Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
Each week the Fantable — a round table of Bright Siders - give their takes on the Phoenix Suns’ latest issues and news.
Fantable Questions of the Week
Q1 - Who do you think should be on the list of possible replacements for Monty Williams?
OldAz: I don’t really have a “ranking” of who I want, but Nurse and Lue would be high on my list. Willie Green has also been mentioned and I think he would be good too. Of those 3, Nurse is available now and has a strong history of adaptability in game (look up past comments from KD about him). Lue also has a history of getting the most out of his teams, even when they are undermanned due to injuries (which are likely to happen with the Suns current roster). Green was reportedly the strategic driver behind 2021 and outcoached Monty last year in the eyes of many. All 3 would be good choices in my opinion as their are tacticians more than motivators, which is what the current Suns need.
The one name I would remove immediately is coach Bud. The complaints about him from Bucks fans were the lack of in game adjustments and too slow on calling timeouts. Sound familiar?
Rod: The frontrunning names right now seem to be Lue, Nurse and Budenholzer. Of those three Ty Lue would be my 1st choice but as he’s still under contract with LAC I consider getting him unlikely. I’m not very enthusiastic about Nurse or Budenholzer either but I’d take Nurse over Bud. One other “name” I’ve occassionally heard mentioned but not frequently is Frank Vogel. If Ishbia’s determined to get a “name” as the new head coach, I’d consider Vogul at least right up there in the top tier of candidates.
Suns lead assistant Kevin Young has been mentioned as a possibility but I’m uncertain about how open Ishbia is to hiring someone without a proven track record as an NBA head coach for the Suns’ opening. That might be the way to go but I think the anyone without previous HC experience is at best a dark horse candidate at this point. Both the Bucks and Raptors have also expressed interest in Young though so perhaps he might not be as big of a dark horse in this race.
Q2 - The Suns are very limited in what they can do in free agency (mostly minimum contracts) and very little trade capital to use outside of the 7 players they already have under contract. What do you think the odds are that they might actually take a step backwards next season in terms of overall team quality?
OldAz: First we have to define what taking a step back looks like. To me, making the playoffs and winning in the first round is break even. As competitive as the west is, it does not matter to me what seed they get. Based on this, I think the chances are pretty slim (barring a significant injury to Book or KD). Players are going to want to play here, and there are a lot of good players that will be playing on vet minimum deals.
The trade market will be slim for DA and Paul due to the new CBA limitations, but the Suns do have the rights to Bazley and Saben Lee and they have Payne and Shamet as potential trade pieces at reasonable salaries on expiring deals. Put the right coach in place and the “floor” is similar to what it was before and the ceiling could be so much higher.
Rod: First, barring injuries, I don’t think that the Suns are likely to take a big step backwards next season but a small one is certainly possible. It’s going to be tricky trying to improve the roster with no 1st rounders available to trade but not impossible.
The Suns aren’t going to be able to offer more than minimum salaries to free agents. Guys like TJ Warren and Terrance Ross can only get slight increases in salary from the Suns due to the fact that Phoenix doesn’t have their Bird rights. Ross especially is likely to get a much better offer elsewhere which he would probably take. The only guy the Suns have full Bird rights to is Darius Bazley and the new CBA could even make hanging on to him more difficult with the Suns’ salary cap issues.
That leaves trade as the only real way to make changes in the roster with DA and CP3 as the Suns’ two biggest trade chips.
With CP3, you have to look at his biggest value in a trade is as an expiring contract. Yes, he can still be a valuable player but age has begun to take it’s toll and teams won’t be willing to give up a lot in return for someone with declining skills and an injury history like his.
The story is different with DA but his inconsistency won’t be forgotten by potential trade partners. His potential alone should be able to garner a reasonably good return for him but nothing earthshatteringly good.
Under all the constraints the Suns will be dealing with this summer, I believe the front office is going to have to get creative - and to a certain extent lucky - to make any significant improvements in it’s roster. The possibility of taking a step (or two) back is also there but with the right coach they might actually surprise in a positive way even without adding any “can’t miss” type of players during the offseason.
One good bit of news is that when the Suns traded Dario Saric to OKC for Bazley, it created a $4,975,371 traded player exception that they can use to “absorb” the salary of any player traded to them who’s salary is equal to or less than that amount.
Q3 - A lot of people want DA traded. Do you think that there’s a case to be made for keeping him now that a new head coach will be taking over?
OldAz: Absolutely there is a case for keeping DA and I have been making it for a few years now. I can also see a path where trading DA makes the most sense, but only if it brings back both at least one quality starter level piece and flexibility on roster building.
You absolutely cannot trade DA just to move on from him.
Jones should beware of teams trying to lowball him in an Ayton trade because of the last couple months and his under-utilization under Monty. The new coach should have an opportunity to implement a scheme that integrates all 3 of Book, KD and DA and getting back to the 20+/11+ that DA was averaging for significant stretches before KD actually started playing in games. He is still immensely talented and you can see that other teams account for him in game planning, which often provides just enough space for Booker to work. Putting 2 shooters on the floor with that core 3 would be hard to stop.
Rod: Yes, there’s a case to be made for keeping DA and seeing how he responds to a new coach and new system. Everyone acknowledges his potential just as everyone acknowledges his failure to reach said potential... so far. We’ve seen glimpses of it. If we hadn’t, this wouldn’t even be a topic for discussion.
Can a new head coach coax more fire and focus out of DA? Perhaps but that’s not a certainty which makes whatever the Suns do in regard to him this summer a gamble. I’m glad that I’m not the one that has to make that decision. Ayton is the Suns biggest trade chip this summer so it’s tantalizing to think that the Suns could possibly add some quality rotation pieces for him through a trade but it’s also unlikely that trade brings back any single player that could ultimately surpass DA’s “potential”. But if DA never lives up to that potential, his trade value will just continue to fade.
At this point I believe that the Suns will shop DA this summer but they will only trade him if they get an offer they just can’t refuse. Some people just want him gone and say they don’t care what the Suns get back in return but I highly doubt that the front office would be willing to move him for peanuts.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members for all their extra effort this week!
Last Week’s poll results
Last week’s question was, “The Suns/Nugs series final results will be...”
03% - Suns win in 4 games.
11% - Suns win in 5 games.
54% - Suns win in 6 games.
11% - Suns win in 7 games.
20% - Suns lose.
A total of 271 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Before next season begins...
Both DA and CP3 will be playing elsewhere.
DA will be gone but CP3 will still be with Phoenix.
CP3 will be gone but DA will still be with Phoenix.
Both DA and CP3 will still be Phoenix Suns.