Suns New Faces: DeAndre Ayton (R), Trevor Ariza, Mikal Bridges (R), Richaun Holmes,
Suns 2017-18 Regular Season Record: 21-61
Suns 2017-18 Weaknesses: 30th: 3-Point Percentage, Offensive Rating, Defensive Rating, Opponents Points. 29th: Assists. 28th: Field Goal Percentage. 27th: Steals. 26th: 3-Point Percentage Defense, Field Goal Percentage Defense
Suns 2017-18 Strengths: 3rd: Pace. 6th: Free Throw Attempts. 8th: Offensive Rebounding.
Leading Scorer: Devin Booker, 24.9
Best Defensive Rating: Marquese Chriss, 109
The Phoenix Suns began last season in an epic Phoenix Suns way. They lost the first game of the season by 48 points. That was a clue that the ship had already sunk and no one was bailing water out the boat, not Devin Booker, not Eric Bledsoe.
After a humiliating Clippers loss in Los Angeles, a 42 point massacre, Bledsoe just gave up. He wanted out. He was quitting on the Suns after the entire team quit on the season. They were a catastrophe with three games in. It set the stage for defensive intensity and interest that was horribly missing. Iso basketball from Devin Booker turning him into a selfish I eat first player was the horrible norm.
Give it to Devin Booker and watch him save himself is apocalyptic. There was literally no ball movement. Bad shooting. Missed assignments. And the worst part was no accountability. There was a lot of blame going around based on the age of the Suns but young or not young, they didn’t compete. They were lazy and then decided to tank to get big man DeAndre Ayton. It worked. But what now?
The Suns stunned everyone when they grabbed their hands on the Rockets defender, Trevor Ariza, overpaying him because that is how the Sun have to do things. As good a get as Ariza is, he isn’t the Ariza that won a title 9 years ago. His value isn’t in his game but in his leadership as a veteran, something the Suns are desperate for. But then again, they are used to the inmates running or ruining the asylum. They might get all into their feelings once Ariza shows them how NBA players are supposed to prepare, engage, perform.
Last year, Ariza’s stats were where they usually are, 36% from three. But his defensive rating was 107, slightly better than Marquese Chriss’ but not much.
Devin Booker is still the star of the Suns. But as dynamic as Booker is- and he is jaw dropping awesome- his game still has holes. He’s not an efficient scorer which matters because the league can load up on guarding Booker. For someone who only makes 43% of his shots- he’s worse in the 4th quarter, 40%- he took 19.5 shots per game. He has no mid-range game to speak of and he erroneously thinks an All-Star berth has do with scoring and not winning.
But Ayton is a life saver for Booker. He has an athletic big to dump the ball into for easy baskets which is going to make Booker’s life like it’s Xmas. But Ayton is a rookie who’s going to have to guard Karl-Anthony Towns on the perimeter and Anthony Davis everywhere. He’s going to have his rookie pains and foul trouble but he is a nice addition to the Phoenix kids.
Bledsoe and Ayton are the best things the Suns have to offer and they are dreaming of a poor man’s Shaq and Kobe. That is way off. Kobe had a more all around game than Booker and Shaq was dominant in the front court. That is something Ayton has to prove.
Josh Jackson was as billed. He plays with emotionally intensity but is he a more capable Justise Winslow (Miami Heat)? There were no glimpses of a hybrid old school Andre Iguodala. Still, Jackson has a motor you just cannot teach.
I would mention Brandon Knight but what for? Everyone has forgotten about him. $30 million still owed makes Knight an unmovable commodity.
Not so for Marquese Chriss. Chriss is small for the power forward position and will continue to get pushed around until he bulks up a little. He can’t shoot a lick but he’s a decent rebounder when he’s not having to deal with big men pushing him out the paint.
But the Suns basic problem, outside of being a comedy of errors on defense, is they don’t have shotmakers, players who can put the ball in the hole. This is further complicated by not having an assist maker and not moving the ball and making the extra pass. They play selfishly.
The quickest way for the Suns to rebound into respectability is for them to have three point specialists; they needed to grab some in the summer but didn’t. They don’t have a 40% 3-point shooter and the floor isn’t spaced, so teams can gang up on Ayton and Booker. The Suns offense is the opposite of versatile. You see what is coming. It is not revolutionary.
Neither is this phase they are going through. They have been here before. Rebuilding. Developing talent. What is organically different this year from what they went through last year? DeAndre Ayton. The Suns have hope.
But hope gets you back in the lottery.