The preseason? Over. The regular season? Begins Tuesday. Our excitement and anticipation? Unquantifiable.
The Phoenix Suns are preparing to embark on a season like none we’ve seen before, as they enter with an efficient and high-octane scoring trio, a center brought in to “fit” with their system, and depth that no one outside of the fan base is giving credit. Somehow, despite having Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal rostered, it feels as if people are sleeping on the Suns. And that is okay in my book.
It is time to draw our line in the sand, to put into the ether what we believe will occur this season, and see how close reality will mirror our predictions. It is time to present our annual predictions, written by your writing team at Bright Side of the Sun.
We are bringing this to you in a two-part series, as there is plenty to discuss, analyze, and predict this season. So let’s get to it!
Which offseason addition will have the greatest impact?
Holden Sherman: Gotta go with Bradley Beal. He’s gonna give Devin Booker and Kevin Durant so much more room to operate on the floor. Say what you want about Chris Paul and how good he is at 38, but I think with how much KD and Book had the ball in their hands, Beal is a better fit. I’d rather have Beal in the corner than CP3 for a kickout.
Kyle Glazier: I have to say Bradley Beal. At his best, he’s capable of being an elite scorer nearly on the level of Booker. His health and defensive ability do raise some questions that are fair for skeptics to wonder about, but he adds a dynamic to the Suns offense that certainly was not there last season.
John Voita: Grayson Allen is the first name that comes to mind, as I believe the intangibles he brings complement numerous aspects of this roster. In order for Phoenix to be a top-tier team, however, I am going to with the Bosnian Beast, Jusuf Nurkic. What he can do on offense, adding the wrinkle of a big who sees the floor and sets up his teammates, is going to do wonders for the trio of Booker, Durant, and Beal.
Defensively is where the worry lies (as we witnessed on Thursday night) and while his impact might not be felt consistently, he will be the defensive rebounding catalyst that will negate secondary possessions for the opposition. It might not always be pretty, and there will be games in which foul trouble occurs, but his impact and “fit” is what will lead Phoenix to the upper echelon of the Western Conference and NBA.
Brandon Duenas: Bradley Beal is the clear choice here for me. And yes, he is a massive upgrade over Landry Shamet, Bill Simmons. People can sleep on what Beal looks like as a third option with less pressure defensively if they want. We saw Booker take an efficiency leap playing alongside Durant, and we shall see the same thing with Beal joining Book and KD. Adding a dynamic outlet to unleash when defenses focus too much on the other two stars truly makes this offense dangerous.
Dave King: Easy answer: Bradley Beal, for obvious reasons. And John makes good comments on Allen and Nurkic. I’m going to add 35-year-old Eric Gordon. Assuming he makes it through the season intact, Gordon still has all the talent and moxie that made him a starter throughout his career worth $20+ million a year. We discount his addition since it was at the minimum salary this offseason, but he’s worth a whole lot more than the minimum.
Matthew Lissy: Like everybody else is picking, I say Bradley Beal. I don’t really think people realize the impact he’s going to have on this team. He’s going to open up so much more on the offensive side of the ball and I believe his defense will improve.
Even with Kevin Durant missing games this season, having Beal with Booker operate the offense will allow for fluidity while the defense will improve throughout the year.
Who is your nomination for Suns’ Sixth Man of the Year?
KG: Grayson Allen. I think he’s a bit of a dirty player and I don’t like the personality I’ve seen from him dating back to his college days, but I somehow get a feeling he’s going to be a major contributor off of the bench and that I might like him quite a bit more in a few months than I do right now.
JV: This could be a toss-up between Eric Gordon and Grayson Allen. Both possess the skill set and firepower offensively to do so. I will go with Gordon as I believe he will receive much more minutes than Allen consistently. Although he will be coming off the bench, we can expect to see Gordon closing out games with Booker, Durant, Beal, and Nurkic. This gives him a leg up on GA.
BD: Grayson Allen is going to get a lot of minutes and he’ll play with both the starting group and bench mob, so I think he’s the favorite with Eric Gordon not far behind. EG getting up there in age could limit his minutes some nights, but he’s still a certified bucket. It’s fun to have two of these types of guys off the bench.
DK: I’m going Eric Gordon. I already made a big case up top in this. He’s a long-term NBA starter and everything we’ve seen this preseason shows he can still make an impact whenever he wants. He runs the show, attacks the defense, and can make shots from anywhere on the court.
ML: Eric Gordon. He is the guy to count on to come in and extend the lead or maintain what the Suns already built.
Many championship-contending teams want a guy like Gordon, but he came here to play and with that, his game will take a bigger step this year improving to be the best player off our bench.
Who will lead Phoenix in scoring? Rebounding? Assists?
KG: Booker will lead in scoring, but Durant will be close and a bit more efficient. Nurkic will lead rebounders. I’ll dare to say Booker will also lead in assists...
JV: This is Booker’s year. I’ve already placed money on him to win the MVP because I believe that he is going to surprise people with his scoring output. We’ve seen it this far in the preseason, albeit against subpar defensive competition, but the spacing is ridiculous. Book has never been this open in his career, whether it’s the regular season or during the summer. Not only is he gonna lead this team in scoring, but he’s going to break Tom Chambers’ points per game record of 27.2. Booker did it last season but didn’t play in enough games to technically qualify. That changes this year.
Nurkic will lead the team in total rebounds, as well as rebounds per game, and I believe he’ll grab three offensive rebounds and night as well. I’ll throw a number out there: 10.8 rebounds. You may recall I wrote a piece earlier this summer talking about rebounding in Phoenix now we’re not necessarily a great rebounding franchise. Nurkic is a better rebounder than we give him credit for, and he will have to do it on the defensive end.
As for assists, I’m giving this one to Kevin Durant. KD is one of the most gifted scorers this league has ever seen, and when you couple that with the fact that his jumper is practically unguardable, he will see plenty of double teams throughout the season. What does that mean? He’ll be passing the ball to those around him, which will include Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. Given their efficiency as scores, the assist totals will climb for the 16-year pro. He’ll lead Phoenix with 7.1 a night.
BD: Booker gets a slight edge over Durant in scoring, with Beal probably 4-5 points behind in the low 20’s. Yes, they will have three 20+ point scorers, something that rarely happens in the NBA. Nurkic will take rebounds quite easily, don’t really see any competition there. As for assists, I think it’s going to be Book. Beal very well could compete for this depending on his exact role.
DK: Devin Booker is going to lead the team in scoring, much the way that Damian Lillard was doing in Portland. Book’s the lead ball handler now, and will get 6-7 assists a game setting up his teammates for sure. But the Lillard effect will be using Nurk/Eubanks’ high picks to curl around the defender and launch a ton of pull-up threes. You’ve seen it in preseason already, and coach Vogel says that shot is a main focus for him this year. It’s indefensible, considering if the big stays up to defend the three-point line Book will cook them in a million other ways.
ML: Kevin Durant will likely lead them in points and assists, but Nurkic will lead with rebounds. KD is KD. His numbers will just be there, and at the top of the leaderboard in most categories for the Suns.
Now it’s your turn. What are your thoughts? Which offseason addition will have the greatest impact? Who is the Sixth Man? Who is leading in scoring, rebounding, and assists? Let us know in the comments below, and tune in tomorrow as we make our final predictions prior to the start of the 2023-24 season!