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Monday, October 27, 2014

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 25. Phoenix Suns

Overall Win/Loss Record: 48-34, third place Pacific Division

2014/2015 Projection: 34-48, fifth place Pacific Division, thirteenth place Western Conference

Preseason Rank

Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank
  • Points Scored: 105.2 (7th)
  • Points Allowed: 102.6 (21st)
  • Team FG%:  .463 (8th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .456 (14th)
  • Team FT%: .758 (16th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .372 (8th)
  • Rebounds per game: 43.0 (13th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 42.8 (17th)
  • Turnovers per game: 14.8 (25th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 14.7 (7th)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): Goran Dragic (20.3)
  • Rebounds per game:  Miles Plumlee (7.8)
  • Minutes per game: Goran Dragic (35.1)
  • Assists per game:  Goran Dragic (5.9)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Miles Plumlee (.517)
  • Free Throw Percentage: Gerald Green (.850)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Goran Dragic (.408)
  • Steals per game: Eric Bledsoe (1.6)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  Miles Plumlee (1.1)

Projected Opening Day Starters Based on Past Performance and Potential Impact:

Key Reserves Rank Based on Past Performance and Potential Impact:

  1. Isaiah Thomas (G)
  2. Gerald Green (G/F)
  3. Markieff Morris (F/C)
  4. T.J Warren (F)
  5. Zoran Dragic (G)

The Phoenix Suns were certainly the surprise of the NBA last season as they won 48 games and fell within a game from making the NBA playoff.  Many expected the team to tank the season, especially when it jettisoned the contracts of veterans such as Luis Scola and +Marcin Gortat for little if nothing in return; however the Suns shocked even the most cynical of doubters and gave fans a show that their fans both at home and abroad enjoyed.  Their fast pace uptempo system filled up quick dunks and long range bombs from deep captivated audiences and kept their opponents on their toes as this team of virtual unknowns looked to not only shine against them, but torch them on the court as well.  With all that has happened last season, it is logical to expect much of the same from this sizzling and high flying team or even take the next step and possibly look to clinch a potential playoff berth in the Western Conference; however, it is with great regret and with a heavy heart that this shining hope will not be taking the next step forward.  In fact, sad to say, due to rather confounding off season that consisted of losing out in free agent, plus some questionable roster, the Suns will go from one of the biggest surprises last season to one of the league's disappointments this upcoming season.

The team's short lived success and upcoming downfall all began with the 2014 NBA Draft where the Suns picked +NC State University's TJ Warren with the 14th pick, who was considered by many as a tweener with no real position--similar to the front court players the team already had.   Warren could be considered as a solid pick since many expected him to go as high as the top ten in the draft, but who Phoenix selected with their second first round pick would become the major head scratcher.  Despite all the size along with skillful and athletic talent that could have been had in the draft, the Suns chose to go rather small using its 18th pick on +Syracuse University freshman, +Tyler Ennis, a player who was admittedly not nearly as quick, athletic, or nearly as much upside as his fellow draft prospects.  Considering that the Suns already had a rather impressive back court tandem of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe along with with a wealth of perimeter players, it did not make sense for Phoenix to grab another small guard when what they needed most was size.  This selection of Ennis  will seem even more baffling following the draft when the Suns dove into free agency market in the summer.

For starters, the Suns planned to use its success from last season plus the ample salary cap space it had at its disposal to entice the marquee names free agents such as +LeBron James, +Carmelo Anthony, and +Chris Bosh, among others.  Sadly their efforts came to naught when both Carmelo and Bosh chose to return home to New York and Miami, while at the same time Lebron decided to forsake all caller and return to the team that originally drafted him, the +Cleveland Cavaliers; however, this is not where them's off season started getting weird.  During the summer the Suns were at odd with their restricted free agent at the time, Eric Bledsoe, on a long term extension, where the Suns offered what many thought was fair at four year and 48$ million; however, Bledsoe and his agent were looking for the maximum extension at around 80$ million with the first year starting at 15$ million.  With the negotiation at a virtual impasse, it was the generally held idea that Bledsoe who simply take the one year qualify offer and go into the following off season as an unrestricted free agent.  The Suns also seemed that they had all but given up when they went to sign Isaiah Thomas, who had a phenomenal All Star type season, away from the +Sacramento Kings, for a fraction of the cost that Bledsoe wanted, which was lauded as quite a saavy move by many; however, all of that changed on Media Day, just two months before the start of the season, when the Suns announced that they officially agreed with Bledsoe for the big money extension that he originally demanded in the first place.

Now the Suns will come into the regular season with four point guards on the roster and as much as $128 million in cap space locked up in three of them four the next three to four years.  To make matters even more ridiculously perplexing, the Suns went out again to get ANOTHER point guard--this time it was Goran Dragic's brother, Zoran, who not only had a phenomenal season playing in the +EUROLEAGUE BASKETBALL League with +Real Madrid, but all also shined in the +2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in August.  So as opening tip off nears, Phoenix will be entering the season with one third of its roster being point guard while the other two thirds consist of primarily perimeter players with absolutely no presence in the paint.  Both Markieff and Marcus Morris, who also resigned long term extensions with the teams, give the Suns plenty of size, but neither one of them are a real threat because both have been perimeter players for most of their careers and that will probably never change. That leaves Phoenix with second year center Alex Len, who did not even play in the regular season and Miles Plumlee, who despite having what many consider a breakout performance last season, it is doubtful that he will offer up more than the nine points and 8 rebounds that he produced last season.  

So unless either Plumlee, Len or both become a reincarnation of Suns legend Tom Chambers and Markieff Morris develops into the next Larry Nance, expect Phoenix to come into the season at a severe disadvantage as they will be severely undersized with an almost invisible presence in the paint. Considering that last season the team allowed their opponents scored nearly 103 points per game while nearly shot .460 against them, those numbers will either be just as bad, if it is lucky, or simply simply be crushed by opposing front lines.  In a Western Conference where essentially six of the eight playoff spots have already been spoken for, the Suns and their paper thin lineup will be competing with eight teams who have equally if not even stronger lineups than they do, for the last two remaining spots.  Last season, Phoenix was essentially lucky as they entered the season faced a two severely injury depleted teams in the +Denver Nuggets and +Los Angeles Lakers along with a very disappointingly underwhelming +Minnesota Timberwolves squad; however, now with both the Lakers and Nuggets entering the season healthier and stronger along with up and comers such as the +New Orleans Pelicans  and +Sacramento Kings looking to make waves in the league, it looks as if the sun has sadly set on a team that had such a bright future.  Unfortunately poor off season moves has robbed this team of any chance to compete in a severely repressed caste system, otherwise known as the Western Conference and unless they make a major move between now and the trade deadline, the sun will not rise in Phoenix ever again.