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Center of the Sun: The Fantable discusses the Phoenix Suns' "Core Four" and early predictions for this season

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Without the "Core Four" no one would be talking about #TheTimeline

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

#TheTimeline is synonymous with hope for the future in Phoenix and that hope is fueled by our faith in the development of our young core of players. That core isn't likely to take the Suns far very soon (ESPN predicts 30 wins this season) but an eventual return to relevance. The playoffs and possible championship contention rests firmly on their young shoulders at the moment. The most promising of the Suns' young players - Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and Josh Jackson - have been dubbed the "core four". These are the guys that most believe to have the highest potential and are expected to play the biggest roles as the Suns try to rebuild.

With that in mind, I've asked our Fantable two questions this week.

1. ESPN's Kevin Pelton has predicted that the Suns will win 30.3 games this season (this doesn't take into account a possible trade for Kyrie Irving) and finish with the 5th worst record in the NBA (2nd worst in the West). Do you agree or disagree with this estimate for the Suns?

GuarGuar: If we keep Bledsoe (or get Kyrie for a friendly deal) I think we can get over 30 wins. We were on pace for that before benching Bled and Chandler. Assuming Book, Chriss, Bender, TJ all improve I think 31-33 is the most likely scenario. It's hard to tell with this team because our success is based off the youngins improvement. And we don't know how much they improved over the summer because we haven't seen them much. I don't plan on being one of the 5 worst records next season. I understand it's very possible we suck next year but I think we might be in for a pleasant surprise.

Sun-Arc: I think we win close to 30 games. As currently constructed and barring any trades or intentional tanking, I think the team could win 34 games or more. I’m going with 34 unless something crazy, or expected, happens. I also think we’ll be at least as good as the Lakers (again, barring trades) and they are estimated at 33 wins. We have less turnover and overall two players (Booker and Bledsoe) that are better than anyone LA has. And I would like to think we’ll be better than Dallas as well. But Carlisle is a wizard of sorts and Smith could possibly be a ROY candidate. If we do end up with a better record than those two teams plus SAC, we’d be 4th worst, not 2nd as Pelton predicts.

SDKyle: That sounds roughly correct to me. Call me pessimistic if you will, but I really think a best-case scenario for the Suns is about 4th in the West, with 3rd or 2nd being more likely. More optimistic projections, in my view, would seem to rest on a combination of overwhelmingly favorable assumptions, namely:

- That Chriss, Bender, Ulis, and Booker all play not just somewhat better than they did last season, but MUCH better.

- That veteran players such as Chandler continue to contribute without much dropoff.

- That Josh Jackson and Davon Reed play at a reasonably high level for rookies.

- That the Suns don't lose any significant contributor for any meaningful length of time.

I believe that one or perhaps two of those conditions might come to pass, but I'm skeptical they all could. The Suns, on paper, still just aren't good enough to be knocking on the door of 40 wins as I have seen some Brightisders speculate. That said, Cmon Suns...prove me wrong.

SouthernSun: I think this is a pretty fair assessment. I wouldn't be surprised if we end up winning 5 or 6 more games than that, though. The West is stacked, but the Suns won 24 games last season tanking, shut down the best player for the last 20 games, and were probably stealth tanking for longer than that. I could see them winning anywhere from 28 to 38 games, with 33 or so being the most likely outcome. I think we'll be better than the Lakers, Kings, and Mavs. We added a blue chip prospect in JJ and Booker, Chriss, and Bender will be more developed. Maybe Warren will be healthy all season too.

If the Suns add Kyrie (which would possibly prompt one more win sooner move like trading another future pick for a solid big) then I could see them battling for an 8th seed this season (and a 6th to 8th next).


2. Devin Booker, Dragan Bender, Marquess Chriss and Josh Jackson have been called the Suns' "core four". How would you rank these four in order of importance to the team based on how good you think each can become?

GuarGuar: 1) Devin Booker, 2) Josh Jackson, 3) Marquese Chriss, 4) Dragan Bender

I love all four of these guys and their potential to be great. Booker at #1 is obvious and if you don't have him there I honestly have no clue what you have been watching the past 2 years. With Book it's not a matter of if but when will he be an Allstar. I think I'm higher on Josh Jackson's ceiling than most. If things go right I feel he can be a Jimmy Butler type player at the SF position in 3-4 years or so.

3 and 4 was the hardest for me as I'm sure most. Both Bender and Chriss have multiple red flags but both show amazing potential. It's way too early to know what they can become. I have Quese ahead of Dragan right now because Chriss showed much improvement throughout this past NBA season. I'm not putting much stock into his SL performance. He was well out of shape and clearly in the middle of a summer bulking process. Dragan could easily become the 2nd best out of this core four, but he also could bust let's be real here (as could Chriss). I don't think he busts at all and he becomes a very efficient and great defending starter for us like Kirelinko. It's really close between Chriss and Bender at this point so if you have Bender at 3 I couldn't argue.

Sun-Arc: First let me add to our core. I think TJ, Williams, and Ulis should be in discussion of being part of the core as well. I want them to be in there. And I don’t want any of them traded for Kyrie- but let’s not talk about that at the moment. My order of importance at this moment is Booker, Jackson, Bender, Chriss, TJ, Ulis, Williams.

I think Jackson has star potential along with Booker. I think Bender began to show why he was picked 4th during this year’s summer league. Chriss underwhelmed but I think he’ll come out of that. TJ should be that scoring dynamo off the bench. Ulis should have that 2nd unit humming along, which will be really important now and in the future. And I hope Williams will be here long term as that great partner to Ulis.

As a side note, I didn’t include Reed in this discussion, but I really think he could/should be part of that core too, coming off the bench and being used as a defensive stopper at moments to close games. At least that’s my hope. And because its all so unproven I left him out. Sure, JJ is unproven in the NBA too, but from what I’ve seen I truly believe he will not be a bust.

SDKyle: 1. Booker - As much as I've been on the "pump the brakes" line of argument when it comes to Booker, I have extremely high hopes that he can become one of the league's better volume scorers. He has a sweet shooting stroke, better than you think post moves, and a high BBIQ. Despite his only average athleticism, that's a great combination.

2. Jackson - Pippen, Matrix....whatever player comparison feels best to you, I think Jackson has the potential to be a highly productive two-way player. He might never be the kind of guy who gets twitter abuzz a'la Booker's 70 point game, but his consistent effort, explosive athleticism, and developed ball skills bode well for him becoming a very important player as the Suns move toward contending. His offense may take some time to come, but his shot is not nearly as broken as some make it out to be, and he's never going to be a player who relies on perimeter jumpers anyway. I'm quite high on him.

3. Bender - Bender had one of the more disappointing rookie campaigns a top 5 pick has ever had. But, despite that, I still believe in his potential. His combination of size, handling skills, shooting, and apparent defensive ability make him a tantalizing option as the Suns floor-running big-man of the future.

4. Chriss - Chriss has some serious work to do, but I still believe he can become an above-average NBA PF if he's willing to work hard. He needs to work on his shot, on his defense, and on his rebounding, because none of those things was where they needed to be last year. I don't think his potential is as high as the other members of the so-called "core 4", and I believe at this point that he is the most expendable, but that certainly doesn't mean I'm ready to toss in the towel on his career...particularly given how recently in his life he started playing basketball seriously.

SouthernSun: 1. Devin Booker, 2. Josh Jackson, 3. Dragan Bender, 4. Marquese Chriss

I think that Chriss is definitely better than Bender right now, but I believe Bender's upside and potential importance to the team is higher.

Booker and Jackson are pretty obviously our top two prospects.

Once again many thanks to our Fantable... GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle and SouthernSun!


Some “Core Four” Highlights

Devin Booker's Best Plays from 2016-17 Season

Marquese Chriss 2016-17 Season Highlights

Dragan Bender 2016-17 Season Highlights

Josh Jackson Summer League Highlights


Video Quotes of the Week


News & Notes

Report: Suns among NBA teams that will have ‘Classics’ uniform. Arizona Sports

Trading Kyrie Irving is far easier said than done for the Cavaliers. Washington Post

Phoenix Suns should want Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, but don’t need him. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

NBA AM: Williams Proves Patience Is Key. Basketball Insiders

Could Phoenix Suns become NBA's next superteam? AZCentral

Should The Phoenix Suns Trade For Kyrie Irving? Hashtag Basketball


Suns History in Video

Connie Hawkins: 20 Points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists & 1 steal vs Atlanta on Christmas Day 1970


Suns Trivia

Connie Hawkins ranks 15th in the list of all-time leading scorers for the Suns with 6,368 points and 8th in all-time points per game average (20.48). He also ranks 10th in total rebounds (2,806) after playing just over four full seasons with the Suns (he was traded 8 games into his 5th season with the team). He played a total of 311 games for the Suns and only Charles Barkley scored more points for the Suns (6,556) in fewer games (280).

Hawkins was a three-time All-Star for the Suns (1970, 1971 & 1972), made the All-NBA First Team in 1969-70 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1992.

Statistics courtesy of Land of Basketball.com.


Previewing the Weeks/Months Ahead

August 31 - Last day teams may waive players and apply the stretch provision to their 2017/18 salaries.

September 5 - Deadline to sign second-round draft picks (picks become free agents if not given a required tender)

Late September (specific dates TBA) — Training camps open.

October 17 - Day One of the 2017-18 NBA Season!


Last Week's Poll Results

The question was, "Is including Josh Jackson in a trade for Kyrie Irving a 'deal breaker' to you?" The results were:

79% - Yes.

18% - No.

03% - It depends on what else it would take to seal the deal.

There were a total of 739 votes cast.

This week's poll is...

Poll

What do you think of ESPN's prediction of 30 wins for the Suns this season?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Too high.
    (39 votes)
  • 51%
    Dead on.
    (228 votes)
  • 40%
    Too low.
    (180 votes)
447 votes total Vote Now