Before the Phoenix Suns season starts tomorrow in earnest, let’s take one more day to reflect on our feelings about them.
Are we excited about what the Suns can accomplish? Or are we resigned to another super-losing season filled with loss after loss on the way to another high draft pick?
I asked the Bright Side illuminati to take part in this roundtable, Part 2.
Here is part one, in case you missed it: Preseason Predictions, Part 1
Are the Suns more likely to lead the league in pace or in fouls committed?
Last year’s prediction: Pace
Actual result: The Suns did indeed finish second in pace, but led the league by a wide margin in fouls committed with 24.8 per game, the most since the 2006-07 Utah Jazz, whose third best player was none other than current Suns assistant Mehmet Okur.
This year the prediction is...
Dave King: Those Jazz won 51 games, so I suppose it’s not the worst thing to lead the league in fouls. Unfortunately, the Suns’ version of foul committing is more often the product of youth and inexperience than message-sending. I suspect little will change this year, as the Suns once again try to lead the league in both categories.
Evan Sidery: Pace. The Suns finished second in pace last season, and with both Earl Watson and Ryan McDonough saying they wanted to pick it up even more this year, I'll side with this choice. Adding in Jackson, too, should help in this area as well, which we saw throughout preseason.
Rod Argent: Yes. In all honesty, I think it's very possible that they lead the league in both.
Keith M. Scheessele: These guys are right, leading in both is a distinct possibility. I don’t want to the play the middle though, so I’ll say pace. These guys have matured a little, they’re a little smarter. Right?
Brendon Kleen: I’m going to agree with Evan — the organization is holding firm in their desire to play even faster this year when the opportunity provides itself. They are empowering everyone from Devin Booker to Dragan Bender to grab rebound and ignite transition possessions themselves. They could easily move up one spot to lead the league in pace.
Jim Coughenour: I don't see any reason why the Suns can't do both, but I'll hope for the more watchable option of them leading the league in pace. None of us want to watch them blow away the field in fouls committed... again. Last season the Suns committed 2030 fouls vs. a league average of 1632. That's nearly 5 extra fouls per game. Jackson is another guy who will get out and run the floor, and I'm pretty sure Watson is just going to let the guys go out there and do their thing again (much easier than coaching real offensive sets).
Tim Tompkins: Last season the only team to outpace the Suns (104.6) were the Brooklyn Nets (104.9). Their main acquisition of D'Angelo Russell certainly won't slow their pace, not to mention they have six (!!) shooting guards on the roster. The Suns have been an absolute dumpster fire with Jackson, Len, Bender, Chriss & Booker all averaging 2+ fouls this preseason on 'limited' minutes, I'm voting they'll continue to be a saloon door while sending opponents to the line all season long.
Greg Esposito: They’re most likely to lead the league in pace of fouls committed. With the young age of #TheTimeline you’re bound to have mental lapses on the defensive and a lot of overaggressiveness. That and you still have Marquese Chriss in the starting lineup.
Deadpoolio: Fouls. I shudder to think how porous the Suns’ defense might be if they didn’t even make the effort to reach in after being beaten by their man.
Who has the healthiest season between Eric Bledsoe, T.J. Warren and Tyson Chandler?
Last year’s prediction: Votes were split amongst Bledsoe and Knight.
Actual result: Brandon Knight was the “winner”. He had a completely forgettable year dogged with injury and underperformance..
This year the prediction is...
Dave King: I’m not a big fan of this question, but since we’re playing the game of repeating last year’s questions I’ll go along. I replaced Knight (already out all season) and Len (played 77+ games two straight years now) with Warren and Chandler. I’ll take T.J. Warren being the most healthy among those three. T.J. will be ready for opening night, and I predict his bad luck on injuries turns around for the better and he finally makes it a whole season.
Evan Sidery: Bledsoe. Even though he's alternating knee injuries (knock on wood), Bledsoe seems to have found himself and through preseason there has been talk of him "priming" into his role as a floor general. As we saw throughout preseason and in camp, Booker has been bringing the ball up as the primary initiator a lot more often. I see Bledsoe taking a third wheel role this season behind Booker and either Jackson or Warren which isn't a bad idea. After Phoenix attempted to tank for the top pick and sat Bledsoe, he should be rejuvenated for a long season.
Rod Argent: I'm going with Warren for two reasons. He's the youngest of the three and his injuries so far aren't of the reoccurring type (like Bledsoe's knee problems).
Keith M. Scheessele: I’ll use the same logic Rod introduced. T.J. has missed significant time in each of his three seasons but for different reasons. Also, he’s certainly trending in the right direction. Last year he appeared in a career-high 66 games.
Brendon Kleen: I will go with Chandler. Even accounting for his extended rest to finish last season, Chandler was still able to play 46 games last season. However, he has never played 82 games in a season.
These are clearly the three guys who figure to struggle the most maintaining their bodies and staying on the court. Bledsoe has had injury problems his whole career and Warren runs the risk of repeating his head problems.
Jim Coughenour: Well, it will probably be hard for Chandler and Bledsoe to get hurt as healthy scratches due to "strategic resting", but I sure hope it's T.J. Warren. Injuries have stymied his progress, so even with his newly inked deal I think many Suns fans aren't quite sure what his career holds in store. Quality starter or quality rotation player. Unfortunately, the odds of all three of these guys making it through a season unscathed is probably infinitesimally close to zero... but let's just hope that when one of them does miss time it's not for something major.
Tim Tompkins: Tyson Chandler, simply because he'll play such limited minutes. We're expecting him to start games, though it remains unseen if he'll be closing games for the team down the stretch.
Greg Esposito: Tyson Chandler but only because the Suns are going to treat him the way Steve Carell’s character in 40 Year Old Virgin treated collectibles. They’re never going to take him out of the packaging — his warm ups — or play with him. Only way he’s going to get hurt is trying to mimic Alan Williams’ bench celebrations.
Deadpoolio: Chandler. Avoiding nagging old-guy injuries should be easy considering the Suns might not play him more than 20 minutes a game.
Who gets traded first?
Last year’s prediction: Archie Goodwin and P.J. Tucker got the most votes..
Actual result: Goodwin was released by opening night, and Tucker was traded at the deadline in February.
This year the prediction is...
Dave King: I would not be surprised if Tyson Chandler is traded by opening night on Wednesday if not by the time this story publishes on Tuesday. Either way, the Suns and Chandler seem content with moving him to a playoff team when the offer is right. Last year, they didn’t want to part ways but this year both sides seem more intent on making it happen.
Evan Sidery: Bledsoe. Unlike Tyson Chandler, the Suns' point guard will have value around the league. If not now, it will intensify around February. After both Bledsoe and Watson spoke throughout camp, it sure sounds like that rumored Kyrie deal was close. Watson said after the rumors, Bledsoe said he was fully committed to this team. However, how committed is management? Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley III might be too tantalizing to not offload Bledsoe to a contender like Denver or Milwaukee come deadline time. A deal that I think makes sense for all sides would be a deal with the Nuggets. Send back Darrell Arthur, Emmanuel Mudiay, and an unprotected first rounder and I think that's enough to get it done. Phoenix seems super high on Tyler Ulis, too. They might want to see him in a starter role once again in the second half to see what they have. Bledsoe has been crucial to the development of this roster, but if Booker and Ulis show improvements early it could signal trade winds once again.
Rod Argent: I would have to say it will be Eric Bledsoe. Not because Phoenix really wants to trade him but because some team is more likely to overpay for him, especially an Eastern team looking to add a near-All-Star level player in what looks to be a much weaker conference this year. Chandler would be my second choice but I think that teams will be calling sooner and more often about Bledsoe than Tyson and sooner or later McD is going to hear an offer that he can't turn down.
Keith M. Scheessele: Bledsoe. Ulis is the future at point guard for Phoenix. That’s no knock on Eric, I’m a big fan. But the Suns have the luxury of letting the buyers come to them. They’re in no hurry to move Bledsoe, and they shouldn’t be. But I think come the next year’s trade deadline the offer from a playoff contender will be too sweet.
Brendon Kleen: I will actually say Jared Dudley. It feels like the Suns are just waiting for him to get healthy before they really start to gauge his value around the league.
Jim Coughenour: I'm not sure McDonough is making tons of phone calls right now, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Chandler moved by the deadline. Len has veto power. Knight is unmovable. Dudley is... yeah. I think the Suns are kind of in a position to just play out the season for the most part and see how things unfurl. Another season of player development and getting their asses kicked.
Tim Tompkins: Bledsoe is the vet on the roster with the most value given his salary and production. Teams out west, namely Denver, are all in on a post season run. It wouldn't shock me to see a Suns/Nuggets trade involving Bledsoe & either Murray or Mudiay.
Greg Esposito: Mike James. He’ll play well enough to be on an NBA roster but not well enough to warrant not playing Ulis. When his 45 days on the roster are close to being up, Ryan McDonough will find a way to turn him into a 2nd round pick. It’s not a sexy move but it will be the first.
Deadpoolio: Dudley. He’s a solid role player and good locker-room guy who can fit in with pretty much any team. Plus, his cap number drops to $9.53 million next year.
What’s the biggest name the Suns trade/acquire this season?
Last year’s prediction: Most said no trades, though one writer threw out Boogie.
Actual result: The Suns could have had Boogie, but didn’t really want him for too much collateral because he will be a free agent by next summer. The Suns didn’t actually acquire any usable parts in any trades last year.
This year the prediction is...
Dave King: Anthony Bennett doesn’t count? He was the #1 overall pick just four years ago! Okay, okay, let’s see... All I can predict is that if the Suns pick up a “big name” this year it will be a recent draft pick who hasn’t lived up to his team’s expectations. Someone like Emmanuel Mudiay, perhaps.
Evan Sidery: None, unless they surprise early. I believe they will sell high on Bledsoe and Chandler and roll out the tanks one final time before lottery reform hits. If they were to trade for someone, the only name that makes any sort of sense would be DeMarcus Cousins if their experiment in the Bayou fails. However, I see Phoenix sticking to their plan and staying pat at least until this summer. With five picks in next year's draft, general manager Ryan McDonough obviously has something up his sleeve.
Rod Argent: Eric Bledsoe. As I said in answer to the previous question, I believe that McD will eventually get an offer for him that is too good to turn down.
As for the biggest name that the Suns might acquire, my mind went to an unlikely but possible trade between Toronto and Phoenix that Zach Lowe mentioned in his '32 Crazy Predictions' article for ESPN. That trade is basically a swap of Jonas Valanciunas for Tyson Chandler. I doubt it happens but it does make some sense for both teams. As Lowe put it, "Toronto gets a win-now veteran and the same years-and-money reduction; Phoenix exchanges a geezer for a 25-year-old."
Keith M. Scheessele: I think Mudiay makes the most sense if only because I can’t come up with a better answer. His size contrasts well with that of Ulis and he’s a good substitution for what is lost when Bledsoe leaves town. Also I think Denver is more anxious to move on from Mudiay than Phoenix is from Bledsoe. While I disagree with the Nuggets if that’s the case, I’m for anything that means screwing another team out of an extra draft pick.
Brendon Kleen: The most well-known player I could imagine them landing would be 2016 Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon. Milwaukee is the other team outside of Denver rumored to be interested in Bledsoe. If that deal happens, the Suns aren’t getting Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker or Thon Maker. Brogdon seems acquirable.
Jim Coughenour: It's going to be pretty hard to top the Daniels deal they just pulled off. I actually don't see Phoenix trading for anybody noteworthy. It just doesn't seem to fall in line with the new status quo. If they trade someone like Chandler, for example, I think they would be looking for an expiring deal and draft pick. I think people are just going to need to be patient a little longer.
Tim Tompkins: A yet to be drafted player in the form of the mid/late first rounder included in an Eric Bledsoe trade.
Greg Esposito: Alan Williams. The big man coming back from inquiry is the biggest acquisition the Suns will make this season. Just don’t see big names that make sense for the Suns becoming available in season. (How’s that for a reverse jinx? Wait, does mentioning it reverse the reverse jinx?)
Deadpoolio: I’d say Future Second Round Pick, but that’s not a name. So I’ll say the draft rights to Tadija Dragicevic.
Which players on the current roster will be among the CORE of the next Suns playoff team?
Last year’s prediction: Lots of variation including the usual suspects, with the most daring picks including Alex Len and Brandon Knight.
Actual result: We still don’t know who is among core of the next great Suns team. Which is kinda sad, if you think about it.
This year the prediction is...
Dave King: I’m depressed now, after typing that “actual result” blurb. Ugh. I’d say Devin Booker, if he continues to progress and add piece to his game. And Josh Jackson, if he plays with as much energy as we saw in preseason while adding consistent shooting results. Anyone else a sure-fire part of the “next great Suns team”? Wait and see.
Evan Sidery: Booker, Jackson, Chriss, Reed, Ulis, and Warren. These six seem like rotation mainstays and I will include Reed from what I saw in Summer League. Right alongside Jackson, he was very impressive. If they're able to add in their third main cornerstone (one of Doncic or Bagley III), Phoenix is set up for sustained success. Then, in turn, this attracts the marquee free agents as Kevin Durant then followed Golden State to a title with their young core that blossomed. For the rest of the roster, I still have question marks I want to see ironed out first. And with this list, I think this is how management would see it as well, maybe including a more seasoned Dragan Bender.
Rod Argent: At the moment I'd only count on Booker and Jackson being part of that "core". There are several other possible candidates but none that I would point to with any certainty yet. My opinion could change by mid-season but right now Booker and Jackson are it.
Keith M. Scheessele: I completely agree with Evan’s list, and I appreciate the inclusion of Davon Reed, so we can at least give off the appearance of caring about perimeter defense. I’m thinking like a Raja Bell-type. Is that way off?
I’ll be bummed if the next Suns playoff squad doesn’t include Bender, but I think it’s entirely possible. The feeling I can’t shake is that Phoenix is the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he could end up catching on somewhere else down the road. I very much want to be wrong about that, I like his game.
Brendon Kleen: Hmm. I unfortunately see the answer to this question much the same way Dave does. I only feel confident in Booker and Jackson as sure-thing members of the next competitive Suns core. However, based on the fact that they just signed T.J. Warren to a contract that may or not be tradable, I’ll include him as well.
Jim Coughenour: Devin Booker and Josh Jackson. Potentially a few others, but right now those are the only two definite building pieces I see. Everyone else is expendable.
Tim Tompkins: Booker/JJ/Warren/Bender
Greg Esposito: Devin Booker and Josh Jackson. Everything else is up in the air. If the right player becomes available everyone, yes, even Booker, is available. When you’ve been out of the playoffs as long as the Suns have everything becomes negotiable. Especially if say an Anthony Davis becomes available.
Deadpoolio: Booker and Jackson. Although, there is an outside chance everyone on this roster will be retired before the Suns are talking playoffs again. Where’s the ice cream?
How many games will the Suns win?
Last year’s prediction: Ranged from 27-33, with Vegas predicting 26.5.
Actual result: The Suns won 24. On the plus side, they led the league in buzzer beater wins (4) while on the negative side they actively tanked for two months to offset them.
This year the prediction is...
Dave King: I’ll say 27 wins. There’s just too many underage guys being expected to play big roles on this team, and young guys just simply don’t come through in the clutch often enough. Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and Tyler Ulis - all 21 or under - are large parts of this year’s rotation that also includes youngish T.J. Warren and Alex Len (both 24) and will eventually include rookie Davon Reed (22).
Evan Sidery: 25-57. It's going to be a long season, but, honestly, this is one of the funnest League Pass teams to follow throughout the Association. Who knows, maybe this is finally the year Phoenix gets a No. 1 pick.
Rod Argent: I hate the fact that this team has come to the point where saying that I think the Suns will win 30 games might be overly optimistic but that's my prediction. But I also think that how well they do this season will depend on how much and how fast some of the younger players progress.
Keith M. Scheessele: 27.3 because it’s the average of the three numbers listed above. I’m prepared for more losing this season. That said, I’m not as comforted by #TheTimeline as others. I don’t slave away at the salt mines for 10 hours a day so I can go home and watch my favorite basketball team get throttled in meaningless basketball games for 70-80% of the season across the better part of a decade. Actually I guess I do. But I’m nearly fed up. I hope this team is close to turning a corner. Others who know a lot more about the NBA game than I do are telling me this is how you build a winner. Better be.
Brendon Kleen: They need to be bad for one more season, so their win total is impossible to gauge now that we know the lengths to which management will go to lose games. If Bledsoe and Chandler play most of the year, I’ll say the Suns will win 32 games. If not, that total will be closer to the mid-twenties guesses that Dave and Evan posited.
Jim Coughenour: 23.
Tim Tompkins: Last season the Suns 24 wins came in terms of 13 against the East & only 11 against the West. It's hard to imagine the Suns not going at least .500 out East, given the lack of talent in that conference. My prediction is The Suns coming in with the 3rd worst record in the NBA for a total of 27 wins.
Greg Esposito: Give me 24. They’ll be a better team than last year but it won’t show in the wins column. The West is better and the Suns are still on a mission to add at least one more top draft pick to #TheTimeline. If you’re looking for more wins you’re going to have wait at least another season for it.
Deadpoolio: I’ll stick with my guess of 27, but that presupposes the Suns don’t become any younger via trades or “strategic resting.” If either of those happen, it could get ugly fast.