30 teams in 30 days: Booker, Jackson only reasons for optimism in Phoenix


30 teams in 30 days: Booker, Jackson only reasons for optimism in Phoenix

First, let’s start with the good in Phoenix right now. 

Don’t worry. This won’t be very long. 

Devin Booker.

The 20-year-old scores the ball … a lot. 


That’s enough positivity for a team that’s positively awful heading into what will likely be an eighth straight season without a trip to the postseason.

Booker’s shot mechanics are textbook perfect, so it’s no surprise that he averaged 22.1 points per game last season.

But he took more than 18 shots per game while shooting less than 43 percent from the field and just 36.3 percent from 3-point range.

He embodies what makes Phoenix a fun team to watch, but one that isn’t built to be successful.

They score a ton of points (they ranked ninth in the league last season), but did so by taking a ton of shots (88.5 per game ranked 2nd in the NBA) while playing turnstile-defense which is evident by their bottom-three status in key defensive categories such as defensive rating (109.3, 28th in the NBA), opponent points off turnovers (18.1, 28th) and opponent fast break points (16.), 29th).

That’s why the Suns did all they could to ensure that Kansas’ Josh Jackson, arguably the best two-way wing player in last June’s NBA draft, was still on the board when it was their turn to pick with the fourth overall selection.

After Boston swapped out the number one pick to Philadelphia for the Sixers’ number three selection and a future first-rounder, Phoenix was concerned that the Celtics might draft the Kansas star at No. 3.

Jackson’s workout for Boston was cancelled at the last minute (the Celtics’ brass was on a plane in route to California to watch him when they got the news from his agent that his workout was being called off), which pissed off Boston’s front office and made it a lot easier for the Celtics to pass on Jackson – just the way Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough, a former assistant GM in Boston, wanted it.

“You guys know my connection to the Boston Celtics and the respect I have for Danny Ainge,” McDonough said during the introductory press conference after they selected Jackson. “But you guys also know how competitive I am, and it is a competition. The process is what it is, and we played by the rules, I guess. I’m just thrilled Josh Jackson is sitting next to me and is a member of the Phoenix Suns.”

Booker’s scoring ability and Jackson’s potential as a two-way standout give the Suns hope that their days of being among the worst teams in the NBA, won’t last much longer.

But considering the holes they have in the frontcourt and the team’s porous defense, this season is looking a lot like it’ll be another playoff-less campaign.

Key free agent/draft/trade additions:  Alan Williams (re-signed).

Key losses: None.

Rookies of note: Josh Jackson.

Expectations: 23-59 (5th in the Pacific Division, 15th in the West)

Bleacher Report puts Jayson Tatum on 'overhyped' list

Bleacher Report puts Jayson Tatum on 'overhyped' list

Bleacher Report ran a piece Tuesday listing the NBA's five "most overhyped players" entering the coming season. Jayson Tatum leads the list. Hold me back. 

These pieces are obviously subjective as hell, as they rely on "people probably think X," which may or may not be the reality of the situation. In the case of Tatum, writer Grant Hughes acknowledges that he feels Tatum is a franchise player, but that he could be a victim of the team for which he plays. 

Writes Hughes

Kyrie Irving has never been one to take a backseat, and with him back on the floor, it'll be much harder for Tatum to build on his postseason takeover. Throw Gordon Hayward into the mix, and there will be even fewer touches for the 20-year-old wing. And that's to say nothing of Jaylen Brown, who's a superior defender at the moment and averaged 18 points per game in the playoffs on more efficient shooting than Tatum managed. He's due for an increased role as well.

C's fans can first breathe at the fact that Hughes most certainly is not calling Tatum overrated. Then, if they're rational, they can wonder whether Hughes has a point. 

Tatum's five best scoring games of the regular season came with Kyrie out of the lineup, one of which was prior to Irving being shut down for the season. He obviously went on to average over four and a half points more in the postseason without Irving (18.5) than he did in the regular season (13.9). 

No, Tatum is not going to be the Celtics' top scorer this season. He also won't be a rookie again. Dude looked like he tacked on like 80 pounds of muscle like a month after the season ended. He's been in gyms destroying everyone from Joel Embiid to a hilarious assortment of camp-going children. He's out here mentoring Kobe

Even if Brad Stevens wants to get creative and have Tatum come off the bench (that doesn't need to happen; he can start the five best players), Tatum is a lethal enough offensive player to put up 20 a night. 

But back to the idea of him being overhyped. I don't think anyone's putting the kid in the MVP conversation. They probably just saw the third overall pick have a really good rookie year and figure that he'll continue to blossom into a star, if he isn't one already. 

The other players listed in the piece were DeMarcus Cousins, Zach LaVine, Josh Jackson and Kawhi Leonard. Leonard falls into the rule of thumb that if you're one of the five best players in the league, as Kawhi is, it's really easy for people to overhype you. That's not Leonard's fault. 

But the other guys? Who the heck is hyping -- let alone overhyping -- Zach LaVine? The only time Zach LaVine made headlines this summer was when he was given an offersheet by the Kings that most felt was too much and the Bulls matched it. Everyone thinks he's a stinky defensive player who's coming off an ACL injury. Unless there's some expectation that he's going to start averaging six or seven more points a night than he ever has, he isn't being overhyped. He's just overpaid. 

The Cousins pick could very well be fair. As Hughes writes, Boogie is a "luxury, not a game-changer for the Warriors." It's very possible that his impact on the Warriors won't be as significant as the league fears. Maybe he takes longer than expected to come back. Maybe when he does come back, he proves to be a divisive player with that group. Then again, maybe he gives them 25 and 12 a night and the Warriors go undefeated in the postseason. 

Selling Jackson as overhyped is tough. He's a second-year player who finished his rookie year on fire, including a 36-point performance against the Warriors. He sure as hell won't average 22.6 points like he did over his last 10 games as a rookie, but does anyone think he will? Nobody thinks he's a great shooter, but it's reasonable to expect something approaching the 18.7 he averaged post All-Star break, plus his usual strong defending.

Anyway, this Hughes fellow should have put Ben Simmons on the list. Guy never shoots threes. 


Knicks, Nets reportedly in mix for Kyrie-Butler combo in '19

Knicks, Nets reportedly in mix for Kyrie-Butler combo in '19

Remember those rumors of Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler teaming up in free agency next year? Well, that buzz is back and Boston isn't the rumored destination.

Two league sources told Business Insider that the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets could be well-positioned to land the two players, with one source saying the chatter is "substantial."

"It wouldn't surprise me if either New York team or potentially both New York teams hit it big next summer," one source said.

That echoes a Chicago Sun-Times report from July which said the Celtics and Timberwolves stars had been talking about how they could team up. Each player can opt out after this season and Irving has made it known he'll be heading to free agency. The Kyrie-to-the-Knicks rumors have been around for a while.