Jones, Williams look ahead from Vegas with Suns’ roster nearly complete
LAS VEGAS — The difficult task for Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones is complete.
With Kelly Oubre Jr. agreeing to a two-year, $30 million deal on Wednesday night, the Suns’ roster is done.
And for those lower on Jones’ execution like myself or those higher on his offseason moves, you can’t doubt that it’s mission accomplished.
The two biggest holes on the roster, holes so large in which you can insert any Grand Canyon metaphors you desire here, are filled.
The man himself will explain further.
“We set out in the summer to fill our power forward and point guard position,” Jones said Sunday. “We did that via the draft (and free agency). We wanted to add positional depth and balance. We did that by adding Frank (Kaminsky), adding Aron Baynes. The addition of Ricky Rubio addressed the point guard position, Dario Saric addressed our power forward position.
“And then from there, in the draft adding Cam (Johnson) and Ty (Jerome), as well as Jalen (Lecque), gave us some more guard depth and we made some moves, some transactions that kind of cleared some cap space for us to be able to make these moves happen and to kind of clear a pathway for guys to compete for an opportunity to move forward for us.”
On Tuesday, Jones reflected further on the work done.
“I think we’ve had a tremendous roster turnover,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of guys who have just been really thrown in the mix, so we have to let it settle and see how it plays out. We have a competitive group and we have a competitive environment and I think when you put the type of guys that we have in that environment, I think a lot of those holes will be filled from within.”
That environment is going to be dictated by new head coach Monty Williams, who is 2.5 months removed from getting the job.
In late May when he was introduced, Williams wasn’t ready to commit to how his team will play since he didn’t know the roster.
Now he does.
“The style of play, now we can start to look at our roster, and we can see it on the floor, the style of play that we want to implement — moving the ball, playing out of point five, which is something Ricky’s heard the past few days in our workouts,” Williams said Tuesday.
Williams highlighted defending in transition, somewhere the Suns have been notoriously terrible in the past couple of seasons.
In points allowed per 100 possessions in transition, the Suns the past four years have finished 29th, 30th, 28th and 24th, per Cleaning the Glass.
“It starts with our defensive mindset. Our world will start in transition,” Williams said. In this league, if you can’t get back in transition and take away easy baskets and open threes, you’re just going to have a tough time. It’s going to start with defense.
“[Rubio’s] ability, Devin’s ability, Deandre’s ability will help us score, along with Dario and Frank and all the other guys that fill out our roster but it’s going to start with defense and we have to improve.”
The philosophy for Williams is going to be a wide-open competition at forward. That will feature Oubre, Mikal Bridges, Johnson, Saric and Kaminsky all vying for minutes.
“We’re not giving anything away as we go forward,” Williams said. “Our team is set up to compete and I’m so looking forward to that in training camp — watching guys compete. We know that Ricky is going to start, Devin is going to start, Deandre will start, but after that, it’s going to be competitive.”
SUMMER LEAGUE BEGINS TO WRAP UP
The Suns’ “regular season” for the NBA’s Summer League in Las Vegas ended on Wednesday night with a 79-78 win over the San Antonio Spurs.
They will go on to play in either one consolation game on Friday or Saturday or in an eight-team tournament that begins on Saturday.
Once again, it was undrafted free agent signing Jalen Lecque being the biggest standout for Phoenix.
On top of all the promising attributes Lecque has shown like his physicality and positive defensive habits, some of the unknowns in his game popped up Wednesday.
“He’s been great,” summer league head coach Willie Green said of Lecque. “It’s a pleasant surprise. We knew athletically where he was but just being able to see him start to put together, and you can see each game he is getting better and better. He’s coming slowly but huge upside for Jalen.”
He got two jumpers to fall after converting on none through two games.
“It was a little trying to figure it out because I didn’t take too many in the first two games but coach trusted me to play through my mistakes,” Lecque said. He finished with a team-high 14 points.
Obviously, given Lecque’s explosiveness as a slasher, if he has a consistent jumper to rely on, he can be a difference-maker offensively whether or not his point guard skills come along.
It has been clear through three games that Lecque has something special to his game that could be harnessed and grown into a legitimate NBA guard.
Now it’s on the Suns to have the right plan of action with Lecque.
He’s on a four-year deal and the most obvious choice is him spending at least a year with the NAZ Suns in the G League, but Phoenix will, rightfully so, want him to get stretches on the big boy roster to get acclimated in its practices.
“I think our job as coaches and our staff, in general, is making sure he’s doing things the right way,” Green said of Lecque. “Whether it’s in practice, it’s in shootarounds, it’s his own individual time, we want to make sure that he’s building a great foundation and that’s what we’re preaching all summer.”
While Lecque is a flyer given how the team acquired his services, it’s still a rather large task for the new regime given the previous regime’s failures at developing raw players.
If executed well enough and Lecque delivers on his upside, the Suns could have their current- and long-term point guard ready to go as soon as the Rubio era ends in Phoenix.