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NBA 2015-16 Team Previews: Phoenix Suns – Project Desert Identity

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Phoenix Suns

Our NBA 2015-16 Team Previews continues with the Pacific Division. Next up it’s time to break down the Phoenix Suns:

Record:  (39-43) 10th in the Western Conference, 3rd in Pacific Division, Failed to make playoffs

Rank: Offense: 102.9 (14)   Defense: 103.4 (17) Differential/Net: minus -0.5 (19) Pace: 98.7 (3)

2014-15

Key Stats:

  • Tyson Chandler is a defensive beast who improves every team he plays with (even the Knicks!). To wit:
    • OKC improved 4 spots from 20th to 16
    • Charlotte improved 6 spots form 7th to 1st
    • Dallas improved 5 spots from 12th to 7
    • New York improved 16 spots from 21st to 5th
    • In his second stint in Dallas they improved 4 spots from 22nd to 18th

Granted the team surrounding him contributes to the system, but it’s safe to say he’ll make the Suns better defensively (17th last season).

  • Despite posting win totals good enough for the post season in the East the Suns haven’t made the playoffs the past 5 seasons.
  • The Suns post the third best pace in the Association (can they maintain that pace and still improve defensively?)

Off Season Moves

Key Areas Needing Addressing:

  • Less focus on offense and more focus on defense
  • Time to build continuity and stop the roster turnover
  • Hornacek’s contract and Markieff Morris situation

Draft:  Devin Booker selected 13th in first round, Andrew Harrison selected 44th in second round

Player Additions/Players Re-Signed:

Players Exiting:

2015-16

Core Players:

Brandon Knight Eric Bledsoe, P.J. TuckerMarkieff Morris, Tyson Chandler

Key Reserves: 

Sonny Weems, Mirza Teletovic, Alex Len

Outlook

Rising Star:  Markieff Morris may not want to stay in Phoenix but GM Ryan McDonough certainly seems to want to keep him. Each of his past four seasons Morris increased his output going from a low of 7.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1 assist in his rookie season (2011-12)to last season’s high of 15.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists. His offensive versatility makes him a valuable commodity, his issues with the team notwithstanding.

On The Bubble:  P.J. Tucker has been the lone defensive specialist in Phoenix, so one would assume the team wants to keep him on board as they attempt to shore up their defense.  Yet like so much else the Suns new management does there appears to be mixed signals being sent. If they continue a run and gun style it will be difficult to keep Tucker especially with young T.J. Warren behind him and stat filler Sonny Weems who they brought in this summer (and who has performed well in preseason).

The other notable bubble man is head coach Jeff Hornacek who has taken the Suns to just missing the post season two years running, yet hasn’t received a contract extension.

X-Factor:  Tyson Chandler simply makes every team he plays for better on both ends of the court. His rim protection and defensive leadership pay dividends! As per NBA TV the Suns  allowed opponents to score 103.3 points per game (ranked 26th) of which 45.3 came in the paint (28th), gave up 14.4 second chance points (29th) and also allowed opposing teams to shoot 415% from 15-19 feet (24th) his arrival should improve each of those categories. Moreover, his leadership on the defensive end will be audible as Chandler is known as one of the League’s best at communicating on defense.

Best Case:  The Suns make amends with Morris, extend coach Hornacek’s contract and find a happy medium between being a run and gun team by dialing it back somewhat to allow for a better defensive effort

Worst Case:  With the revolving door in Phoenix it’s difficult to ascertain exactly what their plans are. They had an amazing scheme with Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, but went out and got Isaiah Thomas which upset Dragic and led to his exit. Then they turned around and got rid of Thomas and replaced Dragic with Knight.

Exactly what is the identity of the Suns? Are they a run and gun team or are they now trying to restructure into a defensive team which seems to be mutually exclusive. The worst case scenario would be for the Suns to lose their coach and Morris who they say they want to build around. Then they suddenly become a team players are antsy to join because they’ll can’t be trusted in their commitment.

Prediction:

It’s hard to access the off season of the Suns who were impressive enough to lure Chandler away from Dallas and be relevant enough to make Aldridge’s decision difficult. Yet, following that L.A. pitch it seemed the steam simply came pouring out of the Suns as they lost one after another of their free agents all who were major contributors for the club. It’s hard to understand why they wouldn’t make a greater effort to retain Brandan Wright after going out aggressively to secure him.

It seems like the Suns have almost a revolving door policy as so much transition has occurred in their line-up and other than Chandler they haven’t done much to improve defensively which was their main issue last season. Though I loved Sonny Weems when he played for the Raptors and he’ll offer some depth off the bench it’s hard to imagine the Suns improve by adding those 2 players, an aged vet in Price and a player in Teletovic coming off the blood clot injury last season.

Of bigger concern for the Suns is the rumored discontent of Markieff Morris who  asked to be traded. Perhaps the Suns dealing his brother Marcus only made the situation worse, but it definitely feels like he won’t be in a Suns’ uniform by season end. The question is will Eric Bledsoe?

Ultimately though I believe they’ll improve defensively this season I think it will take longer than a year to implement the defensive schemes management wants and even longer to find the happy medium of integrating the new system into their offense. They’ll vie for a playoff seed, but finish right around the same place again. The question is will management stay focused this time on the need for consistency by re-signing Hornacek and retaining their core?

Games versus the Houston Rockets

  • February 4th at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix
  • February 19th at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix
  • April 7th at Toyota Center in Houston

Fansided Affiliate Site:  Valley Of The Suns

Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our SCS Round Table Sessions to help you get through the early season. Start your morning with SCS Rocket Science Daily and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.

Next: Rockets Preview

Next: Kings Preview

Next: SCS Complete Round Table Sessions

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