Q&A with Nick Piecoro

Nick Piecoro has been covering the Arizona Diamondbacks as a beat writer for the Arizona Republic/AZ Central sports for many years now, and he’s amassed a terrific perspective of the both the Diamondbacks locker room and the game of baseball in general.

He is my favorite Dbacks writer by far, so make sure you check out his work and to follow him on twitter @NickPiecoro if you aren’t already doing so.

Q: What is your favorite thing about covering the Arizona Diamondbacks?

Piecoro: I think it’s just that I really enjoy baseball and have for pretty much my entire life. When I was a kid and realized at a pretty young age I wasn’t going to be good enough to play the game professionally, I wanted to do something to be involved in it. One of my teachers encouraged me to write, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to make a career out of it.

Q: What is your advice to anyone that wants to get a job similar to yours?

Piecoro: I think being able to write/communicate clearly and accurately is critical. And I think to be able to do that you have to work hard at it. You have to practice – you have to write and report as much as you can — and you have to read. You have to read everything you can get your hands on. And you have to read it carefully.

Find the good stories and don’t just consume them but pick them apart. Figure out what makes them good. Why were they structured the way they were? How were the quotes used? How many people were quoted? How much research was put into it? You have to understand what goes into good journalism if you’re going to create it yourself.

Q: Which Dbacks team did you enjoy covering the most in your career?

Piecoro: That’s hard to say. I don’t think I have a good answer for you. The playoff teams are always fun to cover because the players tend to be in a good mood, are easier to talk to, are more willing to provide details/backstory, etc., so I suppose that would be an easy answer.

But just thinking back to the many teams that didn’t reach the postseason, there were always great people on the roster, guys who were fun or interesting to interact with. I would say that I’ve been pretty fortunate for the vast majority of my career covering this team to have had rosters filled with good people.

Q: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you on the job? (at the park, hotel, traveling, etc.)

Piecoro: Well, like I said, I’ve been pretty fortunate not to have covered too many bad seeds over the years, but I’ve had a couple of people unload on me before over the phone. Both were front-office people who were upset with something I wrote — and both just screamed at me for several minutes.

I’ve also had some minor run-ins with players, but nothing too dramatic. I’ve been fortunate not to have been involved in any real disasters or anything during road trips. I was in D.C. in 2011 when there was an earthquake. That was unexpected. I had to run downstairs at my hotel in Cincinnati one year during a tornado warning.

Q: What do you think needs to get done this offseason to get this team back to the playoffs? Any free agents or trade targets that stand out?

Piecoro: I think they could stand to improve in the outfield, and probably will try to find a new second baseman, someone a little more well-rounded than Wilmer Flores, who struggled defensively.

They also need to find bullpen help, which seems to be the case every year. Whether they can get back to the postseason, though, probably depends more on health/performance of guys already on the roster. If Luke Weaver, Taijuan Walker and Zac Gallen can all stay healthy and pitch up to their potential, maybe that’s enough to keep them in contention.

Q: Who is a prospect you’re keeping an eye on that you think could make an impact in the near future?

Piecoro: There are several, but probably the best prospect to mention, given that he is both highly talented and close to the majors, is Daulton Varsho.

He is interesting not just because he can hit but because he can impact the game in a variety of ways. He is a catcher, but he also has experience in the outfield. He is a good hitter who doesn’t strike out, but he is also fast and a good baserunner. He has a chance to be a unique player, not just among current major leaguers but among guys in the history of the game. It’s just hard to think of many guys with his skillset, especially if the club is going to allow him to shuffle between positions throughout the season or even within a game. I’m not saying this is a perfect comp because this guy is a Hall of Famer, but it’s kind of similar to what Craig Biggio was in his career.

Read Nick’s piece on Varsho here: Dalton Varsho’s versatility

Here’s another great read by Nick on some of the Dbacks top hitting prospects and their approach: Diamondbacks’ Hitting Prospects

Make sure you give his work a look, it’s always worth a read as I’m sure most Diamondbacks fans know by now. Also, big thank you to Nick for taking the time to do this and I wish him the best.

Winter is coming, Dbacks fans. I will have some more great Dbacks content up as Winter Meetings approach.

#SunsRank: Ranking Every Player On The Phoenix Suns, 1 to 15.

This list will focus on what I believe the impact/value added will be for each player next season with a slight calculation for upside and potential factored in as well.

I will be doing an updated version of this towards the end of the season just for comparison sake to see how much has changed over the course of the season.

Rank score:

2019/2020 impact: 80%

Potential/upside: 20%

#1: Devin Booker 

I mean, obviously.

Booker needs to play 70+ games this season and at least maintain the level he was playing at last season (or even elevate to another level) in order for this team to potentially win 35+ games. If he stays healthy and completely buys in to this new system then this could be a special year now that he has actual NBA teammates. If not… fire up Tankathon (again), Suns fans.

#2: Deandre Ayton

Despite coming off one of the more underrated rookie seasons in recent memory, Ayton still has many areas to improve in. I’m not going to be looking into his PPG or RPG numbers too much, as we know he’s capable of going for ~20 & 10 on efficient shooting on any given night, and Rubio should only elevate him offensively.

If he can push towards being at least an average defender this season and improve his defensive rotations and awareness that would be a huge step towards becoming the All-NBA center he has the potential to be one day.

#3: Ricky Rubio

The $51 million dollar man. The Suns finally got their point guard after a very long wait, and he is the best passer this team has had since Steve Nash. He very well could be number two on this list and I wouldn’t blame you for putting him there due to his impact of making everyone around him better and the importance of his control over the offense.

The main concern with Ricky is his shot. That form isn’t inspiring to say the least, but if he can at least make the defense somewhat respect his jumper this year that would be nice from a spacing perspective.

#4: Dario Saric

This was a tough one because 4 through 6 are pretty close, but I decided to stick with my formula at the top since right now Dario is a more proven and better NBA player than both Mikal and Kelly until proven otherwise. I think some Suns fans are going to be pleasantly surprised by Dario this year and a breakout season could be in store for the 25 year old Croatian. He should quickly become a fan favorite.

#5: Mikal Bridges

Mikal was a playable wing as a rookie where he impacted the game with his elite point of attack defense on a nightly basis. He showed an element of playmaking and decision-making that offered some hope as a secondary offensive skill he could bring to the table outside of his shooting. Speaking of that… he has to shoot. If he doesn’t shoot better than 35% from three he’ll drop to number 6 or 7 on this list, even if he’s putting people in jail defensively.

#6: Kelly Oubre Jr.

Oubre will play a key role on this team whether he starts or comes off the bench as a sixth man. His high-energy and ability to create highlight reel plays are why Suns fans fell in love with him during his brief stint in Phoenix last season.

Now, we need to see if he can maintain this level of production in a more efficient manner while surrounded by more actual NBA players. If he can take his game to another level it’s not crazy to think he could be number 3 or 4 by the end of the year.

#7: Tyler Johnson

Tyler Johnson aka “rudder” came in and started slow his first few games as a member of the Suns, but once he got comfortable he was the ultimate stabilizer in the backcourt with Devin Booker.

He helped lead Phoenix to a few competitive stretches before going down to injury, and now having him lead the second unit as the third guard should be a welcome sight for Suns fans after what the guard rotations have been these last few years.

#8: Aron Baynes

Baynes has already shown his ability to play physical ball and made his mark with a few bone-crunching screens and a couple charges drawn in the preseason. He does the little things that Suns fans are hoping will rub off on not only Deandre Ayton, but the rest of this young, impressionable team. I have a feeling this will be his best season yet and I think the shooting is real.

#9: Frank Kaminsky

Kaminsky has looked very promising in preseason, and I know, it’s just preseason… but it’s encouraging nonetheless. He will likely play some PF and C, though I think he’s best suited as a 5 defensively. If he can keep shooting at a high level then it’ll be tough to not give him 15-20 minutes a game.

#10: Cameron Johnson

Cam Johnson has impressed in both training camp and preseason so far, earning rave reviews from coaches and players. He looks ready to contribute right away and should offer some optimal floor spacing if he can shoot at the level we all think he can. He’s also shown he has a nice little pull-up game and can run the court well in transition.

#11: Ty Jerome

Ty Jerome has been awesome in the preseason and like fellow rookie Cameron Johnson earned some high praise throughout training camp and it’s carried over into the games. His confidence on the court shines through and he hasn’t looked like a rookie very often.

After taking raw rookies that weren’t ready to see the floor the past few years, it’s obvious James Jones made it a priority to take players that were ready to go and needed minimal development.

#12: Jevon Carter

Jevon would’ve been 14th on this list before the preseason, but right now he’s making a serious case to crack the rotation with his disruptive defense and improved shooting he’s shown in a small four-game sample size.

If he can be a threat offensively and provide the pesky, Patrick Beverley-like defense then it’ll be tough for Monty Williams not to play him.

#13: Cheick Diallo

Diallo has had a rough preseason and it will be tough for him to crack the rotation in my opinion barring an injury. I still like the signing as it offers some depth they haven’t had in the past at the PF/C position.

#14: Elie Okobo-

Okobo had himself a sneaky good preseason after a *somewhat* quiet summer league. I’m not sure he will ever develop into a legitimate starting point guard, but he has some qualities to become an instant offense type of sixth-man with his ability to heat up in a hurry.

#15: Jalen Lecque-

I’m really hoping to see him in the Dunk Contest this season, but outside of that I doubt we see much of him at the NBA level this year. It figures to be a year of development for him, so you should keep tabs on the NAZ Suns if you want to follow his progress throughout the year.

Comment below with what your list looks like!

Phoenix Suns Season Preview: Win-Loss and Statistic Predictions Edition.

With training camp wrapped up and preseason about to tip off everyone is filled with that preseason optimism right now, myself included. I will be projecting key player’s stat-lines and the win-loss record for the Phoenix Suns this season while I still have a shred of hope left in my veins.

We will also have some W-L record predictions from a wide variety of Suns twitter featured in here.

Let’s start with what I think the final roster/depth chart will look like:

C- Deandre Ayton – Aron Baynes

PF- Dario Saric – Frank Kaminsky – Cheick Diallo

SF- Kelly Oubre Jr. – Mikal Bridges – Cameron Johnson

SG- Devin Booker – Tyler Johnson – Elie Okobo

PG- Ricky Rubio- Ty Jerome – Jevon Carter

*G-League- Jalen Lecque* don’t expect him up any time soon

Note: I expect Diallo to play both center and power forward, same for Kaminsky depending on the matchups. Ty Jerome and Tyler Johnson seem to have the backup guards spots locked up from everything we’ve heard in camp, and I’m anxious to see if Monty sticks with a strict 9 or 10 man rotation and how he installs his rotations.

AZ Sports Zone’s 19/20′ W-L Prediction: 35-47

Some members of #SunsTwitter Predictions are listed below: make sure to give them all a follow! *Link attached to their twitter handle.

(Listed from greatest to least)

Feel free to bookmark this article or screenshot these predictions. Going to be fun to look back at once the season concludes to see how right or wrong we all were.

The Western Conference is ridiculously deep from top to bottom, and there won’t be any “easy” or guaranteed wins, including a feisty young Memphis team. They’re going to have to grind it out just to get to 35 wins and upset a few teams while taking advantage of the weaker teams in the East when they get the chance to play them.

Still– if they can reach the 35 win mark or close to it– that would be a ~16 game-win improvement and ultimately be viewed as a successful season. The first step of any rebuild is getting back to a stage of respectability.

Statistical predictions for the projected top 8 key rotation players along w/ some expectations below:

Deandre Ayton: 20.5 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 2.0 APG. 

I believe Deandre will be ultra efficient yet again, I’m talking .58+ TS% even if he attempts a good amount of threes. The Rubio addition is going to do wonders for the big fella in his second year. I’m really not all that worried about his offensive game in general.

What will make his season a breakout year will be whether or not he’s making major strides defensively and picks up the intensity on a consistent basis. We saw flashes of it last year and how when he’s engaged he can take over games, but this year it needs to be a constant theme rather than a “once in a while” occurrence.

Hopefully being in competitive games more frequently this year will help from an effort standpoint, and not just for him but the entire team. The assists per-game should hover around two per game with the increase in shooting around him.

Dario Saric: 14.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.2 APG, 2.0 3PFGM.

Dario has every reason in the world to have a breakout season. He’s 25 years old and entering a contract year in a role where he figures to have the green light. His impact will come down to how efficiently he can shoot the three-ball, because they’re going to need him to be what they thought Ryan Anderson was going to be for them last season. His career-high in points per game is 14.6, and I expect him to challenge that this year.

I also believe Dario is a bit of a better playmaker than he’s given credit for. I don’t think he’s a point forward by any stretch, but a smart decision-maker that can make creative passes in a snap. With a little more freedom than he had in Philly we should see some of that creation ability right away.

Kelly Oubre Jr.: 14.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.8 BPG.

Look, I love Oubre and everything he brought to the team last year as far as the positive impact in the community and in the locker room, BUT…. you have to temper expectations due to how depleted the team was last year.

Now that Phoenix sports a much more balanced roster he figures to still have a significant role, but the usage won’t be as high as it was when he had some big games down the stretch last season. We need to see better shot selection and decision-making from the 23 year old for him to take things to the next level. If he can avoid the occasional tunnel-vision and makes strides defensively then you’re looking at a very productive, energetic wing that’ll hype the entire team and city of Phoenix up.

Devin Booker: 26.5 PPG, 6.0 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.0 SPG.

On the surface it may look like I’m predicting Booker to *very* slightly regress from last season, but I think we’re going to see him play with a team that has more offensive options than he’s used to and he’ll be asked to do less at times, which is a good thing.

I believe we’re going to see a bump in efficiency across the board, mainly due to him improving from his dismal 32% three point shooting last year. His assists dipping a bit will be a product of alternating control of the offense with Rubio at times, but I didn’t make it too dramatic since (hopefully) the improved teammates/shooting will offset the slightly lower usage he will assume, along with the potential of staggering Rubio/Booker at times. #PointBook

If Phoenix isn’t a total embarrassment and Booker is healthy I think this could be the year he makes his first all-star game.

Ricky Rubio: 12.5 PPG, 7.1 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.5 SPG.

Rubio should get a bit of more freedom to do things his way than he did in Utah’s system, which I think will boost his assists numbers and *occasionally* allow him to do a bit more offensively. He will share the ball with Booker when it comes to a creation standpoint, but the increase in freedom should give him a bump in the assist totals.

I look forward to watching him get everyone involved. He should especially help sophomores Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges in their development, as it’s going to be night and day from their rookie seasons.

Bench Mob:

Mikal Bridges: 11.5 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.6 BPG.

I am a Mikal stan, and I’m predicting that he will lead the league in deflections and finish top 5 in steals after finishing top 8 in both last year. The real question for him to answer will be: can he shoot like he did in college? If he can bump his 3PFG% to the 37-39 range that would be a huge boost for this Suns offense and could be the difference between him making a major leap, or miniscule one.

Prediction: he will eventually overtake Kelly Oubre Jr. as the starting small forward, and it has more to do with how good Mikal is than it does Kelly.

Tyler Johnson: 10.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.3 3PFG.

Tyler Johnson provided some stability in the backcourt last year upon his arrival after a slow start during his transition period understandably. Having him as the 3rd guard in the rotation should greatly benefit the second unit and help take some pressure off Ty Jerome as well assuming they share the court together.

Aron Baynes: 7.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.6 BPG.

A career-high in points per game, rebounds AND assists? Yup. Baynes should see a slight increase in both minutes and opportunity (to shoot) so I think we could see an occasional big offensive game from him. There have been some hints that we could see both him and Deandre Ayton on the court at the same time as well.

We didn’t bring him in for his shooting though, his real impact will come from his toughness and physicality along with mentoring Ayton to pick up on those little things and become a better pro. Very much looking forward to all the charges he will draw and the brick-wall screens he’ll set.

Rooks:

I’m not going to do a statistical prediction for Cameron Johnson or Ty Jerome mainly due to the fact that I don’t think either will play a lot consistently, at least not right away. They will both get their chances to play, make no mistake about it… but I wouldn’t count on either making a huge impact early on barring an injury.

Disclaimer: Cam Johnson will be starting in the preseason, but once Oubre and Bridges return the minutes available at the wing position will be scarce. I’m looking forward to see how effective he is with the first unit, because his floor spacing potential at his size could be huge weapon for this Suns offense in a variety of lineups.

Elie Okobo and Jevon Carter: Monty Williams was quoted saying they will use three guard lineups at times, meaning it looks like both Elie Okobo and Jevon Carter will be on this roster, whereas there was some speculation that it could be one or the other earlier this offseason.

Jalen Lecque: Get this man in the dunk contest. I don’t expect him to play at all this year for the Suns, and if he does it either means 1) something went wrong or 2) he’s just that good.

Tip off is tonight at 7 PM @ Talking Stick Resort Arena and will be streaming on Suns.com.

 

 

 

 

Trending: Local Man Runs Same Poll For a Month Straight

 

The debate between Donovan Mitchell and Devin Booker has been a hot topic for quite some time now, and thanks to local man Scott Howard (@ScottHoward42) we may have found clarity on the situation.

Howard, a regular guy, ran a poll for a month straight asking this: Here is an interesting question, who is better? With Donovan Mitchell or Devin Booker as the two options.

Scott has a terrific balance of die-hard Jazz and Suns fans that follow him so it definitely wasn’t biased at all.

Scott said, “I just don’t think enough people were asking this question, it was a new concept of creating a poll like this so I just had to jump at the opportunity and change the game.”

Devin Booker won every single poll from August 1st to August 31st, which means the debate is over in convincing fashion. There is nothing Jazz fans can do about it.

I asked Ben Dowsett what his thoughts were and he said,

“Look, it’s no secret I’ve always thought Mitchell was better, but after seeing Booker dominate him in Scott’s polls I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m probably just biased. The results have changed my mind and opened my eyes.”

I also caught up with Jazz coach Quin Snyder who was quoted saying,

“I know I shouldn’t say this publicly, but we’d be in much better shape with Booker rather than Mitchell. The poll numbers do not lie.”

 

31 polls. Millions of votes. The blood, sweat and tears that went into making this month-long extravaganza happen.

Scott was invited on the Ellen Show, The Jump, Sportscenter and many other popular shows for his effort, but he ultimately declined because the fame was too much for him, he just wanted to go back to making properly-timed Torey Lovullo jokes and his classic “another target off the board for the Suns” tweets.

At the end of the day, Booker is better and we thank Scott for his service.

Follow him on twitter @ScottHoward42

 

 

5 Stars the Phoenix Suns Are Set Up To Trade For

No, this isn’t your typical Ryan McDonough roster filled with rookies or well past-their-prime veterans. James Jones has the Suns in a position they haven’t been in for a long time due to the calculated roster construction he put together this summer.

If things start off on the right foot, why not? The Phoenix Suns have themselves in excellent position to make a trade for the next available star by stockpiling tradable contracts along with keeping Tyler Johnson and his lofty $19 million expiring deal which can help when it comes to matching salaries in a blockbuster type of trade. Along with that they own all of their own future picks which could be attractive assets in getting a deal over the hump.

The financial flexibility they can create for others along with the enticing sweeteners they can throw in deals such as their future 1sts or one of the rookies they took in the 1st round of the 2019 Draft makes them an intriguing trade partner for any team looking to blow things up.

Tradable contracts: 

Tyler Johnson: 1 year, 19.2 million. Expiring.

Frank Kaminsky: 2 years, 10 million. 2nd year team option.

Aron Baynes: 1 year, 5.4 million. Expiring.

Dario Saric: 1 year, 3.4 million. RFA with a 4.7 mil. qualifying offer.

Others that can be moved if necessary to move the needle/match salaries: 

Kelly Oubre Jr.: 2 years, 30 million.

Cam Johnson: Standard rookie scale 4 year contract.

Ty Jerome: Standard rookie scale 4 year contract.

*gulps*

Mikal Bridges: {only trading him for a legitimate young star}

Five targets the Suns could pursue: 

1. Bradley Beal, SG, Wizards.
Bradley Beal and Devin Booker would be a dangerous backcourt without a doubt and you should forget about positions for a second. Forget about the contract you just handed out to Rubio, and forget about all the small forwards on your roster you’d have to potentially push aside at times. Beal is worth it all. You worry about everything else later at the expense of acquiring a top 20 player in the game (in my opinion) that is just about to enter his prime. If you have Devin Booker and Bradley Beal on your team you have a chance to win every night, plain and simple.

The package: Beal will be the most pricey on this list, as he’s going to cost quite the haul to land given his talent, age and team control combination. A lot of you will hate me for including Mikal, and I am a Bridges enthusiast myself but he’s the type of prospect that would need to be included to move the needle for Washington, otherwise there’s no realistic reason for them to make this deal.

PHX: Bradley Beal

WSH: Mikal Bridges, Tyler Johnson, 2020 1st round pick, 2022 1st round pick.

*Both picks unprotected

Ayton, Saric, Booker, Beal, Rubio would be a dynamic starting five, and you could also run some lineups with Booker and Beal playing both the guard positions with Oubre Jr. or Cam Johnson plugged in at SF for optimal spacing and creation.

2. Blake Griffin, PF, Pistons.

Blake Griffin might be the most underappreciated star in the game right now, as he’s completely reinvented his game to make up for losing some of his athleticism that he relied on early on in his career. He is not the best fit long-term, and the only way I see Phoenix pursuing him is if they get off to a hot start and are legitimately in the playoff race when they deal for him.

Very slim chance this happens, though I do think Griffin could be dealt to another contender if the Pistons struggle early.

PHX: Blake Griffin
DET: Tyler Johnson, Dario Saric, Cameron Johnson, 2021 unprotected 1st round pick.

3. Aaron Gordon, PF, Magic.

Gordon would provide a nice long-term power forward option and with Orlando potentially having a log-jam at the forward position, he could become available for the right price. Along with creating financial flexibility moving forward Orlando would get a monster asset in Phoenix’s 2020 top 10 protected 1st that becomes unprotected in 2021’s potentially stacked draft.

Gordon’s freakish athleticism and well-rounded overall game he’s shown at just the age of 23 would make him a nice fit with the young core moving forward.

PHX: Aaron Gordon

ORL: Tyler Johnson, Cameron Johnson, Dario Saric, 2020 1st (top 10 protected, if it doesn’t concede in 2020 then it turns into a 2021 unprotected 1st.

4. Kevin Love, PF, Cavaliers. 

The James Jones connection makes this one interesting and very possible if they decide they want to pursue Kevin Love. His contract is lofty and he is getting up there in age with his production steadily decreasing along with some injury concerns so this would be a very risky move that could easily backfire down the road.

The one benefit in trading for Love is that getting off his contract would be a major win for the Cavs, so the Suns wouldn’t need to include too many valuable assets in this deal in comparison to the other trade packages listed.

PHX: Kevin Love
CLE: Tyler Johnson, Frank Kaminsky, Dario Saric, 2020 2nd round pick + 1 filler for salary purposes.

5. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Spurs.

The Spurs could look to fully embrace the rebuild and deal both DeRozan and Aldridge at the trade deadline if things aren’t going their way to start the season.

Much like trading for Love, by taking on LMA’s contract and giving the Spurs tons of cap flexibility with expiring contracts they’d be able to avoid giving up any major assets.

PHX: LaMarcus Aldridge

SAN: Tyler Johnson, Dario Saric, Frank Kaminsky, 2020 2nd rounder, 2022 2nd rounder.

As you can see, outside of Beal the main focus is the power forward position, and I believe if they do make a splash there’s a fairly strong chance it’ll be adding a power forward due to it being their only legitimate long-term need at the moment.

Maybe Dario Saric surprises us and blows up to have a breakout season, it’s totally not out of the question with his projected increased workload. However, if he’s not showing signs of being the PF of the future then he could be on the way out in a blockbuster trade sometime this winter. Stay tuned.

 

Introducing Ricky Rubio: How his contract will be measured as a success.

Ladies and gentlemen, we got him. The Phoenix Suns have finally acquired their point guard after a seemingly never-ending wait. Rubio agreed to a 3 year, $51 million deal on the first day of free agency, which goes to show that James Jones was not going to risk on missing out early only to settle for less adequate options like they’ve done in the past. He may not be a complete stop-gap or their long term solution either, but somewhere between the two figures to serve as his role in his tenure with Phoenix.

Rubio is still just 28 years old despite being in the league for 8 years now and he’s been playing professional basketball since he was just 14 years old in the Spanish ACB league and in the Euroleague as well, so while he’s theoretically in his prime years he does have more mileage on his body than most at this stage of their NBA career.

Measurables and career per-game stats:

Height: 6’4″ • Weight: 190 lbs. • Wingspan: 6’9″

PPG: 11.1 • APG: 7.7 • RPG: 4.2

FG%: 38.8 • FG3%: 32.2. • FT%: 83.8

How to determine if his contract is a success or a failure

Committing $17 million per year to a guard that struggles to shoot isn’t exactly ideal in today’s game, but the consistent improvement he’s made in his offensive game offers some hope that he may not be done improving in that area. The good news is the Suns didn’t bring him in to score points.

While not an offensive juggernaut, Rubio does bring some much needed attributes to the table for Phoenix. For one, he can lead a team serving as the “coach on the court” and his vision and playmaking combination are the best the Suns have had since Steve Nash. He has great size and actually gives a damn defensively. His 6’4″ frame combined with his 6’9″ wingspan and strength gives him the ability to play well on and off the ball on that end. His veteran leadership and ability to lead and control a game will go a long way for this young team, and that’s something that can’t be measured by any stats or metrics.

At the end of the day, it’s about putting your cornerstone pieces in a position to succeed. If Rubio can help expedite the development of Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton along with their other important young pieces such as Bridges, Oubre and Johnson then he’s done his job. The steps towards going from a bottom-feeder to a contender are slow, and if you’re not in a major market things aren’t going to change overnight. The next step is to gain respect league-wide, and winning somewhere between 30-35 games next season while being competitive over the course of the year would be a move in the right direction setting them up for a playoff run in the 2020/21 season.

Projecting his stats for the 2019/2020 season: 

Shoutout to my friend David Nash (@theIVpointplay) for bringing this up on twitter initially, but here are my projections for Rubio’s stat-line next season. I will go into brief detail with some explanations on why I went with these numbers as well.

PPG: 13.1 • APG: 7.7 • RPG: 4.1

FG%: 40.5 • FG3%: 33.3 • FT%: 85.8

While nothing here is a drastic change I expect him to have a slight uptick across the board for a variety of reasons. Number one being I think Utah’s system limited him a bit from a creation standpoint. While we’re still not entirely sure what type of offense or system Monty Williams will deploy, it figures to be a little more fast paced than Utah’s.

The reason for the jump in assists by 1.6 per game is due to being surrounded by more shooters than he has been in maybe his entire career, which feels entirely odd to type about a Phoenix team that finished dead-last in three point percentage last year.

It’s expected that Booker and Bridges will both take a leap in their 3 point shooting percent next season, as they are better shooters than their numbers indicated last year. Along with that, the additions of Dario Saric, Cameron Johnson, Frank Kaminsky and even Aron Baynes to an extent will give him more spacing to not only find the shooters, but operate with Ayton in the pick and roll. His outlet passes to Kelly Oubre Jr. and Devin Booker are going to be a marvel to watch. His ability to lead his passes in transition and hit players in stride is incredible and I expect that to be a regular theme in their fastbreak oppourtunities next season.

NBA pundits have already deemed this move as an overpay or saying it makes zero sense for Phoenix, but all that outside noise from people that don’t actually follow the team doesn’t matter.

What matters is the improvement and overall development of the young core. Three years from now if we’re evaluating his contract, it won’t be the per-game numbers or percentages that I will look at to determine if it was a good deal or not. It’s about what the state of the franchise is and if Rubio helped accelerate the development of the young core or not.

 

 

NBA MOCK DRAFT 2.0 (Podcast & Board)

Here is the draft board along with the audio for the mock draft podcast. Available on iTunes, Spotify and podbean. Make sure to follow everyone below!

  1. Pelicans- @PelicansReddit– Zion Williamson
  2. Grizzlies- @JoeMullinax– Ja Morant
  3. Knicks- @HardKnicksLife– RJ Barrett
  4.  Pelicans (LA)- @EVR1022- Darius Garland
  5. Cavs- @illegalscreens– Jarrett Culver
  6. Suns- @Esidery– DeAndre Hunter
  7. Bulls- @Tankathon– Cam Reddish
  8. Hawks- @Ben_Pfeifer_– Brandon Clarke
  9. Wizards- @Scooperhoops– Goga Bitadze
  10. Hawks- @Ben_Pfeifer– Jaxson Hayes
  11. Wolves- @maxmcc11– Coby White
  12. Hornets- @DylanJacksonNBA– Kevin Porter Jr.
  13. Heat- @theIVpointplay– Grant Williams
  14. Celtics- @maxacarlin– PJ Washington
  15. Pistons- @AZSportsZone– N. Alexander-Walker
  16. Magic- @MavsDraft- Talen Horton-Tucker
  17. Hawks- @Ben_Pfeifer– Romeo Langford
  18. Pacers- @AlexWestRedTeam– Chuma Okeke
  19. Spurs- @Ross_Homan1– Sekou Doumbouya
  20. Celtics- @maxacarlin– Cameron Johnson
  21. Thunder- @thunderchats– Tyler Herro
  22. Celtics- @maxacarlin– Jontay Porter
  23. Jazz- @mikegrib8– Bol Bol
  24. 76ers- @tmon_19– Mattisse Thybulle
  25. Blazers- @stevedhoops– Rui Hachimura
  26. Cavs- @illegalscreens– Terence Davis
  27. Nets- @BillyReinhardt– Luka Samanic
  28. Warriors- @SKPearlman– Eric Paschal
  29. Spurs- @Ross_Homan1– Nic Claxton
  30. Bucks- @advancedstats23– Shamorie Ponds
  31. Nets- @BillyReinhardt– Darius Bazely
  32. Suns- @ESidery– Dylan Windler
  33. 76ers- @tmon_19- Mfioundu Kabengele
  34. 76ers- @tmon_19– Carsen Edwards
  35. Hawks- @Ben_Pfeifer– Yovel Zoosman
  36. Hornets- @DylanJacksonNBA– Bruno Fernando
  37. Mavs- @MavsDraft– Louis King
  38. Bulls- @tankathon- Ty Jerome
  39. Pelicans- @PelicansReddit- Nassir Little
  40. Kings- @AZSportsZone– Keldon Johnson