Washington Wizards 2019-20 Season Preview: Phoenix Suns

Washington Wizards Bradley Beal Deandre Ayton (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Bradley Beal Deandre Ayton (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

The Washington Wizards will see a familiar face, and maybe a couple of wins, when they play the Phoenix Suns this season.

Washington Wizards record versus Phoenix Suns last season: 2-0

Suns lost: Dragan Bender, Jamal Crawford, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren

Suns added: Aron Baynes, Ricky Rubio, Frank Kaminsky, Jevon Carter, Cheick Diallo

The Phoenix Suns were far from a contender last season. They finished with just 19 wins. But it was obvious what the Suns were missing. They were missing a point guard. This summer, they went out and got a point guard. But did they get the right one? And will it really matter?

The point guard they got is Ricky Rubio. A solid, above-average starter, but nowhere close to a franchise-changing point guard. That is, unless, you are the Phoenix Suns. Rubio will change this offense drastically, giving them a true pass-first ball handler to pair beside their growing superstar Devin Booker. Don’t expect a complete turnaround, though. These Suns are far from a playoff team. Rubio’s ability to operate an offense should help them improve on that end of the floor, though.

Despite Booker’s scoring prowess, the Suns were one of the worst offensive teams in the NBA last season, ranking in the bottom third in points per game (23rd) and Offensive Rating (28th), per Basketball-Reference. Even with a solid pace of 100.5, good for 12th in the NBA, they still didn’t move the ball all that well. They ranked 20th in total assists. Plus, they weren’t exactly careful with the basketball. Only the Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Lakers committed more turnovers last season.

Of course, all eyes will be on Booker and second-year center Deandre Ayton. Can the young pair take the next step now that they have a veteran presence leading the offense? Booker certainly shows no signs of slowing down and should benefit from having another ball-handler in the backcourt.

Ayton comes into the season with high expectations after a quietly solid rookie season. Despite  Luka Doncic and Trae Young dominating the Rookie of the Year debates last season, Ayton averaged a double-double (16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds) on 58.5 percent shooting. According to Basketball-Reference, he’s the only rookie center to ever average at least 16 and 10 with such a high shooting percentage. Plus, he added 1.8 blocks per game.

Wizards to Watch

Troy Brown only played in one of the games against the Phoenix Suns last season and he was not impressive. Brown finished the night making only one of his five shots and missing all three of his free throws. He had as many turnovers — two — as assists, and as many fouls — three — as rebounds.

It wasn’t his best showing. However, if Brown wants to progress, he’ll need to capitalize against teams like the Suns who don’t have elite talent on the wings.

Another Wizard to watch isn’t technically a Wizard any more. Regardless, keep an eye on Kelly Oubre when the Wizards and Suns face off this season. Oubre, a former fan favorite in Washington, was traded to Phoenix in the middle of last season for Trevor Ariza when it became increasingly obvious the Wizards weren’t going to bring Oubre back.

Now he’s becoming an integral part of the Suns’ young core. In his 40 games as a Sun last season, Oubre impressed with his new team, averaging 16.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 29.5 minutes. All three would be career-highs. Technically, Oubre already had his revenge game in a triple-overtime thriller where he drained three three-pointers on his way to a 20-point performance off the bench.

2019-20 Game Predictions

Wednesday, November 27 in Phoenix

For the Wizards, this will be their second game in two nights as they finish up a back-to-back that starts with the Denver Nuggets. After taking a beating in Denver, I think the Wizards bounce back and pick up right where they left off last season versus the Suns.

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Wednesday, March 25 in Washington

This one’s the second game of a six-game road trip for the Phoenix Suns which includes stops in Indiana, Philadelphia, Miami, Cleveland, and Oklahoma City. Long cross-country road trips are hard. They’re even harder at the end of the season for teams with nothing left to play for except draft positioning. Wizards win at home and sweep the Suns for a second straight year.