NBA Season Preview: Phoenix Suns

Last Season: 48-34, 3rd in division; Leading scorer—Goran Dragic (20.3), Leading rebounds—Miles Plumlee (7.8), Leading assists—Goran Dragic (5.8)

Changes: Added— Alec Brown (draft), Anthony Tolliver (signed), Bogdan Bogdanovic (overseas draft pick), Casey Prather (signed), Earl Barron (signed), Jamil Wilson (signed), Joe Jackson (signed), T.J. Warren (draft), Tyler Ennis (draft), Zoran Dragic (signed), Resigned—Eric Bledsoe, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, P.J. Tucker,  Lost— Channing Frye (free agent)< Dionte Christmas (waived), Emeka Okafor (free agent), Ish Smith (waived)

Positions

Point Guard: Goran Dragic, Isiah Thomas, Tyler Ennis

Dragic has been around as a potential top 10 point guard in Phoenix since they later few years of the Steve Nash era—there was a game he scored 24 in a quarter against the Spur in the playoffs that was basically his coming out party. He’s steadily climbed from his bench days, and last year he pumped up his stats in his best year to borderline All-Star, with 20 a game and 5 assists. If he takes another step forward he will be in All-Star and All-NBA conversation this year.

Isiah Thomas is a fire-spark of a scorer. He averaged 20 himself last year, but won’t be getting as many minutes here. As long as he adjusts and he shooting doesn’t fall off the cliff with less time he should still be a very productive backup point guard.

Ennis most likely won’t see any playing time, barring injuries especially as Bledsoe will be playing some of his minutes as the point.

Shooting Guard: Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green, Zoran Dragic, Archie Goodwin

Bledsoe is a really good player—not a true shooting guard, but more of a point guard/combo guard. Either way he has chemistry in his game with Dragic and when the two are on the floor together they are both capable of scoring, penetrating, creating, and either can guard either guard position. The Suns did well to resign Bledsoe rather than let him play out this year on a qualifying offer, so they are cemented for the long term at guard here.

Green is efficient and a good scorer, with a 40% three point shooting stroke. He will play backup minutes here, and there will be times when he plays alongside Bledsoe.

Zoran Dragic comes over this year, and the rookie won’t likely see a lot of playing time, although the fact that he can play the two and the three may open up some minutes—but this Suns team is very deep across the entire roster so, barring injuries the other Dragic may not get many chances.

Goodwin was below average in 10 minutes per game last year, so expect him to be a nightly DNP—CD candidate.

Small Forward: P.J. Tucker, Marcus Morris, T.J. Warren

At 10 points/6 rebounds Tucker is pretty sub-par for a starter. Marcus Morris put up almost the same in 8 fewer minutes. The hope here is that one or the other makes a leap forward and earns the clear cut starting role, but if not the two will split time, and Z. Dragic may get a look here as well.

The Suns thought enough about Warren to grab him with the 14th overall pick, which indicates they expect him to eventually start, but I don’t know that it will be this year. He will need to play well in the time he gets to move ahead of Morris who the Suns just committed to on a long term deal, but there’s a scenario where he can grab the backup minutes and Tucker might be pushed completely out of rotation.

Power Forward: Markieff Morris, Anthony Tolliver, Shavlik Randolph

The more skilled Morris is a solid starter, efficient in his touches for 13 points, 7 assists, but the Suns would still like more out of him and clearly consider continued growth likely, hence the resigning of both brothers. Morris was nearly to 20 with his PER, so I feel like he can do more and continue to provide value for the Suns’ front line.

Tolliver can score, but is overall a much less explosive and efficient player. There is also a possibility that Marcus Morris might split his time backing up both the three and his brother if either Tucker or Warren grab the starting spot there.

Randolph has never averaged 5 a game in his career and is a deep bench/emergency backup type of player. If he sees anything other than garbage time minutes it will be pretty bad for the Suns considering the number of options in front of him (Markieff, Tolliver, Marcus, Tucker, Warren. . .)

Center: Miles Plumlee, Alex Len

Plumlee is a good young center. He’s athletic and last year was basically his rookie year with as little as he played before that. The Suns will want him to show another gear and continue to develop—preferably upping his scoring and rebounding towards the 10/10 range (he’s at 8/7 now).

Len doesn’t really have an offensive game, and he didn’t earn a lot of time last year. Right now he is the only other legit center on this roster, but he will be out with a hand injury for several weeks, so Plumlee won’t have a lot of chances to sit, since the Suns will be shifting someone up to get by. Probably this will tab Tolliver for center duty, most likely playing in a small lineup.

Outlook: The Suns are young, deep most of the way through, and talented. They nearly made the playoffs last year. I think if everything comes together this star-less squad could eek out 7 or 8 seed, but I expect a 9-10 spot is much more likely. Absolute best case, they squeeze into the playoffs with a squad where they have 8 or 9 guys averaging double digits, then get by in close series and end up looking like the 05 Pistons. I’d say being at home again wondering how to get from good to very good more likely.

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