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Preseason predictions for Phoenix Suns portend another late-lotto pick

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Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Here we go again. Like knowing you're going to eat the same cereal again tomorrow that you ate today, the experts say you can expect to watch the Phoenix Suns pick late in the lottery again next June. While it's possible something different will happen, it's not likely.

Ed note: I know the picture doesn't tell the tale of this story, but I had to throw a Bright Side in somewhere...

ESPN is the latest to predict a Suns finish somewhere in the late lottery, placing the Suns 10th in the West just like last season. This is a familiar refrain. The Suns have finished 9th or 10th in the West 5 times in the last 7 years. In those two seasons that didn't finish 9th or 10th, the Suns made the playoffs once (2010) and got a high pick the other time. Unfortunately, the year the Suns chose to earn a high lottery pick was one of the worst draft years in the past decade.

  • 2009: 14th overall (Earl Clark)
  • 2010: traded away in 2008
  • 2011: 13th (Markieff Morris)
  • 2012: 13th (Kendall Marshall)
  • 2013: 5th (Alex Len)
  • 2014: 14th (T.J. Warren)
  • 2015: 13th (Devin Booker)

Earl Clark is largely out of the league, and Kendall Marshall is barely hanging on. Morris, Len, Warren and Booker are all still on the Suns but only Morris is a proven NBA starter. Len, Warren and Booker may all get to starter-status in the coming years, but none are projected All-Stars.

It's tough to draft an All-Star from 13th or 14th position but not impossible. The Suns simply haven't had the luck or the scouting chops to find one of those exceptions.

Now it looks more and more like the Suns will continue their boring trend and pick somewhere in the late lottery again in 2016, making it 6 of 8 years with that distinction.

With non-stars as your foundation, you're bound to stick on the treadmill. The Suns have supplemented those draft picks with other "pretty good players" but not one player with future All-Star games written all over him. Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe will each have to make quantum leaps to break into the West All-Star squad, and Tyson Chandler is on the way down.

ESPN-projected-RPM

Overall, the Suns project to be "pretty good" again this year but not quite good enough.

Here's a fancy chart predicting the Suns efficiency this coming season.

suns-predicted-efficiency

The project to be above average in the midrange and at the rim, but middling to below average everywhere else. You can't really argue with those predictions based on last year's results. You can just hope the Suns prove the doubters wrong.

The Suns were the worst three-point shooting team in the league after the break, and added only one starter (Knight) who shoots it well. The bench will likely have better shooters if Booker earns minutes as well as Teletovic, but the starters will each need to step up their shooting percentages to make the Suns a threat most of the time.

At least ESPN's projected playoff chance is higher than 2013-14 (0.00%)...

espn-projected-playoff-chance-win-total

Summary

Brace yourselves.

It's often easier to get through the season if you expect the lowest generally-accepted outcome (finishing late lotto again) and be pleasantly surprised by something else (awful season but high pick, or PLAYOFFS). At least that's how I do it.