EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
Empire of the Suns’ wing reset for Suns heading into 2019 offseason
The Phoenix Suns have some cleaning up to do on the wing.
The group has two first-round picks from the last two years, their second-highest paid long-term contract and their most important free agent. On top of that, the sixth pick in the 2019 NBA Draft adds a decent likelihood of the Suns bringing in the likes of Jarrett Culver, De’Andre Hunter or Cam Reddish if they make a pick.
With that, Empire of the Suns’ Kellan Olson and Kevin Zimmerman are going to reset the group and rank them using a scoring system of five different categories: offensive creation, spacing the floor, switchability, defensive ability and control/contract value.
The design behind this is to figure out which players best accent Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker as secondary pieces going forward. Each player earns a 1-10 rating in each category based on the best of the best. So, Stephen Curry is a 10 on spacing the floor, Kawhi Leonard is a 10 on defensive ability and so on.
Lastly, potential does count. Mikal Bridges and Josh Jackson combine for only three years of NBA experience. They should get credited with the chance for growth if it’s there. Kelly Oubre Jr. and T.J. Warren have less to do.
You’ll find a breakdown on specifics for each category before we give our thoughts on how the four wings shape up in said category.
Let’s dive in with Kellan and Kevin’s average scores.
How much can this wing be trusted with the ball in their hands? Can they run pick-and-roll? Can they isolate and score? How about providing for others? Booker will need help every now and then and that extra threat will go leaps and bounds in assisting him.
Bridges – 5.5
Jackson – 5
Oubre – 7
Warren – 6
Kellan Olson: Bridges and Jackson are all about potential here. I think Bridges could be the best of the four in this department (see this piece for more!) but I need to watch another year before I rate him above the proven scoring commodity of Oubre and Warren. Jackson’s score is really high given how poor he’s been as a decision-maker, but he’s still young and has guard skills as a wing. That should matter, at least to me!
Kevin Zimmerman: Oubre and Warren do it differently but are proven, the former gets the nod because he can do it in a more analytic-friendly style and he’s got even less tunnel-vision than Warren. It is wild that Jackson is far and away the best playmaker yet comes in last in our combined scores because of his inefficient scoring habits.
Spacing the floor
This one is pretty cut and dry. How good are they as shooters and what do they provide as floor spacers?
Bridges – 7.5
Jackson – 4
Oubre – 5
Warren – 5
Olson: Warren takes a hit because he’s still a mid-range scorer at heart and that clogs the floor. I’m giving Jackson two bonus points for completely re-working his shot and showing improvement at the end of the season. Bridges has the quickest release and highest IQ to make the right decisions when you kick it out to him. I’m betting on his %s rising in year two. Oubre’s 32.5% in Phoenix was disappointing.
Zimmerman: Blame Kellan for tying up Oubre and Warren. Oubre may be offensively limited, but the requirement that Warren must be inside the arc just to get to his 20 points a night matters to me, no matter how much better his three-point shot got last year.
Guarding multiple positions is a required skill in the NBA at this point and the Suns will play these guys together a lot. That means, well, switching on defense.
Bridges – 8
Jackson – 8
Oubre – 7
Warren – 3.5
Olson: Bridges defends point guards and has shown he can be a nuisance to the league’s top scorers. Jackson and Oubre make up for being slightly less versatile by working their absolute tails off and battling when at a disadvantage. Warren can only guard certain types of 3s and 4s, which is a problem.
Zimmerman: I actually don’t know which of Jackson and Bridges should earn a tie-break in this regard.
Think about defending on the ball for sure, but also if you can trust them off the ball and not to be the consistent source of a breakdown.
Bridges – 8.5
Jackson – 6
Oubre – 7
Warren – 3.5
Olson: Oubre is a certified good NBA defender. As is Bridges, who has the potential to be great and make All-Defense teams. Jackson’s a madman and makes dumb decisions all the time but he flashes brilliance and still has the upside to be very, very good. Warren’s actually sneaky passable when the defense is playing well but he’s a mess when the group isn’t synced up.
Zimmerman: Jackson certainly should be a lot higher on this list. He’s flashed great on-ball work, but he’s too inconsistent and makes too many baffling decisions off the ball to rank well here.
Booker makes a whole lot of money and the team’s going to pay more to a point guard and/or power forward sooner rather than later. How much value do their current contract situations provide?
Bridges – 8.5
Jackson – 4.5
Oubre – 4.5
Warren – 4.5
Olson: The Suns will pay Bridges an average of less than $5 million over the next 3 seasons for a unique skill set at a premium spot. And he’s going to get better. Bargain! Jackson was the team’s worst player last season and makes $7 million next year while Warren’s a bad fit on the roster making eight figures. Oubre would get a higher rating if he wasn’t about to get paid, paid.
Zimmerman: How Oubre’s contract situation bears out changes this. If he’s re-signed even on an overpriced deal, long-term, he gets a bump up from me because having dudes locked in next to Booker and Ayton is important, and I think he’s the second-best player at his peak after Bridges. By the way, I still think he can improve!
Bridges – 40
Jackson – 27.5
Oubre – 30.5
Warren – 22.5
Olson: Honestly surprised at how high I wound up having Jackson. It’s easy to talk yourself into potential with him despite everything that has gone wrong. Oubre’s score is a nicely-valued contract and slightly improved 3P% away from being close to Bridges. Speaking of that man, I think this is indicative of how much I believe in his upside. Warren, just, yeah.
Zimmerman: No surprise that Bridges runs away with this. It seems we still remain hopeful regarding Josh Jackson and see how valuable it would be for the Suns to lock in Oubre. Warren remains a conundrum, and this deep into his career I remain curious about how he would fit on a good team. Because we haven’t seen him on one.