Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
Remember back when the Suns actually seemed to care about the draft? I know that they’ve been in “win now” mode for a while but this is the second draft in row that the Suns got zero players out of the draft and Cam Johnson - selected in 2019 and now ready to go into his 4th year in the league - is the only player (out of just 3) that James Jones actually drafted that is still on the team.
When the Suns were flying high and fans were happy, that didn’t seem like a big deal. Rookies rarely make meaningful contributions on a contending team and, even though Jones wasn’t bringing any in through the draft, he was adding older “rookies” like Ish Wainright and Iffe Lundberg that had some overseas pro experience to fill those end of the bench spots. Ish pretty much proved he deserved that spot during the season. Iffe... well, he came in so late in the season and played so little that he’s still a question mark. The one thing that isn’t a question mark for either of them is their “potential”. With both being 27 years old their potential to grow is limited, unlike the potential of rookies obtained from the draft which generally come into the league at least 5 years younger and most even more than that.
For a contending team, this approach could very well be the best but only for the short term. Three of the Suns’ starters and four of the Suns’ six best players were not only drafted by the Suns, but they are also four of the five youngest players on the team. That’s great for now but Phoenix needs to keep adding youngsters to their pool of players because their young core (which they will hopefully keep together) will eventually become the old guys of the squad and will need something other than adding even more older vets to keep the machine running well.
Jones doesn’t seem to place a lot of value on the draft now but, if that doesn’t eventually change, the Suns’ future could grow dark without younger blood periodically added to the mix.
And now, on to the Fantable — a round table of Bright Siders who give their takes on the Suns latest issues and news.
Fantable Questions of the Week
Q1 - There have been some fan rumblings about trying to trade CP3 this summer. I consider this highly unlikely but what’s your opinion on the idea?
GuarGuar: I think trading Chris would be a very bad look for the organization. This is a superstar player who wanted to come here and if we shipped him that would look terrible. Would do more harm than good longterm in my opinion, even if it was for a slightly better player.
OldAz: I am one of the people that has floated this out there. Trading for CP3 was a GREAT move and while the Suns were trending up after the bubble, CP3 greatly accelerated the team’s improvement and is key to building a winning culture after a decade of futility. However, he is really old and his issues in the post season extend well beyond the 2 years with the Suns. At some point the Suns are going to need to move on from CP3 and he will either retire with no way to re-use that salary slot or they will trade him as part of their long-term plan. I actually believe next off-season is the key opportunity depending on how CP3’s partial guarantee plays into trade calculations (have not seen a definitive answer on this). If there is an opportunity (now or later) to move his short(er) term contract for a top flight PF or younger ball handler, then I make that trade and shift focus back on our core that is still young and developing.
Cliff30: Chris Paul has done a lot for us. But he’s not part of our long term future. Father time is undefeated. That could happen as soon as next year. Once he declines he’s not really tradeable for anything else than another bad contract. And once he retires his 28 million in cap space disappears and can’t be replaced. So it makes sense to listen to offers. I don’t know that any offer will make sense. But if you can get a younger player that gives you even 75% of what CP3 offers that’s something you have to think hard about.
Jim C: Before Chris Paul came to the Suns I thought he was a great regular season point guard... one of the very best ever... but wasn’t built for the physicality of the playoffs and couldn’t lead a team to a championship. Then he took the Suns to the Finals and my words were looking pretty tasty when it was 2-0. Then Chris Paul faded in games during the Finals. Then he faded again in games during these playoffs.
And my previous view that I had been wavering from... was once again vindicated by nagging injuries and other questions that contributed to CP3 not being able to seal the deal.
These last two years have a LOT to do with Paul’s contribution. I don’t know how easy that is to replace. If the Suns really are going to move Ayton... and move Paul... it’s basically a tear down instead of a remodel. The Suns would be abandoning half of the core four players that are responsible for this brief run. Never say never, but it would have to be a situation where Paul ended up with a top contender... and the Suns got back a player that keeps them a top contender... and that just seems really difficult. I say Paul stays and it’s the right decision.
Q2 - I’m looking forward to watching some Suns Summer League basketball. It’s been confirmed that Iffe Lundberg will be on the team and Ish Wainright may also be there. If they’re both on the SL team, what would you like to see from each on the court?
GuarGuar: I’d like to see if Iffe can prove he can be a scoring threat off the bench for us. And with Ish for me it’s can he show any sort of offensive consistency. Not the most exciting Summer Suns squad but I’m sure I’ll catch a game or two.
OldAz: This last week I mixed up Memphis and Charlotte when the discussion of Miles Bridges came up (very embarrassing, and both teams wearing light blue is a terrible excuse). Considering this, I should probably not weigh in too heavily on topics I am clueless about. “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt” is the Mark Twain quote rolling around in my head. Summer League basketball falls squarely into this category. For Ish, I think he has proved he belongs already so just getting heavy on-court minutes is a good thing. Iffe on the other hand didn’t get much opportunity last year. Would be good to see him show enough potential to be worth paying attention to as a project.
Cliff30: I just put very little stock into SL performance. The competition is weak. There’s not a lot of team cohesion. It’s small sample. I’d like to see Ish be physical. If he’s going to get a role with this team it’s going to be because he offers more size and strength than our other wings. So I’d like to see some rim protection and high motor on the glass. With Iffe, you’d obviously like to see him to make some shots. But for him to really be an interesting piece I think him flashing some upside as a ballhandler and playmaker is what we’d want to see.
Jim C: Diamonds in the rough are fun to find, but for every late bloomer there are tons of players that never bloom. If players like Wainright and Lundberg can become contributors off the bench that is a win. If even one of them does it’s a win. Neither played much for the team last season, 359 minutes for Wainright and only 44 for Lundberg, so pinpointing what they need to work on to become rotation players isn’t necessarily easy.
Wainright looks to have enough strength and versatility on defense to play some situational minutes in small ball lineups. Advanced statistics from his limited sample size already suggest he is a plus defender. Those same statistics also suggest he is an anchor on offense. Shooting 39% from the field and 32% from three isn’t going to work. Being a threat from the corner is in play, but his ability to create on his own is suspect... even his ball handling skills seemed lacking at times. He also didn’t seem comfortable working through PnR situations or getting in the flow of the offense. Wainright needs to focus on his offensive shortcomings while making sure he doesn’t lose any of his defensive edge.
I admittedly don’t know what to expect from Lundberg. I hadn’t watched him play before he came to the Suns and 44 minutes wasn’t enough to crystallize an opinion. I could rely on some tapes and scouting, but I’d just be repeating what others said. I will recuse myself and try to watch him and develop an original analysis.
Q3 - What is your reaction to the Suns standing pat and doing nothing on Draft day?
GuarGuar: I didn’t expect us to do anything on draft day, especially after that recent James Jones article where he’s pretty much anti-draft. I don’t really care that we stood pat on Thursday, as long as a big move is coming soon. I think he’d much prefer to trade our future picks this summer in hopes of getting a star to replace Ayton.
OldAz: The subterfuge and intrigue before the draft was certainly interesting, especially the ESPN article on how the Suns approach the draft (and that JJ tried to walk back somewhat afterward). It goes to my concern that the Suns have been operating as if they are smarter than every other team, but have little basis to back that up to this point. Then when Jones finally does speak his comments are 100% opposite of all the speculation over the last month, specifically in relation to DA. I hope his comments last night are not just more misdirection and they do really want to keep DA and build on what they have instead of blowing it up.
As for the actual draft: Get back to me in 2-3 years with this question once I have some idea which of these players are any good at the NBA level. I am glad we didn’t trade off any core young players (Mikal, CamJ or DA) for draft picks that MIGHT be NBA quality.
Cliff30: I never expected them to trade into the draft. I don’t really know why anybody expected it. James Jones hasn’t really valued picks all that much as a GM. Monty hasn’t been quick to play young players. Robert Sarver has an established track record of selling picks, not buying them.
Jim C: I was happy that nothing happened that made me feel the Suns have a worse chance of winning a title today than they did yesterday. Even though older Suns fans will remember the pitfalls of selling off draft picks and ignoring internal development of players through the draft... and there are currently some similarities... I’m not really upset that the team stood pat when a player they would have traded into the draft to take... probably wouldn’t have any impact on the team’s title chances.
What the Suns do with their current players is most important immediately. The draft wasn’t the most important of this summer. The most important part is yet to come.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members for all their extra effort this week!
Interesting Suns Stuff
The Phoenix Suns Are Falling Apart Behind The Scenes
Jalen Rose says Deandre Ayton should want OUT from the Suns
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “How much blame does Robert Sarver deserve for the Deandre Ayton situation?”
33% - 75 to 100%.
35% - 50 to 74%.
32% - Less than 50%.
A total of 584 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Is James Jones’ philosophy regarding the draft acceptable to you?
This poll is closed