If the NBA bubble is any indicator, the Phoenix Suns may be on the brink of playoff contention. They’re undefeated in four games thus far, and could potentially find themselves in the West’s eighth seed play-in games. The odds, however, are still stacked against them with a healthy Portland Trail Blazers squad lingering around. Regardless of the outcome, the bubble will serve as a necessary experience for Phoenix and the team’s potential to make the playoffs next season.
Phoenix Suns: Three Steps to Playoff Contention
Step 1: Focus on Danilo Gallinari
Looking at the Suns’ roster, it’s no secret that they’re in dire need of power forward help. Dario Saric isn’t the answer, and he’s about to hit restricted free agency. Cameron Johnson has upped his play in the bubble, but he’s not a long-term starter for a playoff team just yet. Danilo Gallinari, however, is an ideal option.
Gallinari hits unrestricted free agency this offseason. The Oklahoma City Thunder are a legitimate playoff team, but it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see them aim for a rebuild this offseason. If that’s the case, then Gallinari is as good as gone.
The Italian star will have plenty of teams shouting his name, but the Suns need to be the loudest. He’s about to finish a great regular season with averages of about 19 points and five rebounds per game on 44 percent shooting from the field and 41 percent from three. His rebounding isn’t fantastic, but the Suns have Deandre Ayton for that. Gallinari is a floor-spacer and a major scoring threat to be paired with Devin Booker.
A hefty two or three-year deal would be great for Gallinari. He just turned 32, so he would provide Phoenix with a couple of strong seasons as they either develop Johnson at the power forward role or find another replacement.
Step 2: Target Low-Risk, High-Reward Free Agents
The Suns desperately need bench scoring. The starting five, especially with Mikal Bridges‘ improvement, is solid, but bench depth of high-quality players is low.
Jackson has been a legitimate starter in the league before. He looks healthier than before in his new role with the Los Angeles Clippers too since he moved there this season. Due to that move, it looks as if he’s willing to accept a bench role. He’d be a perfect high-energy substitute for Ricky Rubio.
The four other players are experienced shooting guards who can come off the bench and score. Burks is the ideal option, as he’s averaging nearly 15 points per game this season, but he’ll look for a bigger contract than the other three. Robinson III is entering his prime and is averaging close to 12 points per game this year. The same goes for Forbes. Bazemore has definitely declined over the years but is still a decent bench option.
The Suns’ bench would instantly improve by signing Jackson and one of the other shooting guards.
Step 3: Make a Good Draft Pick
Something that seems simple is often the exact opposite. The 2020 NBA Draft will likely be a testament to this, as it’s weaker on the surface than recent drafts. If the Suns do not make the playoffs, they’ll have a late lottery pick. There will definitely be good options available, however.
Realistic and enticing prospects towards the end of the lottery for Phoenix will likely be Precious Achiuwa, Cole Anthony, and Theo Maldeon. There are some interesting wing prospects as well, but the Suns look good for now in that department.
Achiuwa can start out as a back-up big. He’s primarily a power forward, but will certainly see minutes at the five as well. He’s also both athletic and aggressive, which bodes well off the bench. His defensive and rebounding presence would be welcomed.
Anthony looks to be a major boom-or-bust prospect. He has the raw talent to go in the top 10, but could also slide due to turnover and inconsistency issues. With that being said, he wouldn’t be asked to start with Rubio in the fold. A year or two of development will help in the long-run.
Lastly, Maldeon was once thought of as the best international prospect in the draft. He’s dropped down in the rankings but will be a worthy pick-up in the late lottery. He doesn’t necessarily have star potential, but he’s shown signs of being a reliable and efficient guard.