The start of the season was a good indicator of how horrible the entire Suns season would be, as they lost their first three games of the season, with two of these losses being by 48 and 42 points. These defeats led to the firing of head coach Earl Watson, who was replaced by his assistant Jay Triano for the rest of the season.
Phoenix only ended up winning four of their last 36 games of the regular season, something that gave them the “reward” of having the first overall pick in the draft.
The only good news that Phoenix had last season was that Devin Booker improved his offensive efficiency, with better shooting percentages on field goals, three-pointers and free throws. On the other side, sophomore Dragan Bender and rookie Josh Jackson had disappointing seasons and were unable to have the same impact that other young players managed to have on their teams.
With the first overall pick of the draft on their pocket, Phoenix’s front office decided to be active on all fronts: coaching staff, draft and free agency. They really wanted to make a statement in the league and they achieved just that.
Igor Kokoskov was their choice to be the team’s new head coach and even though he isn’t American, he has a lot of experience in the league as an assistant coach, including a recent stint in Utah. However, the biggest reason for his hire was the fact that he led the Slovenian national team to a Eurobasket title in 2017.
Deandre Ayton was the obvious choice as the #1 overall pick in the draft and now the Suns have a Center for the future. Ayton has incredible athleticism and his offensive game is already above average, but his defensive instincts are still subpar.
Phoenix also signed Trevor Ariza from Houston in the free agency market. Ariza is the kind of player the Suns badly needed: a “3 & D” player who is a great fit in the roster, as they lacked a player with such profile. However, the substantial contract they gave to Ariza might become a problem in the future given his age, but for now Ariza will be a very important piece in the team, as he will make an immediate impact in the lineup.
The Suns were the worst team in the league last season when it came to shoot three-pointers, even though Booker improved his perimeter shooting. Ariza should be able to help the team in this area and the Suns also traded for Ryan Anderson, another former Rockets player, a Power Forward with very good perimeter shooting skills.
The biggest problem Phoenix will have this season is related with the Point Guard position, where the Suns have several young players who are all unproven and haven’t convinced anyone yet that they can be solid role players in a NBA team: Shaquille Harrison, Isaiah Canaan, Troy Daniels and rookie Elie Okobo.
Phoenix’s idea might be to turn Devin Booker into a James Harden, but Booker is yet to show any kind of playmaker skills similar to Harden’s. Booker averaged 3.6 turnovers per game and 4.7 assists per game last season, a fairly low assist/turnover ratio, which prevents him from being an effective playmaker. Therefore, we’ll need to wait and see what decision the new Suns head coach will make regarding the PG position.
Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender and Mikal Bridges might be part of the reason why the Suns are able to be competitive this season, but the most likely outcome is that these young players will need more time to develop until they can become key pieces of this roster. Phoenix is primed to have a much better season than last year’s, but unfortunately for them all the Western teams who struggled last season, such as the LA Lakers, Dallas and Memphis, are also likely to improve considerably this season. With such a young roster, it might be a lot more important for the Suns to develop their players this season than to try to make a run in order to get a low seed in the playoffs.