Last season the Suns saw their 5th season in a row without a playoff appearance. In Jeff Hornacek’s second season as head coach, the Suns made some interesting moves at the trade deadline trading both Isaiah Thomas and Goran Dragic. In total, they received the youngest and highest upside player in Brandon Knight but they appear to have given up a lot and angered some players along the way. The Suns are definitely in a rebuilding/retooling phase with the current front office and coaching staffs. What troubled me for the Suns was they went 1-10 in the last eleven games of the season. They only won 10 games since the All Star break.
Additions: Tyson Chandler, Mirza Teletovic, Devin Booker
Subtractions: Marcus Morris
This is going to be a telling season for the Suns. It will let us know if the direction the front office is taking is going to work. They went out and got a rim protector in Tyson Chandler to help solidify the defensive problems, however Tyson is on the wrong side of his prime. They also broke up the twins which angered the more talented Markieff. We will need to keep an eye on that situation because he is not happy with the Suns front office for breaking their promise. Jeff Hornacek will have his hands full trying to get Bledsoe and Knight working as a tandem and keeping disgruntled players happy. Knowing the front office tree Ryan McDonough is from tells me they will be active at this trade deadline as well.
A career 9pts-9reb veteran is exactly what this young roster needs. Tyson will provide the veteran leadership on the defense and in the locker room. Tyson had one of his better seasons last year putting up 10 points per game along with 11.5 rebounds per game. He will need to teach the younger bigs how to defend the rim and rebound. Heading into his 15th season in the NBA, Tyson will not be able to play over thirty minutes a game. The most important aspect of this signing will come in practice and off the court.
The next player to make a leap for the Suns will be Alex Len. We saw him block 1.5 shots in only 22 minutes per game last year. His shooting percentages jumped across the board, although he doesn’t shoot much (only scored 6.3 ppg). If Alex wants to get more playing time, he will have to improve on the offensive end. His defense and rebounding is on par with his development but we need to see more consistency on the offensive end. It will be interesting to see how he improves throughout the season being mentored by Tyson Chandler.
Brandon did not play well in the 11 games he suited up for the Suns after the trade but his improvement each year up to that point has been something to watch. He is only 23 years old heading into his 5th season. He improved his shooting percentages and three point percentage in each of his 4 seasons. Playing along side of Eric Bledsoe will take an adjustment. Brandon played a lot of off ball last year and we will see if he can adapt, his percentages dropped everywhere, including free throw percentage. Having him off ball may not work in the long run but we will start to find that out this year.
Most exciting player to watch: Eric Bledsoe
The Suns will always go when Eric Bledsoe does. Since coming to Phoenix and getting starter minutes he has been a rising star. Heading into his 6th season and turning 26, we will start to see the prime of Bledsoe, aka “mini Lebron”. Seeing him become stronger and faster as well as more efficient will be a treat to watch given his athletic abilities. His ability to get to the rim as well as defend is always fun to watch. Having some help with a rim protector and a couple other guys who can score should take some of the pressure of Eric to allow him to get easier and higher percentage shots.
The Western Conference is still too deep to let the Suns come into the playoffs. The other teams that are fighting for that 8th seed have also improved, slightly more in my opinion. Unless they get all star performances out of Bledsoe and Knight, the Suns will be in that 9-11th seed position looking in from the outside. They are still developing talent and acquiring assets the Ryan McDonough way. I have a gut feeling they will be moving one of these four names by the all star break.
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