A few weeks ago, after the Bubble and before the offseason began, you the Bright Side readers ranked the Suns roster from top to bottom. Now a few weeks later, more than half the Suns roster has turned over (just like every offseason for every NBA team). Where do we stand now?
Here’s King Dave’s first take on the new rank order of the Suns roster.
On the whole, the Suns lost three of their top eight players, and replaced them with All-Star Chris Paul and perfect-fit Jae Crowder while doubling down on the future of the core that blew through the Orlando Bubble (only one of the losses — Ricky Rubio — even played in Orlando).
Let’s check in with other Bright Side writers on where I ranked the fellas.
Is Chris Paul ranked properly as the 2nd best player on the Suns?
Dave King: Chris Paul is a current All-Star and second-team All-NBA — the first time the Suns have traded for a current All-Star in almost 30 years (1992). Obviously, Paul doesn’t have the runway of Charles Barkley and won’t be winning league MVP this year, but clearly the Suns improved the top end of their roster in a way that hasn’t been done since signing Steve Nash 15 years ago.
John Voita: It’s hard to say that he isn’t given the resume he brings to the team. If the season plays out the way I want it to, however, he is the 3rd best player behind Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. CP3 is on the back-9 of his career and I doubt we’ll see more than 60 games from him. Ayton is on the brink of vindicating his 1st-overall-pick status. It’s the chicken and the egg argument though. Plenty of Ayton’s success will be tied to Chris Paul.
Brendon Kleen: Maybe because of the overlap he has with Devin Booker in terms of role and value, you could make the case that if Deandre Ayton continues to improve, the heavy minutes and major defensive role he figures to play could make him the second-most valuable player when all is said and done, but I think overall, when we talk about efficiency and two-way play, there’s an equally decent chance that Paul actually is the best player on this roster in 2021.
Matthew Lissy: Yes, going into the season this would be correct, but Deandre Ayton should be the second best by the end of the season. If DA is not the second best player by the end of the season or by the trade deadline, he will likely be moved. Paul is a perfect and peaked 3rd piece to this Suns team. His stats and play wont be overwhelmingly great, but his value will be irreplaceable on and off the court.
Zona Sports: It would be difficult to rank Paul any lower than 2, and if he plays how he did last season he has a case to be just as valuable as Booker, though I think Book will have the top spot locked up heading into next season as he continues to improve year-by-year. The hope is Paul maintains his high-level of play while elevating Ayton into the number 2 spot on this list, surpassing CP3 and making a run at an All-Star appearance.
Khaleel Abdullah: Devin Booker is still the face of this team. Deandre Ayton is the rising star and needs to take another leap if this team plans to run deep and not just be eliminated in the first round should they make the playoffs. Chris Paul was brought in to be a star but to make life easier for those two. I think third is just right. However, there will be stages during this season where he looks like the best player on the court. Yes, even more valuable than Booker at times.
Justin Morris: Yes. The point God is aptly named, and he still has that unique Midas touch that’s vaulted him to the G.O.A.T conversation in terms of the position. His impact stretches far beyond statistical production, and much of it will be measured by how well he improves his teammates’ everyday output. I agree with some of the other writers: there will be instances when he’s standalone as the team’s alpha dog, but I think it’s clear that he was brought in to play the Robin to Devin Booker’s batman.
Would you rank Jae Crowder above Cameron Johnson and below Mikal Bridges?
DK: Since I see Crowder starting this year, I am currently ranking him above Cameron Johnson who had started all eight games in the Bubble. Frankly, it’s a toss up because they bring different strengths to the table.
JV: I would. I’m sure Monty will rotate who is the starter between Jae Crowder and Cam Johnson, whereas Bridges should be slotted (rightfully so) as a must start. I’m excited to see Crowder assist in elevating Cameron Johnson’s game.
BK: It will be close, but I would guess Crowder returns more value overall than Johnson just because of how important Crowder will be guarding bigger play-makers for the Suns this season. That could change if Johnson continues to hold his own on defense and shoots the ball so well that he gets into the Duncan Robinson/Seth Curry level on balance.
ML: Again, to begin the season yes, but with the value that Johnson has he should be second on the list by the end of the season. It would be upsetting if Johnson is unable to pass Crowder on the depth chart and minutes played. But then again, I might be asking too much. I like to give a player three years before you can truly evaluate him.
ZS: Yes. Crowder is a seasoned veteran that will take on a role on the wing that will be of more importance to the team than Cam will initially due to his ability to guard larger wings or more traditional power forwards. His savvy play and ability to get in opponents’ heads is something that the Suns needed to replace desperately after dealing Kelly Oubre. Cam could (and should) wind up the better player by the end of the season or down the road, but next season alone I believe Crowder will bring more value towards what this team needs.
KA: Mikal tops this trio for me followed by Jae in second place and Cam at third. Bridges will lock down on D but will need to at least contribute on O as well. Crowder and Johnson I think are close but the younger will be mentored by the veteran as Jae has been where the Suns are looking to go and has a way of getting into people’s heads as well as being quite a bit stronger to walk his talk.
JM: I would agree with this slotting as well. Mikal is the unquestioned top-man in this three-headed monster. Cam’s projected value should be foreseeably higher than Jae in the long run, but Jae’s championship experience is unmatched. CP3 can’t even lay stake to that claim. So for right now, Crowder > Johnson, and I see Crowder beginning this season in the starting lineup.
Should any of Langston Galloway, E’Twaun Moore or rookie Jalen Smith rank higher on the list?
DK: I just wanted to add the rest of the guys at the bottom of the roster since they have not played a game either in the NBA at all (Smith, Alexander) or for the Suns (Moore, Galloway). Overall it’s a BIG increase in talent at the bottom of the roster isn’t it?!
JV: This team is deep! It’s hard to properly rank the bottom of the roster effectively. I would move E’Twaun Moore above Langston Galloway simply because I feel he’ll have more opportunity, thus increasing his rank.
BK: Well first, I would say to put Carter over Payne. I’m not ready to say that what Payne did in the Bubble is just the type of player he is now. I would also put Moore over Galloway just based on two-way ability, and I would probably have both of those guys above Payne as well. So for me, it’s Carter at eighth, Moore at ninth, Galloway at tenth, and Payne at 11th.
ML: I would put Jalen above both Galloway and Moore, for the reason that he was selected 10th in the draft over a few players that Suns fans wanted. His minute and production should rise over the season but to enter the season I like Jalen over both these men. That is just me being hopeful with the pick.
ZS: I’d put Carter, Moore, Galloway and even Smith (in that order) all above Cam Payne for now. I’m not entirely sold on Payne just yet, though I truly hope he can build off what he did in the Bubble. I just need to see more. Smith is more or less ranked appropriately because rookies should never be relied on too much, especially over established vets or players that have proven to be rotation pieces in the league.
KA: Jevon Carter at eight and Jalen Smith at nine for me. The rest could go in any order and it will be a dawg fight for positioning and will likely fluctuate game to game, which I love.
JM: Cam Payne was dishing out major pain throughout the bubble. Still though, that’s not enough of a sample size to slot him above proven NBA journeymen like Galloway and Moore. As of right now, I’m taking Jalen Smith above the former three. I think his presence will become increasingly essential behind Ayton. Then, give me Galloway and Moore over Payne in that order. I’d also place Mr. Treadmill Mentality (Carter) above Payne as well.
Setting aside the top two, are the Suns better in the 3rd - 14th player range than a few weeks ago? Or worse?
DK: Suns are clearly better at the bottom of the roster (prior answer) and at the top (Paul). What’s unknown is the middle, which will be the back end of the regular playing rotation. Can Cameron Payne and Jevon Carter keep up their stellar play or will Galloway and Moore supplant them in the lineup? Can Jalen Smith earn minutes in place of Aron Baynes, or will Dario Saric continue his great backup center role? Lots of questions here...
JV: Following the Bubble, the aura of winning with that group made it hard to think of parting ways with some of them. Now that the transactions are complete, it is clear that this roster is better. It is deep in so many ways and provides an opportunity for continual winning, even through injuries and load management days. This roster has me the most excited I’ve been for a Suns team since 2007-08.
BK: Undoubtedly. This is a team that had no consistent backup guards to speak for last season until Payne found lightning in a bottle in the Bubble and let Carter settle into a 3-and-D guard role rather than handling the ball. Adding Galloway and Moore to that mix adds a ton of shooting and competence to that rotation, assuming a combination of Payne, Saric and splitting up Booker and Paul’s minutes can be good enough to keep the second unit afloat offensively. Losing Baynes hurts, but we’re still looking at a deeper and more cohesive team than last year.
ML: I like the replacements for the toughness reason and the experience. The players added by James Jones in the last off-season to the Bubble were all building blocks for the additions we have now. The players added aren’t very flashy or sexy but they are proven players in the NBA and a great support system for our big 3 (Booker, Ayton, Paul).
ZS: It’s night and day. The roster improvement is undeniable from top-to-bottom, and especially those back-end roster spots that were previously filled with non-NBA players. Shoring up the depth specifically in the roster spots 8-13 will go a very long in ensuring they have some depth to combat the riggers they will endure from the 72-game season.
KA: This is no doubt a stronger team from Booker all the way down. CP3 will help Devin and Deandre be even better. Defensively, there has been immense improvement. Shooting? Ditto. This team is deep! I would say maybe the only place the roster may be lacking is at center as Baynes will be missed but I expect Ayton to take another leap forward and there is a lot of versatility that can make up for legit size.
JM: Oh, they’re unquestionably better. 3rd through 14th now isn’t a massive question mark. Saric adds smooth shooting from the four position. Carter is a junkyard dog, and the addition of Payne means the Valley Boyz won’t have to worry about the backup PG slot. Jae Crowder just played in the NBA Finals. Plus, Moore and Galloway will come off the bench to succeed in the exact role they were brought in for: make 3-point baskets. It’s hard to find holes in this bench, and although Baynes, Rubio and Oubre are big losses, the sun now shines brighter than over the basketball team in the Canyon.
What say YOU, Suns fans?
Do I have these rankings correct?