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Zach Lowe: Suns will win more now, not positioned for future

NBA photographer Michael Gonzalez photographs Phoenix Suns' DeAndre Ayton during media day at the NBA basketball team's practice facility, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The deficit of NBA-caliber players on the Phoenix Suns has withered to some degree. That alone is a reason to be optimistic about their upcoming 2019-20 season.

Still, playing in a powerhouse Western Conference doesn’t afford the Suns with time to get a reworked roster clicking. Even if Phoenix is up and running under head coach Monty Williams, the team won’t be favored on most nights.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe believes the Suns will be better than the 19-win squad from last season, but in his 30-team preseason rankings that’s broken into tiers, he still projects them at the very bottom of the NBA.

Phoenix should at least be competitive. Ricky Rubio is a big upgrade over … nothing. Deandre Ayton learned the basics — like, the most basic basics — of guarding the NBA pick-and-roll, and might become a normal below-average defender. The Suns have a passable wing rotation in Devin Booker (an All-Star very soon), Kelly Oubre Jr., Mikal Bridges and Tyler Johnson. Dario Saric is an acceptable starter. Keep an eye on Cheick Diallo, who showed flashes last season in New Orleans.

The Suns will win more games in 2019-20. That doesn’t mean they maximized their resources to position themselves for 2021 and (way) beyond — the timeline they should care about.

Lowe’s last sentence likely references the offseason moves that saw the Phoenix front office part with forwards T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson for next-to-nothing.

After the first week of free agency, the NBA writer and reporter wrote that Phoenix trading Jackson, point guard De’Anthony Melton and two second-round picks for second-year point guard Jevon Carter and the right to waive veteran Kyle Korver bordered on malpractice.

“… Incentivizing another team to take him in part because you screwed up your cap sheet is a disaster.”

Phoenix made the Jackson deal to open up cap space in order to sign Rubio and re-sign Oubre in free agency.

Lowe also didn’t agree with Rubio’s fit next to Booker, or whether Oubre can continue developing into a defensive menace.

The Suns also dealt. Warren plus a No. 32 overall pick to the Indiana Pacers with only cap space coming back to them.

It’s fair to criticize all those moves, which help in the short-term but at the sacrifice of long-term cap flexibility and sustainability.

But at the end of the day, general manager James Jones had reason to believe addition by subtraction will help Phoenix. A culture change needed to happen.

The good news is this: Hope for the Suns will continue to ride on the growth from Booker and Ayton. That duo reaching the high expectations will make all of the questionable moves above forgivable.

They would dictate any theoretical situation, regardless of what Jones did or does. And in this reality, it’s on them as well.


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