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Center of the Sun: Critical offseason decisions on the horizon for the Suns

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With pandemic restrictions in place, making those decisions isn’t going to be any easier.

Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns Photo by Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

The NBA Draft Combine starts today and, as you’ve probably already heard, because of the pandemic it will be very different than past combines. My first impression of it after reading some of the details was... I suppose it’s better than nothing at all.

GMs will still be getting a good deal of info on draft prospects but all of it will be from a distance. Personnel from individual teams will not be allowed to be in attendance during any of it and my personal favorite part of it, the five-on-five scrimmages, won’t be done at all this year . As a matter of fact, the only workout videos of prospects that teams will be allowed to view are solo workouts with only one player and one coach/trainer allowed on the court. Those will provide limited offensive information and should be virtually useless if there defensive questions about prospects.

Live-streaming workouts is allowed but I doubt many will be done that way. It would be much easier for all involved to pre-record them... and those could also be edited to show only the best takes, which are what prospects most want teams to see. Players also have the option of doing these videos at the Combine facilities or doing them on their own. I have a feeling that most will be done by the players themselves outside of the Combine so they can have greater control over the content as well as those who get to see them. Combine workout videos will be available to all 30 teams, self-made videos can be distributed strategically to only the teams that prospects are most interested in playing for.

Of all the differences, the one that I actually like is that all of the prospects will first do short pre-recorded interviews with NBA personnel in which they are all asked the same 10 questions. These interview videos will be made available to all 30 teams and should be useful to GMs in structuring more personal one-on-one live videoconference call interviews with prospects. It will save everyone some time as I’m sure that there are many common questions that prospects get asked over and over again in every interview they do. This might be something the NBA should consider keeping as part of future Combines.

One thing that isn’t different from past Combines is that all of the activities are voluntary and we will likely soon hear that some of the top prospects will opt out of participation in most if not all of the activities. If you’re already projected to be drafted in the top 10, why take a chance on messing that up by having an off day during the shooting drills?

In a year when in-house workouts and evaluations are prohibited, all of this is going to make it even harder for GMs to make good decisions come draft day. According to Sports Illustrated, a memo from the NBPA went out to player agents which stated that the NBA “is continuing to evaluate options for teams to meet with, observe, and examine draft-eligible prospects.” That at least still leaves the door open to the possibility that some in-house evals might be able to be done before Nov. 18 rolls around.

I hope that becomes possible because I’m sure we would all prefer the James Jones’ draft selection be based on more than just his best guess based on even more limited data than usual. The Suns look as though they’re poised to make a leap forward as a team and adding at least another solid rotation player through the draft could be a big plus on the road to returning to the playoffs next season.

Whether it’s in the draft, in free agency or through a trade, the Suns can’t afford any bad decisions before the beginning of the 2020-21 season. That’s not to say that they should “play it safe” and not take any chances though because playing it safe is still taking a chance.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - We hear other fans come up with suggestions on who the Suns should draft, trade for and sign in free agency all the time. Some ideas are pretty good, others... not so much so. With that in mind, what in your opinion are some of the worst draft/trade/FA signing ideas for the Suns that you’ve heard so far?

GuarGuar: I’ve heard people ask for us to sign Paul Millsap to start at Power Forward next year. Millsap has aged quite a bit and has been a liability for Denver many times this season. Cam/Oubre/Saric are all much better options to start for us next season.

I’ve heard people suggest us try and trade for D’Lo again. I don’t understand the logic at all. Rubio is better and is a way better fit with this team.

I don’t like the idea of signing Fred VanVleet to a 20+ mil per year contract either. Rubio is fine and our money could be allocated elsewhere. FVV is a good player but there’s certainly a good chance he fails to pay off such a massive contract.

Sun-Arc: Gosh, so many to choose from. I’ll go with these two:

Oubre + Rubio + Lecque for Chris Paul

CP3 is still a really, really good player. And this trade is intriguing, but I just don’t see this working out. Rubio is at least four years younger and worked out pretty darn well last season. But the real reason to hate this deal is Paul has two more seasons on his contract each well over $40 mil. Is he worth 2.5 times what Rubio is? I don’t think so.

Rubio + Bridges + #10 for Victor Oladipo

Oh, how I longed for Victor to be on the Suns in 2013. If only he’d drop to #5. Nope. Here’s our chance, right? Except as a point guard, he wouldn’t really run the team well, and I prefer less Point-Book than more of it. Oladipo has also had diminishing returns and injuries helping diminish those returns. He didn’t play well in the bubble either, which wasn’t a great sign. That makes this a big gamble. And trading Bridges doesn’t feel good at all.

But it’s what it does to the team. ‘Dipo and Book need the ball to be effective, yet so does Ayton. Rubio did not need the ball nearly as much. I think Rubio is a better fit right now. Plus Victor only has one more season on his contract - meaning one of two scenarios: 1) He plays horrible, so the trade was a total bust; especially losing Bridges. 2) He plays really well and we then have to pay him some sort of max deal before we also have to pay Ayton. Well, honestly, that scares me a lot less than scenario 1. Still: Bridges and team fit.

Honorable mention:

Trading Oubre + #10 for pick #2. I mean, maybe? But there seems to be not a hell of a lot of difference between the top 15 picks. People praise Ball, but he scares the hell out of me. Plus, screw the Warriors. You don’t get Oubre and a good role player.

SDKyle: I actually haven’t heard too many terrible trade/draft ideas this year. The biggest threat to this team’s future is buying too much into its own hype and believing it can run back largely the same roster but improve by 15-20 wins.

That said...

  1. Trading for Aaron Gordon. I was a fan of this move a couple of years ago, but Gordon looks to have plateaued and won’t be worth the assets suggested to get him...in some suggestions this has included Mikal Bridges as well as the Suns’ first round draft pick.
  2. Throwing a rich long-term deal at Kelly Oubre. I’m an Oubre moderate in Brightside terms. I like him less than some and more than others. He clearly brought an energy and swagger that the Suns needed badly when he arrived. But giving someone like him a three or four-year deal at in excess of $20 million has all the potential to handcuff the Suns at a key time in a year or two. This wouldn’t be as big a worry if Suns fans could be confident Sarver was willing to go deep into tax territory to build a true contender, but we certainly can’t be confident of that.
  3. The return of the Dragan. Yeah. This one cropped up the last few days as it was reported Bender is headed back to Israel but still has a clause allowing him to return to the NBA if he gets an offer. Apparently some Suns fans somehow liked him a lot more once he left Phoenix, and think he’d shine in a second stint with less pressure on him.

I say Bender is tainted. He’s basically the living symbol of the worst era in Suns history. Let’s not tempt fate with bringing that energy back to the valley.

SouthernSun: One of my least favorite trade ideas I’ve seen is a suggestion to trade Oubre for a another mid/late lottery pick and bring on two rookies and count on them as part of the rotation. I’m not even sure I want the Suns to bring on any rookies at all this offseason, much less two rookies, and certainly not two players drafted in the top 10 who would probably come in expecting minutes, when this team is finally turning the corner and trying to make the playoffs.

To be honest, there aren’t many ideas from actual Suns fans I’ve seen that I hate. Non Suns fans sure. I saw one person suggest the Suns trade Oubre to the Warriors just for the cap space. They were a Warriors fan though.

The thing I dislike most though isn’t necessarily a specific trade idea, or free agency acquisition. It’s the mindset that the Suns shouldn’t do everything in their power and within reason to be as good as possible this upcoming season. Its putting too much stock in that bubble run and thinking they don’t need to bring in more veteran talent and should just run it back. The idea that they shouldn’t trade any future assets ever for fear of not being able to use them then, when they could be used to improve now. Or the idea that the Suns need to keep the cap powder dry for 2021.

2021 doesn’t matter. The Suns probably aren’t getting Giannis. If they can get a really good player now, they should go ahead and get him. Not wait and hope they’re the belle of the ball next offseason with their pick of the 2021 free agency litter. They won’t be. That’s a fairy tale.

Booker is good enough to be on a contender right now. Let’s give him one as quickly as possible.

Alex S: I’ll just use this as an opportunity to laugh at Bleacher Report trade ideas.

  1. Phoenix Suns acquire $17.2 million trade exception and No. 2 pick in 2020 draft from Golden State Warriors for Kelly Oubre Jr. and No. 10 pick in 2020 draft.
  2. Suns trade involving De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, and Kevin Huerter for Devin Booker.
  3. John Wall for Ricky Rubio.

All of these create no interest from me. I don’t even think it’s worth my energy to break down why each is absurd. The main reason I’ll supply is that the Suns aren’t going to make an 8-0 run in the bubble just to either break up the foundation of the team or to trade for another 18 year old.

Q2 - While we’re talking about “worsts”, which Suns game this past season do you consider to be their worst performance of the year?

GuarGuar: I think those Pistons (113-111) - Warriors (115-99) back to back dreadful performances in March are the worst of the season for me. We still were in the playoff hunt and showed no life whatsoever against depleted teams… at home too! I was so disgusted after watching those games. A dishonorable mention is losing that 20+ point second half lead against the depleted Kings in January (114-103). That was an extremely painful loss.

Sun-Arc: The one that sticks out to me the most is the first game against the Heat (124-108) on November 7th. We had just finished a three game win streak, and just came off from beating the Sixers. And the team absolutely failed to show up to the game. It was such a letdown. I was hopeful the team culture had changed, but didn’t buy into it up to that point, but this game absolutely killed the notion of this team as a winner for me. For that reason, this was the worst loss for me.

SDKyle: For me this is easy. The worst Suns performance was the Feb. 29 home loss against the Warriors.

The Warriors were 13-47, the league’s worst team. The Suns were missing Oubre, but otherwise at full strength, starting Rubio, Booker, Bridges, Saric, and Ayton.

The Warriors, meanwhile, fielded a roster of mostly replacement-level deep bench scrubs. Damion Lee, a journeyman SG, was the PG. Inefficient volume chucker and defensive turnstile Andrew Wiggins was next to him, and they were joined by Juan Toscano Anderson, Marquese Chriss, and Dragan Bender.

That’s a tanking lineup if ever I saw one, but the Warriors bench was no better. Their sixth man was Mychal Mulder, 48 hours into a ten day contract after being plucked from the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Their bench “big” was the 6’6 Eric Paschall, a rookie second-round pick.

Final score? 115-99 for the Warriors. The Suns just didn’t show up on defense, letting this group of nobodies torch them for 115 points. It would’ve been one thing if Wiggins had just had a hot night and gone off, but he wasn’t the culprit. He was actually terrible, going 6/20 from the field and 0/5 from deep.

Rather, it was Paschall and Lee who combined for 45 points on 16/29 shooting. Bender and Chriss chipped in a combined 24 on 8/16, and this embarrassing loss (which the Suns at one point led by double digits) was in the books.

Dishonorable mention goes to the Jan. 22 home loss to the Pacers (112-87). This was a loss to a better team, but still notable for how much everyone had a bad game. Ayton only had 10 points in 31 minutes. Booker only had 16. Rubio only had 3 assists in 22 minutes. Just a bad team game.

SouthernSun: The Feb. 29 Warriors game (115-99). They gave up a huge lead to a team comprised almost entirely of G League call ups and got their butts handed to them. It was awful. I hated that game so much. And it came right around the same time they had some amazing wins too, so it made 0 sense. What if they’d won that game? They might be in Denver’s place right now...

Alex S: There’s a lot to choose from but I’ll go with the loss at GSW (105-96 on Dec. 27) at the end of an 8 game losing skid. When you look back and see the Suns had three days of rest and lost to an absolutely depleted Golden State team when you were one game away from making the play-in 8/9 matchup?

Tough pill to swallow.

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 drops 39 points in Suns vs. Celtics

Deandre Ayton | 26 Points 15 Rebounds | Suns vs Celtics

Kelly Oubre Jr. 29 Points/7 Threes Full Highlights (12/30/2019)

Cameron Johnson 21 Points Full Highlights (3/3/2020)

Jevon Carter 20 Points/6 Threes Full Highlights (8/8/2020)


Quote of the Week

“There’s a lot of different styles in Europe so me playing in the Euro League and the EuroCup and being able to travel throughout Europe, going from playing in Spain, Italy, Macedonia, Russia, I’ve been all over the place and I’ve gotten to see styles and gotten to understand how people play and how they play that way within different offenses. Then, also looking at defensive schemes. It’s just given me a very diverse perspective on how the game can be played and how many ways it can be played and be successful.” - new Suns Assistant Coach Brian Randle


News & Notes

Phoenix Suns: Setting goals for every rotation player. Hoops Habit

The Whiteboard: Re-thinking Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray. The Step Back

NBA Rumors: Suns planning to pursue Joe Harris in free agency. NBA Analysis Network

Peoria ‘where it started’ for NBA assistant Brian Randle. Peoria Journal Star

The five best power forwards in the 2020 free agent class. NBA.com

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


Draft Prospect Scouting Videos

Draft Day Comparisons For The Top Prospects In The 2020 NBA Draft

Top 5 Most Underrated Players in the 2020 NBA Draft


Free Agent Scouting Report

2020 NBA Free Agent Scouting Reports: Alec Burks


This Week in Suns History

On October 1, 1991, the Suns traded Xavier McDaniel to the New York Knicks for Jerrod Mustaf, Trent Tucker, a 1992 2nd round draft pick and a 1994 2nd round draft pick. McDaniel had been acquired by Phoenix the previous season from the Seattle SuperSonics for Eddie Johnson, a 1991 1st round draft pick and a 1994 1st round draft pick.

On October 1, 1997, as part of a 3-team trade, the Phoenix Suns traded a 1998 1st round draft pick (Tyronn Lue), a 1999 1st round draft pick (James Posey), a 2000 2nd round draft pick (Dan McClintock), a 2001 1st round draft pick (Joseph Forte) and a 2002 2nd round draft pick (Rod Grizzard) to the Denver Nuggets; the Suns traded Tony Dumas and Wesley Person to the Cleveland Cavaliers; the Cleveland Cavaliers traded a 2005 1st round draft pick (Sean May) to the Phoenix Suns; and the Denver Nuggets traded Antonio McDyess to the Phoenix Suns.


Interesting Suns stuff

What NOBODY is Talking About with Devin Booker and The Phoenix Suns?


Suns Trivia

Antonio McDyess was traded to the Phoenix Suns before the final year of his contract and became a free agent at the end of the 1997-98 season. Following that season, he made a verbal agreement to return to the Denver Nuggets but was said to be having second thoughts and was reconsidering an offer to return to Phoenix.

According to Sports Illustrated, Suns players Jason Kidd, Rex Chapman, and George McCloud flew through a blizzard to Denver in hopes of convincing him to re-sign with the Suns. McDyess was attending a Colorado Avalanche game with Nuggets President and General Manager Dan Issel. Issel got word that they were attempting to reach McDyess and told security to not let the three Suns players into the building. After the Suns players got no chance to speak to McDyess, he re-signed with the Nuggets.


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

68% - Yes.

32% - No.

A total of 73 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Which was the worst Suns loss of the season?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Nov. 7 124-108 loss to the Heat.
    (4 votes)
  • 12%
    Dec. 27 105-96 loss to the Warriors.
    (18 votes)
  • 3%
    Jan. 22 112-87 loss to the Pacers.
    (5 votes)
  • 4%
    Feb. 28 113-111 loss to the Pistons.
    (6 votes)
  • 75%
    Feb. 29 115-99 loss to the Warriors.
    (109 votes)
  • 2%
    Another loss (name it in the comments).
    (3 votes)
145 votes total Vote Now