The Phoenix Suns have a lot of new faces this season. After finishing with the fourth worst record in the league, a new coach and GM were hired to try and breathe life into a franchise that has seen better days. There are still a lot of questions moving forward, and roster moves can still be made. But below are my predictions for the current roster, as it stands on July 6, 2013.
PG | Eric Bledsoe
Ryan McDonough has finally acquired the apple of his eye. After nearly making Bledsoe a Celtic in the Garnett trade rumors last February, McDonough landed one of the most coveted young pieces in the NBA for a role-player. He seems to fit McDonough's ideal mold for a guard, possessing elite speed and athleticism while remaning very raw on offense.
The number's show Bledsoe's offensive game is slowly maturing, and it is no where near the point of leveling off. His Offensive Win Shares (OWS) has slowly grown from -1.3 in 2010-11, to -0.4 in 11-12, and 1.1 in 12-13, meaning his offense didn't lose the Clippers games last season. He still turns the ball over more than three times a game, but his TOV% (Turnover Percentage) decreased 6.5% last season. His defense, however, is outstanding, averaging 2.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per 36 minutes last season. His Defensive Win Shares (DWS) was 2.6, and DRtg (Defensive Rating) was 101, both of which were higher than any other player on the Suns last season. He is now the Suns best defensive player.
At 23, Bledsoe is still young, and has a lot of time to grow as he adjusts to a starting role for the first time in his career. But with one of the strongest drafts in recent memory next year, the Suns would be smart to be patient and endure Bledsoe's almost guaranteed growing pains next season.
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SG | Goran Dragic
One of the lone bright spots for the Suns last season, Dragic finds himself in a strange situation. After drafting Goodwin and trading for Bledsoe, some believe Dragic's days in Phoenix are numbered. But reports say that McDonough and Hornacek believe Bledsoe and Dragic can co-exist in the same backcourt, which will both help and hurt Dragic.
Dragic has continued to grow on both offense and defense every season. A dangerous slasher, Dragic shot .664% at the rim last season and earned 4.5 FTA per 36 minutes, highest on the Suns. He also cut down on his turnovers, but the true concerns for Dragic, should he move to the 2, is on defense.
At 6'3" and 190 pounds, Dragic has excellent size as a 1, but will find himself undersized against many 2's. His 1.7 steals per 36 minutes was 10th among point guards who started 30+ games, which could make up for his small stature. It will be interesting to see whether Hornacek creates unique schemes, or trusts Dragic's quickness to keep him in front of larger players.
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SF | P.J. Tucker
Tucker worked his way in to the heart and minds of Suns fans after signing with the team in August to play on the Summer League team. His hustle and toughness earned him a spot in the starting lineup 45 game last season, and the Suns picked up his option for $884,000 this offseason.
While the Suns have more skilled options that could start at small forward, the starting lineup often benefitted from his tough defense. Tasked with guarding the opposing teams best offensive player every night, statistics show that players guarded by Tucker missed more shots, turned the ball over more, and didn't rebound as much as when Tucker was on the court. His skills on the offensive end are lacking, with 63% of his shots either a layup/dunk, or 3 pointer, but his TOV% is low, and his eFG was third highest on the Suns last season at .498%.
With so many young players on this year's team, Hornacek could use Tucker to show the youngsters how hard work can be rewarded. Moving forward, the Suns need to create an identity and culture for themselves, and there are worse players to model an organization after than Tucker.
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PF | Luis Scola
Luis Scola joined the Suns via waivers after the Rockets waived the Argentinian big man. And while he didn't find himself in the starting lineup every night for the first time since his rookie season in 2007-08, Scola's per 36 minutes statistics mirrored his previous numbers.
Scola is a very skilled player, but doesn't have a natural position on the court. He is a tad undersized as a 4, but is very skilled on the left block. His midrange jump shot is also above average for a 4, as he shot .444% on 2's outside of the paint last season. Despite his skills on offense, though, he struggles against athletic 4's and does not protect the rim very well, averaging 0.6 blocks per 36 minutes.
Moving forward, Scola's future with the Suns is in limbo. It was clear he was incredibly frustrated last season, but he still produced good numbers. He is set to make a reasonable $4.5 million this season and $4.8 million next (only $440,000 of which are guaranteed). But with the Suns looking to become younger and more athletic, Scola doesn't fit the mold.
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C | Marcin Gortat
The Polish Hammer's days in Phoenix are winding to a close. After drafting Alex Len with the 5th pick in the draft, and with an expiring contract of $7.7 million, it is no secret that the Suns are shopping him. However, after one of his weaker statistical seasons, whether teams will be eager to trade for the 29 year old remains to be seen.
For the first time in his career, Gortat failed to average double-digit rebounds per 36 minutes, and his points per 36 minutes was the third lowest amount of his career. Quite frankly, he looked soft at times, attempting just over half as many FTA per 36 minutes as the season before (4.3 FTA/36min in 2011-12 to 2.6 FTA/36min in 2012-13). The advanced metrics echoed this, too, as his OWS fell from 4.9 in 11-12 to 1.3 in 12-13.
He sprained his ankle in March, but it's clear he wasn't helping his team and much as they needed him too last season, and that could hurt his trade value moving forward. The Suns will need Gortat to come back healthy and play hard to help his trade value, though the list of potential suitors doesn't look very long, with teams reportedly looking to tank for a high pick in next years stacked draft. Personally, I believe a trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers as the most likely suitor. Many believe the Cavs are trying to clear cap space for a run at LeBron James. A trade based around Gortat for Tristian Thompson seems viable for both teams, as Anthony Bennett, the number one pick in the draft, is built a lot like Thompson.
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6 | Caron Butler
Caron Butler is still a solid contributor in the NBA, 11 seasons into his career. Averaging 10.4 points in 24.1 minutes per game for the Clippers last season, Butler may find himself coming off the bench for the first time in his career. Shooting over .388% in 330 attempts from the 3-point line last season, Butler should be able to fill the hole left by Jared Dudley in the trade with the Clippers.
Butler is valuable to the Suns in more way than one, as well. With an $8 million expiring contract, he is a very expendable piece, and could find himself leaving with Marcin Gortat this season. But whether the Suns trade him or keep him, he will be very productive for a team lacking in depth.
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Some believed the Cavaliers would take Alex Len first overall in the weeks leading up to the draft, and it's easy to see why. Len possess a rare combination of size and speed, runs up and down the court with ease, and shows flashes of brilliance in the post on both offense and defense. However, Len is still recovering from a stress fracture in his foot he says he played with for the last month of the season, and sometimes disappeared completely on offense.
Time will tell whether passing on Nerlens Noel (who Len clearly outplayed in Maryland's season opener) or Ben McLemore was the right move, but Len has a chance to develop in to one of the better centers in the league. This season, though, Len's minutes will be limited as he gets use to the NBA and backing up Gortat. Should the Suns trade Gortat though, look for Len to struggle mightily at times as he continues to develop his game.
8 | Shannon Brown
After landing on his fifth team in 7 seasons, Brown continued being a below-average NBA player. Brown doesn't technically hurt a team he's on, posting a decent OWS and DWS, as well as average statistics in almost every category. But him losing his playing time to Wesley Johnson last season should say all that needs to be said. It's a bit tragic, as Brown possess some great intangibles, including a 44.5" vertical leap, but has failed to put it all together in his career. It appears as if the Suns will give him a fair shot at playing time, as they picked up his $3.5 million option this season, but don't be surprised if Archie Goodwin takes his spot by the end of the season.
9 | Kendall Marshall
Selected with the 13th pick last year, Marshall definitely struggled in his rookie season. Marshall is an unremarkable athlete, but has extraordinary court vision and instincts. Unfortunately, he turned the ball over on 26.6% of possessions, one of the signs of a young and inexperienced point guard. Marshall may have a future in the NBA, with some scouts setting his ceiling as a player as Mark Jackson, but for now, he is a young point guard who has a long ways to go before he can help an NBA team. Luckily for him, he will likely find himself plenty of playing time, simply because he's on one of the weaker teams in the league.
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10 | Markieff Morris
11 | Marcus Morris
The Morri twins were reunited last season after the Suns traded for Marcus from the Houston Rockets. Unfortunately, statistics show the twins played terribly together, as opponents outscored the Suns by more than 20 points per 100 possessions when they were on the court together.
The twins have shown potential, with each capable of hitting jump shots, and very physical players. Unfortunately, they are average in almost every other way and will likely never develop into anything more than limited role players.
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12 | Michael Beasley
Last season, Beasley tried to convince everyone he had matured, saying he had grown and was ready to move on in the NBA. But the former second overall pick either lied, or hadn't done as much growing as he thought, as he was cited with multiple driving offenses in January, and was investigated for sexual assault in May. Adding to the headache, Beasley's turnover rate has increased each year of his career, with last season being his highest yet, and his OWS at -2.5 last season, worst in the NBA.
McDonough has said Beasley has a lot of growing up to do, but the Suns will likely give him a few more chances to prove himself as they simply don't have many other options. If things don't change for him this season though, he will likely find himself out of the league for good; I'm not sure how many teams will be willing to take a chance on him. Hopefully that is enough motivation for the 24 year old, as he is extremely talented, but could end up wasting it if he doesn't change his ways.
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13 | Archie Goodwin
At 18 years old, Goodwin was the youngest player in the NBA Draft. Selected 29th overall, Goodwin possesses an elite level of physical tools, standing 6'5" with a 6'10" wingspan, and 36" vertical jump. He showed flashes of excellence at Kentucky, averaging 17.8 points per 40 minutes in college, but struggled mightily in conference play, where he shot just 18% from 3-point range and .570% from the free throw line. His speed and athleticism also translate to the defensive end of the court, but he tends to make too many risks, proving he has a lot to learn.
The Suns were happy to get Goodwin at 29, and some believe Goodwin could have developed into a top-10 pick in next year's draft if he had stayed at Kentucky (as John Calipari suggested he should). However, with where he is at now, the Suns would be smart to let Goodwin play in the D-League this year, where he would receive time to work on his game instead of riding the bench most of the season.
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