It’s no surprise that Suns fans (including myself) are looking towards next season rather than dwelling on this one. For a rebuilding team, choosing which players have a spot on next year’s roster should be first on the mind of the front office. So, the question is, who’s safe on the Suns roster?
- Devin Booker (duh)
Devin Booker, currently 10th in the NBA in PPG, is a superstar in the making. Once he’s surrounded with more talent, his assist average will stop hovering around 4.5-5 and start to go up. If he keeps his rebounding consistent, we could see a player averaging 30-7-5 next year. He is the face of the franchise and prepped to sign a very hefty extension this offseason.
- Josh Jackson
After Saturday’s showing at Golden State, it’s clear what Josh Jackson can do. He’s a quality defender, something the Suns are in dire need of, with a decent jump shot and the ability to finish at the rim. When his layups fall, he’s deadly. When they don’t, he can make up for it on the defensive end, as well as make relatively smart passes. He’s brought his dribble closer to him as the season has progressed to bring down turnovers, and he seems dedicated to working alongside Devin Booker as a deadly scoring tandem.
- Jared Dudley
More than likely, Jared Dudley will retire within the next year and become an assistant coach for the Suns, which I guess makes him a guaranteed lock for a roster spot?
- Alan Williams
The Suns have Williams signed through the 2020 season, and it’s unlikely they’ll try to move him. You can read my last article on Alan here, which gives plenty of reasons why Williams wants to be, as well as belongs in Phoenix.
- Shaquille Harrison
Shaquille Harrison is one of the best defenders on the young Suns team, and he’s only played for less than half a season. He grew up wanting to be the best defender he knew, and his game reflects this fact. He’s signed for the rest of the season, and he’s definitely looking at another contract if he keeps up his current rate of defensive play and builds up his playmaking and scoring. I wrote an article about Shaq during his stint of 10-day contracts, which you can read here.
- Brandon Knight
This one is weird, but Knight has a huge contract. The Suns don’t want to buy him out and take the cap hit, no team wants that money, and he’ll be healthy enough to play next year, and the Suns have him until 2020. So, he’s safe, but not by the choice of the Suns.
Bonus: Alec Peters/Davon Reed/Danuel House Jr.
It’s not really that their play has set them apart, but they still need time to develop. They’re all incredibly raw and could end up seeing improvement if the Phoenix/NAZ Suns stick with them, which they probably will. They can’t exactly be moved in the offseason for anything other than a low pick, which the Suns aren’t looking to acquire.
50/50: These are the guys that could be dealt in trades in the offseason, but have time left on their contract.
- Troy Daniels
Daniels has another year on his contract, and he has shown time and time again that he can be a scoring piece on any team. He shoots incredibly well but isn’t great on defense. What sets Daniels apart is an intangible quality: loyalty to his team. He hasn’t even been on the Suns for a season yet, but he’s already standing up for the guys around him on the court and in interviews. Troy Daniels has a spot off the bench in Phoenix, at least for one more season, but could be dealt to a contender for a decent price.
- TJ Warren
I hate to have to say it, because I love TJ Warren, but Josh Jackson can’t come off the bench forever. There’s no good solution for playing them both at once, unless one of them plays the power forward slot and the Suns start out a game with a small lineup. Warren just signed a hefty contract extension, but he could potentially be moved for picks or a decent player at a position the Suns are lacking in (like point guard, power forward, and center). He’s worth the paycheck to any team, not just Phoenix.
- Dragan Bender
As he continues to develop, Bender has shown flashes of talent as a passer, shooter, and defender. If this development continues, Bender could be used as a piece in a trade. At this moment, he’s not an integral part in the future like Booker or Jackson, but he shows enough talent to keep in mind for the coming years.
- Tyson Chandler
Next year is the last year of his contract, but Tyson Chandler might be looking to get out via retirement sooner than later. If not, he’s definitely a veteran piece that other teams could look for in a trade package. His expiring contract is appealing to teams looking to win quickly, and his knowledge on defense could help a younger team take a big step in the right direction. If the Suns decide to stick with him next year, it will more than likely be his last season.
Not safe: Players that are more than likely getting traded, waived, or anything that would remove them from the Suns roster.
- Marquese Chriss
If Suns fans (mainly me) had their way, the organization would find a way to flip the Bucks and/or Heat picks (15 and 16) with Marquese Chriss for a higher in this year’s draft (that would ideally become Colin Sexton from Alabama). Chriss has had a myriad of inconsistencies in play, attitude problems, and bad habits that hold him back from being a truly talented NBA player. He’s taken a dip in athleticism from his rookie year, and he just seems to lack the drive to get better. It’s a shame, but Marquese Chriss’s time with the Suns is more than likely numbered.
- Tyler Ulis
After the season he’s had, this seems incredibly obvious. Tyler Ulis is not ready for NBA-level competition. As sad as it is, his numbers have taken a terrible hit since his breakout performance in the second half of last season, and he just doesn’t have the kick he did as a rookie. Ulis’s days are numbered as long as Shaq Harrison continues to do what he can’t: defend and hustle.
- Alex Len
Drafted 5th overall in 2013, Len’s ceiling was incredibly high. Now it seems like he’ll go down as a pretty big bust. He’s a consistent double-double guy with not much else under his belt. Shoddy post play, poor defensive effort, and lack of energy are all Alex Len has to show for five years in the NBA. He’s had flashes, but they’ve come few and far between and don’t make up for the rest of his game. His contract expires this year, and if the Suns front office has any common sense, they’ll let him walk and try to find a spot on another team.
- Elfrid Payton
After a promising start, Elfrid Payton has subverted expectation as the starting point guard for the Suns. He doesn’t work very well with Booker, he turns the ball over constantly when he drives the lane, and his finishes just don’t seem to be dropping. His contract is expiring, so he’ll probably be on the move this offseason, trying to find a good team in need of a backup ball handler. The Suns shouldn’t want to drop the paycheck that Payton is expecting.
Hopefully the Suns improve in the offseason, especially after McDonough’s promises to try and be more aggressive with acquiring talent. This year stands to be the worst year in Suns (and league) history, as the Suns are 11 games away from ranking 30th in both offensive and defensive efficiency for the first time in the 30-team era. Hopefully the Suns find a way to avoid that next season, through the draft and through free agency, while still keeping some of the developing talent they have.