Up next in The Dunkyard’s 2016-17 NBA season preview are the Phoenix Suns.
Last season by the numbers
- Record: 23-59 (27th)
- Offensive rating: 102.2 (28th).
- Defensive rating: 109.0 (25th)
- Pace: 98.5 (3rd)
- True shooting: 52.6% (25th)
- Turnover rate: 15.2% (30th)
- Offensive rebounding: 25.4% (7th)
- Defensive rebounding: 77.1% (11th)
- Giveashitameter: 21st.
- Highest PER*: 20.0 (Eric Bledsoe)
(*) – minimum 1,000 minutes.
At a glance
(Converts the above rankings into a rating out of 10).
The Suns didn’t stink as bad as the 76ers, Nets or Lakers, but they still stunk pretty badly last season.
Not helping things was the fact that Eric Bledsoe, who had the team’s highest PER by miles, was injured long-term yet again (51 games missed). There are now serious questions to be answered about Bledsoe’s durability – with his six seasons so far having yielded the following attendance rates: 81, 40, 76, 43, 81, 31. I suppose the good news is that full-time Bledsoe is due to show up this season.
Compounding Phoenix’s problems was Brandon Knight – the Suns other ‘marquee’ guard – who had a season to forget with a PER of 14.7 in 52 games. Unless he can turn things around quickly and sharply, the Suns February 2015 trade deadline activity is going to look even worse than it already does (in a nutshell: Knight in; Dragic and Thomas out). At least they didn’t end up with Michael Carter-Williams, so there’s that I suppose.
On the offensive end, Phoenix played at a breakneck pace, which undoubtedly played a part in their obscene turnover rate of 15.2% (30th). On top of this, the Suns simply couldn’t earn enough good looks and put the ball in the basket – ranking 25th in the league in shooting and 28th on overall offense.
Phoenix’s only saving grace on offense was their three point shooting – which was average (ranking 18th on accuracy at 34.8% and 11th and 12th respectively on makes and attempts). However, their two point shooting was a horror story, ranking 26th in accuracy. The chief culprits here were Len, Knight, Tucker, Booker, Goodwin, Teletovic and Bledsoe – who all shot well under 50% on their two point attempts with more than 300 tries. Len was easily the worst of the bunch here: shooting 42.6% on his 617 two point attempts. Yuck.
The defense wasn’t much better. Phoenix were about the worst team in the league at three point defense – allowing opponents to nail 9.4 per game (26th) with a 37.7% accuracy rate (30th). Just think about that for a minute: any time you come across a single player who can shoot 38% on threes, they’re considered a dangerous shooter and you need to adjust accordingly. Now think about playing against a whole team of such shooters every night. for a whole season. Happy days.
The Suns didn’t fare much better on the inside, ranking 28th on opponent free throws to field goal attempts. While Phoenix rebounded very well, it didn’t stop their overall defense from ranking 25th in the league.
Reasons to be optimistic
While the Suns are going to take some punishment for the next season or two, there’s a hell of a lot to like about the their future.
The first bit of good news is that last season finally brought to an end the false dawn of contention and relevance created by the previous seasons of over achievement. The Suns weren’t going anywhere fast with the likes of Knight, Bledsoe and Chandler (or even Bledsoe, Dragic and Thomas for those of you still pissed about the February 2015 trade deadline). Almost making the playoffs the two seasons before last served only to obscure this fact.
The Suns commenced their rebuilding in solid fashion. Bender represents a worthwhile risk for a no. 4 pick and already has good Euroleague experience. The Suns also pulled off what could be the heist of the draft in getting Chriss (the no. 8 pick) from the Kings in exchange for the nos. 13 and 28 picks. The Dunkyard was dumbfounded as to how the Suns managed to pull this off… until we remembered that it’s the Sacramento Kings we’re talking about here.
On top of this, the Suns are already developing some good talent for the future. After a slow start, Booker looks the goods and should develop into a deadly three point shooter. Watch for his three point accuracy to improve significantly over the next couple of seasons – from an already good rookie season effort of 34.3%. TJ Warren also looks like he could be a solid player on a successful team, particularly as an instant offense contributor off the bench for 25 minutes a game.
However, the holy grail for the Suns’ future lies in what the Suns managed to extract from Miami in the Dragic trade – firstly, a top 7 protected 2018 pick (which becomes unprotected in 2019 if it doesn’t convey) and then Miami’s completely condomless first round pick in 2021 which could really be the icing on the cake in for Phoenix in five years.
Reasons not to be
Rebuilding takes time and the Suns are just beginning.
This season won’t be great watching for Suns fans as far as winning is concerned.
Dragan Bender, Marquiss Chriss, Leandro Barbosa, Tyler Ulis.
The Dunkyard’s recommended ‘death’ lineup
It feels like this team has been in some sort of rebuilding phase since the decline of the Steve Nash ‘7 seconds or less’ era with still no end in sight. With player development trumping winning for the next 2 seasons at least I start to wonder how much longer Eric Bledsoe wants to hang around.
Provided Bledsoe returns to something resembling full health I wouldn’t be surprised if his name is regularly mentioned approaching the trade deadline. If Phoenix can attract a similar bounty as the aforementioned Dragic trade then the trigger should be pulled.
I’m sceptical of the Suns trust in Earl Watson for all the youth development he will be asked to handle over the next few seasons. It feels like trusting Michael J. Fox to handle your fine china.
Forecast record: 25-57
Things will probably get a bit worse or stay the same before they get better. Expect either or both Knight and Bledsoe to spend some time out injured and expect the kids to go through tough growing pains on the way to another shitty record – which is just fine: come this time next year, the Suns will have another very high draft pick.
If they’re patient (not ‘The Process’ patient – just normal patient), then a gem or two will be unearthed and the Suns will be relevant again sooner rather than later.