Small Ball 2016-17 Season Previews: Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Suns – 23-59

Key Additions: Earl Watson (signed year deal as head coach), Leandro Barbosa – G (FA -2 years, $8M), Jared Dudley – F (FA – 3 years, $30M), Dragan Bender – F (Draft – 1st Round, #4 Overall), Marquese Chriss – F (Draft – 1st Round, #8 Overall)

Departures: Chase Budinger, Kris Humphries, Jordan McRae, Jon Leur, Ronnie Price, Mirza Teletovic

The days of Mike D’Antoni’s “Seven Second or Less” offense and Steve Nash MVP seasons are long gone for the Phoenix Suns. Dual point guard lineups seemed  like the next wave for the Suns franchise, but then they went to far by trying to make it a trio (and it looks like they might’ve kept the worst of the three in regards to Isaiah Thomas, Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe).

The two point guard look was back in full force once again last year as the team rolled with Bledsoe and Brandon Knight together in the backcourt. Yet, that look didn’t see much time on the floor together as both players were sidelined with injuries for a significant portion of the year.

Those injuries doomed Phoenix to a lottery team, but they also offered a silver lining. Devin Booker was able to have a breakout rookie season after he was forced into a higher usage situation than originally planned. Booker was able to excel both as a shooter and a primary ball handler and has the looks of a special player down the lane.

SEASON/ROSTER OUTLOOK:

Most teams don’t voluntarily commit to rebuilding, however, it looks like Phoenix is well and happy to let their young players develop. They brought in two high-class veterans in Leandro Barbosa and Jared Dudley to go along with a player like Tyson Chandler to help build a first-rate organization and a strong locker room. Young guys like Booker and rookie lottery selections Dragan Bender and Marquise Chriss are going to get an education in NBA 101 right off the bat.

Phoenix is not going to win many games next year, but they are doing a great job of building towards the future. The 2017 NBA Draft Class is getting major hype as we head into the 2016-17 season and even without outwardly tanking the Suns look to be a team that will have a high lottery selection when June 2017 rolls around.

PREDICTIONS: 22-60

The West has four tiers. The Golden State Warriors are their own tier followed by the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers in tier two. Tier three is made up of teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings, etc. that will be battling it out for spots four through 13 in the standings. Then there’s the Suns and the Lakers rounding out the bottom.

A great year for this team is not going to be measured in wins and losses, but instead in how they are able to develop their young players. If Bender or Chriss can have a similar impact to what Booker was able to do last season then Phoenix might have found something to build upon for the future.

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