NBA: Phoenix Suns 2014-15 Preview
*****UPDATE*****Phoenix Suns rookie forward T.J. Warren has a small crack in a bone in his left thumb. The Suns said the injury would be treated with a split and rest. The team said there is no timetable for his return. *****UPDATE*****
Last year the Phoenix Suns were the surprise team of the NBA. They exceeded all predictions and expectations as almost all writers picked this team to be last in the NBA’s Western Conference. They ended up winning 48 games and missed the playoffs by only ONE game in the very competitive Western Conference. It was a total team effort from everyone involved with the Suns; including the assistant coaches, their General Manager, Ryan McDonough, team President, Lon Babby, and the team Scouts. But, the guy who made this team a contender last year was head Coach, Jeff Hornacek. Hornacek might be the most laid back coach in the NBA. He speaks with an easy smile on his face and he is able to get through to his players. Last year he was able to get the most out of every player on the roster and he returned the Suns offense to a run and gun style that the fans had become accustom to in years past.
Hornacek put Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic in the backcourt together and showed everyone that it can work. Even with Bledsoe missing about half of the season with a knee injury, Hornacek remained positive and was able to fill the open position with Gerald Green. In order to have another successful year and be in the mix for a playoff spot in 2015, the Suns will have to play like they did last year and continue with their upbeat style. That all starts with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. Dragic had his best season last year, averaging 20.3 points a game on 50.5 percent shooting from the field and 40.8 percent from three-point range. Fellow point guard Eric Bledsoe wasn’t too far behind Dragic in terms of scoring. At 24, Bledsoe has room to develop into a better overall offensive player, but he needs to remain healthy. We will see how he handles himself with his new five-year contract, worth $70 million.
The Suns signed free agent point guard, Isaiah Thomas, during the off-season, adding another talented point guard to their explosive backcourt. The Suns love Thomas who is an exceptionally good player wrapped up in an undersized package at 5 feet 9 inches. Look for the Suns to play a three guard set a lot this season with Thomas, Bledsoe and Dragic.
If he is not traded, fan favorite Gerald Green will be back for his highlight dunks and long range shooting. Green, prior to joining the Suns organization, had been with six different NBA teams and had spent time playing outside of the league in Russia and China. Last season, Green averaged 15.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 28.4 minutes per game. Most importantly, Green shot 40 percent from three-point range and made the fourth most three pointers in the league with 204.
Up-front Miles Plumlee will need another strong season. We all have to give recognition to Plumlee for going from a “throw-in” in the trade to the Suns from the Pacers, to a full-time starting center. Alex Len may be the center of the future in Phoenix, but until he can remain healthy, Plumlee gives the Suns a solid option. He certainly isn’t the most talented center in the league, but he knows his role and gives this team what it needs from that position.
The Suns agreed to early extensions with forwards Marcus and Markieff Morris. They had great success playing together last season and both made great strides over the past year. Both players emerged as important bench players last season. Markieff was the first big man off the bench last year, averaging 14 points and six rebounds per game, while shooting 49 percent from the field. Look for him to step into the starting lineup, replacing the departed Channing Frye. Marcus Morris averaged just under 10 points and four rebounds per contest last season. He is seen as a valuable player because he is that rare big man capable of defending his position and hitting the necessary jumpers.
Someone will have to pick up the leadership role after Channing Frye’s departure. The guy to look to will be PJ Tucker. Last season Tucker averaged 9.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game and the Suns rewarded Tucker by signing him to a three year, $16.5 million deal. Although some feel Tucker may be overpaid, he is an important asset to this team. He provides defense, three point shooting (38.7 percent last season), toughness and versatility.
The Suns won’t catch opposing teams off guard this season and it will still be a challenge to get a playoff spot in the ever competitive Western Conference, however, with a roster full of young talent, this team will be one of the most aggressive and entertaining teams in the NBA.
In closing, the Suns will make the playoffs if Goran Dragic repeats his performance from a year ago, if Eric Bledsoe stays healthy all year; if Isaiah Thomas comes off the bench and plays well to allow Bledsoe and Dragic some rest. Another factor will be if rookie T.J. Warren shows he can play in the NBA after a strong summer league showing, which will help all the Suns big men upfront. Last year the Suns won 48 games, if all comes together this season, they could win 50 to 55 games.
How many games do you think the Suns will win during the 2014-2015 season?
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