Question #1: The Suns have two bonafide franchise centerpieces in Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. While both project to be very good for a very long time, do you think either one has the potential to be the best player on a team with championship expectations?
Personally, I think both have No. 1 upside eventually. The next 2-3 years will be interesting to follow up close, because we’ll see who actually becomes the Suns’ go-to scorer. Booker has James Harden-like upside at his peak, but Ayton could be Joel Embiid 2.0 if he learns better defensive techniques under head coach Igor Kokoskov.
Over the past two weeks of 2018, Ayton averaged just over 22 points and 13 rebounds per game. Once Phoenix gets a bonafide point guard option (R.J. Barrett or Ja Morant in draft; maybe Jrue Holiday via trade if New Orleans blows it up this summer?), Ayton could become a monster.
It’s tough to answer at this time since they’re both so young, but I lean towards Booker having more No. 1 upside. However, as we’ve seen in Philadelphia with Embiid, maybe feeding the big man early and often is the best route to compete for titles.
Question #2: A lot of Sixers fans were attached to Villanova product Mikal Bridges for a long time. Picking him only to trade him minutes later rattled many around these parts. How has he looked so far in year one?
He’s looked like everything I’ve expected. Bridges is already one of the more versatile perimeter defenders in the league, and he has some untapped playmaking potential that we’ve been seeing recently since he took over Trevor Ariza’s role.
When it happened, I was hesitant — for revisionist history, I had Zhaire Smith at No. 8 and Bridges at No. 9 on my final draft board, so I think Philly did well themselves -- but he’s proven me wrong thus far. That Miami pick could turn into something valuable soon for the Sixers, but Bridges has been an ideal fit alongside Booker and Ayton.
If the Suns are trying to build a sustainable contender around those two, having players like Bridges and De’Anthony Melton as a defensive buffer is an underrated team building tactic.
As it relates to Bridges, I honestly think there’s Robert Covington upside in him. If the Suns have player parallels like Harden (Booker), Embiid (Ayton) and Covington (Bridges), then this team will eventually turn the corner. Now, everyone just has to give them time to gel together.
Question #3: Richaun Holmes was a polarizing player among Sixers fans- while some were constantly begging for him to receive a larger role, others were frustrated by his inconsistency when he was on the floor. How has he been playing in his contract year for the Suns?
Holmes has earned himself a huge pay raise by either the Suns or somebody else once July rolls around. Holmes has been such an energetic presence not only for these young Suns on the floor, but in the locker room too. Holmes has helped flip the culture in short order with his hustle plays and nonstop energy. It’s rubbed off on members of the young core like Ayton and Booker already.
Expect Holmes to command around $4-6 million per year, unless the Suns re-sign him before he even gets to free agency.
The man they affectionally call ‘Rich Homie Holmes’ here in the Valley could be around way longer than this season. He seems to have found a role long-term as Ayton’s backup as he learns his way around the league.
Big thanks to Evan Sidery for answering our questions!