Now that the Suns have secured CP3, the focus turns to Wednesday night’s NBA Draft.
This is the state of Phoenix Suns basketball: A feeling of relevance is back for the first time in nearly a decade. Pinch yourself again. This isn’t a dream. You are not stuck in a lucid state having been locked in your house for 8 months and counting. This is real.
The deal that was speculated for days came to fruition on Monday morning.
Devin Booker and Chris Paul, together with the Suns now pic.twitter.com/kxV2rE5YLU
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 16, 2020
In doing so, the Phoenix Suns put themselves in a position to participate in the 2021 post-season. Plenty needs to happen between now and then, of course. The Suns need to fill out their roster with complimentary players. Training camp must safely commence. Chris Paul needs to stay healthy.
The first step towards a playoff push is the 2020 NBA Draft on Wednesday night.
James Jones was savvy in his dealings with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Sam Presti. Based on conversations with Flex From Jersey, it appeared that OKC wanted more. Was it Cam Johnson? Was it the #10 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft? We may never know. What we do know is James Jones held on to both assets, allowing the Suns to participate in the Wednesday night festivities.
The Case for a Guard
James Jones gained a 10-time All-Star, an All-NBA point guard, and an All-Defensive team player. It is not every day you make a transaction that bring s such a decorated player to your organization, albeit at 35-years old. What Jones sacrificed to do so was depth at the guard position.
Now I hear you, Bright Siders. I know that Ty Jerome is hardly what you would consider “depth”. I know that, although his G League highlights are YouTube gold, Jalen Lecque was most likely not the future of the Suns backcourt. Their loss has not left us reaching for our handkerchiefs for two reasons:
- We aren’t crying.
- We don’t have handkerchiefs. This isn’t 1955, see?
Jerome was a player who provided promise when he was drafted for his experience (4-year player in college), championship pedigree, (2019 NCAA Nation Champion with the University of Virginia), and floor vision. We hoped that he was another Steve Nash archetype; a player who lacked the athleticism of your prototypical point guard but possessed playmaking, passing, and floor vision. He played in 31 games for the Suns and looked lost on the offensive end.
When we look at the potential backcourt for the 2020-21 season (based on what occurs when free agency begins on Friday), it appears that Chris Paul will receive breathers from Cameron Payne and Jevon Carter. Oh, and Elie Okobo is somehow still around.
My point? There is some depth. Is it long term depth? Not necessarily.
Given the Suns position in the draft there may be an opportunity to take a shot at drafting the “point guard of the future”. That individual will have the opportunity to learn under the “Point God”, Chris Paul. They will have a chance to absorb his playmaking abilities, see how a true leader at that position conducts themselves, and hopefully make the jump to the starting PG position when the sun sets on CP3’s time in Phoenix.
If Tyrese Haliburton or Killian Hayes are available at #10, this decision becomes a slam dunk. Taking a shot at Kira Lewis, Jr. or Tyrell Terry will require more patience, as these prospects will take more time to develop. All could develop into that future point guard of the franchise.
Whoever the Suns choose will be allotted the time to develop, seeing as the Cam Payne/Javon Cater/Elie Okobo trio will absorb the backup PG/SG minutes. The need for that player to come in and provide an instant impact is diminished. The move would be smart for the long term.
When was the last time the Suns took a point guard with a lottery pick? 2012, when they choose Kendall Marshall our of North Carolina at #13.
The Case for a Wing
The beginning of this case is quite simple: you can never have too many wings in the NBA. The loss of Kelly Oubre (okay, now we cry…and now we know why people carried handkerchiefs around!) leaves a hole in the roster. The addition of another wing needs to be filled.
Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson have showcased their abilities to be effective at the wing position in the NBA, and then some. Due to their development, it made Oubre expendable. Outside of those two players, however, what else do the Suns have? Newly acquired Abdel Nader is classified as a small forward, but his 6’5” frame does not appear to fill the need. Free agency should address this issue (and once the draft is complete, we will know who the Suns will pursue in free agency).
Let’s say the Suns plan on bringing in Player X via free agency. Let’s say that Player X is a wing, a player who can play the small forward and/or power forward position. The Suns will still have issues with their depth in this scenario. If Player X is a starting caliber player, Cam Johnson goes to the bench. If Player X is a role player, Cam starts. Regardless of who the signing is, you will have three players to fill two spots on the floor.
But what if one of them gets injured?
Now you are fumbling with your lineup, running small ball lineups out on the court to make up for the roster deficiency. Every win matters, especially playing in the Western Conference in a shortened season. Giving up games due to poor roster construction is unacceptable and, quite frankly, avoidable.
This draft is chalked full of quality wing role players. If the Suns choose to draft a wing, they are choosing to focus on the 2020-21 season rather than hope to find the player who will help them in 2022-23.
The difference between choosing a wing and a guard is the expectation to provide an impact relatively quickly. They will receive minutes because, quite simply, those minutes will be available. James Jones will have to choose wisely.
If Devin Vassell, Patrick Williams, Aaron Nesmith, or Saddiq Bey are available, the decision to choose the correct one becomes paramount. All have the capability to provide the desired result. Conversely, their is uncertainty on whether or not their skill sets will translate to the NBA. Thus is the NBA Draft conundrum.
The Case for a Big
Nothing is finalized, but the assumption is that Aron Baynes will be moving on. The great red bearded man dude served the Suns well and provided depth at the five. He is another player who the fan base reluctantly will bid adieu.
Baynes leaves behind a chasm at backup center. Per Dave King’s most recent look at the roster, Dario Saric (if he returns) could be slotted as the backup to Deandre Ayton. Prepare to see plenty of teams attack the glass if this is the case.
Much akin to the wing argument, depth is the primary reason the Suns could pursue a big in the draft. Bigs, however, typically take longer to develop (see Dandre Ayton). Taking a big at #10 is high risk and falls in between the short term/long term argument. It would be short term need would be met as they would most certainly earn minutes. The long term is they would have to develop in order to be truly effective.
If somehow Obi Toppin could fall to #10, it would be an absolute steal. Although a defensive liability, his offensive output would greatly assist the second team unit. The National Player of the Year from Dayton can stretch the floor, shoot the three, and dominates the offensive paint. If he makes it past 5, I’d be surprised.
Jalen Smith is another prospect who may meet the Suns need at the five. He can handle the ball, has a high motor, and would be an ideal bench player. Taking him at #10, however, is a stretch.
I’ve made the “short term greed vs. long term greed” comparison as it pertains to this draft. Short term is focusing on how to be successful this season. Long term is taking a shot on a player who will require development but will pay dividends in a season or two.
The primary challenge facing whoever takes the Suns’ cap and places it upon their head (virtually) on Wednesday night is time. Training camp begins in two weeks, the NBA season in one month.
Their life will be in whirlwind mode every second of every day following their dream coming true. The acclimation process to the pro game will effect every player different and is the true x-factor entering this year’s draft. James Jones’ affinity for drafting mature players may unlock how he will approach this draft.
I believe that acquiring CP3 allows the Suns to pursue their short term needs. The goal is to win now. I expect them to take a wing, or move down. And take a wing.
What do you think?