by the NBA. All of these dates are still subject to change.

Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Do you want James Jones to make a BIG trade that could reshape the Suns during the offseason?”

49% - Yes.

51% - No.

A total of 225 votes were cast.

This week’s poll is...


In 2011, instead of Markieff Morris, I wish the Suns had drafted...

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Kawhi Leonard.
    (115 votes)
  • 8%
    Jimmy Butler.
    (18 votes)
  • 33%
    Either of the two.
    (70 votes)
  • 3%
    Someone else.
    (7 votes)
210 votes total Vote Now

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