Proven talent or potential? Which should the Suns focus on in the draft?



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Every year as the Draft draws closer one word comes up in prospect discussions over and over again… potential. The super-freaky athletic types always get the most “potential” buzz in those conversations and are sometimes coveted more than their more skilled but less athletically gifted counterparts. And the younger, the better. Any prospect already old enough to drink legally is automatically considered to have less potential, less upside.

If you’re looking for future All-Stars, swinging for the fences isn’t a bad strategy in the draft but it’s often risky… especially in drafts like this one. This draft class has a lot of depth but no obvious, sure-fire All-Star prospects. This is a draft where a player’s basketball IQ (BBIQ) might turn out to be more meaningful than all of the previous stats and physical attributes/measurements combined.

While everyone acknowledges that a player’s BBIQ plays a significant role in how they will fare in the NBA, there are no stats to measure that. BBIQ is something that we can’t quantify and can only guess at. Couple a high BBIQ with a strong work ethic and desire to succeed and you’ve got a player that often surpasses expectations even without superior athletic gifts. Without those things, some of the most gifted athletes still wind up playing in the G League.

I believe that James Jones is looking for those high BBIQ guys with a strong work ethic and specifically those that already possess an NBA ready skill (such as 3-pt shooting). He showed that last year in selecting Cameron Johnson and Ty Jerome. Although the selection of Jerome didn’t pan out, I can’t come up with a name of anyone drafted after him in 2019 that really stands out as someone the Suns should have taken instead. Hopefully Jerome will figure out how to adjust to the speed of the NBA and rediscover his three point shooting stroke next season.

This year I expect him to do more of the same. James wants mature, high character guys with already developed talent(s) that will help propel the Suns to the next level now, not 3-4 years from now. He knows that that the fans – as well as his star player – are tired of losing and watching other teams in the playoffs year after year.

Getting another star player for the Suns would be great but building a strong supporting cast is also very important. This draft class seems to have a good amount of players who have the potential to contribute as supporting cast members right away although they might not seem to have a really high ceiling. I expect the Suns to select one of those who will hopefully turn out to be even more than that in the long run.

Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 – Potential is a common topic in NBA discussions. On a scale of 0-100%, rank these 5 young Suns players on how much of their potential that you believe they have presently reached:

1. Devin Booker – FT Composite Rank: 85% of potential

GuarGuar: 75%. I still think there is another level Booker has yet to reach yet. His defense, efficiency and shooting will continue to improve.

Sun-Arc: 85%. Still able to get even better on offense, less guardable, plus lots of room to grow on defense, which I think he will over time with better defensive teammates around him.

SDKyle: 90%. I’m trying not to underestimate Booker, but as with the others I’m playing the odds. Booker has a powerful work ethic and drive to improve, but he’s entering his 6th NBA season and by then most players, even young ones, are mostly what they are. I won’t put it past him to further improve, but it’s unlikely he takes any more major leaps forward.

SouthernSun: 85%. I don’t think there’s too much higher Booker can go himself. With his numbers and efficiency, on a winning team, he would be in the MVP discussion. Maybe with a slightly lesser offensive load with more talent around him he can use a little more energy on the defensive end and be more consistent there. I’d also like to see him shooting 40+% from three, but I think that, again, more talent around him will help that.

Alex S: 90%. It’s hard to see Devin making dramatic improvements to his game as he approaches his prime. He’s already such an elite offensive force and has taken strides to be a passable defender. The biggest area of improvement would be his off-the-dribble 3PT efficiency and defensively it would be great to see him make more impact plays down the stretch now that the Suns will inevitably be in more highly-contested games going forward.

2. Deandre Ayton – FT Composite Rank: 51% of potential

GuarGuar: 45%. Ayton’s made some massive improvements defensively already. I think his shooting and overall impact still have a ways to go. He has the most potential by far on this team.

Sun-Arc: 30%. Look, I’m a fan of his. I think he’s just scratching the surface on both ends. Will he get there? Who knows? But I like the trajectory and his ability to improve.

SDKyle: 75%. This is a hard one. Ayton clearly has a fair amount of room to improve, but perhaps not as much as the most optimistic original projections. He’s only played 1.5 seasons, essentially, so we shall see.

SouthernSun: 60%. Ayton is the meat and potatoes currently. He’s got post scoring and rebounding and decent interior defense down, as well as pretty good perimeter D for a big. I’m looking for him to improve in several areas. The main things he can do are work on his perimeter shooting, as well as his ball handling, and defensive decision making.

Alex S: 45%. Seems low, right? Well, the insane advance in his defensive tendencies and positioning leads me to believe Deandre is at the very least extremely coachable. I made this number quite low because there’s a switch that has yet to be turned on with him when it comes to offensive impact plays. DA needs to be locked in a room and shown 98-00’ Shaq highlights to see what a center with brute force truly looks like. Ayton is currently a highly skilled big who doesn’t require the opposing team to change strategy. That needs to change in order for DA to reach his true potential.

3. Mikal Bridges – FT Composite Rank: 73% of potential

GuarGuar: 65%. I think with Mikal it’s just offensive improvement at this point. His jumpshot will become more consistent and he will be more of a threat attacking with the ball eventually.

Sun-Arc: 65%. Not much room to grow defensively, but there is some + strength. But I see a lot of potential on offense with him. I could see a lot of growth here to become more of a Shawn Marion type on offense where he can do a bit of everything (except create his own shot).

SDKyle: 90%. Bridges has his man body, he’s 24 years old, and he has played a lot in his two seasons. He’s already an excellent defender, and doesn’t seem all that inclined to be a scorer.

SouthernSun: 70%. All I really expect him to improve on is his shooting, and become a more prolific passer. That’s about it. I don’t think Bridges has star potential.

Alex S: 75%. This might seem a bit high but the changes Mikal needs to make will come with time. Continue to put on more weight, continue to evolve the shot, and continue to improve his ball handling. He isn’t a star-type player to me, but can be an all-NBA level role player. Being a 4th option while clamping the opposing team’s best player is his future as long as he keeps putting the work in.

4. Kelly Oubre Jr. – FT Composite Rank: 82% of potential

GuarGuar: 90%. I think the Kelly we see now is primarily prime Kelly. He has flaws but has a specific skillset that he exceeds at. I doubt his playmaking will ever improve. It’s really just I think he will get a little more efficient as time goes on.

Sun-Arc: 80%. This one is tough, but still lots of potential over where he is at on both sides of the ball. I could imagine him shooting 38% from three who actually passes, and becoming a more effective defender. Its possible.

SDKyle: 100%. I don’t expect Oubre to improve. This is Kelly Oubre.

SouthernSun: 70%. I don’t expect much more growth from Kelly either, but he could certainly work on his shooting, his decision making (on both sides of the ball), and his defensive consistency.

Alex S: 70%. I think Kelly has another gear offensively where he learns to fit any system and require less on-ball usage. Hopefully watching the Suns succeed in the bubble showed him the style of play Monty and the gang need to continue heading into next year, as Oubre was the biggest culprit when it came to tunnel vision last season. I think his defense will get a little better but who he is now is generally what I expect going forward.

5. Cameron Johnson – FT Composite Rank: 65% of potential

GuarGuar: 60%. Cam made big strides this season but I don’t expect him to turn into some amazing player or anything. I think he’s 100% a role player. However I think he has a variety of skillsets that aren’t just shooting from 3.

Sun-Arc: 70%. Another tough guess. He clearly has already improved and it is hard to know how much potential is really there since he’s already better than I thought he’d be. At his age, though, I think we are seeing pretty close to his best.

SDKyle: 85%. Cam is old, pushing 25, but only has a season in. I predict he will improve this next season but probably not a lot thereafter.

SouthernSun: 60%. Cam has actually shown to be a bit more than we thought he would when he was drafted, so that makes this a bit difficult. He’s shown some athleticism and offensive skills that we didn’t know he possessed, as well as unexpectedly decent defense. I’d like to see him work on increasing his offensive skill set, refining his sniping ability (he can be the best shooter on the team), and continue working on his body, add some strength, so he can better contend with PFs in the paint.

Alex S: 50%. Cam really impressed me last year. His athleticism was something I did not expect heading into the year which leads me to believe his offensive game has another layer yet to be tapped into. I want to see Johnson get to a point where he’s a consistent 8-12 3PT/A per game and even gets some on-ball responsibly here and there.

Q2 – We all hope to see our Suns back in the NBA Finals one day, but when that happens, is there any Eastern Conference franchise that you would prefer seeing them being matched up against?

GuarGuar: I would like to see us go against (and beat) the Celtics. Out of all the Eastern Conference franchises I despise their fanbase the most. My second choice would be the Heat since I reside in South Florida and it would be way easier to see a Finals game.

Sun-Arc: I just want to them to get to the finals, and then we can talk about who to face, AMIRITE?

If I had to say someone, right now I’d say the Bucks if Giannis and Bledsoe are still there. I want the Suns to keep Bledsoe from winning a trophy and beating The Greek Freak will always be fun to watch since I’m a fan of his, but a bigger fan of the Suns. Honorable mention to the Celtics, Heat and Raptors – in that order.

SDKyle: I’d love to see Suns-Celtics. The franchises have a finals history going back to the legendary 1976 series. Then there’s the various contrasts between the two. Boston is one of America’s coldest major cities. Phoenix is the hottest. The Celtics are 17X champs, the Suns are seeking championship #1.

Honorable mention: A Suns-Bulls matchup would also be fun. Again, there’s history, and a lot of Phoenicians have roots in the Chicago area.

SouthernSun: I want to see them matched up against the Celtics, and decimate them.

A) That would shut down the Tatum vs Book argument.

B through Z) That would make Bill Simmons sad.

Alex S: I think this question involves two main components – one is who are my favorite east teams and the other is who are my favorite east cores.

My top three east opponents would be the following: Miami, Philly, Chicago

Miami is obvious because they’re young, scrappy, and currently in the finals. Philadelphia would be an incredible matchup and playing in their arena would be a heck of a challenge. Chicago is my sleeper as running back the 93 finals with potential for Chicago’s young core to take strides down the road would be fun.

Rod Argent: Being older than all of these guys, I still remember watching the 1976 Finals which the Suns lost to the Boston Celtics 4-2. I also still want revenge for that so the Celtics would be my number one choice. I hold grudges for a looooong time. Chicago is next on the list.

As always, many thanks to our Fantable members – GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle, SouthernSun and Alex S. – for all their extra effort every week!

2019-20 Season Highlights

Devin Booker 37 pts 4 threes, 5 asts vs Spurs

Ricky Rubio 13 Pts 15 Asts Highlights vs New Orleans Pelicans

Mikal Bridges Full Play vs Milwaukee Bucks – 21 pts 10 rebs

Aron Baynes 20 Pts 12 Rebs 2 Asts Highlights vs New York Knicks

Dario Saric 19 pts 17 rebs 4 asts vs Spurs

Quotes of the Week

“We carry that energy (in the Suns 8-0 bubble run) for a whole 82 game season with the same focus, I feel as if we’ll get to exactly where we want to get to.” – Kelly Oubre Jr.

“I would love to start (the 2020-21 season) tomorrow. I hate having this long of an off-season. With that 8-0, I can’t wait for us to start back up playing.” – Cameron Payne

“The bubble life is my life, honestly. I kind of live my life in a bubble. I don’t do too much outside of basketball. It’s no different for me.” – Jevon Carter

News & Notes

No Off-Season. Suns.com

Phoenix Suns Kelly Oubre speaks about time in the bubble, offseason plans. (VIDEO) Yahoo! Sports

Where Every NBA Team Ranks as a Free-Agency Destination. Bleacher Report

NBA commissioner Adam Silver doesn’t expect break in 2021 season for Olympics next summer in Tokyo. CBS Sports

Consensus Mock Draft: In first look after Lottery, Edwards seems like lock at No. 1. NBA.com

Draft Prospect Scouting Videos

RJ Hampton Draft Scouting Video

Tyrell Terry Draft Scouting Video

Jalen Smith Draft Scouting Video

This Week in Suns History

On October 8, 2018, the Suns fired former GM Ryan McDonough.

On October 9, 1972, the Suns waived SG/SF John Wetzel who was picked up by the Atlanta Hawks. Three years later, the Suns claimed Wetzel after he was waived by the Hawks on Oct. 24, 1975.

On October 11, 2008, the Denver Nuggets beat the Suns 77-72 in a preseason match-up at the Indian Wells (California) Tennis Garden. The game is noteworthy because it is the first NBA game played outdoors in three decades.

Interesting Suns stuff

The Phoenix Suns (90’s)

Suns Trivia

By total minutes played, Devin Booker (2,512) essentially played the equivalent of almost 10 more full games (470 minutes) than any other Suns player this season. The second highest total minutes played by a Suns player this season was by Mikal Bridges at 2,042.

Important Future Dates*

November 18 – NBA Draft.

November 19 – Deadline to tender Saric & Carter AND decline/accept team options on Kaminsky & Diallo.

November 20 – Free agency begins.

November 25 – Moratorium ends (noon).

November 30 – Okobo’s contract becomes fully guaranteed.

December 1 – Target date for opening day for 2020-21 season training camps.

December 25 – Target date for 2020-21 season opening night.

* Author’s Note: All dates except the Draft date and possible opening night date are my own approximations based upon the previous tentative schedule supplied by the NBA. All of these dates are still subject to change.

Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Which was the worst Suns loss of the season?”

02.8% – Nov. 7 124-108 loss to the Heat.

12.4% – Dec. 27 105-96 loss to the Warriors.

03.4% – Jan. 22 112-87 loss to the Pacers.

04.1% – Feb. 28 113-111 loss to the Pistons.

75.2% – Feb. 29 115-99 loss to the Warriors.

02.1% – Another loss (name it in the comments).

A total of 145 votes were cast.

This week’s poll is…

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