Applying fantasy football analysis to the Phoenix Suns

Following this offseason’s flood of change by James Jones, the Phoenix Suns’ roster finally has a number of fantasy worthy players.

Fantasy football articles flood the Internet right now. Rankings, mock drafts, sleepers, busts, and everything in between are projected by anyone with a sports inkling and a website. All this got me thinking: how would these types of analyses apply to the Phoenix Suns?

Before we get into it, I fully recognize fantasy basketball is right around the corner and similar articles will be written on NBA players.

But let’s be serious: no one plays fantasy basketball, not even many hardcore basketball junkies.

It’s just weird. Having made that disclaimer, away we go.

Mock Draft

Considering the Phoenix Suns only have 14 players with which to work (I’m excluding rookie Jalen Lecque for the purposes of an even number), we’ll only be able to draft two teams. Snake rules:

  1. Team Orange: Devin Booker (SG)
  2. Team Purple: Deandre Ayton (C)
  3. Team Purple: Kelly Oubre Jr. (SF)
  4. Team Orange: Ricky Rubio (PG)
  5. Team Orange: Dario Šarić (PF)
  6. Team Purple: Mikal Bridges (SG/SF)
  7. Team Purple: Tyler Johnson (PG/SG)
  8. Team Orange: Aron Baynes (C)
  9. Team Orange: Cameron Johnson (SF/PF)
  10. Team Purple: Frank Kaminsky (PF)
  11. Team Purple: Ty Jerome (PG)
  12. Team Orange: Cheick Diallo (C)
  13. Team Orange: Jevon Carter (PG)
  14. Team Purple: Elie Okobo (PG)

Team Orange

Starters

  • PG: Ricky Rubio
  • SG: Devin Booker
  • SF: Cameron Johnson
  • PF: Dario Šarić
  • C: Aaron Baynes

Bench

  • PG: Jevon Carter
  • C: Cheick Diallo

Team Purple

Starters

  • PG: Tyler Johnson
  • SG: Mikal Bridges
  • SF: Kelly Oubre Jr.
  • PF: Frank Kaminski
  • C: Deandre Ayton

Bench

  • PG: Elie Okobo
  • PG: Ty Jerome

Having the first pick is a huge advantage in this draft considering Devin Booker is significantly better than anyone else in the field. Team Orange erred on the side of shooting, drafting Šarić ahead of Bridges and Johnson ahead of Kaminsky.

However, Team Purple is formidable, especially down low, and we will likely see a lineup made up of their top-five picks on the floor at some point this season.

I’m giving the edge to Team Orange in this mock draft, but if this were a football  game, give me Team Purple in heartbeat. No one on Team Orange is catching Kelly Oubre Jr. on a go route.

However, if Aron Baynes tackled anyone with a full head of steam, it would no doubt be career-ending.

Sleepers

In fantasy football, sleepers win championships.

Whether it’s a little-known rookie or a third-year wide receiver on the last year of his contract, having undervalued guys who explode is every team’s path to success.

It works the same on the hardwood too, and the Phoenix Suns have two prime time sleepers:

Cameron Johnson: Everything that can be said about his draft position has been said, however, the Suns’ reach for him at pick #11 is the very reason many experts are grossly undervaluing him this season. The rookie is likely to get plenty of playing time and therefore plenty of opportunities. If he shoots at or above his college clip, he could well exceed his currently meager expectations.

Mikal Bridges: Bridges got his feet wet his rookie year and is poised to ramp up his production as a sophomore. After playing with the USA Select Team this summer, no others Suns player can claim a better offseason workout. Devin Booker doesn’t even practice double teams. Bridges has the potential to have an unexpected big year.

Busts

Players who have excelled in the past are typically expected to excel in the present. However, we all know that’s far from the truth. Many players get drafted high based on past performance and name recognition only to be let down their owners by the end of the year. There’s one Sun that may fit that mold:

Ricky Rubio: Rubio gained name recognition as a Pete Maravich-esque YouTube star and it’s carried him through a pretty good NBA career. However, he never materialized into the “Pistol” even though everyone seems to keep waiting for it to happen. Although he’s only 28, the ninth-year veteran sometimes plays like he’s 38 and appears to be on the back end of his career. It’s possible a new team will breath new life into his career, but if one had to pick a potential bust candidate, Rubio checks all the boxes.

Breakout Candidates

A good strategy in fantasy football, when looking for the next star, is to review the stats of the last few weeks of the previous season. The theory is those will carry over into the next year. There is one Sun who stands out under this analysis:

Kelly Oubre Jr.: Oubre averaged 22.3 points per game in the final seven games he played with the Suns last season. With a big resigning over the summer, Oubre is becoming the face of the #ValleyBoyz movement. Look for him to be a prime candidate to launch from mediocre to stellar this year.

Save for previously mentioned Aron Baynes, Kelly Oubre Jr. and maybe Tyler Johnson, it’s a good thing these guys make a living on the court and not the gridiron. I don’t see any Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates style crossover candidates on the roster.

If we needed to flip it around, however, I’m sure Larry Fitzgerald would make a good baller. By the end of the season, who knows, the Suns may need to pick him up off waivers.