In: Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric, Frank Kaminski, Aron Baynes, Jevon Carter
Out: Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren, Richaun Holmes, Troy Daniels, Jamal Crawford, Jimmer Fredette, Dragan Bender, De’Anthony Melton
The 2018-19 season for the Suns was another in a long line of forgettable seasons for the Suns. The season wasn’t just bad, it was historically bad. It was the first time since the Suns first season, in 1969, that they didn’t win 20 games. The season started out in chaos, with the firing of their general manager, Ryan McDonough, and replacing him with LeBron’s former groupie James Jones. They had a new coach in Igor Kokoskov, who’s gone now, being replaced with 76ers assistant Monty Williams. Their owner Robert Sarver, threatened to move the team, and they set a franchise record 17-game losing streak. It was a miserable year for the Suns, and it only resulted in a 6th overall pick. Which the Suns traded away for the 11th pick and Dario Saric.
The best way to describe the Suns on draft night is, questionable. They had an obvious need going into the draft: point guard. At six, they had many appealing options including North Carolina point guard, Colby White. White was the perfect fit for the Suns. He could have created an incredibly dynamic back court paired with Devin Booker. Instead they chose to trade down for another North Carolina player, Cameron Johnson. Johnson has potential to be a solid starter in the NBA, but he’s a nearly identical player to their 2018 first round pick, Mikal Bridges. Johnson is a better scorer, and Bridges is better defensively, but if they were looking for a forward that could score, Cam Reddish was available at their six pick. Reddish is better defensively than Johnson and could provide the same amount of value on offense. Also, they just traded for another forward, Kelly Oubre, in the previous season. On top of all that, the Johnson trade included Dario Saric which gives them another forward that can score, but lacks the defense they need. The Sun’s weren’t done though, they decided to trade away their second leading scorer, T.J. Warren, for cash. Which at the time was a risky move, but somewhat made sense. The Suns were trying to be buyers in free agency and dumping Warren helped get them to max cap space. The only problem with that is, Warren was already an established offensive threat, and on a great contract considering his production. Now in retrospect this was an incredibly horrible move since the Suns didn’t acquire any big names in free agency. When you think it couldn’t get any worse, Danny Ainge comes in and fleeces the Suns for a first round pick in exchange for Aron Baynes and Virginia point guard Ty Jerome. Instead of addressing their need for point guard by drafting Colby White, the Suns decided they were dead set on getting D’Angelo Russell or Kyrie Irving.
Free Agency was not good to the Suns. No D’Angelo Russell or Kyrie Irving. Instead they got an aging Ricky Rubio and a stagnant Frank Kaminsky. In order to afford Rubio they had to trad away their 2017 4th-overall pick. Josh Jackson. They also gave Kelly Oubre a contract extension, but that’s just a drop in the water compared to the implode that was this Suns offseason.
The starting five will most likely be Rubio, Booker, Oubre, Saric, and Ayton. Ayton could get more scoring opportunities with Rubio’s vision, and Booker will have some extra space with Ayton taking most of the defensive attention. The big problem is that outside of Ayton no one on this starting five is pulling down boards. Not to mention, defensively Saric is going to get exposed. Rubio brings some extra defensive support, but it’s questionable if it can make up for his lack of scoring potential. This team will be shooting threes, a lot, but with only Oubre being a threat to drive to the basket opposing teams are going to be all over them.
Coming off the bench they got a stockpile of forwards. Kaminsky and Cam Johnson are both deep threats, but more players on this team that will get exposed on defense. Ayton can’t play the entire game, Aron Baynes isn’t a huge threat in the paint, and outside Mikal Bridges, these forwards don’t have much ability to carry their weight on defense. Even with their depth at forward the more physical teams are going to walk over the Suns, unless Bridges and Cameron Johnson step up to the occasion. Tyler Johnson and Ty Jerome will be the guards off the bench. Tyler Johnson is the perfect backup for Booker and provides solid defense off the bench and I believe Jerome has potential to be a solid NBA player, so talent in the back court is the least of the Suns problems. The big problem is the complete lack of depth. Behind them is a couple of unproven point guards in Elie Okobo, Jevon Carter, and Jalen Lecque. If even one of their four guards go down, even for a short period of time, the lack of depth could be disastrous for the Suns.
This season will rely on two players: Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker. Both are superstar caliber players, and if they stay healthy, a 30 to 40 win season is attainable. Despite that, Suns fans might walk away from this season disappointed given what could have been. If they didn’t go all in for Russell or Irving, they would have one of the strongest young cores in the NBA with Booker, Ayton, Oubre, Warren, Jackson, and White/Reddish, but instead they got an aging Rubio, and Cameron Johnson. That’s not a knock on Cameron Johnson, I believe he could be a solid starter, but Coby White and Cam Reddish seem like better fits for what the Suns need. James Jones has made it painfully obvious that he is building a team to hit threes, and with the amount of deep threats they have, the Suns could be one of the best three point shooting teams in the league. The big problem is a lack of size outside Ayton, lack of depth in the back court, and nearly zero defensive assets. With what Jones has built, the Suns are going to score a lot of points, and they’re going to need to, given the amount of points they’re going to give up.