Phoenix Suns Off-Season: Building for Booker

The Phoenix Suns made an impressive run last season in the bubble. The Suns won every single game in the regular-season bubble, but they were eliminated from the playoffs. The Portland Trail Blazers held them and the Memphis Grizzlies off to take the final spot. It seemed like Devin Booker was at the forefront for every game, averaging 31 points and 6.1 assists per game in that stretch. But, General Manager James Jones had different plans for Booker and the Suns this Phoenix Suns off-season.

Chris Paul

The Suns traded away Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque, Kelly Oubre, Ricky Rubio, and a 2022 first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Chris Paul and Abdel Nader.

This trade did wonders for the Phoneix Suns. While Ricky Rubio averaged the fourth-most assists per game of any player last year, Chris Paul is a much better and well-rounded player. Rubio averaged 13.1 points and 8.8 assists per game on 41% shooting last season. Paul, on the other hand, averaged 17.6 points and 6.7 assists per game on 49% shooting from the field.

Paul is also a much better defender, averaging 1.6 steals last season, recording a 1.4 Defensive Box Plus/Minus, and three defensive win shares. Rubio is an average defender at best, recording a 0.7 DBPM last season with the Suns.

Getting rid of Kelly Oubre was also a great move for the value of Chris Paul. Last season, Oubre recorded 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in an average of 34.5 minutes per game. This season, Oubre has seriously struggled with the Warriors. He is averaging 12 points per game and shooting an abysmal 36.6% from the field and 20% from behind the arc.

Veteran Pick Ups

Jae Crowder: Jae Crowder made an interesting impact on the Miami Heat last season in the bubble. Crowder averaged 12 points per game on 31.4 average minutes per night. The biggest downside from Crowder is his shooting efficiency as a 42% career shooter from the field and a 34% shooter from behind the arc. He is an average defender off the bench but can come up with big points when stars are off-target.

Dario Saric: The former 12th overall pick, Dario Saric, signed a three-year $27 million contract with the Phoenix Suns in the off-season. While Saric has never truly lived up to the hype he received coming into the NBA, he has averaged double-digit figures for his entire career. He is a career 44% shooter from the field and 35% from three-point land.

Draft

Jalen Smith: Jalen Smith was selected by the Phoenix Suns with the 10th overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft. The Suns selected Jalen to help fill the big man position behind Deandre Ayton. Smith can run the floor extremely well and is starting to develop a jump shot.

In his first season at Maryland, Smith shot 26% from three but improved that to 36% before he left for the draft. He averaged 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in his last season there.

Smith has only played two games this season and was put into COVID-protocols, leaving him no opportunity to show his strengths yet.

Takeaways

The Phoenix Suns made an excellent move trading for Chris Paul to facilitate the playmaking abilities of Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. Booker is two years into his five-year $158 million contract he signed in 2018. After the bubble, it seemed like he was starting to think about exploring elsewhere without some kind of change, but the Chris Paul trade certainly ended those rumors.

Overall, the Phoenix Suns are keeping morale high within their organization after bringing in one of the league’s best players at a reasonable cost. James Jones is certainly gearing his team up for a deep playoff run after barely missing out last season. The Suns are currently 7-5 on the season with the fourth-best record in the Western Conference.

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