Phoenix Suns: Record last season: 23–59
Postseason results: None
Additions: Jared Dudley, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, Tyler Ulis, Leandro Barbosa, Derrick Jones
Subtractions: Mirza Teletovic, Ronnie Price, Jon Leuer, Chase Budinger
Biggest move: Drafting Dragan Bender (and acquiring Chriss on draft night)
Projected finish: 12th in the Western Conference
Entertainment ranking: 25. A badly needed housecleaning didn’t get Phoenix any closer to contention. At least the franchise’s focus has shifted back to developing its cache of high-upside youngsters, headlined by Devin Booker. — Ben Golliver
Preseason Power Ranking: 27. Devin Booker has everyone’s attention, and this team is trending upward again. In our imaginations, at least, for now. — Jeremy Woo.
One number: 96. Despite playing for three teams in five seasons and logging time both on and off the ball, Brandon Knight has really only known one role: starter. The 24-year-old Knight has started 96.0% of his games, but he will shift from being the Man to being the sixth man under coach Earl Watson.
The Suns traded for Knight in February 2015, viewing him as a long-term partner for explosive guard Eric Bledsoe. Last year rookie Devin Booker emerged as Phoenix’s most promising long-term asset when both Knight and Bledsoe missed time with injuries. While starting the three ex-Kentucky guards together was an option, Watson decided to spread out his playmakers by demoting Knight to the second unit. The move showcases Booker, a star in the making, and gives Phoenix a bigger look in its starting lineup. Meanwhile, staggering Bledsoe and Knight ensures that the young Suns always have a steady hand on the court while also ensuring that Knight, who is at his best with the ball in his hands, is actively involved in the offense rather than standing and watching.
Knight took the news in stride, publicly praising Watson’s honesty, and the coach returned the favor by hailing Knight’s sacrifice. Nevertheless, the trade rumor mill immediately kicked into gear. — Ben Golliver
Scouting report: This is a wait-and-see team as Earl Watson [who is beginning his first full season] gets his bearings. He has a bunch of pretty good guards who should help ease his transition. He’ll probably turn those guys loose, get up and down and see what happens. . . . They have two rosters in one: a roster of vets and a roster of all their recent draft picks. They’ll probably try to win out of the gate, and if something goes wrong, they’ll just shift to a youth movement. . . . Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe are their best backcourt pairing. I’d hang up the phone if anyone called to ask for Booker. He’s their top asset. He has a higher ceiling than guys like CJ McCollum and Bradley Beal. It’s really hard not to get excited about this kid. He’s 19, he’s shown a high-level makeup, he’s smooth on the ball, he’s very calm and has a great pace to his game. . . . [Lottery-pick forwards] Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss didn’t show enough in summer league. Bender was one of the biggest -disappointments—-turnovers, bad decisions, not hitting his shots. I wouldn’t have used a top five pick on Bender. He’s a totally different player from a guy like Kristaps Porzingis. Chriss isn’t going to be a player unless he can extend his range. You can see some athleticism and highlight plays, but he can go 10 possessions without making an impact. . . . They added Jared Dudley and Leandro Barbosa because their locker room was a mess. Those are two great chemistry guys. . . . Alex Len still hasn’t shown much progress. He’s 7'1" and shoots 42%. Come on. I don’t know what he does that’s helpful at all.
Bottom line: The guard-heavy team will run—right back into the lottery.