This thing has gone as close to chalk as possible during SunsRank so far. We intentionally cemented Devin Booker in stone at the top before we began the series, but you guys are quite in line with the Suns’ front office.
Here’s where we are so far...
- Deandre Ayton
- Ricky Rubio
- Mikal Bridges
Before we move onto the next vote, a few words about the roster.
However I do have to shout out our own Sam Cooper for discussing Ayton’s true value as it relates to what we’re seeing in these playoffs. Specifically, how the Lakers-Rockets series goes and what that tells us about Anthony Davis’ value in the postseason.
Davis is different than Ayton, as evidenced by Davis’ continued problem with playing the position he’s been destined for since he was drafted nearly a decade ago. Ayton is a center, and played a whole lot more like a real modern center under Monty Williams than he did under Igor Kokoskov.
The versatile defense, finishing ability, and athleticism allowed Ayton to stay on the court against modern offenses like Dallas and Toronto, though we of course haven’t seen him in the playoffs. The biggest question, though, is whether Ayton can create his own shot from the perimeter.
All big centers not named Joel, KAT, and Joker should be cheering hard for the lakers right now. If Houston take this series it’s going to hurt the value of the big man even more.— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) September 5, 2020
The three players Draymond Green references above — through a combination of passing, shooting, inside efficiency — can anchor dominant offenses. Can Ayton? So far, his chosen shot has mostly been the fadeaway mid-range jumper. His post moves are far from polished, and we only just saw him start to shoot threes.
But what if Ayton doesn’t have to? What if Booker, Rubio, and the team’s strong wings make up for the offensive weakness of having a big as your second-best player? Or what if someone like Bridges just keeps getting better to the point that he becomes second to Booker himself? That’s what I’m thinking more about as we make our way through the NBA playoffs.
Without further ado, let’s vote on No. 5 in SunsRank.
Kelly Oubre Jr., Forward, Age 24
Ranks on the Suns: 18.7 Pts/g (2nd), 6.4 Reb/g (2nd), 1.3 Stl/g (3rd), 0.7 Blk/g (2nd), 4.4 FTA/g (2nd), 3PA/g (2nd), 34.5 Min/g (2nd)
The case for Oubre: As I wrote about last week, Oubre is a better shot creator, rebounder, leader and defensive play-maker right now than Johnson and a better offensive player overall than Bridges. At the same time, Oubre has also improved steadily every season of his career and is already proven as a guy who can stay on the court in the playoffs, which should be the Suns’ goal next season. Finally, Oubre came up big time and again in clutch moments this season, which shouldn’t be overvalued but definitely matters for a team still cobbling together an identity.
The case against Oubre: This isn’t a case against Oubre as a player, but more so a case against him being the fifth-best player on this team. And it’s what I come back to more than anything when evaluating his fit long-term on this roster: Oubre just doesn’t fit how the Suns want to play all that well. He’s still an average or worse shooter and his decision-making needs improvement on both ends. The best version of the Suns puts Devin Booker in position to lead a great modern offense with enough defense to insulate him on the other end (think how the Rockets use James Harden). Oubre doesn’t really have a clear place on a team like that.
Cameron Johnson, Forward, Age 24
Ranks on the Suns: 39% 3PT (3rd), 4.8 3PA/g (3rd), 56.5% Effective FG (4th), 58.6% True Shooting (6th)
The case for Johnson: The rookie has the chance to be a special shooter. And as he showed throughout the year and especially in the Bubble, his defense is far better than expected coming out of North Carolina. That coupled with his improving play-making and efficient decision-making show a player who is a perfect fit alongside a core of Booker, Ayton and Bridges.
The case against Johnson: There’s a chance we’re seeing his ceiling. Of course SunsRank is just a snapshot in time, but this is also a young, building team so inherently we’re going to always project forward. Where might Johnson get better? On the margins, I’d like to see him improve attacking closeouts and finishing, but we basically saw a best-case scenario for Johnson’s rookie season, making it hard to guess where he gets better next.
Dario Saric, Big, Age 26
Ranks on the Suns: 24.7 Min/g (6th), 3.6 3PA/g (5th), 35.7% 3P (6th), 6.2 Reb/g (3rd), 1.9 Ast/g (6th), 55.4% eFG (6th)
The case for Saric: What we saw in the Bubble was magnificent. Saric put together the best stretch of his career over the course of 11 total games in Orlando, looking like a bona fide modern backup big man who can hold his own on defense, make his teammates better, and as we discussed with Ayton earlier, create his own shot from the perimeter.
The case against Saric: The limitations we saw throughout most of the regular season are real, too. Saric is not much of an athlete and needs to be empowered in the right role to make a real impact for his team. It seems like Williams is the right coach to do that, but Saric limits the versatility of your roster and when we factor in that he’s also about to get more expensive, it’s a tough sell.
Cameron Payne, Guard, Age 26
Just checking to make sure you were paying attention. Who am I to keep you from voting for CAM PAYNE??
Make your voice heard
Just like you’ll be able to do at the Madhouse this November, go ahead and VOTE down below...
Which of these players should be ranked FIFTH in SunsRank, behind Booker/Ayton/Rubio/Bridges
This poll is closed
Kelly Oubre Jr.
Someone else (comment on it)