Suns New Faces: Josh Jackson (R), Elijah Millsap, Davon Reed (R), Alec Peters (R)
Suns 2016-17 Regular Season Record: 24-58
Suns 2016-17 Weaknesses: 30th: 3-Point Percentage (Defense), Opponent Points. 29th: Assists. 28th: 3-Point Attempts, Defensive Rating. 27th: 3-Point Percentage 26th: Field Goal Percentage (Defense). 24th: 2-Point Percentage.
Suns 2016-17 Strengths: 1st: 2-Pointers Made, Free Throws Made. 2nd: Pace. 4th: Offensive Rebounding.6th: Total Rebounding, Steals. 9th: Points Scored.
Leading Scorer: Devin Booker, 22.1
Best Defensive Rating: Alex Len, 108
The Phoenix Suns had a horrible 2016-17 year. It wasn’t that they only won 24 games. It was how they lost most of those games. A defensive intensity and interest that was missing. Iso basketball. Give it to Devin Booker and watch him save himself. Literally no ball movement. Bad shooting. Missed assignments. And the worst part was no accountability. There was a lot of blame going around based on the age of the Suns but young or not young, they didn’t compete on both ends of the floor. They were lazy and looked to be tanking much of the year. So what has changed?
Devin Booker is still the star. But as dynamic as Booker is- he was oh so close to having Kyrie Irving as his teammate- his game still has holes. He’s not an efficient scorer which matters because the league can load up on guarding Booker. He’s a passable rebounding guard and isn’t selfish per se but for someone who only makes 42% of his shots , he took 18.3 shots per game. He didn’t get to the free throw line as much as backcourt mate Eric Bledsoe.
As for Bledsoe, he has two more years left remaining on his deal and could be a trade piece in 2017-18. Bledsoe has a nice, tough game. He’s a gutsy rebounding guard who gets his hands on the ball and turns defense into offense. He dropped 21.1 points last season, a comeback year for Bledsoe who has had injuries interrupt part of his career.
Bledsoe and Booker are the best things the Suns have to offer and are the third best backcourt in the west, trailing Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, and Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Offensive efficiency for Booker and defensive organization for both Booker and Bledsoe will determine when the Suns leave rebuilding behind. As of right now, they are still there.
Josh Jackson, a talented rookie, is projected as an athletic ball hawk with an inconsistent jumper who plays with emotionally intensity but is he a more capable Justise Winslow (Miami Heat) or can he be a hybrid old school Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors)? Jackson has some baggage from his personal life but on the court his skill set is so coveted the Cavs were desperate to grab him in a Kyrie swap. He has a motor you just cannot teach. His talent is playing hard every single night, no sleepwalking through games, or shrugging off plays.
The Suns said no thank you to Dan Gilbert. Josh Jackson stays. However, they would love to get rid of Brandon Knight but $44 million still owed makes Knight an unmovable commodity.
Not so for Marquese Chriss. His rookie year was like most rookie years, up and down. Chriss is small for the power forward position and will continue to get pushed around until he bulks up a little. He showed a lot of potential as an offensive rebounder; grabbing boards should improve in his second year.
But the Suns basic problem, outside of being a comedy of errors on defense, is they don’t have shotmakers, players who can put the ball in the hole. This is further complicated by not having an assist maker and not moving the ball and making the extra pass. They play selfishly.
The quickest way for the Suns to rebound is for them to have three point specialists; they needed to grab some in the summer but didn’t. They don’t have a 40% 3-point shooter and the floor isn’t spaced, so teams can gang up on Bledsoe and Booker. The Suns offense is the opposite of versatile. You see what is coming. It is not revolutionary.
Neither is this phase they are going through. They have been here before. Rebuilding. Developing talent. What is organically different this year from what they went through last year? First, they will see if Josh Jackson was worth it, and then decide if they are better off without Eric Bledsoe. The lingering whispers surrounding Devin Booker are can he make his teammates better? It’s a season of climbing uphill for the desert faithful. It’s the Phoenix Suns version of the Process. But take heed. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Projected record: 25-57