NBA Season Preview: Phoenix Suns

Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe
Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas, and Goran Dragic are just three of Phoenix’s talented guards. (AP)

Projected Record: 44-38 (9th in West)


Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe
Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas, and Goran Dragic are just three of Phoenix’s talented guards. (AP)

Head coach: Jeff Hornacek
Projected record: 44-38 (9th)
2013-14 record: 48-34
2013-14 ORtg: 107.1 (8th)
2013-14 DRtg: 103.8 (13th)
Players in: Alec Brown, Tyler Ennis, Isaiah Thomas, Anthony Tolliver, T.J. Warren, rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic
Players out: Leandro Barbosa, Dionte Christmas, Channing Frye, Emeka Okafor, Ish Smith, rights to Alex Oriakhi
Projected Starting Lineup: Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris, Miles Plumlee

Just one year ago, ESPN analysts came to the overwhelming conclusion that the Phoenix Suns would be the worst team in the Western Conference.

This is the same Suns team that ended up winning 48 games and the hearts of League Pass subscribers everywhere. It’s comical now that Ethan Strauss of called the 2013-14 Suns “boring” and “talent-deprived,” but maybe he was onto something: sure, the 2013-14 Suns were fun to watch, but is this Suns team is the real deal?

Isaiah Thomas was a productive member of the Sacramento Kings offense, but it’s hard to say how he’ll adjust to a new team with a run-and-gun offense. Phoenix lost their starting power forward, Channing Frye, who stretch the floor on offense and give the Suns another threat from downtown. He started in all 82 contests and proved to be one of the Suns’ most durable players. The loss of Frye will prove to be too great a toll on the Suns’ offensive efficiency. Markieff Morris is poised to take over the starting power forward gig, but can hardly fill the void Frye left. The Kansas product has done little to show that he could match Frye’s ability to stretch the floor and open up the passing lanes.

Gerald Green was another bright spot on the Suns last year, but his roller coaster journey through the NBA shows a pattern of inconsistency. No one doubts his freakish athleticism, and he can just do ridiculous things sometimes, but Green has a knack for falling flat following a strong season. Coach Jeff Hornacek, now with a plethora of guards, could leave Green in the dust behind Goran Dragic, Thomas, and Eric Bledsoe.

No one will be surprised if Alex Len busts, or struggles through another injury-plagued season. Even if Len is healthy, his effectiveness is still up in the air.

There is talent here, even if the overall view is pessimistic. Goran Dragic is this team’s rock, and they shelled out $70 million to hang onto Eric Bledsoe, and both are the real deal. Miles Plumlee is arguably the best Plumlee in the league. But you could argue that Dragic, who has gotten progressively better over his NBA career and averaged a career-high 20.3 points per game on over 50% shooting from the floor last season, has peaked, that the smart but undersized Bledsoe will struggle to defend bigger players, and that Miles Plumlee really isn’t the best Plumlee around, not after coach Mike Krzyzewski picked Mason for Team USA.

Last year, the Suns had a miracle season, and their roster was filled with one-hit wonders. But it’s hard to see that happening twice.