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Vegas Win Total Projection: 36.5 (VegasInsider.com)
The Phoenix Suns have been a well run organization for the past 3 to 4 seasons. Despite not making the playoffs, they had a decent year last season with 39 wins. This offseason they added some pieces like Mirza Teletovic and Tyson Chandler, both of whom can put in 20 to 30 minutes a night and perform well. I like what they did even without landing marque free-agent LaMarcus Aldridge to the fold. They still have a deep, young roster with a couple "budding" stars in the making. Two players in particular; Archie Goodwin and T.J. Warren, 2 years and 3 years into their NBA careers respectively, who are bringing a lot of intensity, enthusiasm, and work ethic to this Suns team. The loss of one of the Morris brothers hurts because we all know how that has gone so far, but I think the Suns have put themselves once again in a good position to compete and contend for that 8 seed in the West. Coach Hornacek knows what he has and his staff is one of the most intelligent in the league. I have confidence that this Suns team will win over the projected wins and really be vying for the 8 seed in the West.
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Eric Bledsoe has yet to really hit that potential that analysts put on him when coming into the league. Still, last year he averaged close to 17 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, shooting 44% from the field, and playing over 35 minutes a night. With a veteran presence in the post, I look for Eric Bledsoe to get more open looks and opportunities to succeed within Coach Hornacek's offensive scheme. In 27 games last season Bledsoe had over 20 points, I look to see that number increase to close to 35 games. Not only that, but last season he ended with 2 triple-doubles, and 11 double-doubles as a shooting guard. I wouldn't be surprised if Bledsoe ends up in the top-20 of fantasy players this season and averages close to 20 points a game with multiple triple-double, double-double performances, building off of his last season. He's only 25 and normally in the NBA that's when you start to see players hit the prime of their careers. Jimmy Butler, James Harden are both 26 now, they've been playing extremely high-level basketball for the past season or two, and really broke out in their 24-25 age. Is Bledsoe, a James Harden or Butler? No, probably not, but I think we could see his best season yet and improvement upon last season.
Tyson Chandler was a great addition this Suns team, but I think his younger counterpart Alex Len will be getting a significant amount of playing time over the likes Chandler. Because of his age, I think Chandler is going to help move Len into that starting caliber center. Thus, Chandler will not be seeing as many minutes as people think. The Suns have always been about drafting guys and letting them work into the rotation over time, as this is Lens' 3rd season, I think we start to see him move up in minutes and Tyson worked in as a front-court rotation guy. Last season Chandler averaged a double-double in about 30 minutes of time, I look for that to be slightly reduced as the Suns have their lottery big-man waiting in the wings. I can expect to see Chandler on the court for about 20 minutes a night, maybe more given injuries and play of other front-court players, but I expect to see less of Tyson Chandler on the court. Along with less time, would also come less production, I can still see Chandler going for 8 to 10 points, maybe 7 to 9 rebounds a night, depending on how and where they plan on using him.
T.J. Warren is a guy who will be looked upon now that Marcus Morris is gone and P.J. Tucker is rumored to be losing ground on his starting spot. When I spoke with Amin Elhassan of ESPN, his first guy he named for his "breakout player of the year" was Warren. He told me because of the system in which Phoenix plays and losing a guy like Morris, he's got an ample opportunity to get big-time minutes and produce. Bledsoe and other teammates have nothing but praise for the late lottery pick out of North Carolina State, his work-ethic, athletic ability lend me to believe his teammates statements. I also talked with a couple of other notable NBA people and they seemed very high on Warren as well. It seems as though everyone has jumped on the Warren bandwagon and I have to be on board. Last season, he barely saw the court and averaged 6 points per game, but I expect that to jump tremendously this season. If it's anything like his first and second years of college, you'll see all of his previous seasons' numbers double. In his freshman year at N.C. State, he averaged 12 points, 4 rebounds, in 27 minutes per game. His sophomore season, he moved to 24.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, in 35 minutes per game, winning the A.C.C. Player Of The Year over then Duke star Jabari Parker. So if that isn't telling, I don't know what is. He's been raved about for months through Summer League and I am really expecting big things from T.J. Warren this season.
The Suns are one of about 4 teams that I see contending for the 8-seed in the Western Conference. They have front and back-court depth with one of the most underrated coaching staffs' in all of the NBA. The Suns were woeful defensively last season, ranking 26th in the league, allowing an average of 103.3 points per game. With Tyson Chandler signed up and Alex Lens improving, look for their interior defending to improve and thus improving that 26th in the league status to 18, 19, or 20th. Offensively, they just need to stick with the game plan and work in T.J., Archie, and other young players to develop and grow, in order to have a real chance at making the playoffs. The Phoenix Suns are a good bet for the Over/Under, as vegasinsider has them at 36.5, I see them at close to 41 or 42 wins this season. I think realistically they will be right there for that 8-seed contention, but they will need all their guys healthy and playing at a high-caliber level on a more consistent basis.