May 14, 2019, 1:11 am
Another year, another head coach for the Phoenix Suns. Although they had the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, the Suns didn’t give their fans much to cheer for besides a couple of late scoring explosion games from Devin Booker. The team has the right pieces on their roster for a potential playoff core in the future, but the dysfunction of the front office may be their undoing yet again.
The Phoenix Suns put their fans through more of the same anguish as last season, but this time with some new faces. Somehow, after nabbing Deandre Ayton with the No. 1 pick in the draft and hiring a new coach, the team managed to win fewer games. Some of this can be attributed to injuries, but the majority of it is due to the front office’s lack of a plan.
During the summer, the Suns were able to add Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Trevor Ariza. They also shipped out Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight to Houston for Ryan Anderson and De’Anthony Melton. Somehow, they stole Richaun Holmes from the Sixers for cash and added Jamal Crawford for guard depth right before the season started. On paper, these are all wins and should have led to an improved year, but it was clear the Suns had no direction or plan as they just complicated things for themselves.
They acquired Elfrid Payton last season and let him walk only to see him flourish in New Orleans. It only took until December for them to trade Trevor Ariza to Washington for Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers. The Ariza signing never made any sense from a basketball perspective and the trade helped Oubre find a new home in Phoenix, one that would let him loose. Moving from the Wizards to the Suns isn’t much of an upgrade, but it was one that helped fix the Suns’ initial mistake of signing Ariza which stunted the development of Bridges.
Getting Holmes was a big hit, but they couldn’t manage to find him any more playing time than 16.9 minutes per game due to Ayton being on the roster. Holmes and Ayton only played the 5, but you have to find a way to get Holmes out there more.
Injuries can be blamed for the lack of consistent talent this year, but the Suns have a roster filled with potential heading into the next season. The deciding factor on how they utilize this talent will come down to coaching.
Although Ayton’s defensive weaknesses were highlighted on draft day and throughout the season, he showed steady progress on that end of the floor. Devin Booker’s efficiency jumped and his playmaking ability did as well. T.J. Warren was having a monster year before going down with an ankle injury.
Ayton averaged a highly efficient double-double in only 30 minutes a night and we could see some big fantasy numbers next year if he gets more burn. Josh Jackson doesn’t look like he’s playing basketball out on the court, and it took a while but starting Mikal Bridges was the correct move. There weren’t any blatant coaching mistakes in terms of basic things such as rotations and lineups which is a huge improvement from last year’s God-awful lineup selections.
There are rays of hope in Phoenix, but with their revolving door of head coaches, it’ll be hard for the young players to really flourish. The team has hoopers, but stability is one of the most important factors in team growth and it starts at the top. Look at the Blazers and Sixers, for example. These franchises had a set plan and stuck with it, now they’re reaping the rewards. Hopefully, Phoenix made the right choice by going with Monty Williams, because if he’s out of the door within two years, we’ll be witnessing Devin Booker’s prime developmental years go to waste.
Coach Igor Kokoskov didn’t necessarily do a bad job and it’s a bit perplexing as to why the Suns fired him after one season, especially given the circumstances. Coach Monty Williams has never won a playoff series before, but the goal right now is to just get in the big dance. The roster is loaded with players that can play multiple positions and there’s some room for creativity for coach Williams.
ADP: 32/26 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 34/56 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 19/38 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 64
2018-19 averages: 64 G | 35.0 MP | 26.6 PTS | 2.1 3PM | 4.1 REB | 6.8 AST | 0.9 STL | 0.2 BLK | 4.1 TOV | .467 FG% | .866 FT%
After missing 28 games last season, Booker was able to stay on the floor for 64 games this year. He dealt with some ankle and hamstring injuries throughout the season and he probably could have played in the final three games of this year, but the Suns opted to shut him down early to tank.
Devin Booker saw a spike in efficiency overall thanks to his improvements inside the arc. This season he shot .467 overall from the floor, up from his .432 mark last year. His 2-point shooting jumped from .460 to .536. He hit career-high marks in efficiency from 0-3 feet, 3-10 feet and 10-16 feet out. His shooting from 10-16 feet out stand out the most, improving from .400 to .496.
Booker’s 3-point shooting went down from .364 to .330 and if that mark can bump up a bit then we could be looking at elite scoring numbers next season.
“Point Booker” was in full effect this season as he averaged 6.8 assists a game. This was due to the fact that the team had no other players capable of running point, which meant Booker slowly transitioned into a hybrid guard that creates everything on offense, similar to James Harden. He still has some bad tendencies to gun it, but he’s already had some historic scoring games at the age of 22.
He had a monstrous three-game stretch in March which undoubtedly won many owners a championship in the fantasy world. His averages from this three-game span were 52.3 points, 3.7 3s, 5.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.3 blocks on .620 shooting from the floor and .914 shooting at the stripe on 11.7 free throws per game.
Booker has shown the ability to put up huge scoring lines and go on insane runs which make him primed for head-to-head leagues and with his improved efficiency, he’s become more roto-friendly relative to his ADP. We expect even more from him next season, but it’s going to come at a cost as he always has a lofty ADP.
ADP: 52/39 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 43/37 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 44/36 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 71
2018-19 averages: 71 G | 35.0 MP | 16.3 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 10.3 REB | 1.8 AST | 0.9 STL | 0.9 BLK | 1.8 TOV | .585 FG% | .746 FT%
Ayton was primed for a successful fantasy season and he delivered. The offensive efficiency is something we expected from him, but his ability to put up a block and a steal a game really helped lift his floor from a fantasy perspective. He’s improving steadily on that end but there’s still a long way to go.
Ayton tends to shrink a bit when matching up against the more elite centers, which is something we expect as he’s not really a generational talent at center like Joel Embiid or Karl-Anthony Towns were. Even if his minutes don’t increase, Ayton’s calling card is his efficiency so we can safely peg him in the early-mid rounds on draft day for owners in need of traditional big man stats. We’re just hoping the defensive numbers remain the same.
ADP: 90/133 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 169/153 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 61/45 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 43
2018-19 averages: 43 G | 31.7 MP | 18.0 PTS | 1.8 3PM | 4.0 REB | 1.5 AST | 1.2 STL | 0.7 BLK | 1.2 TOV | .486 FG% | .815 FT%
Warren added a 3-point shot to his arsenal and was able to keep up his efficiency while hitting the long ball, which is something no one expected. The Suns (smartly) signed him to a multi-year deal but a stellar season was cut short due to ankle soreness. The worst part about his injury was that there was no clear timeline of when he could return to the court. After exiting the game on January 22nd, Warren would not play another game for the 2018-2019 season. This put owners in a terrible spot, similar to the Kawhi Leonard saga last season.
Heading into next year, owners should place Warren high on their draft boards. Warren doesn’t have an iron man reputation, but the injury this season comes off as fluky. He’d be the clear-cut No. 3 option on offense with a fully healthy Suns team so try not to overthink it next year.
Kelly Oubre Jr.
ADP: 139/143 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 98/95 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 92/88 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 69
2018-19 averages: 69 G | 28.0 MP | 15.2 PTS | 1.6 3PM | 4.7 REB | 1.2 AST | 1.2 STL | 0.9 BLK | 1.5 TOV | .446 FG% | .775 FT%
Oubre had everything fall into place for him to have a great fantasy year. T.J. Warren’s ankle injury cleared a path for big minutes and he delivered the goods. There was never a chance for Oubre to get into any sort of rhythm in Washington with how disastrous the offense and chemistry were there, so it wasn’t too surprising to see him find his way in Phoenix.
He plays hard on both ends of the floor, but is still a bit reckless at times. If you listen to the Hoop Ball podcasts at all, you would have been in on the Kelly Oubre train very early as Dan Besbris was constantly hyping him up (for good reason). A lot of things broke right for Oubre this year and it’s going to lead to a higher ADP, but there should be some caution when approaching the situation as the Suns have a better player in T.J. Warren and a smarter player in Mikal Bridges.
ADP: N/A/146 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 86/69 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 134/105 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 82
2018-19 averages: 82 G | 29.5 MP | 8.3 PTS | 1.3 3PM | 3.2 REB | 2.1 AST | 1.5 STL | 0.5 BLK | 0.8 TOV | .430 FG% | .805 FT%
Bridges has all the tools to become an elite fantasy asset, but he couldn’t keep his footing due to his inconsistencies on offense. Throughout his three-year college career, Bridges was a .400 shooter from deep and .845 at the line which are good indicators of his ability to shoot, but he only hit .335 from deep during his rookie year. It should be noted that Bridges averaged single-digit scoring numbers for his first two seasons in college and then nearly doubled his averages in his junior year.
There’s no doubt that he’s a tireless worker and he’ll come back next season with an improved game, but the Suns have more depth on the wing and it’ll be harder for Bridges to carve out a larger role with a healthy squad. There’s juicy fantasy potential here, but the situation is looking a bit like Richaun Holmes’ in terms of roadblocks and limited opportunity.
ADP: N/A/N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 151/131 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 171/146 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 70
2018-19 averages: 70 G | 17.0 MP | 8.1 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 4.7 REB | 0.9 AST | 0.6 STL | 1.1 BLK | 0.7 TOV | .608 FG% | .731 FT%
Holmes is a Bruski favorite, but also a Hoop Ball favorite and there’s a reason for that. By every metric, he is a positive addition to any basketball team and with the eye test, you can tell he’s constantly giving it his all on every possession. His defensive awareness is far ahead of Deandre Ayton’s and he plays like an ideal big man in today’s NBA.
He’s had a string of unlucky breaks which have prevented him from showcasing his talents over an extended period of time, including getting hurt at the same time that Ayton did. Now that he’s an unrestricted free agent he can finally choose his own path. We’re hoping he chooses correctly.
ADP: N/A/144 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 189/193 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 167/172 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 57
2018-19 averages: 57 G | 26.8 MP | 10.9 PTS | 1.6 3PM | 3.0 REB | 2.9 AST | 0.9 STL | 0.5 BLK | 1.4 TOV | .413 FG% | .748 FT%
The Suns absorbed Tyler Johnson’s disastrous contract and if he’s the future point for the Suns, then the future isn’t bright. He’ll pop off for some big games here and there, but overall his game is not fantasy-friendly.
Johnson has always struggled to stay healthy and that didn’t change this season. Calf soreness, ankle sprains and a sore knee kept Johnson out of commission for 25 games this year and with how much variance there is to his performance, it was never worth it to hold onto him. He shot .368 from the floor on the Suns and while that number can (hopefully) only go up, it doesn’t shore up all of the other holes in his fantasy game. He’s not someone you should be talking yourself into on draft day.
ADP: N/A/N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 236/246 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 190/210 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 50
2018-19 averages: 50 G | 19.7 MP | 5.0 PTS | 0.6 3PM | 2.3 REB | 3.1 AST | 1.4 STL | 0.5 BLK | 1.5 TOV | .391 FG% | .750 FT%
Melton’s prowess on the defensive end lived up to the hype, but his scoring was an issue all season long. He’s similar to Mikal Bridges in the sense that we can see the fantasy potential, especially with their elite steals numbers, but the inconsistent offensive production renders them as specialists. Melton shot .305 from deep and his .441 2-point shooting highlighted his biggest flaw.
If he can just hit triples at a league average rate, Melton would be able to be a fringe fantasy asset in standard leagues and there’s a real opportunity for him to step up with the hole at point guard for the Suns.
ADP: 121/136 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 146/190 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 196/261 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 79
2018-19 averages: 79 G | 25.2 MP | 11.5 PTS | 0.9 3PM | 4.4 REB | 2.3 AST | 0.9 STL | 0.7 BLK | 2.2 TOV | .412 FG% | .671 FT%
Jackson saw no improvements in efficiency and the eye test showed no real improvements for a feel for the game as well. Of course, there are small stretches where Jackson delivered some big games in terms of counting stats, but the majority of his best lines came towards the end of the year when teams are in full tank mode.
Also, it’s a bit hard to not put up decent fantasy lines when you log 46 minutes with a 28% usage rate.
Advanced metrics and the eye test all point to Jackson being a player that just won’t get it done in fantasy leagues. He has no filter on shot selection, but he did improve his 3-point shooting from .263 to .324 which is about as good as it gets.
ADP: N/A/N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 239/263 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 261/306 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 64
2018-19 averages: 64 G | 18.9 MP | 7.9 PTS | 1.0 3PM | 1.3 REB | 3.6 AST | 0.5 STL | 0.2 BLK | 1.5 TOV | .397 FG% | .845 FT%
Crawford was signed as a form of insurance policy, but he ended up averaging over 30 minutes a game for his last six games with the Suns. The highlight of the season was his 51-point effort as he battled Dirk Nowitzki in a loss and shortly after, he announced that he’d be returning for another season. It’s hard to imagine any situation where Crawford retains fantasy value, but he’s still got the smooth handle and during his last four games he showed he’s still got enough left in the tank to put up some solid scoring games.
ADP: N/A/N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 323/324 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 333/344 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 46
2018-19 averages: 46 G | 18.0 MP | 5.0 PTS | 0.5 3PM | 4.0 REB | 1.2 AST | 0.4 STL | 0.5 BLK | 0.8 TOV | .447 FG% | .593 FT%
Bender’s name always pops up at the end of the season (along with Josh Jackson) as the Suns engage in full tank mode, but overall his fantasy year was a disaster. His highlight game was the 11-10-6 line with seven blocks against the tanking Pelicans and while it’s hard to imagine him making a leap next year, it should be noted that a couple of things could go right. Bender is only 21 years old and he’s an unrestricted free agent so if he lands in the right situation, there’s a chance we can see some real growth.
It’s a good move for him to get out of Phoenix and head for a change of scenery, but the fantasy dividends might not come for a few years.
ADP: N/A/N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 307/320 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 322/376 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 53
2018-19 averages: 53 G | 18.1 MP | 5.7 PTS | 0.7 3PM | 1.9 REB | 2.4 AST | 0.6 STL | 0.1 BLK | 1.3 TOV | .393 FG% | .787 FT%
Okobo bounced back and forth from the G-League and the Suns which gave him a prime opportunity this year to take control of the starting spot at point, but failed to do so. He’s a bit too passive at times on offense, but that comes with the territory of playing with Devin Booker. Even though the stats don’t look pretty, Okobo would definitely be a better prospect for the Suns to groom as opposed to Tyler Johnson — especially given the contract.
ADP: N/A/N/A (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 320/312 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 345/334 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 51
2018-19 averages: 51 G | 14.9 MP | 6.2 PTS | 1.5 3PM | 1.4 REB | 0.5 AST | 0.5 STL | 0.1 BLK | 0.5 TOV | .411 FG% | .783 FT%
Daniels is an elite shooter, but other than that he doesn’t provide much for a team. He’s undersized at the guard spot and can’t defend well so it’s hard to run him out there for extended periods of time. He’s also an unrestricted free agent and even with his deficiencies, he’s a .400 shooter from deep and there’s always a spot on an NBA roster with that type of accuracy from range. With how many players shoot triples, it’s harder to find spots on a fantasy roster for a 3-point specialist, but he’s always going to be a solid option as a streamer.
The Suns have talent. Young talent. All they need is stability to help nurture the talent into tangible success. Coach Williams has plenty to work with in Phoenix and barring any injuries, there are no excuses if the Suns don’t show some improvement. In fact, they might have a good problem in terms of capable wings. Mikal Bridges, T.J. Warren and Kelly Oubre all deserve playing time and a small-ball lineup of Booker-Bridges-Oubre-Warren-Ayton could really do some damage. They should try their best to retain Richaun Holmes, but fantasy owners should root against this as his production will be stifled there.
The Suns are going to lose a lot of games still, but they just need to build a stable foundation and go back to the drawing board from an X’s and O’s standpoint. Be consistent with the lineups and rotations, don’t make unnecessary, knee-jerk changes and give the kids some freedom to learn.