From this year to last, the starting lineups look like:
The biggest change from last season, even without a trade or veteran free agent acquisition, is at point guard. Unless that aforementioned blockbuster trade does come to fruition, the Phoenix Suns know exactly who their starting point guard will be on opening night, and throughout the season’s 82 game schedule: Brandon Knight – an upgrade alone over the nine players who played point at times last season.
Like him or hate him, the fact that the team will likely have a consistent point guard throughout the entire year – someone who will know the offense exactly how to run it with the ball-handling capability and the experience to do so effectively – will be a tremendous boon for the roster. Barring injury and should there be no trade, Knight will finally be back at his natural position of point guard, believe it or not, for the first time full-time in his tenure with the Suns that he will have that role.
Of course shooting guard will remain in Devin Booker’s secure hands, the only starting position that will assuredly not change from last season. He should also play much closer to 82 games than he did in 2017-18 as the Suns will probably not strategically rest their best players with the goal of winning more. This will be nice for Booker who played in 76 and 78 games his first two years, although only 54 last year.
Based solely on Josh Jackson’s poor showing in the Summer League (which should be taken with a grain of salt), there is a chance that T.J. Warren could once again begin the season as the team’s starting small forward. That said, all expectations have been that the position is J.J.’s moving forward as his defense in particular is needed in the starting lineup while Warren’s ability to score in bunches is advantageous to the reserves making him an immediate 6th Man of the Year candidate.
As disappointing as it is that neither Dragan Bender nor Marquese Chriss have taken a stronghold on the starting power forward position by year three of their careers, they are still only 20 and 21 respectively and may still need another year or two of seasoning before they finally become the players that McDonough thought they were when he drafted them in 2016. That is why the acquisition of Ariza is key to Phoenix’s chances at winning more this season as he steps in as the prospective starting power forward, instantly making the position better than it has been the past two years. While Ariza isn’t a world-beater, he is a much more consistent 3-point shooter and defender than the two young guns and will serve as a very good mentor for them both as well.
There is a chance that Tyson Chandler is not on the roster this coming season, but even if he is, Deandre Ayton steps into the starting center position without any debate. Chandler, who was able to hold off Alex Len for the last three seasons as the team’s penned in starting center, will takea seat behind the much more athletic and better shooting rookie. While the Suns will take a hit defensively, if Chandler remains with the Phoenix this season, his defense off the bench will be key in the reserves being able to hold off opponent’s second strings when the Phoenix starters hopefully build a few more early leads than they have in a long time, a huge boost to the team’s chances at winning, and overall morale.