2015-16 NBA Record: 23-59
Additions: Dragan Bender, Tyler Ulis (draft), Marquese Chriss (draft rights traded from Sacramento Kings), Jared Dudley (Washington Wizards), Leandro Barbosa (Golden State Warriors)
Subtractions: Bogdan Bogdanovic (traded to Sacramento Kings/Fenerbahce), Mirza Teletovic (Milwaukee Bucks), Jon Leuer (Detroit Pistons), Ronnie Price (Oklahoma City Thunder), Chase Budinger (Brooklyn Nets)
Projected Starting Lineup (via ESPN.com)
PG – Brandon Knight
SG – Eric Bledsoe
SF – P.J Tucker
PF – Marquese Chriss
C – Tyson Chandler
This year’s Phoenix Suns squad looks promising enough to compete in the Western Conference after a rough year of injuries in 2015-16. It’s also somewhat of a new era in Arizona, with Earl Watson officially the new head coach after being in an interim role at the back end of last season. Watson developed a great relationship with the Suns players, which led to him being announced as the full-time head coach. The Suns had a promising draft, picking international prospect Dragan Bender #4 overall and also getting former Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis to go with the endless amount of Kentucky products already in Phoenix’s backcourt. They also traded for the #8 overall pick, Marquese Chriss out of Washington, which provides an intriguing frontcourt for years to come.
Despite the tough year last season, one of the notable takeaways was the rise of 2015 lottery pick Devin Booker, especially during the post-All Star period. The sharpshooter averaged 19 points per game in 28 contests following the All Star break under then-interim coach Earl Watson. Booker will look to carry on his momentum from last season and the Summer League, as he is reunited with his former Kentucky teammate Tyler Ulis. The starters however, will be Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe, two underrated players in their position but have yet to really gel during their time together. Knight battled various injuries and appeared in just 52 games, averaging 19.6 points. Bledsoe only played in 31 games last season due to a knee injury, but still averaged 20.4 points per game. If both can stay healthy on the court, this backcourt should be an exciting and dynamic duo to watch, as well as reliable in clutch time. Jared Dudley and Leandro Barbosa both return to Phoenix in veteran roles to assist Tyson Chandler, who seems to be slowing down in his career, but is still in a mentoring role to rookies Bender and Chriss, as well as Alex Len. Small forward P.J. Tucker is one of the team’s top defenders, while T.J. Warren provides scoring off the bench.
The majority of the Phoenix roster are under the age of 24, and fans should be optimistic about the team’s future. They have the veteran presence to make a playoff run in the short-term, but the main focus should be developing this young core under Earl Watson. There is a great amount of depth in the backcourt and it’ll interesting to see how Watson rotates Knight, Bledsoe and Booker, who should lock down a starting role sooner rather than later. Youth can be a weakness, but I think for this team it will be a strength considering the upside of the young core, especially the rookies. The Suns can compete if everyone stays healthy and are good enough to beat out the Kings for 3rd place in their division.
Prediction: 3rd place in Pacific Division