Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.
Today is Media Day for the Suns and then the team is off to training camp. We've already had a fair amount of actual Suns news in the last few days - Big Sauce's injury, the trade for Troy Daniels, the signing of Anthony Bennett, Alex Len finally signing his QO - and you can expect to get even more soon. Dave King, Evan Sidery, Jim Coughenour, Deadpoolio, Brendon Kleen and Courtneyna will be representing BSotS on Media Day and I'm sure they'll bring back plenty to relay to you in the coming days.
But until then, the Fantable is back with answers to a new question of the week.
Fantable Question of the Week
Other than Devin Booker, which Suns players most need to improve their play for this team to have a chance to win more than 25-30 games this season?
GuarGuar: Marquese Chriss is who I think needs to improve a good deal for us to significantly increase our win total. He will play the most minutes (most likely) out of him, Dragan Bender, and Josh Jackson so it makes sense that he starts becoming a quality player. His 3pt shooting and defense are what need the most work. I'm confident he can make more strides this season and show signs of becoming a solid player.
Tyler Ulis is my 2nd pick on who needs to improve. If we have any shot of winning 40ish games, the 2nd unit has to be effective. Last season the Knight/Barbosa combo was a nightmare. I expect Ulis to be much more effective running an offense. His shooting %s must go up as they took a nosedive the final few months of the season. I expect him to be a more efficient player given limited minutes.
Sun-Arc: Good Lord! Everyone needs to improve except Eric Bledsoe (damn good already) and Tyson Chandler (over the hill). But I’ll give my top 4 most important, and I’ll go with order of necessity for the players that need to improve for us to get over 30 wins:
1. Marquese Chriss: Assuming he’s the starting PF (or C for that matter) it will be really important that he improves. Probably his best month last season was March. He put up close to 13, 6, .7 in 27 mpg. His 3pt% for the month was 38% and TS% of .585. That’s pretty darn good for a rookie. However, he was still a net negative of -10.8 for the season as a starter and -11.8 for March. He looked more engaged overall but still was yanked a lot for being lost or having bad body language. None of that seemed to improve with his time in summer league. He shows signs of being a versatile big man on both ends of the floor with potentially high BBIQ. But he needs to start showing more than signs. He needs to get a professional attitude adjustment and work on the details of parts of his game. The two biggest improvements that would be welcome are: A) Become a reliable shooter from the perimeter. B) Be consistently focused on defense.
2. Dragan Bender: Assuming he’ll get more playing time than last season, and at both big-man positions, Bender’s improvement could mean a lot. Dragan’s numbers were not impressive in any way, except for his +/- in certain months and DWS in positive territory. What I saw was a player with a high BBIQ that had low confidence, was put in the wrong situations a lot, and was just plain not ready to compete in the NBA. Summer league revived confidence in Dragan, and in my hopes for him to become a really good player. His defense is pretty good already- but he needs to get stronger without losing mobility. He really needs to work on his shooting, particularly from 3. Did you know he hit 8 of his first 23 3’s? I think his legs were not there and got worn out (and injured) by the end of November. He’s got to work on conditioning and strength to improve.
3. T.J. Warren: Will he be a starter or come off the bench? My guess is the latter. But I think he can thrive there. What would really help the team is he could become a good defender and/or 3pt shooter. Not sure either of those will happen. But if he can provide the 18pts and 9rbs per 36 he put up in March last season from the bench, that would really help the team win over 30 games. But since he was already pretty darn good last season, him improving isn’t as important as the top 2 (and Booker).
4. Tyler Ulis: He was pretty solid at the end of the season - but if the bench is going to thrive he will have to get stronger to handle defensive duties on anyone not named Isaiah Thomas, and he’ll have to be a bit better at everything else. I love watching him pass and move on offense, and I think he’ll get smarter and stronger over time. I expect some improvement from him. I just don’t think it’ll be as important as the others.
SDKyle: Marquese Chriss needs to work on scoring more efficiently, particularly by becoming consistent from the perimeter and hitting his free throws. The Suns can't win by relying entirely on Bledsoe and Booker to generate all the points, and if Chriss can start to marry his significant physical gifts to a more refined skill set it would go a long way to generating more opportunities to win games.
Tyler Ulis might seem an unconventional choice for this response, given that he's a bench player and played decently for a rookie last season. But if he's going to be the Suns' top option behind Bledsoe, as it appears he will, he needs to step up as a scorer on top of his passing ability. Given that he's likely always going to be a negative on the defensive end, he needs to be a major positive on offense. And that has to mean more than just passing the ball and hoping that T.J. Warren or Jared Dudley can knock down their opportunities. He was one of the least efficient Suns on the roster last season with a 47 true shooting percentage, and that will have to change in order for the Suns' second unit to thrive and the Suns by extension.
SouthernSun: Dragan Bender needs to show that he even belongs on an NBA court. He didn't exactly inspire much confidence with his play last season, or during most of summer league, or in Europe this summer. The most important thing for him to work on is his 3 point shot. If he can't at least shoot it at league average from the 3, I don't think he'll be able to be on the court enough for any of his other abilities to matter. His body still needs some work, but that will come in time. Another thing I want him to focus on next season is being aggressive. He tended to play hot potato with the ball last season. The passing is there. The skills are there. I think a lot of his problems right now are mental in nature.
Marquese Chriss will also need to make a jump this season. He impressed me last season, especially towards the end of the season. He needs to work, first and foremost, on his defense. Particularly how to avoid fouling. His 3 point shooting looked much improved towards the end of last season. I'd like to see that continue. I'd also like to see him focus more and not let himself get lost so much. He looks like he has no idea what's going on out there sometimes. Perhaps that's just his youth and inexperience. He has so much raw talent, I'm really excited about what he could become. I'd also like to see him work on his post game a little.
T.J. Warren is another I'd like to see improvement from. This is going to be an important year for him, being his contract year. As with Bender, the main thing I think Warren needs to improve on is his 3 point shooting. I was worried the previous year was an anomaly, and his shooting in 16/17 proved it. He needs to get up to league average as well. It would open up the game so much for himself and the team. He also needs to continue his strong rebounding from last season. He showed flashes of strong defense last year. Perhaps he will come along a bit in that area as well. He'll never be better than an average defender, but I'll settle for that with him.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable... GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle and SouthernSun!
Get well soon, Big Sauce!
Alan Williams vs Wizards (07/03/2017) - 15 Pts, 10 Rebs, 5-9 FGM, Off The Bench!
Alan Williams 11 pts 15 rebs vs Celtics 05.03.2017
Alan Williams Full Highlights vs Warriors - 16 Points (4/5/17)
Quote of the Week
“Guys are really serious about taking a big step forward this year.” - Robert Sarver
News & Notes
Slam Dunk at 50: A Fusion of Past and Present. Suns.com
Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker among 5 key story lines heading into training camp. Scott Bordow/AZCentral
Ranking the NBA's Top 10 Trade Assets Entering 2017-18 Season. Bleacher Report
NBASuns news: Jared Dudley convinced days of everybody being liked are over. Clutch Points
Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Phoenix Suns Season Preview. Last Word on Pro Basketball
Empire of the Suns Mailbag: Booker’s next step, Doncic’s fit, 2018 draft. Arizona Sports
Word Association with Devin Booker (Video). SI/The Crossover
SLAM Top 50: Devin Booker, No. 30. SLAM Online
Suns History in Video
Past and present collide in the Suns' 50th year
In 2012, Steve Nash was the last Sun to be selected to play in the NBA All-Star game. Before that, the Suns had never had consecutive seasons of not having at least one player representing the Suns at the All-Star game. In the Suns' first 49 years, at least one player was selected in 37 of those years and three times three Suns players were selected as All-Stars in the same year (1981 - Walter Davis, Dennis Johnson & Truck Robinson, 2005 - Shawn Marion, Steve Nash & Amare Stoudemire, 2007 - Shawn Marion, Steve Nash & Amare Stoudemire). In 2009, Shaquille O'Neal became the only Sun to ever win All-Star MVP honors when he and Kobe Bryant shared the MVP award.
Information courtesy of RealGM.
Previewing the Weeks Ahead
September 26 - Training camp opens.
September 29 - Suns to hold free open scrimmage at 6:30 p.m. at the Prescott Valley Event Center.
October 1 - Last day for RFAs to sign qualifying offers.
October 3 - First preseason game @ Portland Trail Blazers
October 14 - Last day for players on fully non-guaranteed contracts to be waived and not count at all against a team’s 2017/18 cap.
October 15 - Roster limits decrease from 20 players to 15. Last day for teams to sign a player to a rookie scale extension. Last day for teams to sign a player to a veteran extension in certain scenarios. Last day for teams to complete sign-and-trade deals. Last day for teams to convert an Exhibit 10 contract into a two-way contract.
October 17 - Day One of the 2017-18 NBA Season!
October 18 - Home Opener! Phoenix Suns vs Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week's Poll Results
The question was, "Which of the three new Nike uniform designs do you like the most?" The results were:
08.7% - The Association
34.8% - The Icon
56.5% - The Statement
There were a total of 207 votes cast.
This week's poll is...
Which player - other than Booker - do you think most needs to show significant improvement this season?
This poll is closed