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Center of the Sun: Wild or mild? What are the Suns’ offseason plans?

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Will the Suns mostly bring back the 2019-20 band or will we see big changes in 2020-21?

Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry GossageNBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

The Draft, free agency and trades. Three separate things but all intertwined in the offseason as teams - including the Suns - try to make themselves better before the next season begins. With the uncertainty regarding next season’s salary cap numbers, it’s been difficult to plan ahead but according to “league insiders”, most expect it and the luxury tax line to remain at 2019-20 levels, $109.14 million and $132.63 million, respectively. Of course, that is far from being set in stone but it at least gives teams - and fans - some idea of what sort of cap space they will have to work with to make their plans for the future.

The Suns have the 10th pick in this year’s draft but will likely look to trade it. Not trade up or down, just trade it. Despite all the good feeling from their 8-0 bubble run, the Suns are still extremely young and adding another rookie makes little sense unless it’s one that they think can contribute to winning right away. That doesn’t mean someone with star potential, it means someone that could at least give them good minutes off the bench. There are likely some players that can do that in this year’s draft but if the Suns could use the 10th pick to trade for an experienced player that has already proven he can provide that, expect them to pull the trigger on that trade.

That doesn’t mean that they definitely will trade their pick, just that I believe they will actively shop it around. If they can’t find a team willing to make a trade for it that they like, they’ll keep it and draft the best prospect available. Who they add with that pick, be it through the draft or by way of a trade, will likely shape the rest of their approach to the offseason.

Whether you’re in favor of Kelly Oubre Jr. or Cameron Johnson starting alongside Devin Booker, Ricky Rubio, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges next season, I think we can all agree that a strong bench is a necessity. The superb play of the Suns’ bench in the bubble proved to us all how important that is. The often weak bench play before the bubble had already taught us how harmful holes in the supporting cast could be and with only the six quality contributors mentioned above definitely returning next season, building another strong bench for 2020-21 would seem to be a priority for the Suns.

Aron Baynes is an unrestricted free agent and I doubt that the Suns make bringing him back a huge priority. Dario Saric and Jevon Carter are restricted free agents. I doubt that the Suns are going to give either of them hefty contract offers to come back before seeing what either might fetch in the free agent market. Elie Okobo, Cheick Diallo and Frank Kaminsky are all on team option years. I doubt that the Suns are very keen on bringing any of them back. Cameron Payne will also be on a team option year and isn’t a lock to return even though he played very well in the bubble. Several of these guys (maybe all) will soon be gone which will leave openings on the bench that will need to be filled.

The upcoming class of free agents is lacking in star power but that shouldn’t concern the Suns. There will still be plenty of solid vets available that could provide a big boost to their bench play and the hit to everyone’s salary cap next season could give the Suns a bit of an edge by being able to possibly offer more for their services than some of the more financially strapped teams. Spending the offseason strengthening the bench isn’t a sexy or exciting move but it is a smart one for the Suns.

While that might presently be the plan, plans often change when an opportunity presents itself.

While I’ve often said that I doubt that the Suns will attempt to make a big splash through a trade/trades during the offseason, we really never know what other teams might be planning or what opportunities might pop up out of the blue. Some teams will possible be looking to shed some salary through a trade which could provide a good opportunity for Phoenix. Some players might decide to force their way off their present team by demanding a trade (Giannis???) which could make almost every team - including the Suns - scrap their initial plans.

Will this offseason be wild or mild for the Suns? My guess would be fairly mild but it could turn wild quickly depending upon the plans and actions of other NBA front offices.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - If the Suns don’t bring back Dario Saric or Aron Baynes next season, who would be at the top of your list to bring in to be the Suns’ backup center?

GuarGuar: Serge Ibaka would be a good backup center for us who can be an effective starter if needed too. He’s a good defender and can space the floor and has been a key piece for the Raptors the past few seasons. He would also add much needed athleticism to this roster.

Sun-Arc: The team should look into Christian Wood. I’m worried about the small sample size, but the numbers he’s put up in the past 1.5 seasons are impressive.

Serge Ibaka is another name I really like here. Not so much a center, per se, but has played at that position nearly 100% over the past two seasons for Toronto (per BB-ref.com). He’d provide a great veteran presence for this team (hopefully! Not another Ariza, please). But he’d cost a lot more than Wood.

SDKyle: I think the Suns’ options are pretty limited when it comes to getting a backup big man. They could go on the trade market, but it’s simply too hard for me to predict what deals another team might accept.

Marc Gasol is a free agent. He’s almost 36 and would be a one-year solution, but he still has stretch capability and still plays well defensively.

SouthernSun: That’s a super tough question. It depends on how much space they have, or which exception they use for him.

One thought I’ve really liked the idea of is trading for Lauri Markannen, perhaps with the 10th pick, and giving him big minutes at the PF spot AND as the primary backup to Ayton.

But on a smaller scale, assuming the Suns go into free agency under the cap and use all their space, they will probably be looking at using the room exception of about 5 million. Or if they enter free agency over the cap, using the BAE of about 3.5 million. If that’s the case, and they plan on spending between 3.5 and 5 million on their backup center, then really you just take whoever of the known quantity centers that don’t get any bigger offers. Guys that were way overpaid but will not be getting deals in this new wing centric NBA. Biyombo and guys like him. Maybe Willie Cauley-Stein. Nerlens Noel. Somebody like that.

However, I actually expect the Suns to hold onto at least Saric as the primary big off the bench.

Alex S: Although I have a hard time believing both guys will be gone this offseason, I’ll go with a name out of nowhere and say Meyers Leonard.

He shot around 41% from deep this season and is a massive body to back up DA. He would fit really nicely next to a Johnson/Bridges/Oubre depending on whose on the court. The issue in this situation would be quality rim protection but the thought of his spacing would be a benefit in my opinion.

Q2 - The Suns made 35.8% of their threes last season but made 40.2% of them in the bubble while slightly increasing their attempts per game from 31.8 to 32.4. Do you think this will carry over into next season?

GuarGuar: I would expect us to shoot somewhere in between both those numbers. If we shoot 40% from 3 as a team for the season we are going to win a ton of games. I hope we shoot more 3s like we did in the Bubble. I think a big problem for our offense at times this season was way too many long 2s by Rubio, Ayton and Saric. I’m not saying go full Rockets 3 or layup only strategy but we absolutely should be shooting more 3s than we did last season.

Sun-Arc: Just before the start of the season a year ago, the CotS group called out shooting as the #2 issue with the team (defense was #1). Its still likely an issue if we bring the current roster back, regardless of the bubble numbers. The more I’ve comprehended what the players are going through in the bubble, the more I think everything in there is an anomaly. As Cornelius says, “don’t be a bubble-head.” Well, we hope a lot of what we saw is sustainable and will carry over. We can hope.

SDKyle: I think the Suns will be a roughly average three point shooting team again, depending on the roster adjustments. The Suns don’t have a lot of really elite three point shooters that they’d need to approach 40% from downtown for a whole season. It would take career-bests from 3 or 4 guys without anyone having a down year.

The bubble performance was fueled by two backup point guards shooting a combined 31/58 from deep. That’s not going to be replicated.

I think the Suns might improve to the extent that they take more threes at that average percentage, though. They were 17th in the league in attempts, 22nd adjusted for pace. That should go up.

SouthernSun: There’s a possibility it could organically without any additions, but I think the Suns will add more shooting to the team this offseason, whether that’s Harris, Bertans, Gallinari, etc. They will add shooting, which will help the bubble shooting carry over, even if guys like Cam Payne fall back down to earth.

Alex S: I know for a fact the 40% mark can’t be sustained over a full season, but I do think they have the scheme and pieces to be better than 35.8%. I still believe Devin has another bump yet to happen in his percentage as well as guys like Bridges/Johnson/Oubre.

The worry is whether guys like Ricky and Jevon could keep up the same level of shooting next season.

Q3 - The Blazers lost their 1st round series with the Lakers 4-1. Do you think that the Suns could have done better against the Lakers if they had gotten into the first round?

GuarGuar: I think we were more capable to extend a series vs. LA than the Blazers were. There’s not really a doubt in my mind we were the best of the bunch fighting for the 8 seed. We would have had more wings to throw at LeBron (especially if Kelly is back) and our team defense in the bubble was much better than Portland’s.

Sun-Arc: It feels like complete speculation regarding how we might have done against the Lakers. But, heck, I enjoy speculating. I feel like our team was, overall, hotter and more cohesive than the Blazers. Plus, I think, less exhausted. The Blazers came out hotter than the Lakers in the first game but looked pretty much out of gas the rest of the games. Lillard’s body really did run out of fuel. For this reason I do think the Suns may have done better.

On the other hand, our lack of experience and vets may have hurt us a lot. Say what you will about Carmelo, but he knows the playoffs. Same with McCollum and Lillard. We have so little playoff experience on our roster. Pretty much none. And the Lakers pretty much dominated the team in the regular season, with us having little ability to handle the length and athleticism of their two stars, particularly without Oubre.

In the end, I think we’d be out in five games, like the Blazers. The games would have been more fun to watch, though!

SDKyle: I think the Suns and Blazers were fairly comparable teams at the end of the season... so I think the Suns would have done about as well. I wouldn’t have put it past our guys to steal a second game (probably a dramatic 26 footer from Booker as time expired) the way he was going especially, but even one playoff win would have been fantastic to see.

SouthernSun: I actually do think the Suns may have been able to take the Lakers to 6 games. The Suns were on a roll, and the Lakers were floundering. The Suns have guys who can defend LeBron and AD about as well as they can be defended (Bridges and Ayton), and someone who can go shot for shot in a scoring duel with just about anybody in the league (Booker).

Booker's game translates to the playoffs better than just about anybody’s. Get him there, and he will put on a show.

Alex S: That’s a tricky question because there’s two main components of this in my opinion.

Part one is the quality of ball all the teams were playing heading into the bubble playoffs and the Suns were clearly at the top of the list. However, Portland was playing lights out offensively and Damian Lillard was on another planet towards the end.

I do believe the Suns would’ve been a much better matchup defensively but the Blazers do have much more playoff experience.

Part two is the officiating and respect aspect of the playoffs. It stinks but the reality is teams are officiated differently in the postseason, and superstars get even more benefit of the doubt. My guess would be that the Suns would’ve gotten zero respect and the games would’ve been quite lopsided in terms of fouls and FT differential.

I’d say the Suns still lose in 5 because of that as well as the lack of playoff experience.

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

Aron Baynes Erupted For A Career-High 37 PTS

Dario Saric 24 Points, 11 Rebounds Full Highlights

Cameron Johnson 19 Points, 12 rebounds Full Highlights

Jevon Carter 20 Points/6 Threes Full Highlights

Cameron Payne Full Play vs OKC Thunder (14 pts, 5 ast, 6 reb, 3 stl)


Quote of the Week


News & Notes

How Much Are the Phoenix Suns Paying Devin Booker? Sportscasting

Draft Rumors: Draft Date, Hawks, Suns, Toppin, Wolves. Hoops Rumors

NBA Free Agents Who Would Be Foolish to Stay Put. Bleacher Report

Former Suns coach still stewing over Luka Doncic draft snub. Clutch Points

Ty Jerome raising money for clean water in underdeveloped countries. Arizona Sports

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


Draft Prospect Scouting Videos

Saddiq Bey Draft Scouting Video

Isaac Okoro Draft Scouting Video

Onyeka Okongwu Draft Scouting Video


This Week in Suns History

On September 7, 2004, the Suns signed Japanese-born point guard Yuta Tabuse too a free agent contract. He played in 4 games for the Suns and averaged 1.8 points, 1.0 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 4.3 minutes per game before being waived on Dec. 16.

On September 11, 1984, the Phoenix Suns won the 1984 Italian Open with a 148-121 defeat of the NJ Nets in Milan, Italy. They were led by Rod Foster’s 25 points and Walter Davis’ 24. The Suns were 4-0 in the tourney.

On September 12, 2005, Phoenix signed former Arizona State University shooting guard Eddie House to a one-year deal. House appeared in 81 games off the bench averaging 9.8 points per game and 38.9% from three.

On September 13, 1978, Curtis Perry retired after four seasons in the Valley having set career-highs in 1974-75 of 13.4 points and 11.9 rebounds.


Free Agent Scouting Report

2020 NBA Free Agent Scouting Reports: Davis Bertans


Suns Trivia

In 2012 the Suns began their first season without 8-time All-Star and two-time MVP Steve Nash since 2003-04. They finished that season with a 25-57 record which at that time was the second worst season record in franchise history. One of the few bright spots of that season was the play of recently reacquired free agent point guard Goran Dragic. During the 2012-13 season, Dragic averaged 7.4 assists per game (569 total). It is still his highest APG average of his 12 seasons in the NBA.


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 “This year the Suns should draft...”

10% - The best available point guard.

05% - The best available scoring guard to be Booker’s backup.

17% - The best available wing that’s capable of playing/guarding multiple positions.

68% - The best player available regardless of position.

A total of 298 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Three Suns players will soon be free agents. Which of the three do you think the Suns are most likely to retain?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Aron Baynes (UFA)
    (15 votes)
  • 58%
    Dario Saric (RFA)
    (151 votes)
  • 35%
    Jevon Carter (RFA)
    (90 votes)
256 votes total Vote Now