“Alone we wallow in internal mediocrity, Devin Booker’s character says in the episode, “but together, we stand toe-to-toe with anyone.”
Obviously the Sun Kings aren’t a real team, but what if they were? Would they be able to compete with the best of the west? We take a look in our latest installment for SB Nation’s “What If? Week.
Similar to the All-Star game, we’re going to give the head coaching job to the coach with the best record, and in this case, that’s Luke Walton. However, a case can be made that Monty Williams would actually be a better fit for this roster because he’s shown he’s capable of getting a young team to the playoffs. Regardless, he’ll be Walton’s right-hand man.
Since drafting Devin Booker with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft (six picks after Willie Cauley-Stein), the Suns have struggled to find a point guard to pair with their All-Star shooting guard. With the Kings’ help, that problem would cease to exist.
Not only would they have De’Aaron, who would be a perfect complement to Booker because of his defensive instincts and ability to attack the basket, but they’d also acquire Cory Joseph, who’s also a smart defender and a capable 3-point shooter. The point guard rotation would be rounded by Ricky Rubio, who would likely play ahead of Joseph.
Backing up Booker would be Buddy Hield, which shouldn’t be a problem for him now that he’s gotten used to coming off of the bench. Hield could also play out on the wing next to Booker, but the issues with that unit on the defensive end would probably be too glaring.
Luckily, the Sun Kings would have a few other players that are arguably more capable of playing the 2 and 3, including Kent Bazemore, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kelly Oubre Jr. You could make a case for all three players to start at small forward, but Oubre’s size ultimately gives him the nod here. He’s also in the midst of a career year, averaging 18.7 points per game on a career-high 56% true shooting percentage.
Starting at the 4 spot would be Harrison Barnes. Barnes is a solid defender, which is going to be crucial to the success of the front court with Deandre Ayton starting next to him. Ayton’s made strides on the defensive end this season, but he’s still not a good defender — especially not for a center. The hope is that the firepower in the first unit would negate whatever they gave up on the defensive end, and it probably would.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a true Kings team without a crowded front court rotation, so filling out the bench are Nemanja Bjelica, Dario Saric, Marvin Bagley III, Aron Baynes, and Richaun Holmes. Bagley’s injury history made him a question mark for the roster, but with the amount of talent the Sun Kings have at the 4 spot, they wouldn’t have to rely on him being healthy on a night-to-night basis. Plus, he’s pretty good.
With those five on the roster, the team stands at 15. However we decided to add a two-way spot for Alex Len. Get it? Two-way? Because he played for the Suns and Kings.
Anyway, here’s the full roster:
PG: De’Aaron Fox, Ricky Rubio, Cory Joseph
SG: Devin Booker, Buddy Hield
SF: Kelly Oubre Jr., Kent Bazemore, Bogdan Bogdanovic
PF: Harrison Barnes, Nemanja Bjelica, Dario Saric, Marvin Bagley III
C: Deandre Ayton, Aron Baynes, Richaun Holmes
Would they compete?
In short, yes. The core might be young, but they have a legitimate scoring star in Booker, a few solid foundational pieces in Fox, Bagley and Ayton, and a supporting cast of veterans to lean on when things aren’t clicking. I mean, their reserve guards are Rubio, Hield and Joseph — that’s pretty good.
The five-out lineups with this roster are also really fun to think about. Imagine Cory, Booker, Hield, Barnes and Bjelica? They might give up a few points on the defensive end, but you couldn’t leave any of them open from beyond the 3-point line. That’s fun.
With the talent on the roster, their floor is probably the ninth seed. Their ceiling is entirely dependent on Bagley’s health, and how much they’d buy in on the defensive end.
In any case, the Sun Kings would undoubtedly be fun, and “fun” is an upgrade from the product both teams have put on the floor in recent years. Long live the Sun Kings.