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Center of the Sun: Suns fans may have to wait even longer for 2020-21 season start

Everyone wants to reopen the arenas but when will it finally be safe to let the fans return?

Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

For quite a while, Dec. 1 was the proposed starting date for the 2020-21 season but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently said during the Draft Lottery show on ESPN that Dec. 1 “is feeling a little bit early to me.” And not just the start of the season could be pushed back, basically everything on their previously proposed calendar could be delayed.

The bubble in Orlando has worked extremely well so far but it’s also expensive so the NBA doesn’t really want to try and recreate that to begin the next season... especially with all 30 teams instead of just 22. The league makes a great deal of money from TV revenues but, according to Silver, approximately 40 percent of the league’s revenue is generated by fans in the stands and they want those fans back in the arenas for the 2020-21 season.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still going strong, that isn’t likely to be an option on Dec.1.

There’s also the need to get as much financial information as possible to set the salary cap number and luxury tax line for next season and allow teams time to figure things out before jumping into the free agency period. That will also likely be pushed back as will the Draft. Everyone knows that the loss of revenue this season will result in a fall of next season’s salary cap but no one can be certain just how far it will fall until after the playoffs are completed. It’s not a certainty that the Orlando bubble won’t eventually fail and if it does, that will be another big hit to revenues. While salary cap and luxury tax details are typically based on numbers from the previous season, that will likely not be the case this year. Because of this year’s sharp downturn in revenue, the league and the players union will work together to find a compromise solution to this problem.

Hopefully that won’t take too long after the playoffs are completed and at least those parts of the proposed calendar won’t be postponed too long. The starting date of next season could be quite a while off though, perhaps as late as March 2021... or later.

What does that mean for the Suns? Aside from the financial ramifications, last week I asked the Fantable members whether they thought an earlier or later start would be best for the Suns and they unanimously agreed that an earlier start was best. The longer the wait between that 8-0 run in the bubble and the beginning of next season, the more likely some if not all of the momentum and good vibes generated from that could dissipate. I tend to agree. I don’t think that all or even most of it will be lost but, as the old saying goes, it’s always best to strike while the iron is hot.

I firmly believe the Suns left the bubble feeling as though they could beat anyone and I don’t want them to forget that feeling or have it fade even a tiny bit. It would have been great to see what kind of noise the Suns could have made in the playoffs with that attitude but it just wasn’t meant to be... at least not this year.

For now, all we can do is wait and hope that all the things presently beyond our control will get sorted out sooner rather than later.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - The Suns will pick 10th in the Draft. Who are your top three choices for the Suns to select if they don’t trade the pick?

GuarGuar: I’ll be completely honest and say I have not been following prospects anything like previous years. That being said there are a couple guys who I have somewhat of an opinion on that could possibly be in our range. Devin Vassell is a guy I would really like if he dropped into our range. Another quality defensive wing with shooting capabilities. Obi Toppin seems pretty boom or bust but I’m okay taking a chance at this range in the draft. We already have our core. I doubt he drops that far but Killan Hayes really would seem to fit well next to Booker long-term in the backcourt.

Sun-Arc: Let me preface this by saying I did not watch college ball this season, and I do not consider myself an expert on the draft. For the past month I’ve been looking into mock drafts, videos, and stats, and my selections are based on that.

Not considering who is likely to be available at #10, my top three choices right now are Haliburton, Ball, and Hayes. (Ball scares me as much as intrigues me.) This draft is fairly ball-handler heavy up top, and it would be great if we could find an eventual starter in this draft. The problem is I am not yet a believer in finding that outside of these three guys, and all are likely to be gone by #10.

Haliburton could be a great fit next to Booker with size, skill, passing, shooting, and seems to have potential on defense. I have Hayes in there for many of the same reasons. Ball is considered, by some, to be in a tier on his own. Great size and floor-general abilities, but has shooting concerns and seems to be a bit of a kook.

On the players that may be available at #10, my top choices if the ones above are off the board are Vassell, Nesmith, Riller, Toppin, and Saddiq Bey. Here I am picking the players I think are the safest bets to be contributors. I like Vassell far more than the others here, and he seems suited to be a position-versatile 3&D wing. Although we have other needs, we can always use another player of this sort. Nesmith could hopefully be another Cam Johnson type player. Riller is a bit of a gamble in that he’s unproven. But if we roll the dice and he pans out, he could become a great third guard off the bench or possibly become a starter.

Toppin is controversial. I am really scared of him being a turnstile on defense. If we drafted him, we’d need a lot more 3&D players to put around him. Bey is a bit of a gamble he becomes more than he is. But could be a versatile player for either forward spot- if he can defend well at the next level, which is a question mark on him.

It will likely be an unpredictable draft order, with several lottery surprises. I think there is a good chance five of the eight names I mentioned will be available at #10, so we should be able to get at least a decent rotation player.

SDKyle: My three favorite guys that might still be on the board at 10 are Devin Vassell, Precious Achiuwa, and Aaron Nesmith.

Vassell is a very athletic and explosive wing who has been compared to our own Kelly Oubre in terms of his tools. He can nonetheless shoot a bit, hitting 44 of his 106 three point attempts this past year. Has a 6’11 wingspan at 6’7.

Achiuwa is a super active rebounder and defender with an offensive game that needs developing. 6’9 with a 7’2 wingspan at a very athletic 225 lbs, he averaged 11 rebounds and two blocks per game in just 30 minutes this past season. He needs to get better as a shooter, including at the line, but he doesn’t look hopeless there.

Nesmith is just a straight up sniper, about as good a shooter as you see in the NCAA, at least in the 14 games he played this year. He hit 52% of his threes this past year out of his well over 100 attempts. Scored 23 points a game on 69% TS. He isn’t a good creator or defender, so I’d project him as a bench weapon.

Alex S: Full disclosure, I haven’t done much research or prospecting on this draft. From the limited information I do know:

  1. Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa St. He’s got tremendous size at the PG position and some NBA-ready skills at this moment. He’ll need to put weight on and get some NBA run before he’s ready to contribute but that’s my dream scenario.
  2. Devin Vassell, Florida St. Vassell might be the best fit in terms of immediate impact for Phoenix. A two year player with 41% 3PT is something that would pair nicely with Cam off the bench (see Q2 for why). FT shooting is a big concerning but the Suns are historically good behind the line so not a huge deal.
  3. Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt. When your NBA comp is Cameron Johnson, what’s not to like?

Q2 - What’s your opinion on the most likely thing the Suns do in regard to Kelly Oubre Jr.?

GuarGuar: Cam playing lights out in the bubble when starting at PF changes things. His spacing is so impactful and really opens up a lot for everyone. He was very competent defensively too. In an ideal world we would make Oubre our 6th man. I really think he would be a phenomenal 6th man option. And he could close many games too if he’s out playing Cam or we end with Point Book. The question is whether Kelly is willing to accept the role. I do think the long-term likeliness of Kelly staying on this team is less due to the emergence of Cam.

Sun-Arc: Personally, I hope we keep him. We don’t know who will be back next season when it comes to Saric, Carter, and Baynes. The team can certainly go back to BOBRA, with Cam becoming more important on the bench. Saric is the key to making this successful- allowing Dario, Saric, Payne, and a player like Vassell (Nesmith, Riller, Toppin) to become a strong bench.

Having said that, depending on what develops over the offseason and season, a mid-season trade may make sense. If Saric signs a reasonable multi-year deal ($21-24m/3-4yr), and our #10 rookie excels, making a move to acquire another longer-term piece may make sense. Though I do not underestimate how Kelly’s presence is a part of this team. I just can’t see paying him over $15m/year for a couple more seasons, when Ayton & Bridges will need to be paid, and we’ll have to find another starting PG.

SDKyle: I predict he sticks around for a deadline deal next season. There’s no hot market for him right now, but there might be next year especially if he’s seen to be a solid player in a WINNING Suns organization. By then the Suns will also have a better idea of what they may be missing to take the next step in their rise.

Alex S: I believe the Suns keep Kelly and start him next to Bridges and Ayton next season. Cam can still get nearly 30 mpg as a super 6th man and the assumption is that Cam will continue to put on size where you can comfortably play him at either the 3 or 4. I will admit, I previously said I didn’t like the idea of Cam as a 4 but the bubble has changed my view a bit.

The Suns can evaluate the fit for Kelly until the trade deadline and see if they want to keep him the entire year of if they move him for an asset or two. I want him to stay in Phoenix long-term but he’s going to need to adjust his tunnel vision and fully buy into the .5 concept a bit more.

Q3 - If the Suns do decide to trade Oubre, what trade deal would you most want to see made?

GuarGuar: Trading Kelly is interesting because he’s a starting level player yet we don’t really need another starter. However he’s only got 1 year left on his contract. We need a strong bench. I could see us trading Kelly for a couple wings for our 2nd unit. Who exactly I have no idea what’s available. The depth of this team is what needs to be addressed the most this offseason so I would think a Kelly trade would address that.

Sun-Arc: I don’t see Aaron Gordon as an upgrade on Oubre overall, and his contract is only one year longer. Would I gamble on it? Maybe. But I think we can do better for the money.

In January I wrote a fanpost about what types of players I wanted to make moves for. Not much has changed since then. There is a link to a spreadsheet of various players you can see, targeting who are the best 3&D players.

My #1 target is a big man vet that fits this bill: Nemanja Bjelica (but how to make salaries work in an exchange?). Serge Ibaka would be even better - but a long shot to obtain even though he is a free agent. Dorian Finney-Smith might be another, but I doubt the Mavs make that trade. Covington isn’t likely to be available, but he’d be great next to Ayton and Book. Outside of those guys, finding a good fit to play either forward spot is difficult. Maybe a sign-and-trade for Christian Wood- but again, that seems like a long shot, and it would have to be a reverse-poison-pill contract (starting at $15m that gets lower for year 2 onward) for us to take that gamble.

SDKyle: I really don’t have strong feeling about this beyond that I’d want to see a deal for a player that helps the Suns win now, rather than a deal for cap space/future draft picks. It’s likely that next year’s Suns will have some kind of identifiable weakness once we see them in action a bit, and if Kelly gets moved I’d like to see it address that and not be used with the next rebuild in mind.

Alex S: So I’ll answer this question if they were to move him this offseason and not the deadline. If we were to move him, I’d hope the return would involve something big. This isn’t going to happen but lets create some irony.

  • Suns receive – Bradley Beal.
  • Wizards receive – Kelly Oubre Jr, Cam Johnson, #10 overall, 2022 top 5 protected Suns first.

In order to get, you have to give. Beal has 3 years left on his deal so Kelly being an expiring would take more to move the needle. Would the Wizards be interested in a young sharpshooter and two firsts? Who knows.

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


2019-20 Season Highlights

WET LIKE I’M BOOK! Best of Devin Booker Bubble Highlights

Phoenix Suns 2019-2020 Starting Lineup ALL HIGHLIGHTS Part 1: Rubio, Booker, Bridges, Oubre, Ayton

Phoenix Suns 2019-2020 Starting Lineup ALL HIGHLIGHTS Part 2: Rubio, Booker, Bridges, Oubre, Ayton


Quotes of the Week

“We’re always looking for experience, always looking for capacity. I don’t look at age. If there’s a young player who’s demonstrated the ability to be consistent enough to earn minutes, I have no problem drafting that player.” - James Jones


News & Notes

A Bridge To 8-0. Fox Sports

The next roster changes the Suns need to make to build around Devin Booker. Clutch Points

Why Devin Booker Trade Rumors Will Be Everywhere Until The NBA Draft. Forbes

The Bubble Suns gave Phoenix fans a glimpse of a bright future. Ricky O’Donnell/SBNation

Phoenix Suns: Will they be the West’s next contender? Sir Charles In Charge

The NBA Draft Lottery Provided Little Clarity For The Phoenix Suns’ Offseason. Brendon Kleen/Forbes

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


Draft Prospect Scouting Videos

Devin Vassell Draft Scouting Video

Tyrese Haliburton Draft Scouting Video

Patrick Williams Draft Scouting Video


This Week in Suns History

On August 25, 1976, Phoenix acquired Tom Van Arsdale, the twin of ‘The Original Sun’ Dick Van Arsdale, from the Buffalo Braves for a 1977 second round pick and cash. It was the first time an NBA team had a set of twins on the same roster.

On August 25, 2005, the Suns acquired small forward James Jones (now the Suns’ GM) in a sign-and-trade with the Indiana Pacers. Jones signed a four-year $11.1 mil deal with the fourth year a player option.

On August 26, 1976, 31-year-old Phoenix guard John Wetzel retired and returned to school at Virginia Tech. He was the first player in franchise history to retire as a member of the Suns.

On August 28, 1984, the Suns played their first ever overseas exhibition game as part of a tournament that included Macabi Tel Aviv and the New Jersey Nets. They defeated Hapoel Tel Aviv 111-91 in game one at Yad Eliyahu Arena, Tel Aviv, Israel.


Interesting Suns Stuff

The Greatest Run That Nobody Will Remember


Suns Trivia

Three years after retiring, former Suns player John Wetzel returned to the Suns as an assistant coach under John MacLeod in 1979. He remained on MacLeod’s coaching staff until 1987 when MacLeod was fired. Wetzel was then named the Suns’ new head coach for the following season. Wetzel’s Suns team finished the 1987-88 season 28-54 and he was fired. Following his firing, former Suns’ head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons (1970-1972) was rehired. It would be the second of the three times that Cotton was hired as the Suns’ head coach.

Wetzel was one of six former Phoenix Suns players that also became the team’s head coach. The others were Dick Van Arsdale (interim 1987), Paul Westphal (1992-96), Danny Ainge (1996-99), Frank Johnson (2002-03) and Jeff Hornacek (2013-16).


Important Future Dates*

October 16 - NBA Draft.

October 17 - Deadline to tender Saric & Carter AND decline/accept team options on Kaminsky & Diallo.

October 18 - Free agency begins.

October 23 - Moratorium ends (noon).

October 28 - Okobo’s contract becomes fully guaranteed.

November 10 - Target date for opening day for 2020-21 season training camps.

December 1 - Target date for 2020-21 season opening night.

* Author’s Note: Current news from the NBA indicates that these dates will likely pushed further back than indicated here but no alternative dates have been given out at this time.


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Should the Suns trade their 1st round draft pick this year?”

36% - No.

45% - Yes if it’s not in the top 3-4.

19% - Yes.

A total of 221 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Next season Kelly Oubre Jr. will be...

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    Back in the Suns’ starting lineup.
    (106 votes)
  • 36%
    A great 6th man coming off the bench.
    (81 votes)
  • 15%
    On another team because the Suns will trade him in the offseason.
    (33 votes)
220 votes total Vote Now