• Russell Schmidt

NBA Future Power Rankings: 10. Phoenix Suns


Phoenix Suns: Last season the Suns finished with the 4th worst record in the league, and I expect them to finish towards the bottom of the standings once again. Nonetheless, the Suns have a bright future and have gathered many assets. The Suns will be a much-improved team next season if they simply have better health. Eric Bledsoe was having a potential All-Star season averaging 20 points, 4 boards, 6 assists, and 2 steals per game before missing the final 51 games with a left knee injury. Bledsoe has been very injury prone throughout his career, but he is still just 26 years old and making a very fair $45 million over the next three seasons. The Suns other star point guard, Brandon Knight, was also in and out of the lineup, missing 30 games with various injuries. Knight has also been very injury prone, but he is under a good contract ($58 Million over the next four seasons) and only 24 years old. Bledsoe and Knight are very good all-around players, young, and can play both guard positions. Others have their doubts, but I think the two can be effective together. The Suns other key returning injured player is small forward TJ Warren, who has missed nearly as many games as he has played in his first two seasons. Warren was the 14th pick in 2013, and has shown a lot of potential when on the floor. This will be a big season for Warren to prove that he can go a full NBA campaign relatively healthy. The Suns entered the 2016 draft with many extra picks and assets. They used many of these pieces to acquire the 8th pick in the draft while holding onto the 4th and 34th picks. With the 4th and 8th picks the Suns accomplished the rare feat of selecting the top two players at a position in a draft class. The Suns drafted power forwards Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss to replace departed free agents Mirza Teletovic and Jon Leuer. Neither player is considered an NBA ready prospect, which is understandable considering that neither player has reached his twenties. If at least one of the two develops into the Suns long-term starting power forward, this will go down as a successful draft. With the 34th pick the Suns selected Tyler Ulis, one of my favorite players in the draft. Ulis provides needed depth behind injury prone point guards Bledsoe and Knight and could end up being a steal in a few years. Overall, the Suns had a very disappointing season, but the biggest positive from the down year was rookie Devin Booker. Booker picked up the slack with all of the injured Suns and managed to make 1st team All-Rookie. Offensively, Booker has the potential to be the next Klay Thompson. Booker is already a very good player, and he hasn’t even turned 20 yet. In addition to Booker, Bledsoe, Knight and Ulis, the Suns have former 1st round pick Archie Goodwin and signed Leandro Barbosa (2-years $8 Million) for a second stint with the Suns to fill out the backcourt. Alongside Warren, Bender, and Chriss, the Suns will have two veterans at the forward positions. First is PJ Tucker, the longest tenured player on the Suns. Tucker is on an extremely team friendly $5.3 million expiring contract and provides a solid all-around game and veteran presence. Tucker is a good rebounder, capable 3pt shooter, and can guard the opposing team’s top wing. The Suns most expensive free agent signing was Jared Dudley, who they gave a 3-year $30 Million contract. Like Barbosa, Dudley will be making his second stint with Phoenix. Dudley gives the Suns a small-ball option at power forward if Bender and/or Chriss aren’t ready for big minutes. At center the Suns have a much-improved Alex Len. Len will be entering his 4th season since being selected 5th in 2013, and I expect him to once again take a leap forward in his development. The only problem on the Suns roster is center Tyson Chandler. The Suns signed Chandler last summer in hopes of luring Lamarcus Aldridge to Phoenix. Once that failed, the Suns were stuck with Chandler as an awkward piece in a rebuilding situation. Chandler is still a good defender/rebounder and pick and roll finisher, but he is not worth $39 Million over the next three seasons. Chandler is already 33 years old and has an extensive injury history. In addition Chandler’s presence blocks Len from getting more minutes. If anyone is willing to take on his contract, the Suns should definitely look to trade Chandler. At this stage of his career, Chandler should be playing for a contender, not a rebuilding team. Now that the Heat are much worse and have a murkier future, the Goran Dragic trade looks even more favorable to the Suns. As part of the Dragic trade the Suns received Miami’s top-7 protected 2018 1st round pick and their unprotected 2021 1st round pick. Both of these picks could end up being major assets moving forward. The Suns will most likely be in the lottery for at least another year, but Phoenix has started accumulating many assets that will help them climb into contention in the near future.

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