Phoenix Suns: 5 Underrated Transactions That Built This NBA Finals Team

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Phoenix Suns, Ricky Rubio
Phoenix Suns, Ricky Rubio (Photo by Ashley Landis – Pool/Getty Images) /

Phoenix Suns Underrated Transaction #3: Signing Ricky Rubio

Along with various draft busts and roster mismanagement, one of the biggest failures in the first four years of Devin Booker’s tenure with the Suns was his team’s inability to find him a fitting backcourt partner. But after clearing cap-space, the Suns were finally able to do so, as Booker got to play with one of the league’s best passers in Ricky Rubio.

With Coach Williams, a new point guard, and general feeling of improvement all coming Phoenix’s way, the Suns looked great in their first game of that season. They beat the Sacramento Kings by 25 points, as Rubio facilitated for the offense brilliantly, dishing out 11 assists in the process. Booker looked as great as ever, even while not having to take on an insane offensive load for once. The Suns had 6 double digit scorers and outscored the Kings by 19 points in the 4th quarter that night.

However just a day after this statement win, the Suns faced the first of the many setbacks they would run into that year. The NBA suspended Ayton for 25 games after he violated the league’s anti-drug policy. The Suns initially coped well without the top overall pick from 2018 with Aron Baynes breaking out, but things started to fall apart after that due to injuries, including one that sidelined leading scorer Oubre Jr. during the team’s bubble-run.

But even with a heavily injured roster and little-to-no expectations, the Suns proved everyone wrong during said bubble-run, playing their best basketball. Phoenix went 8-0, and only had to exit because of a tie-breaker with the Memphis Grizzlies. They had actually covered 6 games on the Grizzlies while playing in just eight contests!

Booker continued his individual excellence (with the team success to show for it this time) as he averaged more than 30.0 points per game. Replacing the injured Oubre Jr., rookie Cameron Johnson was also brilliant, while Ayton played like the best version of himself on both ends of the floor.

But from the top was still Rubio, facilitating for the entire offense. With his great play, Rubio gave the Suns the idea of adding a prototypical point guard to their team to lead their young core.

The numbers first and foremost validate his fit with Booker and Ayton. In 2019-20, the Suns had a +0.2 net rating, barely above neutral. In terms of wins in an 82-game season, the Suns had a net rating that would lead to 41 or 42 wins. However, during the minutes when Booker and Rubio shared the floor together, the Suns net rating rose all the way up to +6.02, with win projections at 57.

Similarly in the the minutes that Rubio, Booker and Ayton shared the floor, the Suns had a net rating of +8.16, equivalent to a 63-win team. Along with other upgrades, Rubio’s impact on the team had turned them from a laughing stock, to a playoff caliber group when healthy.