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Center of the Sun: Remade Suns roster looks to be the strongest since 2009-10

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How far will this team go in the wild, wild West?

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Houston Rockets v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

What a week!

Monday: The Phoenix Suns trade Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre Jr., Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque and their 2022 1st round draft pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Chris Paul and Abdel Nader.

Wednesday: With the 10th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Suns select 6’10” PF/C Jalen Smith out of Maryland. The Suns also pick up their $1.98 million option on Cameron Payne.

Thursday: Undrafted rookie free agent Ty-Shon Alexander is signed to a Two-Way contract. Dario Saric and Jevon Carter receive qualifying offers from the Suns making them both restricted free agents. Team options on Frank Kaminsky and Cheick Diallo are declined.

Friday: On the first day of free agency and... crickets. Anxiety rises among Suns fans.

Saturday: The Suns sign veteran SF/PF Jae Crowder to a 3-year, $30 million contract. RFA Jevon Carter agrees to a 3-year, $11.5 million deal to return to the Suns.

Sunday: Phoenix Suns sign 4-year vet C Damian Jones to a 2-year veteran minimum contract. Nine-year veteran SG/SF E’Twaun Moore is signed to a one-year $2.4 million contract.

Never before - and probably never again - have we witnessed so much NBA business going on in a single week. The Suns have definitely taken several steps forward in pursuing their goal of returning to the playoffs and contention in the West. Other WC teams haven’t stood still either but it’s going to take some time to sort out everything and tell where the Suns likely fall within the Western Conference pecking order but they have moved up... perhaps far up.

At the time I’m writing this, the Suns have 13 of their 15 regular roster spots filled as well as filling one of their 2 two-way slots. RFA Dario Saric’s situation is still up in the air although he will likely remain with the Suns which would bring the count up to 14. Elie Okobo’s contract becomes fully guaranteed on Thursday. Whether his team option will be picked up is questionable but at least until then he remains a member of the Suns.

UPDATE:

UFA Aron Baynes will be missed by Suns fans after signing a 2-year deal with his new team, the Tampa Bay Raptors. Yes, the Raptors are relocating to Tampa Bay this season but it’s just temporary due to travel restrictions on crossing the US/Canadian boarder during the pandemic. Perhaps the Baynes Fan Club will lobby for the team to be renamed the Tampa Baynes Raptors.

The cap situation is not a restriction as to whether the Suns can re-sign Saric but all that they can now offer free agents is the bi-annual exception ($3.6 mil for 2 seasons max) and/or minimum player salary exceptions (minimum salary scale, 1-2 seasons). If the Suns bring back Saric and retain Okobo, that leaves them with only one one empty roster spot and one two-way contract left to fill (plus some possible non-guaranteed “make good” training camp contracts) to fill in the short time left between now and opening night on Dec. 22.

Whatever else happens between now and then, the Suns have already turned their team into a force to be reckoned with in 2020-21. Prepare yourselves to watch what could turn into something very special in The Valley this season.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - What’s your opinion on how rookie big man Jalen Smith will likely be used in the Suns’ rotation this season?

GuarGuar: As of this moment I’m expecting him to be our backup center (unless we sign one after I’m writing this). That’s a pretty significant role. Clearly the front office also feels we can use him as a power forward next to Ayton at times. James Jones mentioned the Lakers and matching up with them already. I think it’s very clear there is a lot of upside with Smith. I’m excited to see him try and reach that potential.

Sun-Arc: Jalen Smith at #10 was an interesting pick. Though Jones is saying the guy can come in and play right away, that isn’t a total given. My guess (and hope) is he will be a backup big playing next to Saric, with the two of them fairly positionless. Yet- who guards the paint? One would think Smith would do that because of his shot blocking ability, yet he’s not nearly as strong as Dario right now and could get pushed around by centers in the paint. Opposing teams will likely exploit this. Likewise, they may go small on the Suns against that defense, forcing Dario to guard the big and using a quick forward on Smith to test his ability to guard in space, which was his weakness in college. If he doesn’t improve his strength, or movement on D, he might be a very limited player to have on the court.

On offense I think their roles may be reversed with Smith playing more of an outside wing waiting on the perimeter for catch-and-shoot opportunities, with Saric in the paint. It is probable that he may screen (known for clean, hard screens) for Saric and/or others and dive towards the rim on pick and roll schemes too. On the offensive end he is more of a problem for opposing teams because he can pick and pop, pick and roll, dribble to the rim (on big or slow players right now), cut, and shoot off movement. It should be noted, however, that his 3pt shooting is also not a sure thing as he only hit 1 of 2.8 attempts per game as a sophomore. His FT% is pretty good at 75% and the perimeter shot looks clean, but he’s no Cam Johnson. Tankathon estimated his NBA 3pt% at just .346 and he may not even be there right away. So even on this side of the ball it remains to be seen how immediately playable he is.

SDKyle: I think he will probably split minutes, but get about 70% of his time at the 4. I’m basing this purely on my own interpretation of the team’s needs, though, and am also of the opinion that the difference could be negligible in either case.

SouthernSun: I assume he will be used mostly at Center. If the Suns keep Baynes then probably not much at all. If Baynes leaves, then probably a good bit. They just signed Jones from Atlanta and that should give them the option of somebody else with a bit more experience who can play that role if he’s not ready.

He could play a few minutes at the 4 next to Ayton, but I see him as primarily a backup center right now.

Prediction: 12 mpg on average.

Alex S: My guess is Smith will be limited early on where he doesn’t get any minutes initially but will be used as a 4/5 hybrid with Dario (assuming he’s back). He could more than likely guard 5’s on defense and provide a stretch 4 on the offensive end. Most minutes I could possibly see would be around the 15 mpg mark but I’d guess somewhere around 10-12 for a safe bet.

Q2 - With teams playing about three times the number of back-to-backs this season than last, how do you think that the Suns should manage 35 year old Chris Paul’s minutes?

GuarGuar: Well a big deal of our success this season rides with CP3’s health. So being smart but also not too cautious is going to be key. I would expect him to rest on a certain number of back to backs. This is why I feel it’s key for us to have quality point guard depth so we can have serviceable spot starters if he misses a few games.

Sun-Arc: The word I would use is “gingerly.”

Personally I’d like to see Chris Paul fully rolled and bundled in three feet of bubble-wrap on and off the court. At well over $40m/year and a lack of team depth we really need to keep this guy protected and healthy all season. The season will be as successful as Paul plays, in my opinion, so its critical he gets some rest. I would guess he will be rested one of each B2B game, and whether that is the first or second game will depend on matchup.

SDKyle: Just as needed and makes sense. CP3 is in great shape and doesn’t need an arbitrary minutes quota just because he’s 35. But of course it makes sense to bench him a game here and there if he’s sore or exhausted, and to take him out in games that aren’t close late.

SouthernSun: I think maybe at the beginning of the season he can play every other back to back, but towards the halfway point/latter part of the season i would expect them to rest him on pretty much all of them, especially if the Suns are a lock for the postseason.

Alex S: I think CP3 needs to get some DNPs periodically for load management. With the signings of Carter, Payne, Moore, and the acquisition of Nader gives the Suns some flexibility at the guard position. Jevon might get a chance to start some games next to Devin unless the Suns can still find a way to acquire a guy like George Hill.

Q3 - What’s you opinion on the Suns’ free agent additions?

GuarGuar: I am a fan of the Jae Crowder addition and bringing back Jevon Carter. Crowder proved to be a very valuable piece for the Heat during their finals run. His 3 point shot definitely has some variance to it. Hopefully he shoots the 3 ball at a good clip for us. He provides much needed wing depth. I’m hoping he comes off the bench and Cam still starts. I loved Carter and the tenacity he brought to this team. Very friendly deal at 3 years/11 million.

Sun-Arc: As I write this early on Saturday morning, there has been no news on the Suns in Free Agency. Just about all the names we’ve thrown around are off the table. I never bought into the Chris Paul Discount FA Theory and had a feeling the trade would hamper team depth. I still hope I’m wrong and that Serge Ibaka takes the MLE with the Suns to play next to Chris Paul, but I’m not counting on it. And based on the money some of the players have been getting, our MLE and BAE are not likely to net a whole lot. Sarver better start collecting that bubble wrap for CP3.

SDKyle: I’m ambivalent about Jae Crowder. He’s a tough veteran but I think he’s pretty overrated. I’m also not really overwhelmed by the signings of Damian Jones and E’Twaun Moore. Jones is a fairly typical backup big. Limited offensively, plays hard, can defend a bit. Moore really can just hit the three decently and doesn’t do much else. He’s not an efficient scorer despite his three point prowess. He’s listed as a combo guard but really isn’t a playmaker. He’s no great shakes on defense.

But I guess cap situation being what it is... it’s fine.

SouthernSun: I absolutely love the Crowder signing. Makes a lot of sense. We needed a starting forward, and he can definitely fill that role, but we also needed some wing depth, and he can easily slide to SF when necessary. Quite a bit of bang for your buck in Crowder. I really wanted Gallo or Bertans or Ibaka, but honestly, this is fine. He is a scrappy hard-nosed defender who will piss other teams off, and he hit open threes from the corner at 38% last season. Basically a younger P.J. Tucker. Beautiful.

Alex S: Crowder - Wow, what a get. The missing piece of the puzzle that puts everyone in their ideal role heading into the ‘20 season. Crowder will start at the 4 next to Mikal and DA as the perfect tough stretch 4. Cam goes to a super sixth man role. NBA Finals starter and noted bossman.

Jones - A pickup that is being reviewed negatively but I like what he has to offer as a third string big. He’s an upgrade over Diallo in terms of talent and experience (two time champ). Obvious issues with foul problems and decision making but will be a nice lob threat for CP3.

Moore - The most underrated pickup of the offseason. Incredible floor spacer (37% from deep was a bad year for him) and one of the best floaters in the league. Can start when short handed and will get minutes at the 3 next to Johnson which is insanely good floor spacing. Average defender. Really like this pickup.

The Suns did as well as they possibly could this offseason and James Jones has proven he knows what he’s doing.

As always, many thanks to our Fantable members - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle, SouthernSun and Alex S. - for all their extra effort every week!


Suns New Additions Highlights

PHOENIX SUNS: Chris Paul

Jae Crowder Highlights! Welcome To PHOENIX!!

E’Twaun Moore 25 Points Full Highlights (12/29/2019)

PHOENIX SUNS: Abdel Nader

Damian Jones Career High 20 Points Full Highlights (12/4/2019)

Jalen Smith Maryland 2019-20 Season Highlights Montage | 15.5 PPG 10.5 RPG 53.8 FG%

Ty-Shon Alexander Creighton 2019-20 Season Highlights Montage | 16.9 PPG 5.0 RPG 43.1 FG%


Quotes of the Week

“It’s always about fit for us. It’s never just purely about talent. You cultivate talent. You build and you shape talent until you find the fit that you’re looking for. This team, the way we are constructed, the way we play, we trend towards fit.” - James Jones

“I know they’ll spend a lot of time together. Chris (Paul) will teach him (Deandre Ayton) the ins and outs, the nuances, the point guard-center combo dynamic will help him.” - James Jones


News & Notes

Chris Paul Helped Blake Griffin Shine. Can He Do The Same For Deandre Ayton? FiveThirtyEight

Veteran NBA Player Details How Chris Paul Inspires Devin Booker and Co. in Phoenix Suns. Essentially Sports

Phoenix Suns: Chris Paul trade will elevate Devin Booker to new heights. Hoops Habit

Suns’ James Jones excited for Deandre Ayton’s growth with Chris Paul add. Arizona Sports

Suns Continue Overhaul With Three-Year Deal for Jae Crowder. SI.com

Jae Crowder brings much-needed experience, toughness to Suns. Arizona Sports

Talking Stick no more: Suns’ downtown arena loses name, team gains sponsor for new practice facility. ABC 15 Arizona

The Suns Fit. Suns.com


This Week in Suns History

On November 23, 1972, Charlie Scott recorded the Phoenix Suns’ first-ever triple-double with 42 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists in a 128-122 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Thanksgiving Day.

On November 23, 1994, Wesley Person hit for 19 points to lead 10 double-figure scorers in Phoenix’s 140-109 home win over the LA Clippers. The Suns became the third team in NBA history to have 10 different players score in double figures in the same game.

The first time this happened was on March 30, 1980 when Seattle defeated Portland 135-104 with Gus Williams’ 23 points leading 10 double-figure scorers for the Sonics. On April 14, 1994, the Sonics accomplished the feat again, defeating the visiting Los Angeles Clippers 150-101 with Detlef Schrempf’s 21 points leading the way.


Interesting Suns stuff

This Chris Paul trade to the Phoenix Suns just made Devin Booker unstoppable


Suns Trivia

Only two players in NBA history have made 20 free throws in a single half. Michael Jordan did it on Dec. 30, 1992 for the Chicago Bulls against the Miami Heat and almost 15 years later Devin Booker did it for the Suns on March 24, 2017 against the Boston Celtics. No one has ever made more free throws in a single half.


Previewing the week ahead

November 23/24 (Monday/Tuesday) - Most Traded Player Exceptions (TPE) will expire.

November 26 (Thursday) - Elie Okobo’s guarantee date.

November 28 (Saturday) - Abdel Nader’s guarantee date.


Important Future Dates

December 1 - Training camps open. Schedule for the 1st half of the season to be released.

December 22 - Opening night for 2020-21 NBA season!

??? - NBA trade deadline (TBD).

March 5-10 - Mid-season break (no All-Star game).

May 16 - Regular season ends.

May 17 to 21 - Play-in tournament for 7-to-10 seeds.

May 22 - First-round playoffs.

June 7 - Conference semifinals.

June 22 - Conference Finals.

July 8-22 - NBA Finals.


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Would including Cam Johnson in the trade for CP3 be a deal breaker to you?”

66% - Yes.

34% - No.

A total of 230 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

If this Suns team stays healthy, how far do you think it can go?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    1st round exit from the playoffs.
    (55 votes)
  • 46%
    2nd round exit from the playoffs.
    (237 votes)
  • 29%
    Western Conference Finals exit.
    (151 votes)
  • 13%
    All the way to the NBA Finals!
    (69 votes)
512 votes total Vote Now