Roster moves that could make the Phoenix Suns a playoff team in 2021

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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Lauri Markkanen (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Lauri Markkanen (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Lauri Markkanen

Admittedly, this breaks the mold a bit from the freakishly athletic and active power forward mold, and this move would require Deandre Ayton to continue his ascension into becoming a B+ or A- defender for 30 minutes a night, but Markkanen has the highest ceiling of the group in my opinion.

There are definite red flags. For starters, he has only played in a possible 170 of 229 games through three seasons with a laundry list of ailments: hip, elbow, ankle, etc. Durability is a concern, although it doesn’t seem like the hip or elbow issue would be chronic. He also struggled out of the gate this season and at times, seems to lack full effort and confidence.

When he does have it going though, he is special. Look at his numbers last season at the age of 21:

18.7 points, 9 rebounds, 1.4 assists on 43%/36%/87% shooting.

Here are two comparative seasons from former NBA players:

Player A: Age 21: 17.5 Points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists on 46%/38%/83% shooting

Player B: Age 23: 16.1 Points, 7.7 rebounds, 0.9 assists on 44%/38%/87% shooting 

Player A is Dirk Nowitzki in his 2nd season in 1999-2000 and Player B is Ryan Anderson in his fourth season in 2011-12.

Markkanen falls somewhere between those two players, of course, but he is stronger and more athletic than both. He will never be able to be a number one option like Dirk, but if he is surrounded by a potentially elite center in Deandre Ayton to open up the floor, an elite scorer and above-average passer in Devin Booker, and an elite floor general like Ricky Rubio, the open looks will come in abundance.

Who is to say he can’t be a 20-10-2 guy on 46%/40%/90% in a couple of years and a league-average defender? That is an All-Star on a playoff team in many years.

The Bulls are likely frustrated with Markkanen after his injuries and regression this season and would like consider an offer of an athletic and aggressive wing like Kelly Oubre for Markkanen and Christiano Felicio, who is on the final year of his contract (for salary matching purposes).