The Phoenix Suns have struggled hard during the 2015-2016 NBA season that saw the team ending with the fourth-worst record in the league at 23-59. The franchise has made significant changes with their terrible output, and rightfully so, upon the firing of head coach Jeff Hornacek they’ve replaced him with Earl Watson. They also found Devin Booker rise to the occasion.
Earl Watson was then elevated from his interim assignment to become their full-time head coach following an improved record in the next 2 months. What makes this a significant decision for the Suns’ future is that this was fully backed by the team’s players as well as the front office, and therefore a uniting factor.
The Suns’ poor record was due mainly to the injuries of their key players Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, who only combined to play a total of 81 games last season. They also haven’t made the playoffs over the past 6 seasons, which is as dreary as a desert for Phoenix’s fans. But the silver lining of it is the birth of their new star: Devin Booker.
From rock bottom, they only look to get better moving forward.
Phoenix Suns Roster/Depth Chart
Point Guards: Eric Bledsoe, Tyler Ulis
Shooting Guards: Leandro Barbosa, Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin, Shaquille Harrison, John Jenkins, Brandon Knight, P. J. Tucker
Small Forwards: Jared Dudley, Derrick Jones Jr., T. J. Warren
Power Forwards: Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, Derek Cooke
Centers: Gracin Bakumanya, Tyson Chandler, Alex Len, Alan Williams
Key losses: Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight due to injuries, Mirza Teletovic (Bucks)
Both Bledsoe and Knight combine for a total of 81 games played last season, and this hurt the young team that needed much guidance and leadership. However, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise as they were able to win some with new coaching and it led to the discovery of then rookie Devin Booker’s talents.
Key addition/s: Jared Dudley, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss
The return of fan favorites Jared Dudley and Leandro Barbosa, who previously played for the team in their earlier, more successful eras, could provide veteran leadership, but it doesn’t add much as an offensive threat. Jared Dudley will also likely be a stretched power forward after they lost Mirza Teletovic and Jon Leuer.
Key Weakness For Upcoming Season: Injury-prone Eric Bledsoe, untested tandem, weak power forward position
The Suns could have let Eric Bledsoe play in the later part of the season, but decided to let him rest and fully recover. He needs to stay healthy all throughout and ride on Devin Booker’s hot streak, as well as take advantage of Knight’s return.
The Phoenix Suns needs to start Devin Booker to play him alongside Eric Bledsoe, who’s now back healthy and ready to lead. Devin Booker remains the brightest spot from last season’s hardships, and added play minutes mean increased experience, and therefore a continuation of where he left off… to stardom.
The Suns should benefit greatly with this tandem, that’s expected to jell and complement each other’s style. They both attract defense and serves to clear the lanes. And this is where other players could take advantage, and optimize their strategy.
From last year’s bleak record of 23-59, there is so much to be excited about the 2017 season. They may not be a championship contender at this point, but this may be a good starting point for them to continuously get better, and a playoff berth. Prediction: eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Photo courtesy: Dennis Adair/Flickr