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Center of the Sun: Suns basketball unlikely to return before 2021

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The proposed dates for the NBA Draft and everything else have been pushed back at least a month.

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

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

If you’re like me, the Suns 8-0 bubble run just whetted your appetite for more Suns basketball and hope that the projected December 1 starting date for the 2020-21 season was going to turn out to be more than just wishful thinking. In recent weeks, we’ve found out that is just what it was. The first sure thing was when Woj informed us that the Draft was tentatively rescheduled from Oct. 16 to Nov. 18.

That shifts everything on the previously proposed calendar back about a month which isn’t too bad. Soon afterward Shams let us know that the NBA is still hoping to preserve those Christmas day games by making that opening day... although that is probably just wishful thinking as well.

To begin the season on Christmas day, the NBA would have to give teams that 8-week advanced notice no later than Oct. 25 which is only six weeks away and a little less than two weeks after the Finals are projected to be over. As the NBA doesn’t want to attempt to recreate the bubble and does want fans back in the arenas, Christmas seems to not yet be a viable alternative. COVID-19 isn’t going to just go away and it does not care what any of us want.

Things could change by then though. Several NFL teams are allowing up to 25% of stadium capacity for fans and you can bet that the NBA will keep a close eye on how well that works out for them. If that proves it can be safely done, expect the NBA to possibly adopt some sort of similar approach... albeit with courtside seating prohibited to protect the players.

If that doesn’t work for the NFL, expect an even later start for the NBA... perhaps as late as February or even March. And although I expect the Draft to still take place in November, free agency may not start soon afterward as was previously indicated in the tentative calendar. The later the start of the 2020-21 season, the more likely that it might also be shortened from the normal 82 games played.

No one really wants to see that happen - especially the owners who would lose even more revenue next season due to fewer regular season games played - but to do otherwise would almost insure that the 2021-22 season wouldn’t start until sometime in 2022. That would make it quite difficult to eventually return to a traditional fall through spring NBA season in the future as well as adding another adverse short-term effect on the salary cap figures which already don’t look promising.

Whatever the future might bring for the NBA, it’s safe to say that things won’t be returning to normal any time soon and that the beginning of the 2020-21 season - and more Suns basketball - may be much further off than anyone wants.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - This season, Deandre Ayton averaged 18.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 32.5 mpg. He also made very good progress defensively. What improvements do you want to see from him in 2020-21?

GuarGuar: I want consistency from Ayton next season. His energy and engagement level really wavered between games all season. His effort came and go. And he needs to become more of a professional. He got suspended for taking drugs which cost this team a playoff berth. Then he’s the only one to miss their covid test and he missed a quarter during the OKC game. He needs to be a better professional. He has all the talent in the world. His issues are mindset based.

Sun-Arc: Any and all improvements would be welcome, but I was impressed with what he did in his limited playing time in the regular season before COVID hit. He really started to play aggressively in games for a time before things shut down. And more consistently. What I would most like to see is that aggression and consistency come together and always get the best he has to offer. If he really can figure out he is the most dominant player on the court in every game, he can be unstoppable. We need that out of him.

One other detailed improvement I’d like to see is to not rely on others setting him up as much. He needs to work on getting into his spots quickly and effectively for an early pass inside to punish opposing defenses. This will have lots of benefits including drawing in defenders so he can pass out to shooters, more free throw attempts for DA, and also an easier shot for him where he will likely only have one defender on him, which may also be a mismatch. Ayton can run super fast, so even if he gets the rebound, shoot down the court and dive to the rim or turn around in the paint after a fake to get that pass and shoot, pass, or get fouled.

SDKyle: I want to see Ayton put it all together on both ends of the floor and play with intensity more consistently. Through his first two years in the league we have seen very few games in which Ayton even attempted to take over, even when matched up on a clearly inferior defender for long stretches.

He’s had some very big games, but I think it’s telling that Brightside clearly thinks Booker is our best player and that there is a vocal minority saying Rubio is next up.

It just so rarely feels like a game is an “Ayton Game.” A lot of times he just kinda blends into the action and at the end of the game you’ll see he had 18 points and 12 boards.

That’s probably due to how rarely he seeks contact. Ayton should be an “and one” machine, but instead barely ever finds himself making those sorts of plays that really fire up a team. He should play more fearlessly.

SouthernSun: I’d love to see him expand his offensive repertoire a bit, learn to attack off the dribble, as well as get more comfortable taking and making threes from NBA range.

If he’s gonna get max money, we’re gonna need max production.

Alex S: Two main improvements I want to see from DA for next season:

  1. Assertiveness at the rim on the offensive end while in the paint. I’m okay with Deandre having finesse as a major part of his game, but in order for him to unlock his true potential he needs to try to dunk nearly everything when he’s in the lane. This will increase his free throw attempts and potentially create more foul trouble for the opposition (as well as himself).
  2. Threes every game. I’d like to see him attempt somewhere around 2 three-pointers per game next season. If he can hit them above 30%, that should create some additional spacing for his teammates.

Q2 - Cameron Johnson shot 39.0% from three for the season but only 34.9% from three as a starter in the bubble. Does that concern you at all?

GuarGuar: It doesn’t really concern me because of the small sample size, but it makes sense considering he’s facing tougher players and was playing a totally different position. He did not play much power forward for most of the season pre-bubble. I’m not concerned with his % in the Bubble.

Sun-Arc: Yeah, I’m concerned with Cam’s shooting. At his age, with the #11 pick, and what he did in college, I hoped he would shoot over 40%. Sure, only around 30 guys in the NBA did so - but that is supposed to be Cam’s elite skill. He’s a good shooter, but I want him to be a great shooter- because we don’t have any of those right now. While he looks like a more rounded player than anyone thought, the shooting does have me concerned. I’d like to see what we saw in the bubble consistently - but with him shooting over 40%. Am I asking too much?

SDKyle: Cam is a good shooter. The bubble wasn’t a very big sample size and he was adjusting to a new role. I predict he will be okay.

SouthernSun: No that doesn’t concern me. It was a small sample size, very well could be an aberration. It could also be that he was playing against starters, and needs to adjust. I’m sure his minutes will increase next season, and he will have even more opportunity to improve. I think he will be around 40% again next season.

Alex S: Not really. I think Cam is a 39-40% type of guy with his form and his confidence. I believe the combo of increased workload as well as the gym dynamics playing in the bubble created the dip in his percentage. With more minutes next year, I expect him to bounce back towards that range he was pre-bubble.

Q3 - By record, the Suns finished this season tied with Memphis for 9th in the West. Most fans expect them to at least be in the hunt for the playoffs at the end of the 2020-21 season. Barring an unexpected trade that might significantly alter the roster (ie - somehow adding another star player), what is your most optimistic prediction for their final ranking in the West next season?

GuarGuar: I mean we clearly know the talent is there to make the playoffs next year. Golden State is back and Zion should be healthy all year. OKC probably blows it up which could open up a spot. I could see us being a 7th-8th seed next year. I think Lakers, Clippers, Rockets (unless they blow it up), and Denver all for sure finish above us next season. Jazz, Portland, Golden State all most likely do but I’m not sold yet.

Sun-Arc: If we returned this team next season I think we end up around 42 wins at best. We need some upgrades and for the young guys to get better, like Ayton and Cam, but also Bridges (shooting).

If all the other teams also made no changes, I would think we’d end up 9th-12th, with 10th the most likely. GSW will be back in some form. Portland will still be hard to beat. Memphis will be a year further along with Ja likely reaching star-status. The Pelicans are... who knows? But they do have some talent if Ingram is still there with Jrue and Zion. Someone from the top 7 will drop out (maybe OKC), but GSW and/or someone else will rise.

SDKyle: Hard to say, really, because even assuming no major Suns shakeups there will undoubtedly be shakeups for other teams. In an optimistic scenario I could see the Suns finishing maybe fifth or sixth behind some order of the LA teams, Denver and Dallas or Houston or OKC. I think we’d all be pretty excited about that.

Realistically, I think we’ll be in a dogfight with several teams that think they can do likewise, including Memphis, New Orleans, and maybe even the star-crossed Kings if they can keep a guy healthy for 20 games at a time.

SouthernSun: I assume the Suns will at the very least bring in a competent scoring guard off the bench like Burks or Augustin, as well as another big who will hopefully stay healthy and actually play. They’ll also bring back Saric, Payne, and Carter.

We have no way of knowing what they’ll do with Oubre, but let’s assume for now that they keep him.

They’ll definitely get rid of Okobo.

So, we can assume the Suns will at least trot out a roster as good as this:

  • Rubio - D.J. Augustin (FA) - Cam Payne - Lecque
  • Booker - Carter - Jerome
  • Bridges - Cam Johnson
  • Oubre - Saric
  • Ayton - Nerlens Noel (FA)

I expect them to finish in 8th, with the following teams finishing ahead of them:

  1. Lakers
  2. Nuggets
  3. Clippers
  4. Warriors
  5. Rockets
  6. Mavericks
  7. Trail Blazers

Probably win around 41 games. But they might win as many as 50.

Alex S: The most optimistic if everything goes right? I could see a 5 or 6 seed. That would require OKC to fall out (I think this will happen), Utah to take a step back (Gobert gone? Conley?) and for the Suns to compete against teams like Portland/Utah/Dallas for the 5-7 range. I do think the current top 4 is likely to stay the way it is for next season (LAL/LAC/DEN/HOU).

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


2019-20 Season Highlights

Devin Booker burns the Sixers for 40 points as the Suns stay hot

Kelly Oubre Jr. 30 Points Highlights vs Atlanta Hawks | 15.11.2019

Ricky Rubio Double Double: 25 Points 13 Assists & 4 Steals at New York Knicks

Deandre Ayton 28 pts 19 rebs 2 asts vs Nuggets

Dario Saric 19 Pts 17 Rebs 4 Asts Highlights vs San Antonio Spurs


Quote of the Week

“I love what Devin Booker did in the bubble, but I always knew that he was that type of player.” - Ray Allen


News & Notes

Devin Booker, Bradley Beal’s path to winning championship, per Ray Allen. Clutch Points

Phoenix Suns: 3 prospects to target with the 10th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Sir Charles In Charge

Former Suns GM takes friendly jab at BucksEric Bledsoe over ‘I don’t wanna be here’ tweet. Clutch Points

Rookie ready: With Suns setting, Oliver Miller came up big. Whole Hog Sports

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


Draft Prospect Scouting Videos

Deni Avdija Draft Scouting Video

Precious Achiuwa Draft Scouting Video

Cole Anthony Draft Scouting Video


This Week in Suns History

On September 16, 1974, the Suns acquired Curtis Perry, Dennis Awtrey, Nate Hawthorne and a 1976 first round pick (Adrian Dantley) from New Orleans Jazz for Neal Walk and a 1975 second round pick (Clyde Mayes). Walk averaged 14.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in 5 seasons with Phoenix.

On September 16, 1994, the NBA finally approved a $1 mil deal for Danny Manning and the Suns also submitted a one-year, $850,000 deal for power forward Wayman Tisdale. At the time, this arguably made the Suns the deepest team in the NBA. Phoenix expected to work out Ralph Sampson as well.


Free Agent Scouting Report

2020 NBA Free Agent Scouting Reports: Christian Wood


Suns Trivia


Important Future Dates*

November 18 - NBA Draft.

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

November 20 (approx.) - Free agency begins.

November 25 (approx.) - Moratorium ends (noon).

November 30 (approx.) - Okobo’s contract becomes fully guaranteed.

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

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

* Author’s Note: All dates except the probable Draft date (Woj) and possible opening night date (Shams) 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 “Three Suns players will soon be free agents. Which of the three do you think the Suns are most likely to retain?”

05.5% - Aron Baynes (UFA)

59.2% - Dario Saric (RFA)

35.3% - Jevon Carter (RFA)

A total of 255 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

The 2020-21 NBA season will begin...

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    Sometime in December of 2020.
    (34 votes)
  • 50%
    Sometime in January of 2021.
    (55 votes)
  • 5%
    Sometime in February of 2021.
    (6 votes)
  • 9%
    Sometime in March of 2021.
    (10 votes)
  • 4%
    Sometime after March of 2021.
    (5 votes)
110 votes total Vote Now