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Center of the Sun: Welcome Back to Phoenix Suns Basketball!

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Utah Jazz v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Editors Note: Everyone welcome long time commenter Rod Argent to BSotS writer rotation! Rod will be bringing weekly Center of the Sun posts to us all season long as well as other contributor duties like game coverage, round tables, news and features. Welcome, Rod!

This preseason started off with a bang with the news that Devin Booker was named the starting shooting guard for the Suns and that Brandon Knight would be coming off the bench. So far that seems to have been a sound decision. Booker is leading the Suns (and the league) in scoring and Knight is the Suns third leading scorer giving the Suns a nice one-two offensive punch between the starting unit and the bench.

Game Recaps

vs. San Antonio Spurs - W (91-86) Full Recap

vs. Utah Jazz - L (104-99) Full Recap

@ Portland Trailblazers - L (115-110) Full Recap

@ Utah Jazz - W (111-110) Full Recap

vs. Dallas Mavericks - W (112-107) Full Recap

Head coach Earl Watson has worked hard to build team chemistry and create a family atmosphere with the Suns and it seems to be paying off. But there are still a lot of question marks for the Suns as we get closer to opening night. One of the things that might trouble fans is that the Suns still seem to be in the habit of starting games slow offensively and having to mount a comeback to get back into games. Yes, it's just preseason but we've seen this tendency before and it's obviously not a habit we want to continue... especially once the regular season starts.

Booker, T.J. Warren, Knight and Chriss have been the team’s most consistently productive offensive players so far. The defense has been aggressive but has also resulted in a lot of fouls. If the team can keep up the hustle and eventually cut down on the fouls, we could see a reasonably good defense this year. And it certainly won't hurt the team defense to have PJ Tucker return to the rotation once he fully recovers from his back surgery. Eric Bledsoe has had something of a quiet preseason, seeming to concentrate on facilitating and defense. We all know that he can be an explosive scorer and I think that once the regular season starts that he will crank his offense up a notch or two whenever necessary. He certainly did that in the Dallas game.

All things considered, the Suns look to be on the right path. With all the youth on this team this will probably be a rocky season as far as wins and losses but one where we should continue to see progress as it unfolds.

Key Stat

25.2 MPG, 21.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.8 SPG

Those numbers belong to Devin Booker. Without a doubt, he is well on his way to becoming "the man" in Phoenix. During this preseason he has seemed to concentrate on rounding out his game and becoming an offensive threat from all over the court instead of leaning on what he's already proven that he can do (shoot from downtown). Once the regular season starts, expect his minutes to go up to 30+ per game and probably his PPG average as well.

Quote of the Week

Asked before Wednesday’s preseason game against Utah where he saw 18-year-old Dragan Bender in five years, head coach Earl Watson didn’t hesitate. "For me, Dragan is Lamar Odom," he said. --

Rookie Watch

Marquese Chriss - 27.0 MPG, 13.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 0.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.2 BPG

Dragan Bender - 23.3 MPG, 4.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.4 SPG, 1.2 BPG

Tyler Ulis - 17.8 MPG, 7.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.4 SPG

Derrick Jones Jr. - 6.0 MPG, 3.5 PPG, 0.5 RPG, 0.5 APG

All stats courtesy of Real GM.

Chriss, Bender and Ulis have all played significant minutes in the preseason. Of the three, Marquese Chriss looks to have the biggest role off the bench once the regular season starts. Although still a bit foul prone, his energy, athleticism and ability to finish at the basket are already spawning fan comparisons to former Sun Amare Stoudemire. And in the Dallas game, he showed off his three point stroke hitting 3 of 5 from downtown. Dragan Bender shows flashes but still looks like a work in progress so expect his minutes to drop once the season starts, especially after P.J. Tucker returns. Tyler Ulis has also looked pretty good on the court but I expect that the Suns will give most of minutes at the guard spots to a fairly tight three man guard rotation of Bledsoe, Booker and Knight early on. Certainly Ulis will still get some minutes but I expect them to drop below what he's averaged in preseason but grow as the season progresses. Jones has only played in two of the five preseason games and is likely headed to join the NAZ soon.

News & Notes

On Oct. 11 the Suns placed center Gracin Bakumanya, forward Derek Cooke Jr. and guard Shaquille Harrison on waivers. This brings the total number of players that they have under contract to 16. They will need to get that number down to 15 by Oct. 23. Derrick Jones Jr. will likely be the final cut but he is also very likely to end up as a member of the NAZ.

The Suns have released their promo schedule. Find out when you can grab some free goodies by just attending a game.

Previewing the Week Ahead

Friday, October 21st @ Los Angeles Lakers (2-3)

The Suns final preseason game this year is with the ever popular Lakers. For the first time in the memory of younger fans, the Lakers will be Kobe-less and looking for a new direction. I'm sure they were hoping that number two pick in this year's draft, Brandon Ingram, was going to help jump start the new era but so far Ingram has had a disappointing preseason and won't likely be a factor in the Suns game either. But they still have a lot of young talent that will play hard and give the Suns a run for their money. I expect the Suns to win this one unless they decide to sit most of their starters and let the young guns do most of the heavy lifting. Even then, I think it would probably be a close game.

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