With the 2015/16 season kicking off tomorrow it's time for the compulsory process of predicting how the season will unfurl. This is going to be really easy. I've asked all the members of the Bright Side staff to give me a win total, tell me whether the Phoenix Suns will break their ignominious playoff drought and dole out a brief synopsis that encapsulates their predictions.
This article will serve as a nice reference point for bragging rights/ridicule later on as the season plays out.
Average wins: 43.2
High wins: 47
Low wins: 38
Playoffs yes/no: 5-5
For what it's worth, every single one of our writers picked higher than the 36.5 wins the Westgate opened the Suns line at. Maybe we're all a bunch of optimists after all...
I like the analysis given by CBS Sports... "I don't want any part in trying to predict how this team will play or what will go on with its roster. Too unstable. That's a big bag of 'NOPE' right there."
I think that is accurate to a certain degree, and is reflected by us being split right down the middle on whether this team will make the playoffs. At least going into the season, the Suns really look like a borderline team... a role which hasn't worked out well for them the past few seasons.
Here's where each of us stood on the subject.
Feel free to give your take in the comments below to be included in our time capsule prediction process.
2015/16 Record: 41-41
With the 13th pick in the 2016 NBA draft the Phoenix Suns select... The Suns are a bubble team again and we've all seen how that has gone for them the last few seasons. This team may actually be more talented than the squad that won 48 games two years ago, but less talented than last year's team that only managed 39. The West still appears to be replete with good teams and I have questions about the Suns' bench and three point shooting. I think the Suns most likely win range is between 35-45 games and wouldn't be surprised to see them make the playoffs as the 7th or 8th seed, but with so many new pieces it's just tough to tell exactly how the chemistry will develop. Since the Suns still seem stuck on the treadmill of conbuilding, rolling out another potentially good but not great team, I'll just assume they're planning another tryst with a late lottery pick next June.
2015/16 Record: 42-40
Part of me would really like to predict "everything is going to click, the Suns are going to win 50 games and slide into the 6th seed in the Western Conference" but a much greater part of me is a severe pessimist who sees a great deal of what-ifs with this team. I think there's a bunch of above average talent on the Suns roster - sure there's no elite, high-level talent but you can win a lot of games with above average pieces that fit well together. And while there's the potential for these pieces to fit together all the questions like "can Markieff Morris avoid combusting?", "can Brandon Knight adjust to playing off the ball?", "can T.J. Warren be a reliable rotation player?", "can at least one of Sonny Weems, Archie Goodwin or Devin Booker be a reliable third guard?" all have to break correctly for the Suns to make the playoffs. Oh and the team is an injury away from Ronnie Price playing 12-15 minutes per game. The Suns should hang around the playoff race for a while but like 4 of the last 5 years I think they'll fall just a little short.
2015/16 record: 44-38
Playoffs: Ok, but just barely
I agree with everything Scott said, but I also have Dallas taking huge strides backwards and New Orleans suffering a setback season as well under the unpalatable combination of injury prone starters and very little depth. Combined with the obvious decline of the rebuilding Trail Blazers, and the bottom few playoff spots in the West will suddenly be more attainable than what we're used to assuming. A few less buzzer-beating losses, an absence of power struggles in the locker room, and an improved defense will add up to 44 wins, and to the surprise of everybody, that will be enough to crack the top 8 this year.
2015/16 record: 45-37
Playoffs: Sure why not?
Come on, someone has to be positive. Right? Right?! I mean, Keef is clearly going to run roughshod over the league to prove how great he is with 18 points and 8 rebounds a game. Tyson Chandler finally finds his NBA home in the valley, following in the footsteps of Kurt Warner, Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Carson Palmer to play a few more difference-making years into his mid-30s. Eric Bledsoe blossoms into an All-Star terror, and Brandon Knight slides cleanly into a shooting guard role with lights-out shooting ability. And all the Suns kids exceed their expectations, too. Heck, even Archie Goodwin wins a game or two with his quick offense.
But then again, this is the Western Conference and even if all that happens the Suns still might come up short of the playoffs. But this time, Adam Silver will step in and grant the Phoenix franchise an exemption to move to the Eastern Conference for the postseason. The Suns fall in the ECF in 6 games to... the Miami Heat. Too soon? Okay, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
(Gimme a break here. I'm usually the 'sane' one on this board)
2015/16 record: 47-35
Playoffs: Yes, 7th in West
As the rogue member of the Bright Side staff, it is only fitting that I be the one to predict that the Suns will be better than many expect. But why the rosy outlook? Well, Phoenix lost a franchise-record 12 games last season by 3 or fewer points — a mark only five teams have exceeded since 2000-01. Of course, those numbers include a harrowing number of buzzer beaters suffered last season. Then there's the 1-10 finish to the regular season that isn't likely to repeat. If you remove the Khris Middleton and Blake Griffin buzzer beaters and give Phoenix a modest 5-6 record instead of 1-10, that's 45 wins right there without the addition of Tyson Chandler or improvements from T.J. Warren, Alex Len, and Eric Bledsoe. With the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture weaker than it has been in recent years, this is Phoenix's shot to finally end the playoff drought.
2015/16 record: 44-38
While the 2013/14 Suns season saw just about everything go right, last season was the opposite, culminating with a late-season collapse after Brandon Knight's season-ending injury. After more personnel turnover, this might be the most well-constructed and talented roster of the McDonough/Hornacek tenure. Unfortunately, they still face the pesky problem of playing in the stacked Western Conference. This Suns squad has a chance to have a strong defense, top 10 even, if former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler has the hoped for impact. Knight remains a mystery, and 3 point shooting is again a big question mark. The real problem is looking at the lay of the land in the West, and seeing teams like the Warriors, Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Rockets and Grizzlies. Barring injuries, I can't see any way the Suns finish higher than any of those 6, which leaves the 7th and 8th spots. To get one of them, have to outperform such teams as Anthony Davis' Pelicans, the up and coming Jazz, and talented but dysfunctional Kings. Can't completely count out the Mavericks with Dirk and underrated head coach Rick Carlisle either. I'm just not sure how the Suns can climb the ladder when there's so much talent ahead of them.
2015/2016 Record: 38-44
Playoffs: No, 10th seed
I don't think this team is better or worse than last years, to be honest. Different strengths, definitely, but not a vastly different talent level. And the bottom of the West is probably better. Last season the Suns swept the Lakers, and won the season series against the Mavs, Nuggets, Wolves and Jazz. Of those, only the Mavs have really declined; the others should all be better this season. Of Western teams the Suns had a losing record against, only the Trail Blazers have declined precipitously. This team will need to dominate the East to win more than 40 games (they went 18-12 last season). Even modest gains in the West, say an additional 3 wins, are likely offset by more competition from the middle of the East.
2015/16 record: 45-37
I need to use a little more space here to prove my playoff point.
Eric Bledsoe is playing with his best fit for a backcourt partner since arriving in Phoenix. Bledsoe and Brandon Knight have had longer than three weeks to figure out their complicated relationship as a pair, something that's a factor for them, their teammates, and the coaching staff. Knight's only 23 and I think we see a major improvement in him either as a defender, shot maker, or playmaker. For whatever reason, Markieff Morris is playing with energy and using verticality. Rollin has made good points on the efficiency of Morris as a player, but him playing like he has in the preseason with an improved three-point shot would change everything. Tyson Chandler brings tremendous energy and a real defensive presence to the team. His leadership alongside Ronnie Price will help improve a chemistry nightmare that last season finished 25th in opp. points off TO, 29th in opp, second chance points, 27th in opp. fast break points, and 28th in opp. points in the paint. That's a lot of small areas that the Suns were dreadful in and a lot of that comes down to being a cohesive team in my opinion. A clearer rotation with Chandler will help clean that up.
On the bench, Alex Len's good enough to be a solid NBA starting center, but he's in a perfect spot for 20-25 minutes off the bench and spending most of those dominating backup big men. Marcus Morris and Gerald Green's awful defense and terrible shot selection is gone and now the all-around play of Sonny Weems and the ultra efficient T.J. Warren replaces them.
In the West, it's the Suns, Jazz, Pelicans, Mavericks, and Kings competing for two spots. The Pelicans have only four healthy rotation players right now. The Jazz were a monster in the second half, but can they do that over the course of a full season? The Kings are a potential chemistry wildfire and the Mavericks' fifth best player is probably Charlie Villanueva. That along with my points above has me picking the Suns for a playoff spot.
2015/16 record: 46-36
The Suns took a substantial step back last season after a surprisingly good 2013/14 season, which proved what a young, energetic team with great chemistry and just enough talent could pull off. Unfortunately, that didn't last, and Phoenix came crashing back to Earth last year, and began to unravel at the seams in just about every way imaginable. so why am I picking them to make the playoffs this year and nearly match their win total from two seasons ago? Well, I think they now have better balance and leadership to help counter the young but immature roster, and gave several candidates ready to step up and make their mark.
One of the biggest issues for Phienix last year (on the court) was their lack of perimeter shooting. Well this year, they have that in spades, thanks to the additions of Teletovic, Booker, and even Leuer. Their other big issue? Not having a post presence to step in when Alex Len was injured. But now? Tyson Chandler will anchor the starting unit while mentoring the young Ukrainian big man. Not only will Len benefit from less pressure and playing against reserve units, he should get plenty of tutelage from Chandler on how to solidify his game.
I think this is the year we see Bledsoe come into his own as the cornerstone of this team, and I think his pairing with Knight will give the Suns' backcourt some much needed stability. Oh, and T.J. Warren...yeah, I'm going to mention him separately from the rest of the young guys, because I see him as being a legit weapon on the cusp of a breakout year. I think this year will see the Suns finally end their drought and sneak into the playoffs as the eighth seed.
2015/16 Record: 40-42
Falling just short once again. I have this feeling that whatever we have right now still won't be enough to go the stretch. The pieces seem like a nicer fit then the beginning of last year, but the team is just lacking something more. Unless either Eric or Brandon (or someone) break out on a higher level this year, there's no go-to guy to really take the lead. The Suns needed a lot of individual and team growth at the end of last season, and I don't think they could have come far enough during one summer. From Eric's playmaking/leadership skills, Brandon fitting into the system to players maturing enough to not get technicals every other game..
With the roster changes it feels like starting over from scratch again. The 5 starters have yet to play a relevant minute together and we can't expect the team to gel immediately. Despite the addition of Tyson Chandler this team's core is still young. My guess is we'll be in the running until the very end, but will get crushed in the last 8 games of the season at least 7 of which come against Playoff worthy teams.