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Preseason Predictions are here! How will the Phoenix Suns start the season?

Phoenix Suns Media Day is Monday, and training camp starts Tuesday. Of course we can make bold predictions!

2018 NBA Summer League - Las Vegas - Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

For the Phoenix Suns, the summer is finally over. Maybe GM Ryan McDonough disagrees, since he still has extraneous players on the roster and is still working on his shopping list.

But Monday, September 24 is the first mandatory day of the 2018-19 season where the team talks about their hopes and dreams with local media, after which they all pile into a bus for the two-hour ride up to Flagstaff for the week.

Rookie coach Igor Kokoskov’s first ever training camp will run from Tuesday through Friday, followed by a free-to-the-public open practice at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Their first preseason game is in eight days, and their first regular season game — on ESPN — is now just over three weeks away.

Today, the Bright Side staff makes their first predictions. Some good. Some bad. All natural.

Ripping the bandaid off quickly now: What’s the worst thing that could happen, the most unpredictably BAD thing that could happen to the Suns out of the gate this season?

Dave King: Worst thing that could happen? Who asked this awful question? We’re the Bright Side! But then again, there’s this thing called reverse psychology. If we call the “worst” now, it won’t actually happen. The thing I really don’t want happening, most of all, is that the Suns have three different starting points guards by Christmas again. And even worse, that none of them are worthy of keeping the job all season, let alone making the roster next year. So here’s where I call it. I call the most disappointing thing that could happen is that the Suns have musical chairs at point guard again.

Brendon Kleen: Well, if it were unpredictable, I’m not sure I would be able to peg it, sitting here mid-September. There’s lots that will happen in this crazy league before season’s end. But if I’m picking something contrarian here, I’ll say one bad thing that might happen that is relatively unexpected is Devin Booker plays less than 60 games once again in 2018-19. It’s bad enough the same injury that took the final month of games from him last season is still lingering, but he also dealt with a different ailment last December that set him up to play the fewest games of his career before the pinky joint acted up.

Rod Argent: There are so many bad/disappointing developments that might occur that it’s difficult to single one out. But if I have to then it would be that the Suns finally get a starting point guard before the season begins but for some reason it turns out to be a wasted trade and one of the PGs the Suns already have still winds up in the starting lineup.

Jim Coughenour: In recent years we’ve witnessed that Goran Dragic didn’t trust the Suns, Markieff Morris and team FOE didn’t want to act like professionals and Eric Bledsoe didn’t want to be hair. Since most of the debacles this franchise has waded through mid-season have been related to avoidable personnel decisions and Ryan’s inability to generally manage personalities and player relations... I’m thinking that a problem is brewing with the glut of power forwards and the untenable point guard situation. McDonough still doesn’t seem capable of building a balanced roster where players go through the season accepting their roles. Plus, some actual unforeseen catastrophes will probably befall this season since those have wrapped around this franchise like a cozy blanket ever since Amare Stoudemire walked out the door.

Greg Esposito: Devin Booker’s hand injury turns into this generation’s Amar’e training camp knee injury. The face of the franchise’s unexpected injury lingers forcing him to miss all but a few game stops of the season. Unfortunately this time the roster doesn’t include Steve Nash, Shawn Marion or Boris Diaw, everything comes of the rails forcing Trevor Ariza to demand a trade and Deandre Ayton is introduced to the Phoenix curse. Wow, that got dark quick. Excuse me while I go talk to someone.

Evan Sidery: The most disappointing development would be Dragan Bender not progressing under new head coach Igor Kokoskov. The Suns even hired Devin Smith onto their coaching staff, a former teammate of Bender’s with Maccabi Tel Aviv, who could help push their former top-five pick towards proving his worth. If Bender stagnates or regresses even, not showing anything in Las Vegas Summer League isn’t promising, I think Phoenix will quickly look to deal him at the trade deadline before his value is an absolute zero. Bender, outside of the main producers, has the biggest year coming up of anyone on their roster.

Let’s flip that coin. What’s the most unpredictably, or unexpected anyway, GOOD thing that could happen, where we can’t help but smile at our good fortune?

Brendon: Our readers tell me often they’re tired of hearing this, but I’ll go ahead and stay on the same bandwagon you’ll all hop on later: Dragan Bender is finally going to break out as an above-average rotation player. I’m not sure what his ultimate role in the NBA is, considering his positional versatility and abnormal skill set, but I predict he’s playing more than Ryan Anderson by February and looks more like a real No. 4 pick than ever before.

RA: T.J. Warren starts hitting threes at above 33.3%. He knows he needs to add the three to his arsenal and I think he can up his percentage from downtown. He’s hit 39.4% of his long twos (over 16 feet) for his career so I don’t think that getting better at shooting threes is beyond his capability... if he’s been working on it this summer.

Jim: I think this is the season that Dragan Bender finally shows he is a legitimate NBA player. Hahahahahahahaha. No, that won’t happen. I don’t know that it will be completely surprising, but I’m going to call a shot I haven’t heard anyone else do yet. I think Devin Booker will lead the league in scoring. He’s got the ultimate green light and I think that there actually are a couple other weapons that will give him some space this season. I still think the Suns will be awful, but should be at least a little improved. I also don’t think his injury will really hamper him and at most he’ll just miss a couple games... because the opposite of that is an unthinkable reality for me right now.

Dave: Calling our shots... how about that Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton are top 10 in the league in points per possession on pick and rolls this year. Booker will show the league how good he is at half-court playmaking, and Ayton will scare the bejesus out of defenses with his hard rolls to the basket. Also, Deandre Ayton will be a top-5 dunker (total dunks) this season.

Espo: Ryan Anderson’s new found happiness in Phoenix leads to his career rising from the ashes of NBA Twitter as he gives the double barreled bird to all the haters. He proves to be the perfect power forward to spread the floor alongside Booker and Ayton and is just the kind of veteran leader the locker room needs. Proving his powers know no bounds he single handedly figures out the enigma that is Dragan Bender and defeats Book in the NBA 3-Point Contest at All-Star Weekend. The season leaves everyone thinking how he is underpaid and how McDonough pulled one over on Daryl Morey.

Evan: Deandre Ayton is not expected to be a plus defender early on in his career, but when he flashes his freakish athleticism as an anchor on the other end it could give us a glimpse into what a dominant force he could become soon. If all goes well with Ayton’s development, really the piece General Manager Ryan McDonough is putting all his money behind with Booker, the Suns will mimic something like Philadelphia. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are now an attractive free agent destination because they turned around one of the worst situations in recent memory. If Booker and Ayton do the same in Phoenix, that final star veteran piece will put them on the shortlists they continuously miss on with disgruntled players or top free agents. Ayton flashing and maybe even having a solid year right away defensively would change even their short-term outlook.

Last year, Alex Len was inarguably one of the three or four best players on the Suns roster last fall, behind Devin Booker and T.J. Warren. Who will be the Suns best 4 players as of Christmas this year?

Brendon: Devin Booker, Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverley, Mikal Bridges

RA: Devin Booker, Trevor Ariza, Deandre Ayton and... hopefully the Suns’ newly acquired point guard.

Jim: Devin Booker, The Gorilla, Season Ticket Holder Kevin in section 109 and the Wetzel’s Pretzels concession stand guy.

Espo: Booker, Ayton, Bridges and Corliss “Big Nasty” Williamson

Dave: Booker, new point guard, Ayton and Anderson

Evan: Devin Booker, Trevor Ariza, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges

Among Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Tyson Chandler, who each have 10+ years experience, who will be the Suns most impactful veteran this year?

Brendon: Trevor Ariza will change so much about what this team is able to do on either end. He will open up the floor for Deandre Ayton rim-rolls with both a willingness and efficiency as a shooter. And he will bring a tough, physical and versatile style of defense that protects the Suns’ weak links and brings the best out of the team’s young athletes.

Dave: I’ll say Ryan Anderson. Not for his leadership, per se, but for his unconscious shot making for about a month or two this fall. He will help Ayton by creating room under the basket, and help his teammates by creating more slashing space.

RA: At this moment, Ariza would be my choice. I think his three point shooting should help open things up on the offensive end and he gives us a defender that we can count on to at least make life difficult for whomever he’s assigned to guard.

Jim: Can I count Devin Booker as a veteran yet? If so, then definitely him. I think Trevor Ariza will regret his decision to sign here about 30 games into the season and Ryan Anderson will be mostly about “getting his.” Tyson Chandler is past the point of leading by example and Ayton doesn’t seem like the type to latch on to a veteran. T.J. Warren has never struck me as the leader type. Maybe I’m getting this wrong, but it seems like it’s more common for good teams to have good leaders... because good leaders want to be on good teams.

Espo: Tyson Chandler but not why you might think. With the Suns still not fully out of the playoff picture McDonough pulls off a trade using Chandler’s expiring to fill the long term need at point guard. It becomes the most productive thing the Big has helped the team accomplish since he walked into the meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge.

Evan: Trevor Ariza was originally signed to be the starter at power forward, but bringing in his former teammate from Houston allows him to do his work from the wing more often instead of battling down low on bigs sometimes. He’s going to not only transfer his production from Houston, but I think he approaches career-best numbers here in Phoenix. On top of that, being an ideal mentor for the likes of Josh Jackson, Mikal Bridges and T.J. Warren is huge. Right away, he will be looked to as the leader in their locker room alongside Devin Booker and Tyson Chandler. Ariza will be what Chandler and Jared Dudley should have been when they arrived back in 2015 and 2016.

How much does Booker’s injury set the Suns back?

Brendon: Not much in the short-term, but if it lingers, then clearly missing your best player for an extended stretch is a death knell, as we saw even for last year’s 21-win squad. I think concerns about him missing out on “learning” opportunities, as I’ve seen on the internet, are overblown, however. He’s a vet on this team, he’ll be ready to play when healthy.

Dave: I don’t think it’s overblown at all to worry about Booker missing training camp and preseason. Now Igor won’t be able to design the offense and defense around his best player. Booker’s backups are totally different players and so there won’t be a comfort level with anyone when he suddenly appears at practice. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

RA: Unless takes longer to heal than expected, I don’t think it will be too much of setback for the team. Booker’s participation in training camp will be limited but it won’t keep him from learning the new offensive and defensive schemes. I also think that the addition of vets like Ariza and Anderson should ease the situation as - once Booker returns - they should be able to adjust on the fly faster than players with less experience.

Jim: If he’s not ready to start the beginning of the season it will temper some of the enthusiasm of starting the season with a reshaped roster including the #1 overall pick. Then if the team gets off to a bad start without him people who might have been a little interested will fall back into their state of malaise or complete disinterest. Other than that, it’s not like the team is any good and it will compromise a playoff push. He just needs to get healthy and have a season where he definitively asserts himself as one of the premiere players in the league and getting started a week or two late won’t inhibit that.

Espo: I’ll be in the minority here, but I actually think it might help. Instead of relying on Booker for production in camp, scrimmages and in the preseason it will force others how to figure out how to exist and thrive in Igor Kokoskov’s system. The growth for guys like Bridges and Ayton could be big.

Evan: I don’t see it as much of a big deal, unless it worsens his on-court production. With this popping back up in a team workout, it look like both sides wanted to get on top of this situation before it became an even bigger issue later. If Booker can still participate in training camp — he was in group workouts on their team trip to San Diego — then this won’t be anything to worry about. If anything, it helps someone like Deandre Ayton get more touches earlier in the season.

Do the Suns acquire a starting point guard by opening day? If not, who starts and how long does he stay the starter?

Brendon: Yes they do. It’ll likely be Patrick Beverley, with not a moment to spare before training camp. If they don’t (and maybe at this point they shouldn’t), then Shaquille Harrison will become the starter, and unless Elie Okobo demands that job, Harrison could stay in the spot all year. It even feels weird typing it.

RA: I think they will. If not, Harrison will probably start and stay there until he fails, Okobo or Melton prove themselves better or the Suns make a mid-season trade for another point guard.

Jim: Who knows... Either way this is another example of “seat-of-his-pants” GM’ing. Going into the offseason the Suns needed a power forward because Bender/Chriss aren’t even rotation players and a point guard because Brandon Knight is terrible. So they signed Ariza solving nothing. Then they traded Knight/Chriss and got Anderson, which kind of solves the problem at the four, but still leaves them with no point guard. Now it’s just a few minutes before the final exam and Ryan McDonough is out in the hallway finally deciding to start cramming last second. There’s no reason this problem shouldn’t have been addressed before now. The Suns are no longer operating from a position of strength and are searching from a much smaller pool of candidates.

Espo: The thought of them not acquiring a PG before the start of the season is almost as scary as the thought of Space Jam 2. The world doesn’t need another bad basketball film starring Looney Tunes but the Suns badly need someone with experience as a starting guard at the NBA level. That’s not a knock on Okobo or Melton but they need time to develop. My guess is the Suns are the third team in a Butler deal and get Patrick Beverley or Spencer Dinwiddie for their troubles.

Dave: oof. I really really hope the Suns acquire that point guard, and I want it to be Patrick Beverley. But of course because we’ve heard about Bev, it won’t be Bev. I just hope I’m not disappointed.

Evan: I believe they do. How so? Well, I see them getting involved someway or another in these Jimmy Butler talks as the main facilitator helping move needed salary and rewarded with their eventual starting point guard. Whether it’s Patrick Beverley in Los Angeles, Spencer Dinwiddie in Brooklyn, Delon Wright in Toronto, or Goran Dragic in Miami, there’s countless options for the Suns to choose from there.

What question do I HAVE to ask on Media Day?

Brendon: Hey Ryan, was there any point between last November and this month that you came close to acquiring a point guard to replace Eric Bledsoe?

RA: Is there any way the Suns can move to the Eastern Conference?

Jim: Magic Johnson recently said, “This summer and next summer. That’s it. If I can’t deliver I’m going to step down myself, [controlling owner Jeanie Buss] won’t have to fire me. I’ll step away from it, because I can’t do this job.”

If you can’t get the Suns back in the playoffs by next season can I get the same promise from you?

Espo: “Hey Devin, can you teach me how to ride a unicycle?”

Evan: If we walk into Monday’s Media Day with no point guard trade yet, that’s definitely what I’m going to ask General Manager Ryan McDonough almost immediately.

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