GM: Ryan McDonough
Head coach: Earl Watson
2016-17 record: 24-58 (15th in the Western Conference)
2016-17 result: Didn’t make the playoffs
Key departures: none
Key acquisitions: Josh Jackson
At one point the Phoenix Suns looked poised to land a big name this summer, briefly emerging as front-runners to land Kyrie Irving.
Instead, they wound up having one of the quietest off-seasons in the NBA.
The worst part of their off-season was the news that Brandon Knight tore his ACL and is expected to miss the entire 2017-18 season. His production off the bench will be missed, but the Suns do have a plethora of young studs looking to make their mark, which includes their latest lottery pick, Josh Jackson, who should help their atrocious defence.
After last season’s 70-point showcase, we may have seen the tip of the iceberg for 21-year-old Devin Booker, which should scare the rest of the Western Conference as the Suns continue to slowly rise.
But with a commitment to their youth, it’s hard to expect the Suns to make big leaps forward this season. Instead, they might look to fall to the lottery in what should be another loaded draft class.
So don’t be surprised to see them become a major player in the trade market, fielding offers for Eric Bledsoe, Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley ahead of the 2018 trade deadline.
Potential Breakout Player
The Suns had a lottery pick in the 2016 Draft, Dragan Bender, but the rookie who stood out most was five-foot-10 point guard Tyler Ulis, a second round pick.
In his final 20 games of his rookie campaign, Ullis got a chance to prove himself in a starter’s role as Eric Bledsoe was sidelined. He averaged 14.6 points to go along with 7.6 assists.
With Brandon Knight on the sidelines for the foreseeable future, he should continue providing a spark off the bench for the Suns as their sixth man.
What a successful 2017-18 would look like
They have three solid veterans who provide different but equally important skill-sets in Tyson Chandler (rebounding), Jared Dudley (three-point shooting) and Eric Bledsoe (scoring). They have an emerging top 10-type talent in Devin Booker, an all-rookie second team member in Marquese Chriss, and other young players brimming with talent in Tyler Ulis, Dragan Bender, T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson.
Yet after watching them finish last in the West, with the third-worst defensive rating in the league in 2016-17, it’s hard to imagine them being much better this season. For now, a successful year would have them hitting the 30-win mark for the first time in three years in a Western Conference that should see the Pelicans, Timberwolves and Nuggets all fighting to enter the playoff picture.
Their coaching staff have expressed a lot of interest in experimenting with Dragan Bender this season, after he only played in 43 games last year as the youngest player on their roster (19).
The Suns have noticed the muscle he’s added to his seven-foot-one frame over the summer, and have expressed interest in playing him at centre, with a potential role as a point-forward. With his court vision and ability to stretch the floor past the three-point line, they’re looking for him to play a similar offensive role to that of the Warriors’ Draymond Green.