Booker, Ayton Lead Suns to Season Opening Win

The Phoenix Suns have had a, well, eventful offseason.

Winning the lottery, drafting four players including #1 overall pick Deandre Ayton, signing Devin Booker to a max contract, hiring Igor Kokoskov as head coach and relieving Ryan McDonough of general manager duties nine days before the season opener all contributed to a very interesting couple of months.

All of that led to Wednesday night – the Suns season opener against the Dallas Mavericks. Fans could get the first glimpse of Deandre Ayton vs Luka Doncic and see what the team had in store for them in the 2018-19 season.

All in all, it was a good start for the Kokoskov era with a 121-100 win. Ayton had a double-double in his debut (and had more assists than Doncic), Devin Booker looked dominant in the fourth quarter and the team had 19 three-pointers, tying the NBA record for most threes in a season opener.

Deandre Ayton

Ayton the Avenger finally made his Phoenix debut, and put up a solid 18 points and 10 rebounds in his NBA debut, becoming the third Sun to debut with a double-double.  There is plenty to build upon for Ayton, but it wasn’t all pretty. There were times where he looked like he owned the paint, and there were some defensive lapses, particularly letting Luka Doncic fly by on a fast-break for an easy bucket, but his presence on the floor did seem to open things up offensively for some of the Phoenix shooters.

Devin the Dagger

There were plenty of questions surrounding Devin Booker this offseason: how would he handle a max contract and take the steps in his development? How would he bounce back from a hand operation late in the offseason?

If one game is an indication, he’ll do just fine.

The Suns shooting guard ended the night with 35 points and seven assists while going 6/10 from three and 12/19 from the field. 18 of those points came in the 4th quarter, and he ran the point for the second half of the fourth quarter.

New-Look T.J. Warren?

Igor Kokoskov went with the experience in the starting lineup of Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza with T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson coming off the bench.

Warren had an interesting burst off the bench from three-point land. In the opening game of the season, Warren hit 3/4 from beyond the arc. Last year, Warren was a 22% three-point shooter and attempted just over one three per game. 

Ariza Sun

The Suns’ big offseason free agent signing had an efficient debut with Planet Orange, scoring 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. 

Defensive issues

The Suns found themselves with multiple double-digit leads, but the Mavericks were able to close the gap a couple of times before Phoenix was able to put them away for good. According to Kokoskov, it wasn’t a question of effort but being aware of the situation they were in.

“It kind of upsets me because we work so hard and we shouldn’t them to have those runs, and it’s all mental breakdowns,” Kokoskov said. “It’s the defensive breakdowns, something that we spoke about I think we can do a better job. It’s not that we didn’t play hard, we have to play smart too.”

The Suns take the court again on Saturday in Denver to take on the Nuggets.