July 7th, 2018: Arizona Sports are Saved

Alright, so a lot happened on Saturday, and I’m here to tell you about it.

 

  1. Devin Booker Extension

Five years. $158 million. All five years guaranteed, no options. This is the nature of the extension of the Phoenix Suns’ franchise player. Devin Booker, after holding out due to Tyler Ulis miscommunication, signed his extension on July 7th, 2018. For the next five years, he is a Sun, and he won’t even be in the prime of his prime when that extension ends. He’ll be 26! And when that contract expires, THEN he’ll be in his prime and the Suns can sign him to something even better! That’s amazing news, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

 

  1. Deandre Ayton did some cool stuff

21 points and 12 rebounds was the name of the game for Deandre Ayton in game 2 of his Las Vegas Summer League tenure. His first half looked very lackluster, as he was getting beat in the post by Harry Giles, a man who has undergone two ACL surgeries. He was trying to post up by standing straight up and down instead of trying to dig into his defender, and he wasn’t slashing strongly after setting screens. He ended the half with 4 points, and Marvin Bagley looked to be his superior. But, in the second half, something changed. He was setting tough on-ball screens, he was passing out of doubles effectively, he was catching the ball over the top of his defender, and he really started to dig in. By the end of it all, he was efficient, strong, and using his size extremely well. Deandre Ayton looks good.

 

2b. Mikal Bridges did things too

In the last two games of Summer League, Mikal Bridges is 5 for 8 from three and 6 for 10 in general. That’s impressive. He looked great defensively on Saturday, and he had a nice steal and slam to cement himself as a decent defensive talent with athleticism. He’s proving he’s worth the trade-up on draft day, and that’s good.

 

  1. Masked Josh Jackson happened

Need I say more? That block is plastered all over every highlight page online. He stood over him and taunted him! He taunted the 2nd overall pick! Don’t elbow Josh Jackson in the face. He will kill you.

 

  1. The Diamondbacks scored 20 runs in a single game

That’s a franchise record. Wow. Alex Avila had 3 RBIs. That’s really all you need to know about that. He’s hitting .148 and he had THREE RBIs. The Padres are very bad.

 

Well, there you have it, folks. Arizona sports are saved and everyone can rejoice as Phoenix becomes a great sports city once again. (But, seriously, it was a good day. There’s a lot for the Suns to build on, and the Diamondbacks might finally get back into the groove they were in to start the season. I’m very happy about these results. Thank you for your time.)

Advertisements

Do the Suns have a Power Forward?

This is a question I ask myself quite often. They obviously have a few on the roster. Dragan Bender (who was the recent punchline in a very funny John Oliver joke), Marquese Chriss, Alec Peters, Jared Dudley (I love you, Jared), Alan Williams, and even Josh Jackson on occasion are all guys that can play that 4 spot. But, when it comes to power forward talent around the league, these guys aren’t necessarily top notch. Chriss struggled all year with his shot, and seemed to just be lost for a majority of his time on the floor. Bender started to come into his own, but he still has a long way to go on the offensive end (note: I really like it when Bender hits threes early in games, because that opens up a pump fake and slash game that he doesn’t have if he’s offline early on). Alec Peters had the best game from the power forward position all year, but obviously isn’t a consistent choice to start (not for a sane coach, anyway). Alan Williams usually gets his time at the center position, and Josh Jackson usually gets his at the small forward. So, I’m not really sure if the Suns have a power forward for the future. Let’s look at some options.

 

  1. Kenneth Faried

This one is a long shot. Faried is far removed from starting, as Paul Millsap basically absorbed all his minutes in Denver. Obviously, the Nuggets want to move Faried, his $13 million contract (yikes), and open up his spot on the roster. It feels like year after year, up until the Suns drafted Chriss and Bender, there was always a rumor that the Nuggets were going to trade the Manimal to the Suns. Obviously, Faried has only gotten older and lost some of his famed athleticism, so this really isn’t the best solution unless the Suns are really desperate to move a guy like Marquese Chriss, who may be bad for chemistry. Faried can rebound and operate closer to the basket, but he has no outside shot. He struggles anywhere outside the painted area, which isn’t something many teams are looking for anymore. The only incentive to pick up Faried is that he’s a veteran, something the Suns need, and rumblings around the league say that Denver is willing to part with the 14th overall pick if someone wants to take Faried off their hands.

 

  1. Aaron Gordon

This one makes more sense. He’s likely to be a restricted free agent, but he’s looking for a max deal, something the Suns might not want to offer to someone as injury-prone as Gordon. But, when he’s healthy, he’s incredibly athletic. He’s an electrifying dunker, he’s developed a decent outside shot, and if (that’s a BIG if) the Suns choose to keep Elfrid Payton, there’s already existing chemistry between the two. Gordon has the makings to be the Suns’ power forward of the future if they can hash out the details. Most of Gordon’s stats have taken an unprecedented jump this year, and he has the makings to be a superstar. He’s scored 5 more points per game, upped his 3PM by one whole make per game, and pulls in 2 more rebounds per game. His improvement on the defensive end is notable as well. But (that’s a BIG but), he only played 58 games this year. The Suns medical staff is known for being able to help out injury-prone guys, but it’s certainly a gamble to give him a max contract. If I’m Phoenix, I would try and negotiate a nice two or three year deal and go from there, see if Gordon really is a good fit with Booker, Jackson and (hopefully) Ayton, and see where he is as he reaches his prime at 24 or 25.

 

  1. Nikola Mirotic

He’s got one year left on a $12.5 million contract. He can shoot the longball. He can grow an excellent beard. He’s Nik Mirotic. I’ve always been a fan of Mirotic’s game, and he was an integral part of the weird stint of Bulls success in December upon his return from being decked in the face by Bobby Portis, as well as being a reliable guy for New Orleans down the stretch of the season. From 2015-2017, Mirotic was a guy you could depend on for a few points, maybe some decent defense, but I think 2018 was the year he became a really complete player. Not a superstar worth a max contract, mind you, but a guy you can comfortably start and say he’s one of the better starting PFs in the league. He’s a guy that can stretch the floor and stay in front of guys well enough, and he’d be an improvement for the Suns at the power forward position. The Pelicans would probably be looking for a guard or small forward in that trade, though, something the Suns may not be able to give up. Put it in the “maybe” column. Just think about it a little.

 

  1. DeMarre Carroll

Okay, hear me out on this one. I know it doesn’t make much sense. He’s an older player, a little undersized for the power forward position, and his health is definitely a question. But, he scored 13.5 PPG last year, he put up the best numbers of his career for passing and rebounding (though they’re still not super impressive), and he’s only got a year left on a bad contract. He could be the temporary fit while the Suns develop, draft, or trade for a better player. He could plug the leak. I wouldn’t mind it, at least not for a while.

 

  1. Ryan Anderson

Ryan. Anderson. He’s the perfect solution, in my opinion! Mike D’Antoni didn’t give him playoff minutes, and I really don’t know why. He’s tall, but quick enough to stay in front of smaller guys, he sets a good pick and can make shots close to the basket or from beyond the arc, and he’s definitely better than the guys the Suns have right now. And, lest we forget that he ENDED ALEX LEN’S CAREER this year in Talking Stick Resort Arena! This is the perfect opportunity to get Anderson the minutes he deserves. His contract is a little steep with 2yrs/$20 million coming his way, but he has a chance to be very, very worth it. If the Rockets won’t use him, the Suns certainly have a spot for him.

 

If anything, the Suns could even work with what they have. Who knows how coach Igor is gonna work with Dragan Bender? I think Bender’s ceiling is pretty high, and if anyone is going to get something out of him it’s someone who knows the European game and the European players like Igor does. Marquese Chriss has a long offseason ahead of him, but if he puts in the work from behind the line, gets more muscle to work inside, and works on his basketball IQ and instincts, he could be good too. Who knows? The Suns have a lot of options, and there’s a very good chance that they’ll look at all of them in the quest to grant Devin Booker passage to the playoffs this year. But first, they’ll need a power forward.

16th Overall Pick: Who Runs the Point in Phoenix?

The Suns secured the #1 overall pick in this year’s draft, and that’s cool. But, if they pick Ayton, they’ve still got a glaring hole at the point guard position that Elfrid Payton (probably) won’t be able to fill. The Suns have the 16th overall pick, which is a great position to draft a solid guard. I ran a Twitter poll with a few options (feel free to follow me), so I’m gonna break down these options. Keep in mind these aren’t the only guys available, but these are the options I see in front of Phoenix.

 

  1. Jalen Brunson, Villanova

Jalen Brunson led the National Champion Wildcats with an impressive 18.9 PPG on 52% shooting and 40% from 3-point range. He chalked up 4.6 assists as well over the course of 32 minutes per game. Brunson is a left-handed guard with a little bit of grit, something the Suns need in the backcourt. He’s 6’2’’, a nice height for a guard, but a below average wingspan. This year was his junior year, which means he’s a little bit more developed than some of the younger guards. He can shoot, and he can help run an offense pretty well. Though, his offense was helped along by elite NCAA coach Jay Wright, and his lack of athleticism and first step will definitely hurt him in the draft. Though he’s leaving college basketball with an impressive championship run on his résumé, Brunson is definitely not the best option on the board at 16.

 

  1. Aaron Holiday, UCLA

Aaron Holiday is a good defensive guard. He’s got a quick step to stay in front of guys, and that also helps him score. Playing a staggering 37.7 minutes per game, Holiday scored to the tune of 20 PPG on 46% shooting and 43% from 3-point territory. There’s a lot of efficiency there. Holiday can really shoot from beyond the arc, and his shot on the move is fantastic as well. He averaged a little under 6 assists, as well as 3.7 rebounds. Holiday is definitely someone the Suns could use, and he’s the younger brother of NBA brothers Jrue and Justin Holiday. He received PAC-12 first-time and defensive first-team honors this year, and there’s no better time to draft a player like him. He should still be on the board at 16, and the Suns would make a great decision to pick him.

 

  1. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky

Kentucky Freshman Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had an impressive first year in the SEC. All-Conference Second Team, All-Rookie Team, and SEC All-Tournament Team are all on Gilgeous-Alexander’s résumé. He averaged 33.7 minutes per game with 14.4 PPG on 48.5% shooting and 40.4% from the arc, along with 5.1 assists and 4.1 rebounds. SGA is 6’6’’, which gives him a natural advantage on defense. He averaged 1.6 steals on defense, and showed an ability to stay in front of point guards around the NCAA. Watching tape can show a slower release than anyone else on this list, as well as a tendency to over dribble, but if the Suns can work with Josh Jackson, they can work with Gilgeous-Alexander. He’s not the best offensive option on this list, but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could lead the charge on an oversized backcourt in Phoenix. He may not be available at 16, as the Los Angeles Clippers have the two picks at the end of the lottery, and may look to bring in a guard to play behind Patrick Beverley or Milos Teodosic.

 

  1. Trading for a vet

There are plenty of point guards around the NBA that are already established as NBA-caliber talent. This is an edge that all of them have on the guys coming out of the draft. Looking at the guards around the NBA and keeping realism in mind, here are some guys the Suns could try and make moves for:

  • Darren Collison, IND

Collison showed his scoring and passing ability in the first round of the playoffs, and a veteran presence leading the offense is never a bad thing.

  • D’Angelo Russell

Another subpar season in Brooklyn may lead to even more roster turnover. Russell’s contract isn’t bad for the player he is, and he seems to have a decent friendship with Devin Booker, something that might lead him to Phoenix.

  • Kemba Walker

Let’s be real. There’s a low chance of this happening. But, with a new GM in Charlotte, he might want to blow it up and start over again. If that happens, the Suns should be the first one on the phone trying to land Walker without giving up too much of the young core.

Trading for a vet might get established talent, but it may not be the best solution for the timeline the Suns are trying to work with. GM Ryan McDonough said he was open to trading that 16th pick, and if the Suns do draft Ayton, a point guard will definitely be a requirement on the other end.

 

The Suns have plenty of options at 16, and that’s great. There’s not a problem with having a lot of options. It’s weighing the options and choosing the right one that’s the problem. Ryan McDonough has had a good track record when it comes to drafting recently (congrats on All-Rookie Second Team, Josh), and Suns fans shouldn’t mind him picking who he feels is best at 16.

There are also obviously unexplored options, like making a package to trade into the lottery and drafting a guy like Collin Sexton or Trae Young (I HATE Trae Young but that’s just my humble opinion).

Opinion of the people on my Twitter feed shows that trading for a vet or drafting Aaron Holiday are the best options, and I tend to agree. Let’s just hope that Phoenix makes the decisions to right the ship this season.

Should the Suns trade the First Pick for Karl Anthony-Towns?

A first overall pick who has the ability to pass on the low block, who can stretch the floor, and who can play a good low post game, but who needs some (a lot of) work on defense has recently said he’s unsatisfied with his situation in Minnesota and wants to be somewhere else. This player also happened to go to college with Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis, and his name is Karl-Anthony Towns.

The obvious issue for Towns is that he isn’t being used enough. If you’re KAT, you watched your usage percentage dip this season from 27.4% to 22.9% and watched a few of your more important stats dip with it. Tom Thibodeau has his “guys” come from his Chicago days and you see your playing time eaten up by Taj Gibson and Gorgui Dieng. Thibodeau has been running the legs off guys and seemingly stopping their NBA careers short by overplaying them, so yeah, you’re gonna want out, and you’re gonna openly talk about it.

Now, obviously, Towns isn’t going to be dealt by Minnesota for anything less than the #1 overall pick if you’re Phoenix. The pieces you would prefer to give away (lower picks, Warren, Chriss, Bender) can’t make this trade work, and the pieces you would prefer to keep (Jackson, Booker, #1 pick) are the ones Minnesota would look for. Now, Towns is a former #1 pick and won Rookie of the Year unanimously in 2016. That’s incredibly impressive, and what’s more impressive is that he’s seemingly developed his game and gotten better since his rookie campaign, despite his numbers not reflecting it this year. As previously mentioned, a dip in usage will cause a dip in production.

I, personally, really like KAT. I think Booker likes him too, if Twitter is any indication. I also really like DeAndre Ayton but not as much as KAT, and (as of recently), do not really like Luka Dončić. Let’s flesh out all these opinions.

Why don’t I like Dončić at #1? There’s a few reasons. First of all, he said he wasn’t even set on coming to the NBA, and recently received the Euroleague MVP. If he’s not sold on the team, then don’t even bother coming here. Pass. No thank you. Second of all, he doesn’t have an explosive first step. Strength alone might get you by in the Euroleague, but not having that quickness will KILL a guard like that in the NBA. Third of all, Arizona sports radio personality John “Gambo” Gambadoro has recently brought up a potential “attitude” problem of Dončić’s.

“Yeah. Shooting. Immaturity. Funny how we cut so much slack to Dončić for pouting but want to ship out another 19 year old for the same reason”, of course, referring to Marquese Chriss. I think Dončić is high-risk, high-reward, but not the kind of risk a rebuilding team should take at #1.

Why do I like KAT more than Ayton? I believe that KAT is basically Ayton’s ceiling. Any fan would HOPE that Ayton would be as good as Towns. Every scout says Ayton’s defensive instincts aren’t great, and his quickness on that side of the ball definitely needs some work. Ayton would also be more effective with a pass-first point guard, something the Suns really don’t have right now unless Elfrid Payton and his new haircut come back next season, or if they draft a guard at #16. KAT doesn’t need that past-first guy, as he can create his own opportunities as well as create opportunities for others with his passing and good offensive game sense. He’s a proven NBA guy, and Ayton isn’t (yet). That being said, I certainly wouldn’t mind DeAndre Ayton on my team. I really wouldn’t complain. If the Suns don’t trade the pick, I would not be upset. I like Ayton, just not as much as KAT.

In conclusion, I think the Suns should trade the pick for KAT. Booker wants him, and I like that man being happy. But, if Ayton gets his wish to play in Phoenix, more power to him. I enjoy his game too, and him and Booker would be something else on the offensive end (and ONLY on the offensive end). The lesson to be learned here is: no Dončić. Please. Just a big man at #1. Find a Collin Sexton (if he drops somehow) or an Aaron Holiday at 16 and address that need for a ball-handler, but just stick with a sure thing at #1, whether it be KAT or Ayton. Don’t screw this up. I’m begging you. I need a 30 win season very badly.

Suns Win the #1 Overall Pick in the NBA Draft

Yup. It’s happening. After an arduous 21-61 season, the Suns get what they wanted all along. The Suns will be the final #1 pick in the “traditional” tanking era, as, starting next year, the bottom 3 teams all have an equal chance to draft at #1.

Anyway, wow. This is the first time in franchise history the Suns will pick #1 overall, and the last time they came close, they missed out on Kareem. Who will they pick? Ayton? Dončić? Those are really the only two options in most people’s opinion, and now there’s no question that they have the opportunity to draft the best player available.

I did an entire write-up on Ayton, who backed up his statements about wanting to play in Phoenix via interview and tweet. Ayton is just a hulk of a center and could be the next (and first, depending on who you ask) great center in Suns history. He’s confident, smooth, strong, and a hometown player from the University of Arizona. But, Luka Dončić.

Dončić, a favorite of new head coach Igor Kokoškov, is a 6’8’’ point guard from Slovenia. Slovenia has had success in the NBA in the form of Goran Dragic, but his athleticism comes into question coming over from Europe. He’s being touted as the best European prospect ever, and he’s certainly the most hyped prospect from across the Atlantic. Drafting Dončić would also add a lot of height-having a 6’8’’ point guard next to a 6’6’’ shooting guard and 6’8’’ small forward would lead to a lot of defensive versatility, if Dončić can gain the agility to stay in front of guys.

Anyway, that’s a month from now. Let’s all celebrate! This is big! Suns fans have earned this after an abysmal season, and hopefully more good news from the Phoenix front comes soon.

Suns welcome (back) coach Igor Kokoškov

For the purpose of not having to copy/paste his name every time, I’m just gonna call him Igor? Got it? Got it.

First things first, how did this happen? According to Arizona Talk Radio Legend John Gambadoro, GM Ryan McDonough and VP James Jones flew to Houston between games 1 and 2 of the Jazz/Rockets series on Monday to meet with Igor, currently a Jazz assistant coach. That night, the Suns organization came to a unanimous decision to hire him. That’s big.

Second, what has he done to warrant the hiring? Let’s look at his coaching history. He’s been an assistant coach in the NBA since 2000, with stints coaching the Clippers (97-194 over three seasons), Pistons (284-126 over five seasons with an NBA championship in 2003), Suns (198-196 over five seasons with one lockout season), Cavs (33-49 over one LeBron-less season), and Jazz (139-107 over three seasons, including this year). He was also the head coach of Slovenia’s Eurobasket team this summer, which included draft prospect Luka Dončić. Igor’s Slovenia won the Eurobasket championship.

He’s got a great track record. One looming question remains: after coaching Dončić, whom he deemed a “future NBA superstar,” what changes will that make to the draft game plan this summer. While it seemed like Ayton and Dončić were jockeying for position, is Luka now a lock to be drafted to Phoenix?

With the Draft Lottery on May 15th, the Suns are looking to obtain the first overall pick for the first time in franchise history. I wrote an article on the history of the modern draft lottery, which you can read here, that breaks down the chances that the Suns get a coveted top pick.

McDonough’s first goal of the offseason is now complete. He said he wanted a head coach before the draft lottery, and he’s done what he set out to do.

Jazz coach Quinn Snyder gave Igor his endorsement in late April, saying that he’s told Igor for years that he’s a head coach in the NBA. Hopefully, Snyder’s intuition is right. The Suns offseason odyssey begins now.

 

 

No Coach Bud: Who’s Next?

Alright, so that sucks. Mike Budenholzer withdrew from the Suns coaching consideration, and is looking at the New York Knicks. Now, if you’re the Suns, you dust yourself off, and you try again so you don’t have to settle. Find the right coach for your prospects, for your developing team, and for your future as a franchise.

So, now the question arises: who do the Suns sign? I wrote an article on this subject earlier this month, so now it’s time for an update.

  1. Dave Fizdale

Play it again: Take that for data! With young talent, some good old-fashioned grit and grind, and a decent defensive draft, the Suns could potentially show some promise with Fizdale at the helm. He has playoff experience, which is something Triano can’t say. As I previously mentioned, he was an assistant coach on LeBron’s Heat teams, and is generally very good with press. Lots of advantages with this one.

  1. Steve Clifford/Frank Vogel

I’m grouping them together because they’re two guys that got the axe at the end of the year on teams that didn’t make playoffs. Vogel has had great runs in Indiana (around the same time Fizdale was coaching the Heat), and Clifford has experience coaching Kemba Walker, which is a name on the Suns list of potential trades in the offseason. Two potentially good, more defensive-oriented coaches. Good candidates.

  1. Kevin McHale

This one is unexpected. His offense is amazing; his defense is suspect: a good way to describe the entire history of the Phoenix Suns franchise. He had a lot of success coaching the Rockets led by James Harden, and his name in the coaching position brings dignity to a franchise and garners respect from any NBA guy who knows his history.

  1. Igor Kokoškov

Igor has been an assistant coach on five different teams, including Phoenix from 2008-2013. His current stint is in Utah, where Quin Snyder has given him high praise. He also coaches the Slovenian national team, to some success, but that would matter more of Goran Dragic still had residence in Phoenix. His name has been floating around the last few days, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing to take a chance on a guy with 18 years of NBA experience. That’s a lot of experience.

5. David Blatt

This one is a stretch. I’m not sure of Blatt’s coaching ability, as it’s clear LeBron James coaches the teams he plays for. This one is a reach, but the Suns need a coach with a winning record and playoff experience, something Blatt has both of. If he bites, I’d take it. I feel like the Suns are on the lookout for anyone but Triano.

 

Suns and Mike Budenholzer: A match made in Heaven

Mike Budenholzer is tired of losing in Atlanta. The Phoenix Suns need a new, talented head coach with experience in the league. Devin Booker wants to make the playoffs. Mike Budenholzer’s Hawks made the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015. This season, the Suns almost didn’t win the entire month of February. Mike Budenholzer coached a team that didn’t LOSE the entire month of January 2015. Yesterday, the Hawks granted permission to Budenholzer to meet with Phoenix. It’s all happening.

Bud, from 1996 to 2013, was an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich, one of the greatest coaches to ever grace a basketball court. He understands what it’s like to coach a winning team, to be in a winning atmosphere, and to shape young guys like Tim Duncan from the beginning of their career until close to the end. That’s something the Suns need.

After being rejected by Grand Canyon University coach and former Sun Dan Majerle, the Suns getting to talk to a coach with a winning record, not to mention a former coach of the year, is huge. Ryan McDonough went on record saying the Suns have planned to have a coach set by the end of the month, and their search started only hours after their media day wrap up.

Budenholzer’s offense is very Spurs-esque. Creating space horizontally while a big man (Ayton?) and a guard (Booker?) run a pick and roll up top. The Hawks had lethal shooters surrounding a Teague-Horford pick and roll, so if the Suns and Budenholzer work something out, the first step should be to find elite shooters (Seth Curry is a free agent, just saying).

As fun as it is to think about what could potentially be, the Suns meeting with Budenholzer is bigger than just a coaching fix. Budenholzer isn’t cheap. He’s a good coach. This is Ryan McDonough telling everyone he’s got this, and that he’s ready to right the ship. This is big. Let’s just hope Holbrook, Arizona native Mike Budenholzer realizes he could take the helm of a franchise with a lot of potential.

Breaking down the top Suns coaching candidates

1. Jay Wright 

Jay Wright should be the number one option for the Phoenix Suns. He’s fresh off a national championship at Villanova, so it might be hard to court him away, but he has experience coaching young guys (something the Suns have plenty of). Wright has won two NCAA championships in three years, and his winning attitude and coaching talent (something the Suns do not have plenty of) would be a breath of fresh air. His offensive game plan is simple: shoot. The Suns have a few decent shooters in Devin Booker, Troy Daniels, Dragan Bender, and Marquese Chriss (depending on who you ask). He’s never had much of an emphasis on defense, but neither have the Suns, so it seems like a match made in heaven. Wright is ready to take the next step, and the Suns have a vacant spot to let him.

Potential Destinations: Villanova, Milwaukee, Phoenix

download

2. Dave Fizdale 

Take that for data! Former Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Fizdale didn’t exactly have the kindest end to his time in the Grit and Grind capital of the world. He left behind a franchise in a tailspin with aging talent after making the playoffs the year prior. But, who knows what he can do with young talent? He was an assistant/associate head coach in Miami during LeBron’s time with the team, and VP of Basketball Operations James Jones has nothing but nice things to say about him.

Potential Destinations: Phoenix, LA Lakers

 

3. Jason Kidd 

Ask anybody in the NBA rumor mill, and they’ll tell you Kidd is coming to Phoenix to coach. A former Suns player, Kidd most recently coached the Milwaukee Bucks. Like Wright, his defense certainly isn’t a priority. But unlike Wright, his offense ran through Giannis Antetokounmpo, someone the Suns don’t have. Having a guy like the Greek Freak made Kidd’s offense work, but there are definite concerns as to Kidd’s coaching ability without a superstar (see: the 2013 Brooklyn Nets). Kidd might not be the Suns coach of the future, but he could potentially fill the spot to stop the bleeding from Triano and bring a familiar face back into the Suns franchise. Let’s just hope he writes up a few more defensive sets.

Oh, and he moved to Paradise Valley, Arizona last week.

Potential Destinations: Phoenix, Unemployment

4. Jay Triano 

It may be an unpopular opinion, but I actually like Jay Triano a bit. He needs more time to develop, obviously, because nobody can expect the coach of the year right off the bat, but if the players respect and listen to him, keep him. That’s the issue, though. He seems to get no reaction out of them. After a lackluster 20-win season, it seems as if Triano has no chance to keep his job. But, on the off chance he does, let’s give him another chance with an updated roster and pray McDonough gives him enough to succeed.

Potential Destinations: Phoenix, Unemployment

Shaq and Kobe 2.0

On the afternoon of March 31st, DeAndre Ayton went on CBS Sports radio. When asked where he’d like to end up in the NBA, he said “Honestly, I could see myself in Phoenix. I could see a little Shaq and Kobe 2.0.”

Not only is that like the best thing you could say to any Suns fan right now, but it’s also an extremely bold statement that allows me to be able to say Devin Booker is the next Kobe without feeling alone.

Because of how much I love this quote from Ayton, I decided to have a little fun. I’m here to compare Ayton’s freshman numbers at U of A and Shaq’s at LSU, and then Booker and Kobe’s age 20-21 numbers.

Shaq vs Ayton

Shaq: 13.9 PPG, 3.6 BPG, 12 REB, 0 3PA, 57.3 FG%

Shaq is the perfect center for that era of basketball (obviously). Young, athletic, strong, back to the basket guy, productive on offense, dominant on defense at 7’1”. Shaq is Shaq. You all know how amazing he was, especially when he was young and mobile. How does Ayton stack up?

Ayton: 20.1 PPG, 1.9 BPG, 11.6 REB, 61.2 FG%, 34.3 3PT%

A few interesting differences to point out: Shaq attempted zero 3s his freshman year, and Ayton attempted 35 (and made 12). Ayton had 1.0 3PA per game. The field goal percentage is higher, despite his tendency to shoot from further out than Shaq. He’s not as dominant on defense, but still manages to get almost two blocks in a normal game. The rebounding matches up pretty well. These two players are strangely comparable (I’m so excited oh my goodness PLEASE let Phoenix get the #1 pick).

Decision: Comparable

 

Kobe vs Booker

This one is tougher. Kobe entered the league out of high school, and Booker took a pit stop at Kentucky. But, how did Kobe fare at Booker’s current age?

Kobe (Age 20-21): 21.4 PPG, 5.9 REB, 4.4 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 46.7 FG%, 29.8 3P% over 116 games played* (1998-1999 was a 50-game lockout season)

Over the course of the 1998-99 to 1999-2000 seasons, Kobe was very Kobe. He was a high flyer with a solid field goal percentage and played closer to the rim than he did later in his career. He also had a really cool afro and basically broke every defense in the league, so there’s that. Early career Kobe is so fun. How, if at all, does Devin stand up?

Booker (age 20-21): 23.3 PPG, 3.7 REB, 3.9 AST, .9 SPG, .3 BPG, 42.7 FG%, 37.3 3P% over 132 games played

Oh. Oh wow. That’s interesting. Obviously, the athleticism and defense go to Kobe, that’s not a question (the only two good defenders from this generation of Kentucky players are Anthony Davis and Bam Adebayo), but for volume scoring, look to Booker. He shoots a LOT, but it also goes in a lot apparently, as their field goal percentages are comparable. Devin has averaged 6.0 3PA over the last two seasons, while Kobe only tried 2.1 3s per game in those early seasons. Call it a sign of the times, I suppose. Kobe attempted 14.8 2s per game to Booker’s 12.8, but both players took a lot of shots and a lot of them have gone in.

Decision: Comparable (On Offense)

It’s fun to muse about these things when your team just picked up its 20th win in 79 tries. It’s hard not to look ahead after the abysmal season the Suns have had, so hopefully 2019 in Phoenix looks more like 1996 Los Angeles.