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Phoenix Suns drop down the SI.com Top 100 list

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The Suns have three guards in the league’s Top 100, per SI.com.

NBA: Phoenix Suns-Media Day Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

NBA training camps are LESS THAN TWO WEEKS AWAY. The Phoenix Suns free scrimmage in Flagstaff and the first preseason game in Phoenix are less than three weeks away. The regular season itself begins in just over six weeks.

For the most part, players are all back in their team’s town, working out daily with teammates at the arena to get into basketball shape before the seven or eight-month grind tips off.

But for the next two weeks, all we have is each other. We don’t know any more about how our favorite team or its individual players will perform this year than we did a month ago, or four months ago.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t make predictions. In fact, prediction season has kicked off in a big way.

Today, let’s focus on SI.com’s annual ranking of the Top 100 Players in the NBA.

For those of us who are math-challenged, a perfectly balanced 30-team league would produce three players per team on this list, with a lucky ten teams getting a fourth name to pop up.

But the league is not perfectly balanced. Some teams, like Golden State Warriors, have more than three or four on the list, leaving other teams - by pure mathematical means - with less than their fair three.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane for Phoenix Suns player rankings in the annual Top 100 lists, starting with 2014.

2014 Top 100, per SI.com

To get your bearings, a ranking of the ‘2014 Top 100 players’ is a preseason ranking done the September before.

The Suns had just finished with 23 wins and had a complete roster makeover, trading nearly all their veterans for youth and future picks.

The only Suns remaining in the Top 100 for the 2013-14 season were to be Goran Dragic at #88 and newly-acquired Eric Bledsoe’s debut on the list at #95.

Former Suns in the Top 100 that year were Matt Barnes at #97, Shawn Marion at #92, Vince Carter at #86, Amare Stoudemire at #85, Joe Johnson at #59 and Steve Nash at #54. On that list, only Joe Johnson was ever named to another Top 100 again.

2015 Top 100, per SI.com

After a surprising 48-win season, the Suns best players blasted up the 2015 chart, much like Isaiah Thomas this year.

The Suns’ Goran Dragic jumped from #88 overall to #35 while Eric Bledsoe rose from #95 to #33. Isaiah Thomas debuted at #90 as the newly-minted third guard for the Suns. No other Suns made the list.

Former Suns in the Top 100 that year were Boris Diaw at #100, Robin Lopez #82, Marcin Gortat #58 and Joe Johnson #51.

2016 Top 100, per SI.com

It’s easier to make a Top 100 when you’re coming off an okay season, or at least not a disastrous one. The Suns had finished 39-43 the year before and added Tyson Chandler in the offseason, so it was easy give lofty rankings to other Suns players.

For the Suns, Brandon Knight was #79, Markieff Morris was #64, Tyson Chandler #36 and Eric Bledsoe #33.

Former Suns in the Top-100 include Robin Lopez at #84, Joe Johnson at #82, Marcin Gortat #63 and Goran Dragic #42.

2017 Top 100, per SI.com

No surprise. Per SI, the Suns top three talents are guards. Eric Bledsoe ranks #49 overall in the league, while Brandon Knight checks in at #98 and Devin Booker debuts on the list at #100.

The soon-to-be 34 year old Tyson Chandler was mentioned among the ‘biggest snubs’ - which roughly translates to the top 20 players outside the Top 100 - after one disastrous season in Phoenix.

All of those basic elements are still there. They were simply muted by age, injury, and circumstance in Phoenix last season, cumulatively to a point where it seemed that the fiery veteran might not have a place on this list.

In previous seasons, Chandler entered the year ranked #32 for 2016 and #39 for 2015 after being unranked following a terrible season in New York.

You might be happy with Bledsoe’s #49 ranking this year, unless it matters to you that he was ranked #33 overall in each of the prior two seasons since becoming a full-time starter for the Suns. SI.com is conflicted on Bledsoe.

In theory, Bledsoe is an impressively productive shot creator, a propulsive driver, and one of the league’s most oppressive perimeter defenders. In reality, he’s a short guard with two bad knees. That divide creates all kinds of confusion for this kind of exercise, given that the very concept of Bledsoe as a player is subject to the uncertainty swirling around compounding surgeries.

Brandon Knight, after consecutive seasons of his own injury issues, dropped from #79 overall entering last year to #98 overall this year.

I expect Suns fans to be up in arms over this ranking. Not that he dropped, but that he’s on a Top 100 list at all. In Suns fans eyes this year, BK doesn’t even belong in the ‘biggest snubs’ list let alone being mentioned among the Top 100 of 450 players in the league. SI.com doesn’t pull any punches, at least.

There’s the outline of a good player here, but one qualified by periodic unavailability, ordinary defense, and the concessions of volume.

Still, he’s a talented player and SI.com has him among the Top 100.

Making his debut on the Top 100 is young Devin Booker, fresh off an eye-opening rookie campaign to finish second in the Rookie of the Year voting.

At 19, Booker is the youngest player and only teenager on this year’s Top 100, a fact that should inspire awe and caution alike. Development at this stage tends to come in fits and starts, and Booker will need to reclaim his role in Phoenix’s backcourt with veterans Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight back from injury.

Other 2015 rookies listed so far in the Top 100 include Nikola Jokic (#78) and Kristaps Porzingis (#68). Sure to be in the Top 30 is Karl-Anthony Towns. That’s rare company for Booker.

Among former Top-100 Suns players, Goran Dragic made the list at #61 overall after being in the 30s in recent years and Marcin Gortat is #55 for his highest ranking yet. Markieff Morris dropped all the way out of the Top 100, while Robin Lopez hangs in there at #82 overall, his third straight year ranked 82-84th on the list.

First-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas gets the well-deserved satisfaction of being the highest-ranked former Suns guard at #45 overall after being listed #88 a year ago and #90 the year before that.

Final Word

It’s pretty telling that the Suns have not had a player ranked in the Top-30 of the league for at least the last four years.

Dragic and Bledsoe have knocked at the door, but Chandler is the only roster player on the Suns who ever sniffed a Top-30 ranking in his career.

Could Devin Booker someday be a Top-30 NBA player? Could anyone on this Suns roster grow into that role?

Stay tuned in the coming seasons. But for now, don’t hold your breath.