The Phoenix Suns have a long hill the climb back up the ranks of the Western Conference.
Today, they are the joke of the NBA. A laughingstock among fans and “insiders” alike, the Suns won’t stop people from laughing at them until they learn to play something resembling NBA basketball.
Can this Suns roster make a strong climb upward in the 2018-19 season?
Let’s set aside Booker’s injury concerns for a moment and consider whether the Suns have improved the top end talent on the roster compared to last year.
SunsRank 2017-18 — Season #50
Let’s walk down memory lane first. How did the Suns look last fall as they celebrated their 50th season as a franchise?
The Bright Side staff ranked the players last fall after the acquisition of Greg Monroe. I mean wow. That’s kind of a tough roster to rank, right?
I mean yeah it’s laughable now that we would rank Alex Len the 4th best player on that roster, but who really was better than Alex Len among the players below him, as of last Christmas?
Josh Jackson was playing awful. So was Tyson Chandler, really. TROY DANIELS was their 7th best player at the peak of Jay Triano’s tenure.
That’s a tankful roster right there. And Devin Booker was the problem, eh Ben Golliver?
Sure it’s Booker’s fault the Suns were the league’s worst offense. Not the fact that after Booker and T.J. Warren, the Suns best HEALTHY player might have been Alex Len. Or would you rather argue Greg Monroe or Troy Daniels was their 3rd best player last winter?
This is when previously unsigned Isaiah Canaan was a revelation off the bench, replacing Mr. #14 himself, Mike James.
Sorry again Jay. Sorry Suns fans.
Now let’s look at this season’s SunsRank, preseason style, as voted by your handy dandy Bright Side staff.
Booker and Warren are still arguably the Suns top two players, but many would place Trevor Ariza in that same realm.
Sports Illustrated believes Ariza is the 77th best player (out of about 450) in the league, and they put him by far second best on the Suns behind Booker (Neither Warren nor Deandre Ayton were mentioned among the top 125 in their rankings).
Our writers were understandably split among who should be right behind Booker. Players with a wide range of votes included Ariza, Warren and Ayton right behind Booker.
I suppose the fact that other outlets believe the Suns are better off with Trevor Ariza than, say, Alex Len as one of their top 4 players says the Suns have moved up in the world in supporting Devin Booker.
4th best? Whoever’s left of Ayton, Warren and Ariza. Take your pick.
As you can see by the chart, consistent voting among the writers shows a steep dropoff after the Top-7, which includes the since-traded Brandon Knight and two young wings in Josh Jackson and Mikal Bridges.
We can assume that Ryan Anderson would take Brandon Knight’s place among the Top-7 in the new rotation. Anderson is a high volume 38% three point shooter and he’s the team’s second best rebounder after rookie Ayton.
Josh Jackson could easily — on talent alone — crack the Top 4 of SunsRank if he cleans up his field goal percentage and applies his defensive skills to make a difference on that end.
Mikal Bridges’ value is dependent on his playing time, of course, behind Booker, Warren, Ariza and Jackson on the wings.
Then there’s the rest. “Still developing” Dragan Bender could have a breakthrough season, sure, but he’s more likely to be interchangeable in game impact with Tyson Chandler, Richaun Holmes and the mess of point guards currently filling out the rest of the roster.
The Top Seven
It’s that Top 7, including Ryan Anderson for Brandon Knight, who will define the Suns 2018-19 season.
The fact that 4 of those top 7 are aged 22 or younger, including a pair of rookies, makes this another season of who the heck knows what will happen.
The other clear observation is that only 3 of the Top 7, as ranked by the Bright Side staff, return from last season.
Could this year’s Top 7 be better than last year’s? That’s not a high bar to clear, but we haven’t been able to jump very high in recent years so maybe it’s still a stumble.
Where does Ryan Anderson fit on SunsRank?
This poll is closed
6th or 7th
Somewhere among the rest