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Center of the Sun: Could/should the NBA hold a Summer League this fall/winter?

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With almost everything in the NBA’s future still in limbo, why not at least consider having it?

2008 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

What a year 2020 has been.

At this time just a year ago we were eagerly awaiting the start of the Suns’ training camp on Oct. 1. Instead of doing the same this year, we’re still watching the NBA Finals and speculating on which player the Suns will draft... in November. Although everything else is still up in the air, the NBA has verified that the Draft will take place on Nov. 18.

Hopefully free agency will begin soon afterward. I can’t see any reason why it shouldn’t but nothing should be taken for granted this year. When training camps and the 2020-21 season will eventually begin is anyone’s guess. Last week’s poll results indicate that over 80% believe the NBA will be back no later than January and I truly hope that isn’t overly optimistic. In 1998 a lockout resulted over salary cap issues between the owners and player’s union which wasn’t resolved until January 20, 1999. That led to the 1998–99 regular season to begin on February 5 and be shortened to just 50 games with the All-Star game cancelled for that season.

I’m sure no one wants to see something like that - or worse - happen because of the pandemic this coming season but if there is going to be an extended wait, perhaps the NBA should consider something to fill that void. That void filler could be something akin to the Summer League.

The loss of the NBA Summer League games is one thing that no one has really talked about much. If there’s going to be a very significant wait between the draft and the beginning of next season, perhaps the NBA should consider having at least an abbreviated bubble version of the Summer League this fall (or winter). It would be good for both the fans and the GMs wanting to not only get a look at their recently drafted players on the court but undrafted prospects and free agents to possibly fill out their training camp rosters (which can be up to 20 players) as well. It’s also where teams find many players for their G League teams which the Suns will still have this season. The NAZ Suns don’t actually move to Detroit until the 2021-22 season.

Even under normal circumstances, the conditions during Summer League games aren’t very different than those for the games the NBA is presently playing inside the Orlando bubble. The only real difference this time for the teams would be keeping the players and staff isolated from outside contact. If it could be done, it should be considered. Las Vegas was initially considered as a location for the bubble along with Orlando so it’s possible they could still hold a belated Summer League there this year.

Of course, as we all know that revenues will be down significantly this year and money - as well as time - could likely be the deciding issue on something like this. It’s helpful for teams and fun for fans but it’s also not actually necessary so no one may even be considering it. I hope they do though... if time permits the possibility.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - Ricky Rubio, who turns 30 in 2 months, just had one of his best statistical seasons in the NBA. In 2004 the Suns reacquired Steve Nash who had just turned 30 and he proceeded to have the best seasons of his career in Phoenix over the next 8 years. I don’t expect Rubio to suddenly turn into Nash 2.0 but do you think that he is who he is at this point or do you think we could still see some improvement in the coming years?

GuarGuar: I think the Rubio we got this year is probably about the best version of Rubio we are going to get. His set 3 point shot maybe continue to improve, which would be awesome. But aside from that I don’t see him improving in any other part of his game. He could be better next year simply because there’s an existing chemistry now and it’s not a new team. But from a skills perspective this is pretty much the best Ricky we are going to get.

Sun-Arc: I believe Rubio had one of his best seasons for two reasons:

  1. Monty knew how to get the best out of him within an offensive system that was partially built around Ricky.
  2. He clearly worked on his 3pt shooting, knowing that needed to happen with the way the league has moved.

Moving forward, I believe Ricky will be even better over the next two seasons for two additional reasons:

  1. Another season of working with Booker and Monty should bring better results in finding players’ spots, and allowing Ricky to work on his perimeter shooting even more.
  2. Getting Ayton into PnR mode more effectively. This was the biggest disappointment to me. Nash could make mediocre bigs into stars (see: Gortat), and I think Ricky (and Monty) can hopefully turn Ayton into a PnR monster.

In the end, I think Ricky might only have two more seasons here regardless. I think Jones is looking for a younger guy that can carry the team into the future. Maybe they luck into Killian Hayes during the draft. Maybe he snags Fred VanVleet. I don’t know - but I think this is coming. I don’t see Ricky being here for 5 or more seasons.

SDKyle: Nash is much more the exception than the rule. NBA players generally age a lot more like milk than wine, with the typical guy peaking between 24 and 27 years of age, having a short plateau of quality, and then declining gradually as they near 30 and more rapidly afterwards. Even Rubio has declined in some noticeable ways. For example, he used to be basically the NBA’s best ball swiper, which was a big part of his reputation for high-level defense. Four times in his early-mid 20s he averaged at least 3.3 steals per 100 possessions.

This year he set a career low at 2.2, eclipsing last year’s career low of 2.3. That’s not coincidental... that’s the slowdown in reflexes and quickness that just isn’t easy for any man to defy.

That said, it doesn’t mean he has to decline to any precipitous degree in the immediate future. What he brings on the offensive side isn’t predicated too much on high-level athleticism, and we’ve seen that players are capable of finding new nuances in their game to compensate for declines in their other abilities. Clyde Drexler, for example, shot 34% on five 3PAs per game as an old man in Houston after averaging just 30% on just two attempts per game in his Blazers career.

Rubio will likely continue to decline in some areas, but may find little ways to compensate in others. Odds say he doesn’t on balance ever become a better player than he currently is but maybe he doesn’t fall off too much too soon either.

SouthernSun: Rubio could have a Jason Kidd like turnaround when it comes to his 3 point shooting. He was pretty good this season on spot up threes, hitting 40+% of them. It was pullup threes that plummeted his overall percentage. He won’t need to take nearly as many of those once the Suns have another scoring guard. He basically had to because the Suns needed somebody to do it when Book was on the bench. A quality 6th man scoring guard type will help that immensely. I have no clue whether he can have anywhere close to the Nash type resurgence, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Rubio has another really good couple of seasons left in him. He has been playing basketball professionally since he was 16 though, so he has quite a few miles on him.

Alex S: I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe there’s an even better version of Ricky Rubio still to be tapped into. After all, you see it often where a veteran might take some time to adapt to a new situation and/or a new coach to play under.

I’m very encouraged with the bubble version of Ricky and what he showed when he’s truly 95-100% healthy. I think that’s why a quality backup guard has always been an important piece because it would be ideal to rest Rubio around 10 games a year to preserve his overall health. If the Suns continue to upgrade the roster as well as provide Ricky an even better role, I can see him potentially taking another step.

Q2 - Kelly Oubre Jr. seems to be the Sun most often mentioned when trade ideas are brought up. What improvements in his game do you think could make him more of a “keeper” instead of a trade asset (or at least a more valuable trade asset)?

GuarGuar: With Kelly it really just comes down to his playmaking. He has such extreme tunnel vision that goes against all the principles Monty talks about with our offense. He forces too many contested drives when the corner 3 is open. He doesn’t really play within the system as well as Cam does. Cam has much better game awareness offensively of where everyone is at. That’s why I feel unless Kelly really changes this part of his game, he’s best being a dynamic 6th man scorer off the bench.

Sun-Arc: If Kelly could hit 39% of his threes, that alone would make him a keeper for any team. He’s got so much else going on. OR if he could be an absolute stopper on defense. Either way it only benefits the Suns for a trade, because if he improves that much we won’t want to pay him what he and his agent will think he’s worth.

If he doesn’t improve, we probably still can’t pay him what they’ll feel he’s worth. Kind of stuck there unless he would somehow take an extension at $15 mil, and maybe even at that amount it hamstrings the team’s cap situation.

SDKyle: Shooting. Kelly’s status as a very average shooter makes it easier to conclude that the Suns can live without him. He shot only 33% on corner threes, which makes it especially easy to conclude he doesn’t need to be on the floor with Booker and Ayton. If he were a trule dangerous catch and shoot marksman on top of the other things he can do, he’d be borderline indispensable to the Suns.

As is, it’s pretty easy to make the case that Oubre is the Suns’ best trade asset.

SouthernSun: Looking to pass more. He gets tunnel vision. Sometimes he looks like Josh Jackson with a better finishing touch out there. But he is a good player. He can create his own shot. He’s willing to shoot, which some guys just aren’t. When he’s locked in on defense he can be really good on that end too. I suppose the things he should most work on are ball movement and keeping his defensive intensity consistent.

Alex S: I believe Kelly is being dangled primarily for his contact but also his play style offensively. If I had to put a scale on it, I’d say 60% of it is his impending FA, 30% is his lack of ball distribution/fit next to Devin/Deandre, and the rest is believing huge believers in Mikal/Cam.

All I’m gonna say is if Oubre had the same contract status as Bridges or Johnson, this would be a different conversation.

Q3 - The Suns do not have a second round pick in this or next year’s draft. Do you think they should try to trade for one (or perhaps even buy one of the 4 second rounders that Philadelphia owns this year) and who would you draft in the 2nd round if the Suns do acquire one?

GuarGuar: I doubt we buy a 2nd round draft pick when we just sold our G-League team to help with funds. Elijah Hughes would be a guy I’m fine taking a flier on in the 2nd round. We can always use a scoring wing.

Sun-Arc: I think the second round pick discussion only comes into play IF Jones & co think there is someone that is a sure thing to be an immediate contributor AND will be available at that pick’s spot. Otherwise I think they won’t try to buy into the second round.

That article on Ty-Shon Alexander by Zona Sports made him sound really good. I haven’t looked into the second rounders otherwise. Second round picks rarely pan out. Is it worth the effort and risk? Again - the only way I feel good about it is if they feel really certain about someone.

SDKyle: To be honest, I don’t think not having a second rounder for a couple of years is a big deal. If the Suns did get one this year, depending where it lies, I’d maybe take a shot on an international guy like Leandro Bolmaro or Aleksej Pokusevski... someone who maybe is under scouted due to being under the radar foreign players.

Due respect, but I’ve never gotten too worked up about second rounders. So few stick in the NBA for long.

SouthernSun: I really don’t think the Suns need any more youth on this roster. However, if they did purchase/trade for a 2nd rounder the only player who will likely go in the late 1st or early 2nd round that I’m interested in is Grant Riller. People more knowledgeable about the draft than me seem to be in love with him as instant scoring production off the bench. If he is actually that, then I wouldn’t mind adding him.

Alex S: I mean, this is a question that only James Jones and Monty Williams can answer. 2nd round picks are essentially lottery tickets and all you can do is hope that your franchise hits as a fan.

The reason I lead with this coming down to Monty/James is they need to love a prospect that happens to fall in a situation where it’s worth taking a risk. It wouldn’t be a huge investment but more often than not you’ll see 2nd round guys fizzle out within two years.

Furthermore, there’s guys like Lu Dort that go undrafted and become impact players in the playoffs. It mainly comes down to your scouting/eye for talent as well as your development.

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 scores 40, breaks Suns record vs. Grizzlies

Kelly Oubre 30 Points Full Highlights (2/5/2020)

Deandre Ayton 28 Pts 19 Reb Full Highlights | Suns vs Bulls | February 22, 2020

Ricky Rubio 10 Pts, 11 Rebs, 14 Asts Highlights vs Portland Trail Blazers


Quotes of the Week

“We got to a point right before the bubble that it was all about us and we were focused and locked in. I think that everybody has seen that we’re a different team. We’re a different culture now.” - Brady Howe (Suns Sr. Director of Health & Performance)

“Having an opportunity to be with the Suns as they grow and come into their own and are poised to be pretty special is obviously a great opportunity, but very humbling.” - new Suns Assistant Coach Brian Randle


News & Notes

2020 NBA Offseason Preview: Phoenix Suns. Hoops Rumors

Randle taking next step in coaching career. News-Gazette

Groundbreaking Performance. Suns.com

Could Monty Williams Be A Mentor To Brian Randle In Phoenix? Suns Insider Duane Rankin Thinks It Is Possible. SI

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


Draft Prospect Scouting Videos

Underrated 2020 NBA Draft Prospects

Underrated 2020 NBA Draft Prospects (Part 2)


Free Agent Scouting Report

2020 Free Agent Scouting Report: Justin Holiday


This Week in Suns History

On September 23, 1994, following the signings of Danny Manning and Wayman Tisdale, the Suns traded small forward Cedric Ceballos to the LA Lakers for a 1995 1st round draft pick (Michael Finley). Ceballos had career high’s in scoring and rebounding with 19.1 and 6.5 in the previous season with the Suns.


Interesting Suns stuff

Top 5 NBA Teams with the Brightest Future: Phoenix Suns [#5]


Suns Trivia

After being drafted by Phoenix in the 2nd round of the 1990 NBA with the 48th pick overall, Cedric Ceballos played 6 seasons for the Suns in two separate stints (1990-94 & 1996-98). During the 1992-93 season, he led the NBA in field goal percentage with 57.6%. He is 33rd in all-time points scored as a Sun (3,916) and in 1992 he won the 1992 NBA Slam Dunk Contest with a blindfolded dunk.

After retiring from the NBA, Ceballos sometimes toured with the “USA Legends” team. On one occasion while they were playing the Malaysian NBL All Star team (which they beat 97-79), Ceballos borrowed one of the Malaysian player’s jerseys, played for them for a few possessions and scored a breakaway dunk against his own team.


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.

* 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 “The 2020-21 NBA season will begin...”

31% - Sometime in December of 2020.

50% - Sometime in January of 2021.

05% - Sometime in February of 2021.

09% - Sometime in March of 2021.

05% - Sometime after March of 2021.

A total of 110 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

If possible, would you want the NBA to have a bubble version of the Summer League this fall/winter?

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    Yes.
    (50 votes)
  • 31%
    No.
    (23 votes)
73 votes total Vote Now