Phoenix Suns have chance at multiple All-Rookie team selections
The No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton is a clear candidate to win Rookie of the Year, but he’s not the only Phoenix Sun to have a shot at making one of the All-Rookie teams.
Phoenix’s rookie guard rotation of De’Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo provides an interesting dynamic for the coming season. Both players will fight for playing time on a Phoenix roster that is sorely lacking experience at the point guard position.
In addition to the backcourt, standout small forward Mikal Bridges has a solid chance to make an impact for the Suns. It’ll take some time and effort, but Bridges could find himself in a meaningful role early in the season.
The sky’s the limit for the rookies of Phoenix. Opportunity is everywhere and roles are mostly undefined. There’s a solid chance that more than one Phoenix Sun will end up on the All-Rookie teams by the end of the year.
The last team with more than two All-Rookie selections was the Cleveland Cavaliers with four players making the cut in the 1997-98 season. No team in the current millennium has had more than two players selected to an All-Rookie team in a single season and Phoenix has four rookies lined up to play significant minutes this year.
So what are the chances for each of the Suns rookies to make an All-Rookie team this year?
Odds Shark listed Ayton as having the second-highest odds to win the Rookie of the Year award with some high praise.
The rookie has all the tools necessary to dominate the league and for a team desperate for rim protection and rebounding, Ayton fits the bill to help a Suns squad that ranked dead last in points allowed per game, was 25th in opponent field-goal percentage and lost 61 games last season. While the odds aren’t great at +375, it’s worth noting that the No. 1 overall pick has won this award in three of the last four years and six of the last 10.
It’s no surprise that Ayton is the headliner of the group. Following a stellar freshman campaign as an Arizona Wildcat, Ayton was considered for the No. 1 pick coming out of college. Listed at 7-foot-1, Ayton is a physically daunting task for any team hoping to slow him. Combined with his great footwork, arsenal of post moves and soft touch on his jumper, Ayton was the ideal modern big man.
Ayton earning a spot on the All-Rookie first team would not be surprising, but he remains the underdog in the Rookie of the Year race. Slovenian sensation Luka Doncic, a positionless playmaker for the Dallas Mavericks, holds the best odds to take home the award at +350.
His minutes have decreased as the preseason has progressed, but Ayton is averaging 20.5 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks through his first four games. If this is any indication of how he’ll perform during the regular season, it won’t be hard for Ayton to make an All-Rookie team.
For Ayton to overcome the consensus, he’ll need to live up to the hype and exceed the early expectations placed on him.
De’Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo
The aforementioned Phoenix guard rotation is a doozy. After trading veteran guard Brandon Knight earlier in the offseason, former general manager Ryan McDonough was tasked with finding a new starting point guard for the season. He was met with the cruel reality that the point guard market is more rigid than expected.
Now, the rookie tandem of Melton and Okobo figures to factor into the rotation in some way.
According to Odds Shark, Melton’s odds to win Rookie of the Year stand at +2000 while Okobo remains unlisted. The opportunity alone affords the Suns’ rookies a great chance to land a spot on one of the All-Rookie teams, since they’ll likely earn playing time faster than many other eligible players.
Okobo played 24 minutes in the preseason opener while Melton received a DNP — Coach’s Decision. Trading minutes with guard Shaquille Harrison, Okobo impressed with eight points, five rebounds, three assists and a steal in the game. He wasn’t very efficient, committing five fouls and one turnover during that time, but his confidence as a floor general was evident by his keen decision-making and emphasis on ball movement.
Even so, Okobo’s minutes aren’t secure headed into the regular season. In the past two games, Melton has come alive with a combined 18 points in 19 minutes of play. Head coach Igor Kokoskov will continue to experiment with his rotation through the preseason and into the regular season.
Although Melton is ranked higher than him in the odds and could emerge closer to the start of the season, Okobo is currently the point guard to look out for in Phoenix. Whether that translates to a spot on an All-Rookie team is yet to be determined, but the chances are not in their favor.
They’re fighting against the odds, but the opportunity will be available for one or both of the Suns’ rookie point guards to sneak onto an All-Rookie team.
Bridges, a product of the illustrious Villanova system, was valued as one of the top prospects despite falling to the tenth pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. By trading up from the No. 16 pick to secure Bridges, Phoenix committed to the small forward as one of their rising stars. Over the past year, the 22-year-old has shown signs of maturity and poised decision-making.
As one of the best 3-and-D prospects of the draft class, Bridges likely enticed McDonough and the rest of the Suns front office for his three-point shot, physicality and high IQ. At 6-foot-7 with a seven-foot wingspan, Bridges has the physical tools to become an elite NBA defender.
Whether or not his game translates to the pros this season is to be determined, but all signs point toward a successful season for Bridges. Phoenix’s acquisition of small forward Trevor Ariza throws a wrench into his potential playing time. With Ariza, Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren occupying the wing, it’s likely that Bridges’ playing time will be stagnated.
Even so, he’s got a real chance to prove what he’s worth this season. Odds Shark has Bridges tied for No. 14 on the list with +4000 odds to win the Rookie of the Year. He has struggled through the preseason, shooting one-for-eight through three games. He’ll miss the remainder of preseason with a left elbow sprain, but his impressive body of work throughout college and the Summer League make him an enticing candidate to make an All-Rookie team.
Should he develop a more advanced role within Kokoskov’s lineup, Bridges could have a real chance at making one of the two All-Rookie Teams.