With the 2019-20 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we'll dedicate one day to each team in the league.
Today, we're looking at the Phoenix Suns.
2018-19 season record
19-63 (15th in Western Conference)
2019- 20 projected season record
30-52 (14th in Western Conference)
Ricky Rubio (free agency)
Frank Kaminsky (free agency)
Aron Baynes (trade)
Dario Saric (trade)
T.J. Warren (trade)
Richaun Holmes (free agency)
Troy Daniels (free agency)
|PG||Ricky Rubio||Tyler Johnson||Jevon Carter||Elie Okobo|
|SG||Devin Booker||Cameron Johnson|
|SF||Kelly Oubre Jr.||Mikal Bridges|
|PF||Dario Saric||Frank Kaminsky|
|C||DeAndre Ayton||Aron Baynes||Cheick Diallo|
3 Key Storylines
Can Rubio help Booker take over?
There's no debating Devin Booker's talent but that hasn't translated to wins for the Phoenix Suns.
In his four years in Phoenix, the Suns have a record of 87-241 (.361) and have never won more than 24 games in a season. Of course, none of this is entirely Booker's fault.
MORE: Can Devin Booker become a winner in Phoenix?
The roster around him does play a huge role in the team's win-loss record and that seems to have taken much better shape heading into the 2019-20 season. The team receives its biggest boost at point guard in Ricky Rubio, who is arguably the first starting-caliber point guard the Suns have had in a couple of seasons.
Rubio is coming off a spectacular FIBA World Cup in China. Not only was he part of the gold medal-winning Spanish national squad but he was also named MVP of the tournament with averages of 16.4 points, 6.0 assists and 4.6 rebounds.
After no playoff appearances for six seasons in Minnesota, he played 11 playoff games for the Utah Jazz over the last couple of seasons. That experience will surely add a lot of value to a largely inexperienced and young Suns squad.
More importantly, Rubio playing point takes a tremendous amount of ball-handling pressure off of Booker. Can the Rubio acquisition unlock Booker?
Only time will show how this duo fares but it is certainly the best backcourt the team has had in a couple of years.
Monty Williams back to HC duties
Since Alvin Gentry's departure in 2013, the Suns have had six head coaches in as many years. So, of course, the head coach and his performance is going to be a key storyline all throughout the season. The latest individual to add himself to the Suns' head coaching musical chairs is Monty Williams.
His previous tenure as a head coach was for the New Orleans Pelicans from 2010 to 2015, leading them to a 173-221 (.439) regular-season record.
Williams was an associate head coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2015-16 season. Needing time to deal with his wife's death (in February 2016), Williams didn't take up any coaching responsibilities for another couple of seasons.
Then, prior to the start of the 2018-19 season, he joined the Philadelphia 76ers' staff as an assistant.
According to Shams Charania, Williams is on a five-year contract with the Suns. However, that hasn't stopped the franchise from changing coaches before.
Ayton at power forward in Year 2?
In his rookie year, Deandre Ayton - the No. 1 pick of the 2019 NBA Draft - finished with averages of 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds. That earned him a spot on the All-Rookie First Team.
For Year 2, Suns' General Manager James Jones has plans for his promising big man. On The Outlet podcast, he revealed that the team intends to play Ayton at the power forward. Here's the quote where he talks about his young big man:
"This year we have - from Frank Kaminsky, Dario Saric, Cheick Diallo - we can play DeAndre (Ayton) at power forward if we need to with Aron Baynes as our center," Jones said. "We have a lot of depth at that position."
When he heard it, Ayton seemed excited about playing in a big frontcourt.
Full quote from Deandre Ayton on chance of playing PF:- Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) September 24, 2019
"Ahh! I heard the word! That's college back all over again. That's my born-and-raised position is the power forward. It's a great look. It's a big lineup too so I'm excited to start if that happens."
As Jones mentions, the depth at the frontcourt positions is key to playing Ayton at the four spot but the addition of Aron Baynes cannot be undermined from a defensive standpoint.
The last three seasons, the Suns have been among the bottom three in defensive rating. Meanwhile, in his two seasons in Boston, Baynes and Celtics were among the top six in defence.
5 games to watch
Oct. 24 vs Sacramento Kings
Four of the Suns' first five opponents in the 2019-20 season are teams that made the playoffs last year. The only exception? Their division rival Sacramento Kings.
This contest is the team's season and home opener, a game that could see an exciting duel between their guards (Devin Booker vs De'Aaron Fox/Buddy Hield).
The contest will be Monty Williams' first as a head coach since 2015. Note: Igor Kokoskov, now a member of Kings coaching staff, was the head coach of the Suns last season.
Oct. 26 vs. LA Clippers
The Suns will see the championship-contending LA Clippers for the first time when they host them in the first week of the new season.
It should be a full house at the Talking Stick Resort Arena as the city of Phoenix will see the formidable two-way wing duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for the first time. The Suns will face their division rivals three other times in the season.
Nov. 4 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Before last year's No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton began his NBA career, he was compared to Joel Embiid by former NBA Champion and ESPN Analyst Chauncey Billups during the 2018 NBA Draft.
Embiid didn't take that comparison well. He dominated Ayton and the Suns averaging 37.5 points and 17.5 rebounds in the two wins. In those two games, Ayton averaged a double-double of 17.5 points and 10 rebounds. Can he put on a better show against the dominant Embiid this season?
This game is also the first Eastern Conference team that the Suns host. The talent-heavy 76ers are considered by many to come out of the East.
Nov. 21 vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Nearly a month into the season, Phoenix gets its first glimpse of superstar rookie Zion Williams and the deep New Orleans Pelicans.
If that isn't exciting enough, the visitors are the last franchise that Monty Williams had coached from 2010 to 2015.
Jan. 18 at Boston Celtics
Can Booker drop 70 again in the Garden? Probably not.
Still, the TD Garden must be a special place for Booker. Even without scoring 70, can he help the Suns upset the Celtics on their home floor for the second year in a row?
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