Suns

Suns Finally Ready to Take a Step Forward?

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Different Offseason Outlook

Once again, the Suns are going through a Phoenix offseason revamp, changing parts around to see what works, but really, has that ever stopped? Despite all the upkeep, this new roster around Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton look poised to double their wins from last season. And bold as the statement sounds, it’s less challenging than the reality. 

Always in transition, the Suns are like an indecisive schoolgirl before the makeup mirror. With new first-time General Manager and former player James Jones firmly calling the shots, he re-affixed a roster that was in constant rehab last season. TJ Warren was traded to the Pacers with the 32nd pick to clear cap space. Mr. VIP Josh Jackson, no surprise, was sent to Memphis with De’Anthony Melton for two future second-round picks and second-year point guard Jevon Carter. Dragan BenderTroy Daniels, Richaun Holmes and Jamal Crawford all walked in free agency. 

But, the Suns did retain the services of small forward Kelly Oubre Jr. on a two-year deal, solidifying a young core of Oubre, Booker, Ayton and Mikal Bridges. Oubre was picked up last season from the Wizards and provided the only period of sustained excitement, making basketball marketable in the Valley again with #ValleyBoyz. Tyler Johnson and Elie Okobo remain on the bench. 

 

Throughout the draft and free agency, the team became more resilient, adding hefty veteran power. Aron Baynes was picked up in a trade from the Boston Celtics and Dario Sarić in a swap from the Timberwolves. Also, free-agent forwards Frank Kaminsky and Cheick Diallo were added to bring a force off the bench.

Jones Makes Moves

Some of Jones’ moves were questionable. But during the draft night flurry, one step he got right was signing veteran point guard Ricky Rubio to a three-year contract for $51 million. The Suns finally have an established, reliable, all-business point guard with a mane that flows like our last legendary guard. 

Rubio, 28, has been a sturdy playmaker in the league, first with six seasons in Minnesota, then two with Utah. His numbers started to jump the past three seasons, increasing his point totals each year. Last season he hit 12.7 points, threw out 6.1 assists and pulled down 3.6 rebounds. By contrast, Steve Nash charted 8.5 assists and 14.3 points per game in his career.

Rubio isn’t the star most fans desired. You can’t expect him to score 30 points every night. But Rubio by his pure position will make players on this Suns roster better. Having a pass-first and push-the-ball point guard is going to move the pace and open more shots to Booker, Oubre, Bridges, and especially Ayton. Deandre will never know a pick and roll so buttery soft.

Opportunity for Williams 

New head coach Monty Williams will start the season with something not every Suns coach has had the luxury of having: a complete roster. (Read my thoughts on Williams here). Williams, who has a long history in the league (including five seasons as head coach) will surely have schemes ready. He’ll be able to rely on Rubio to keep his offense in motion.

There were other surprises from Phoenix, of course. On draft night they picked up Ty Jerome from Virginia and Cameron Johnson, the oldest in the draft at 23, from the University of North Carolina. People scoffed at Johnson’s age before noticing he shot 46% from three his final year. Also, undrafted guard Jalen Lecque signed a four-year deal. The 19-year-old is straight out of high school, but already hogged the highlights from Suns Summer League.

If the Suns do double their total wins from last season’s poor 19-63 record, it would be a marvelous feat of progress. It would give fans some relief of upward momentum, some scintilla of hope, but would still put the team looking over a few others to get to the playoffs. 

Tempered Optimism in Phoenix

It’s hard to be outrightly optimistic when the last off-season saw the same sort of changes made with different personnel. The Suns signed Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza, Jamal Crawford, and already had Tyson Chandler, hoping their know-how would be influential. Injecting veterans into a young budding squad doesn’t always work out. Anderson was no good; Chandler got bored. The spectrum is Ariza to Crawford with Jamal being the best-case, a veteran who takes on the role with selfless pride; and Ariza, the check-chaser, being the worst-case. Hopefully this year everyone works towards the same goal.

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About Eli Jace

Eli Jace is from Arizona and a lifelong Phoenix Suns fan. Jordan is greater than Kobe is greater than Lebron. My NBA Mount Rushmore would have the perfectly chiseled faces of Charles Barkley, Steve Nash, Shawn Kemp and Kevin Garnett. These are my basketball facts.

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