This offseason has seen the Western Conference go from strength to strength. Teams with playoff aspirations such as the Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets and Sacramento Kings have made vast improvements to their roster in moves which push the Phoenix Suns further and further away from postseason basketball.
The Suns finished last season with the second worst record in the league, and at 24-58 were unlikely to be an attractive destination for the top free agents. This proved to be the case, but to be fair, the Suns have had their share of attention this summer.
Let’s take a look at the key moments of the Suns’ offseason so far.
This year’s stacked draft class presented the Suns with their best chance of adding a young superstar to their roster, and with the fourth overall pick, that’s exactly what they did by drafting Kansas wing Josh Jackson. Jackson will likely slot into a youthful starting lineup for the Suns and will split SF minutes with TJ Warren whilst providing the team with a lock-down perimeter defender.
Although Jackson grabbed the headlines on draft night, the Suns also had two second round selections which surprised many. With the 32nd overall pick, the team drafted Miami 3-and-D guard Davon Reed, who will play as the backup to Devin Booker and provide perimeter shooting and defense on the second unit. Reed, who spent the full four years in college was a surprise selection for the Suns, as many draft boards had him going as low as the mid-fifties. Regardless of this, however, the Suns management saw an opportunity to get their guy and they went after him.
With the 54th pick, the Suns added to their front-court depth by drafting PF Alec Peters out of Valparaiso. Peters, who is recovering from a right leg stress fracture which led him to miss the Summer League is expected to be the recipient of one of the Suns’ two-way contracts for next season to split time between the G-League and NBA.
The Summer Suns were tipped as one of the tournament favorites due to finishing runners-up in 2015 and semi-finalists in 2016.
2017, however, was more up-and-down and the team finished with a 2-3 record and a second round exit. There was plenty to get excited about for Suns fans, though, with second-year players Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, along with rookies Jackson and Reed all getting valuable court time. Here’s how their respective stat lines looked:
Chriss (14.4ppg, 6 reb, 34.5% shooting in 25.8 mins)
Bender (14.2ppg, 6 reb, 39.4% shooting in 31.4 mins)
Jackson (17.4ppg, 9.2 reb, 42.5% shooting in 35 mins)
Reed (14ppg, 4 reb, 37.5% shooting in 27.3 mins)
The Suns have been very quiet in this department, with the re-signing of PF/C Alan Williams on a team-friendly three-year, $17 million deal the only move of note. Re-signing Williams was a key move for the Suns, as it gives the team front-court depth behind Tyson Chandler.
The move could also be an important one given Alex Len’s restricted free agency. Len, the fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft has struggled to establish himself as a starting-calibre NBA center and is yet to sign a long-term deal this summer.
One addition to the Suns’ ranks, albeit one not involving a player signing, is the appointment of James Jones as the new vice president of basketball operations. The 14-year NBA veteran, who played for the Suns between 2005-2007 was appointed to the position last month and will act as a role model for the younger players whilst working his first front office job in the NBA.
No one expects the Suns to compete for a playoff spot this season, especially given how stacked the Western Conference is. Instead, the team will have to embrace a full youth movement. Building around a core of Devin Booker, Jackson, Chriss and Bender will put the Suns in a strong position for the future. With a nice group of veterans on the roster in the form of Chandler, Jared Dudley and Eric Bledsoe, the young guys will have plenty of leaders to help develop and mature their game.
What’s an offseason update with the odd rumor or two?
It’s no secret that the Suns have been linked to their fair share of stars this summer. First, it was free-agent Blake Griffin, who arranged and then canceled his meeting with the Suns before signing a five-year, $173 million deal to stay with the Clippers.
Then it was veteran PF Paul Millsap, who was scheduled for a meeting with the Suns before the team bowed out to go ‘all-in’ on a youth movement. Now it seems Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving is the latest to be rumored with a move to the valley. Ever since Irving announced two weeks ago that he wanted a trade away from Eastern Conference champion Cleveland, the Suns have been one of the teams linked with a move for the four-time All-Star.
A trade has been discussed involving Eric Bledsoe and the Suns’ 2018 first round pick via Miami, but negotiations have died down following reports the Suns refuse to include draft pick Jackson in the deal. Should he move to Phoenix, Irving would instantly form a dynamic backcourt duo with Booker that would elevate the Suns to a playoff team. This is something the Suns must consider, and could offer TJ Warren as part of the deal instead of Jackson.
Although a trade for Irving would be nice, the reality is that the move is still a long way off. The Suns are in the midst of a youth movement and are in a strong position be a contender for years to come.
Just not yet.
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