The Phoenix Suns were a bit of a mess last season. Injuries to Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight didn’t help, and neither did the bizarre Markieff Morris situation. Tyson Chandler also showed his age after signing a big contract. During all this, Jeff Hornacek was canned and Earl Watson took over as head coach, and the final result was a 23-win campaign. On a positive note, Devin Booker showed signs of being a future star and the Suns have a good amount of young talent in place. Will they take a step forward in 2016-17?
1. Best move of offseason
Jack Magruder: The Suns’ draft room erupted when the Suns completed the draft deal that landed Marquese Chriss, for good reason. Dragon Bender and Chriss could be a top front court tandem for a long time.
Troy Tauscher: I think the best move was getting both Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss without giving up a current player. Both need some serious work and will likely not play as much as they would if separate. However, the Suns now have two chances at finding a future star forward who can be a core part of the team. Strictly with those two, the Suns won’t have to say “Man, Chriss is a star. Why didn’t we take him instead of Bender?” or vice versa. They drafted twice in the top 10 without giving up big value. That’s a pretty good return.
Kelly Scaletta: I’m not one of them, but the draft experts seem to believe the Suns had a good night in that regard, taking players who are not only NBA caliber but who fit together into a cohesive team.
Jason Patt: The Jared Dudley signing is a good one, but I guess I’ll go with taking Dragan Bender with the fourth pick in the draft. While I won’t pretend to be some expert on Bender’s game, he seems to have star potential as a versatile big man. And with the way the league is trending, his skill set is extremely valuable.
2. Worst move of offseason
Jack: The Suns still have an excess of playable guards, and the front office must be exploring deals. That nothing was done in haste does not mean the situation will not be addressed.
Troy: I guess the worst move was hiring Earl Watson without even considering other candidates. I know the players like him and his tactical choices last season should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s more the second part. It would have been better for them to at least talk to an established coach and compare the two. Instead they just ran with Watson despite the fact that, outside of being a very approachable guy, he doesn’t really have much going for him.
Kelly: Not trading Eric Bledsoe or Brandon Knight. It’s like that “one’s gotta go” meme that’s always floating around, but in this case, there are only two people on it. There has to be someone out there who wants a starting point guard.
Jason: I can’t say the Suns did anything all that bad, although I agree with Kelly that either Eric Bledsoe or Brandon Knight probably has to go. I will also say that I’m not crazy about the trade to wind up with Marquese Chriss. Phoenix didn’t give up anything all that valuable in the deal, but Chriss at No. 8 was a reach.
3. Offseason grade
Jack: B. Nice acquisition of talent
Troy: I’d say a solid A-. They got some young talent, they brought in some good leaders and they didn’t do anything flamboyant or flashy. I think that last part is key. They could’ve made a bigger splash in free agency, but at best they’d be a high 30s win team. They stuck to a simple, clear and organized mindset, which is a welcome change.
Kelly: A-. I think when it comes to a team like the Suns, you have to grade based on how well it did for the future, not the present. And they did an admirable job of that. Bender and Chriss look like they should work well together. Jared Dudley offers a stretch 4. Booker is ready to break out. And whatever point guard sticks around has plenty of weapons at his disposal. It will take time to develop, but the Suns took a step in the right direction. The only hitch is not making a deal for Bledsoe/Knight yet.
Jason: A solid B. The Suns didn’t do anything that outstanding, but they made a few nice moves and didn’t do anything disastrous.
4. Early prediction for 2016-17
Jack: If Eric Bledsoe stays healthy, the Suns could — could — contend for a playoff spot. Devin Booker is the real deal, and Tyson Chandler will help the young forwards adjust to the league. Earl Watson understands players and is a good motivator.
Troy: The fans who think this team is a eighth seed threat are insane. I don’t even think they hit 30 wins, which is fine because 1) they’re intentionally biding their time for another year and 2) I don’t think it’ll be 20-point blowouts. I think they’ll have decent point differentials but ultimately the youth will fail under pressure and they’ll come up short. I’ve got them at 27 wins, but it’s a much, much more watchable 55 losses.
Kelly: Probably won’t win more than 25-30 games, but will still be better than the Lakers.
Jason: The Suns should improve upon their 23-win total from last season, but I can’t see them in the playoff hunt and think they’ll finish in the low 30s in wins at best. But considering the youth on the team, that would be a success.