Oh, you thought we were done? No, no, my dear friends. We were just getting started! Like the Phoenix Suns, our writing team is bringing their A-game, delving deep into the crevasses of their minds, and making predictions bolder than a FedEx font!
The 2023-24 season is two days away and we’re chomping at the bit to get this thing started. But first, we must define what our expectations are. We must look at this roster and its construction, understand what it is and how it is designed to perform, and make our assumptions. That is what we are here to do today.
For those of you who didn’t get a chance to read Part 1, don’t fret! Just click right here!
We now jump into part two as our writing team, which includes Holden Sherman, Kyle Glazer, Brandon Duenas, Dave King, Matthew Lissy, and myself, put metaphorical pen to paper, provide our predictions, and extrapolate as to why we believe the season will play out in the manner we assume.
What will be the Suns’ greatest strength? Most glaring weakness?
Holden Sherman: Strength has to be the fact that Book and Durant are employed by the team (lol). It’s as simple as that. As we saw last season, they can single-handedly win you playoff games, not many teams have duos that can do that.
Weakness has to be depth. I like what James Jones did this offseason to round out the rest of the roster but guys signed for a minimum were signed for the minimum for a reason. It is yet to be determined how much help KD, Beal, and Book will get.
Kyle Glazer: The Suns’ greatest strength is clearly the fact that they will have three players in the starting lineup who are both exceptional three-level scorers and able facilitators. The trio of Durant, Booker, and Beal is a nightmare for defenses, who will be left deciding which player should be allowed to beat them on a given night.
I’ll say, as HS did, that depth is a major issue, especially when none of our “big three” have been ironmen in their careers. I’m extremely anxious to see how things work out in the regular season when the Suns have any kind of restrictions on any of their top three scorers playing.
John Voita: There are some obvious answers to this, as fellow Bright Side contributors have stated above. The greatest strength is quite simply the fact that the offensive output of this team will be something we will marvel at throughout the season. The strength will be in their scoring.
I’ll zag here, and say that another strength will be in their depth. While not receiving accolades from national pundits relative to how deep they are, acquisitions like Eric Gordon, Grayson Allen, Yuta Watanabe, Drew Eubanks, and Jordan Goodwin will be vital to the team's success this season. Injuries will happen. Players will need to take time off. The fact that Phoenix has this depth will allow them to weather those storms.
Glaring weakness? Playoff time I believe that Jusuf Nurkic will become a targeted liability on the defensive end. Due to his lack of athleticism and the league’s affinity to run high pick-and-roll actions to generate mismatches, Nurkic will be spending plenty of time in the postseason guarding the opposition’s primary ball handler and playmaker. Frank Vogel will have to game plan against this.
Thankfully, he has players that he can call upon to negate this. KD at the five, anyone? As much as I believe that Nurkic is going to be an asset on the offensive end during the regular season, the postseason will be a challenge for him to stay on the floor, and that is where we will miss Deandre Ayton.
Brandon Duenas: The greatest strength is their balanced attack offensively between three elite scorers being surrounded by shooters and high IQ role players. I have been on the record several times saying I believe this could be one of the greatest offenses in NBA history.
Their weakness would have to be their vulnerability defensively come playoff time. Nurkic will get hunted and is going to be asked to do a lot on that end. I think the supporting cast is competent enough to get stops when they’re connected as a team, but some of the individual matchups will put them in tough spots. Frank Vogel is up for the challenge, but it’s obvious this is where their faults lie, even if exaggerated by some national folks.
Dave King: These guys have made some great contributions. I’ll just quickly say that the greatest strength is their offense, and not just from the Big Three. You saw the Suns’ backups put 123 on the Lakers’ backups in the preseason finale despite not having a single real ‘scorer’ in the lineup due to good scheme, willing passing, and an attacking mindset. These guys are gonna be fun to watch, even as the Big Three take turns missing time.
Their biggest weakness might be the base starting defense holding up against an opponent’s best offensive attack. Overall, I think the team’s D will be very good — there are some really hard workers on this team! — and they will enter the playoffs with a defense in the top 10 of the league overall. However, there’s still a weak link in the starting lineup at small/power forward. Josh Okogie and Keita-Bates Diop work hard on defense, I know, and can be their fifth starter to take on the opponent’s best offensive player so the Big Three don’t have to. That’s the plan.
But when you shore up the defense the other end of the floor becomes a problem in tight situations. Okogie and KBD HAVE to take and make the open three without hesitation, and neither one likes that. They’re so hesitant to take the quick-release corner three that opponents will just leave them alone to focus on the Big Three. Maybe Nurk/Eubanks negate that with short-roll passing to them cutting instead, but when a dude needs to just stand in the corner and catch and shoot within .5 seconds. I think the Suns will have to turn to a shooter for that 5th spot in tight second-half situations, like Gordon or Allen, or Watanabe. The problem is none of these guys can take on big wings, so that will be left to KD or Book or even Beal or just let the other team cook and try to outscore them. Which might be where we end up.
Matthew Lissy: The depth this year will be insane, and will prove to be one of the best in the league. You can’t have too much depth. As injuries might occur, the Suns’ depth will fill the holes while becoming even greater towards the end of the season heading into the playoffs.
Jusuf Nurkic will be the biggest weakness, but only at times throughout the season. He is limited in what he can do defensively and it will drive us nuts sometimes. Overall, I think our defense will be improved this year and will stay above average.
Who is getting the Dan Majerle Hustle Award?
KG: Jordan Goodwin maybe?
JV: Josh Okogie must win this award for Phoenix to be successful. Bill Simmons asked on his recent NBA Overs/Unders podcast, “Who’s guarding Jayson Tatum on this team? Who’s guarding Luka?” Come on Bill, we only play the Celtics twice a year. Does it always have to be about Tatum? The answer to all of these is Josh Okogie.
His hustle, grit, grind, athleticism, and defensive acumen are highly underrated on a national level. He’s in modern-day Dan Majerle on that end. If only he could mirror Thunder Dan’s three-point shooting…
BD: I agree with John here. Okogie is going to be the favorite and he should run away with it...unless Jordan Goodwin has something to say about it. Those two bring chaos every time they step on the floor. Grayson Allen could be a dark horse candidate here as well.
DK: Gotta be JO! Dude is relentless, fearless, and never gets tired. I can’t wait to watch him all year long.
ML: Josh Okogie, give him all the awards. Maybe even vote him in as an All-Star?
What do you predict the Suns record to be and where will they fall relative to playoff seeding?
HS: 54-28. Even with the talent this team has, it’s really hard to win a ton of games. Injuries, back-to-backs, and load management make it really tough to win 60+ games, even if you have a talented crew. I expect Phoenix to be a top 3-seed and have the luxury of resting stars when necessary at the end of the regular season to prepare for the postseason.
KG: 52-30. I think this team will have some growing pains and will have at least one rocky stretch where injuries cost them multiple wins against teams they should have beaten. That said, they will still glide comfortably into the postseason at a #3 or #4 seed, with a chance to go all the way.
JV: 56-26. Book it.
They’re over/under in 52.5. If you’re taking the under, you’re doing so because of how stacked the Western Conference is combined with your overall fear of the vaunted injury bug. Night to night, however, I don’t see how many teams can slow down this offensive onslaught. Throw in that Frank Vogel is a defensive coach, and we will see effort on that end from the starting unit and the secondary unit. It is a puzzle that will be hard to solve, equating to 56 wins and a number one overall seed.
BD: 54-28, first in the West. It’s going to be a tough conference with a ton of teams in the 38-48 win range. I expect Denver and Phoenix to break 50+ wins, but everyone else will be in one giant cluster.
DK: I’m going with about 55 wins, even including the expected ‘missed time’ by the Big Three. This team has a spirit and schemes on both ends of the court to breeze through the season much better than last year’s walking wounded could. The Suns will be a top-three seed, and just need health come playoff time to make the real run. I’m excited about this season!
ML: They will finish as the 1 seed with a 61-21 record! And...drumroll...win the title!
Any questions? There will be a test at the end of the season, graded harshly by fans and critics alike. We hope we scored well, but how do you score it? What are your thoughts on the greatest strengths and most glaring weaknesses? Is Josh Okogie running award with the Dan Majerle Hustle Award for the second consecutive season or does someone else have something to say about it?
Lastly, put your record predictions below. We’ll ping this piece at the end of the year and parade those who are correct with the flowers they deserve.