UA-59049186-1 NBA Team Preview: Phoenix Suns - Good if it Goes

NBA Team Preview: Phoenix Suns

Offseason:

Draft Picks: 4. PF. Dragan Bender, 8. PF. Marquese Chriss, 34. PG. Tyler Ulis 

Key Acquisitions: SG. Leandro Barbosa, SF. Jared Dudley 

Key Losses: PF. Mirza Teletovic 

Player Profiles

Projected Lineup

PG. Eric Bledsoe: 6’1, 190

  • Big-time athlete at PG who just can’t stay healthy.
  • Offensively he can do a little of everything. He’s lethal in transition, attacks the basket strong, and can shoot the 3 well enough to keep defenders honest. He’s not an elite playmaker, but can set up teammates and make good passes.
  • If he could just stay healthy, I think Bledsoe would’ve made an all-defensive team by now. At the peak of his powers he’s been 1 of the most impressive defensive guards you’ll see. He even blocks shots.

SG. Devin Booker: 6’6, 206

  • Lights out perimeter shooter who may be on the verge of becoming an all-star caliber player.
  • Booker’s claim to fame right now is his shooting but if you take a closer look at his game he’s definitely more than that. Booker can be a legitimate scorer that can be a team’s leading scorer. He’s at his best off the ball, but is getting better at creating for himself as well.
  • Booker’s offensive talent is undeniable but if he doesn’t start playing some defense he’ll never be seen as anything more than a 1 dimensional off guard.

SF. T.J. Warren: 6’8, 230

  • Big wing that converts at a high rate inside the arc. Highly injury-prone player that has failed to reach the 50 game mark in his first two seasons.
  • For such a young player, he seems to have a knack for cutting as he gets a lot of baskets just by cutting or hustling and is a good transition target. He’s also gotten better at shooting the 3 ball and was reliable spotting up for the Suns in his sophomore season.
  • Not a great athlete, but competes hard on both ends.

PF. Dragan Bender: 7’1, 225

  • Top international prospect with fantastic physical tools for a PF. He can move well, has a 7’2 wing span and 9’3 standing reach.
  • Can do a little of everything on offense. Shooting ability will allow him to play as a stretch 4, has the quickness to rim run, and is a good passer. He’s not a threat to post up and doesn’t project to be great scorer.
  • Has a lot of defensive potential due to his combination of size and athletics. Will need to get stronger to hold his own in the interior but should be just find defending away from the basket.

C. Tyson Chandler: 7’1, 240

  • Declining defensive anchor who has lost a lot of his athletics.
  • Once highly effective offensive role player that finished at an alarming rate. Has clearly lost a step and isn’t the lop/dive threat he once was.
  • Once elite defensive big man who will still play well on that end and anchor a young Suns defense but is clearly not what he once was.

Bench

PG. Brandon Knight: 6’3, 189

  • Shoot first, skinny combo guard who has elite quickness.
  • Utilizes his ball handling and quickness to create space and launch jumpers. Has a decent floater game but overall doesn’t utilize in between game or get to rim as much as he potentially could.
  • Not a very good defender despite his quickness. The effort and consistency just aren’t there on that end.

SF. Jared Dudley: 6’7, 225

  • Aging SF who is surviving by reinventing himself as a small ball stretch 4 who still plays hard and has a very good basketball IQ on both ends of the floor.
  • Is a very good shooter from all over the court: mid-range, 3 point shooting, and at the rim. Incredibly valuable role player on the offensive end because you can’t leave him open.
  • Just too old and slow to be effective defensively on the wing anymore and too small to be a legitimate defender at the 4. He’ll still be in the right positions but there’s just only so much he can do at this point of his career on defense.

C. Alex Len: 7’1, 260

  • Huge 4th year Center that was taken high and running out of opportunities to prove he belongs. Right now the only thing he does consistently well is rebound.
  • Regressed last season in many areas. Struggled a ton on offense shooting an abysmal 42% from the field after shooting over 50% the year before. Only averaged 1.2 blocks per 36 minutes after averaging 2.5 per 36 the year before.
  • Has some flashes of good play defensively but overall still not consistent enough. Has the tools to be a very good rim protector and interior anchor on defense. Plays soft at times.

SG. Leandro Barbosa: 6’3, 194

  • Undersized off guard who has lost a step but can still move for a 33 year old man.
  • Still getting it done offensively Barbosa is still very good inside the arc connecting on over 50% of his 2s last season. Really good in transition and slashes well for a guy his size. Also good enough as a 3 point shooter to spot up which set up catch and drive situations for him.

SF. P.J. Tucker: 6’6, 245

  • Big, strong veteran wing player that plays like a 90s  SF. Elite rebounder for his position.
  • Had a down year offensively but is an ok  spot up 3 point shooter but doesn’t thrive in a lot of areas on the offensive end.
  • Tough defender who isn’t easily moved and can handle almost and wing trying to post up.

SG. Archie Goodwin: 6’5, 200

  • Athletic off guard who can handle the ball and serve as a secondary playmaker as well.
  • Can score as slasher or in transition but his lack of a jump shot has severely stunted his growth as a player since entering the league.
  • Not a bad defensive player but you’d certainly expect a guy with a 6’10 wing span and his athleticism to have more of an impact on that end, especially since he isn’t doing much on offense.

PF. Marquese Chris: 6’10, 233

  • Rookie PF with elite athleticism and unreal physical tools as a big man. Runs like a wing and jumps like 1 to. 38.5 inch vertical to go along with 6’10 height and 7’0 wing span.
  • Raw offensively but if nothing else should make it as a face up player give his range out to the 3 point line and elite quickness for his position. Needs to wok on his post game and get stronger.
  • Has all the tools to be a impact defensive player in the NBA once he figures things out but he must get better as a rebounder.

PG. Tyler Ulis: 5’10, 150

  • Incredibly undersized rookie PG who will have need time adjusting to the NBA and figuring out how to overcome his physical limitations.
  • Has the game to overcome his size. Can do it all offensively as a PG. Handles well, can shoot it from 3 or mid-range and makes shots off the dribble. Very good passer and at his best in the PnR.
  • Defensively he will struggle just because of his size but he showed the ability in college to be able to stay in front of people and be pesky at times.

 

Breakdown

The Suns’ biggest problem last year was simply staying healthy. Injuries to multiple key players derailed their season. There’s plenty of talent on the roster for the Suns to be instantly better this year and with all the good young players they have, I expect them to make some trades during the season at some point before the deadline. As the roster stands now Eric Bledsoe is the team’s best player and the number 1 thing he has to do this year is simple stay on the floor. When healthy, he’s 1 of the games most athletic guards Bledsoe might be the best player for now, but 2nd-year SG Devin Booker might be it’s most intriguing. All the injuries forced Booker into the starting lineup as a rookie where he was forced to play a role nobody thought he would have to coming into the year and he made the most of that opportunity. Now many feel he’s primed to breakout and eventually become this franchise’s best player in a few years. He’s going to have actually start playing some defense and creating how own offense more before I’m ready to buy into that level of hype but the kid was really impressive for a rookie and is a nice young asset to have. With Bledsoe hopefully healthy and Booker being the future, that is going to force Brandon Knight to a 6th-man role off the bench for now and probably to another team before it’s all said and done.

Between those 3 players and veteran Barbosa, the Suns are set in the backcourt, but the frontcourt is where all the questions lie for the Suns. There’s uncertainty about who’s going to start at both forward spots and doubts about both of their options at Center as well. Let’s start with the forwards. P.J. Tucker started more games and played more minutes than any Sun last season but he’s not a good offensive player and T.J. Warren has so much more potential and if he’s healthy I’d expect him to be the starting SF. The PF position is the biggest question mark of all. The team has two top 10 picks from this year’s draft that play PF in Bender and Chriss. It’ll be interesting to see which 1 of those guys establish and early edge over the other. Then there’s the veteran Jared Dudley, who one would assume is better suited to come off the bench, but if the team doesn’t feel either of the rookie’s are ready he might be the early option. I’ve even heard rumblings of playing both of their centers Alex Len and Tyson Chandler in the starting lineup with 1 of them moving to PF. So the Suns have a lot of uncertainty at the 4 spot. As far as those centers go the issue is that neither of them played well last season. For Chandler it was dealing with injuries and getting older as for Len he simply just may not be a good player as he has looked like a bust after being picked 5th overall in 2013. My guess is the team rolls with their 4th-overall pick Bender to start at PF and the veteran Chandler at C.

Expectations

My expectation for the Suns this year is improvement, but not the playoffs. They have too many question marks in their front court for me to feel comfortable picking them to finish top 8 in the loaded Western Conference. Most likely, the Suns aren’t going to be a good defensive team either as they look to get a lot of young players acclimated to the NBA. But they should definitely be able to do some things offensively and I believe if their lineup pans out the way out project they’ll have 1 of the most effective benches in the NBA with Knight, Barbosa, Tucker, and Dudley all being experienced vets who should feast on younger 2nd units across the league. As far as the starting lineup goes Booker should be a lot more effective playing next to Bledsoe, who is capable of attacking the basket and collapsing defenses. Booker and Warren both should get plenty of good spot up looks and it’ll simply be a matter of if they can knock it down. The Suns really need Chandler to return to playing at high level on offense as far as efficiency goes. The loss of athleticism to his game definitely hurts but he’s still an elite screen setter and should be able to finish at a high level when rolling to the basket. Bender at the moment is too streaky of a shooter to be counted on as a stretch 4 but the faster he develops that J the more he can help the Suns be even better offensively as I expect this team to center around Bledsoe and Knight having the ball in their hands.

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