Arizona Sports roundtable: Questions for the Suns in 2017-18, Part 1

Oct 18, 2017, 5:01 AM | Updated: 5:21 pm

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LISTEN: Ryan McDonough, Suns GM

The Phoenix Suns’ season is upon us.

They tip 2017-18 on Wednesday, facing the Portland Trail Blazers. The game, which will air on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station, tips off at 7 p.m. and, starting at 4:30 p.m., the “Suns’ Opening Night Special” will feature special roundtables to lead into the opener.

But before that, we asked our show hosts, Suns reporters and Empire of the Suns writers four key questions about Phoenix’s upcoming season. Here are two, with two more to be found here.

What are your expectations for Devin Booker in his third season?

Jon Bloom (Suns postgame show host): This is a tough one for me because all this young man has done is exceed my expectations on and off the court since coming into the league, and it’s tempting to think about that ceiling continuing to rise. That said, I think it’s realistic to expect improvement in his defense, rebounding, playmaking ability and leadership. A lot of that won’t show up in the box score or be apparent to the casual fan, but if you watch enough games this season you should see it.

Doug Franz (Co-host of Doug & Wolf): To change nothing as a person, finish in the top 10 in three-point percentage and to actually focus throughout an entire defensive possession.

John Gambadoro (Co-host of Burns & Gambo)Booker will continue to grow and develop as the face of the Suns franchise and a possible All-Star. He needs better players around him to make him better and that is where the development of the young Suns roster will be crucial for him. The Suns want everyone to shoot when open and that may impact Booker’s ability to get more shots but it is imperative that in the fourth quarter of any close game the Suns look to him to take charge.

Dave Burns (Co-host of Burns & Gambo)My main expectation is that he’ll continue along the trajectory that we’re all betting the house on. I don’t anticipate a stumble or a setback. I think he’s too driven and too good. But the whole plan is built on the idea of him being great. If he’s not, or starts to show signs that he’s stalled, it calls into question the whole plan.

Craig Grialou (Reporter): As difficult as it may be, especially in a loaded Western Conference, there is no reason not to expect Devin Booker to be an All-Star, or at least play at an All-Star level and then let the debate follow on whether or not he should be included on the team. Booker finally turns 21 two weeks into the season, and if he can just improve his defense, the sky’s the limit for this kid.

Vince Marotta (Co-host of Bickley & Marotta): I expect Booker just to continue to grow – mostly on the defensive end. I don’t know if Book is ready to put a team on his shoulders and carry it to wins on a consistent basis, but his competitiveness alone should allow him to make strides on the defensive end.

Luke Lapinski (Host of The Rundown with Luke Lapinski): Continued development. That doesn’t mean he needs to average more points per game, or that he needs to put up 71 when they visit Boston this season. Just means he needs to keep evolving on both ends of the floor — and as a leader. This is going to be his team for a long time (hopefully), so it’s important that he emerge as a major voice on the floor and in that room.

Kellan Olson (Editor, Empire of the Suns reporter): With a full season as the primary offensive option under his belt, Booker will add more balance to his game. The scoring will still be there, but the assist numbers and efficiency will rise as he grows into a complete offensive player.

Kevin Zimmerman (Editor, Empire of the Suns reporter): Efficiency and playmaking will improve, but with the offense growing around Booker, I think him picking and choosing the correct spots when he wants to take over a game with his own offense is the step I want to see for him to lead a winning team.

By the end of the year, which player will separate themselves as the future second option, assuming Booker continues growing into the face of the franchise?

Bloom: I can’t help but buy into Josh Jackson and his potential stardom in this league. He is going to have his share of rough nights shooting the ball, but every rookie does. He is also going to do things most rookies are unable to do like play shutdown defense against some of the best the league has to offer. He’s already proven to me his shot isn’t broken, and with his work ethic, it should only get better.

Franz: Josh Jackson by default, but the answer to the question is not on the current roster. There’s nothing I’ve seen to believe in Bender. Chriss was a great pick but he isn’t ready to create his own shot. Len’s future is with another franchise. Ulis and Warren are excellent bench players on a playoff team but don’t fit the bill as answers to the question.

Gambadoro: There is no doubt in my mind it is Josh Jackson. Besides Booker, Jackson to me is the only sure thing they have. The jury is still out on Chriss, Bender, Ulis, Len, etc. Jackson is a huge piece going forward. The three best assets the Suns have are Booker, Jackson and their first-round pick which will again be a high lottery pick.

Burns: It’s got to be Josh Jackson. Sounds like he’s going to be a starter from the word go. It’s a lot to put on a kid right out of college but there are no great options. T.J. Warren is good but limited. Chriss and Bender still have a lot to show and much to prove.

Grialou: The obvious answer(s) is Dragan Bender and/or Marquese Chriss. Both need to make major strides this season. The question is playing time, for both of them. For that reason, and because of the money invested in him, T.J. Warren needs to take that next step. A year ago, he was arguably the team’s best/most consistent player until he got hurt. Assuming he can stay healthy, Warren should solidify himself as the future second option.

Marotta: I think it’s going to be Josh Jackson. Getting a good look at him during preseason — where Jackson played a ton of minutes in T.J. Warren’s absence –- he’s non-stop energy. As he gets his feel, he’ll cut down on the turnovers, which plagued him in the preseason, and I think the shot, which is still all kinds of wonky, will improve (not aesthetically, but results-wise).

Lapinski: Josh Jackson. Not necessarily as the No. 2 scorer, but moreso as the second face of the franchise — and someone who can impact the game in multiple ways. Whether it was ever a realistic possibility or not, there’s a perception out there now that the Suns passed on making a deal for Kyrie Irving because they wouldn’t part with Jackson. And there’s plenty of talk nationally that he can be the Rookie of the Year. So he’s facing some pressure right out of the gate.

Olson: I believe this is already T.J. Warren. It’s a complex dynamic with him and Josh Jackson, but if Warren can stay healthy, he will be a rare, hyper-efficient 15-plus points per game scorer.

Zimmerman: As I remain a bit worried about the development of Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, the small forward position has two good options to become this, but I think Warren is ready for a breakout year.

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