NBA back! To prepare for a new season, we’re breaking down one team per day, each day, until tipoff on October 17.
Team: Phoenix Suns
Coach: Earl Watson (second full season)
Last season: (24-58, finished 15th in Western Conference)
Notable additions: Josh Jackson (draft)
Notable subtractions: N/A
Vegas over/under: 28.5
Best-case scenario: Devin Booker keeps going off, Josh Jackson is the real deal, and the Suns lose a lot of fun games but end up with two lottery picks (one via a top-seven-protected pick from the Heat).
You can picture it already: It’s late on a weekday, and the Warriors are blowing out a team. Who are you going to turn to? Fire up the League Pass get ready for little-to-no defense and watch Devin Booker fill it up while his team loses.
What Phoenix lacks in talent they make up for in youth and excitement. The Suns are building … something, and the many pieces on their roster are all intriguing in some way or another. First, there’s Booker, whose 70-point performance in Boston last season showed the type of ceiling he has as a scorer. Then there’s Josh Jackson—despite concerns about his shot, he’s a tough defender and great athlete with a lot of room to grow.
Dragan Bender is still a relative unknown, but the measurements and skills are there to help spread the floor. Marquese Chriss might not have the upside of some of his teammates, but he’s still a 20-year-old former lottery pick. T.J. Warren, fresh off signing an extension, has shown flashes. And at center, Alex Len may be in a make-or-break season after coming out of restricted free agency with just the qualifying offer and his usual spot in the rotation behind the aging Tyson Chandler.
Sometimes watching a team grow and improve through a painful process makes their eventual success that much better. Phoenix is hoping this season is just a necessary step toward a more promising future.
Worst-case scenario: They are competitive enough to not have a top-five pick in the 2018 draft.
The Suns are not going to be good. Despite a few promising young players, they lack a surefire superstar talent like the Sixers (or maybe even the Lakers) have, and they aren’t usually a major destination in free agency. Unless they package all of these intriguing youngsters in a trade, the draft looks like the only way to fix that.
Of course, the price of doing so is more losing—a lot of it. And even then, they aren’t assured that much-needed prospect; Phoenix finished with the second-worst record in the NBA last season, but the lottery balls bounced them back to fourth overall. Booker’s scoring talent alone might be worth an extra win or two that could prove costly at season’s end, but those same nights might also give Suns fans the hope they crave. It’s hard rooting for losing so that you have slightly better odds of landing the no. 1 pick.
But it may still be their only recourse. Expect the Suns to be gunning more for a top-five pick than their 25th win, especially with what has been called a top-heavy draft on the horizon.
TL;DR: “How many points can Devin Booker put up tonight?” may be a more fun way to watch Suns games than focusing on the actual results.