2014-15 IN REVIEW
3rd in Pacific Division
10th in Western Conference
After falling just one game short of a playoff berth in 2013-14, last year's Suns aimed to build off of that and take the next step into becoming a viable Western Conference postseason competitor. The band was back together in addition to new acquisition Isaiah Thomas, who formed a dynamic three-headed backcourt monster behind Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.
The Suns started off on the right track, hovering slightly above the .500 mark for the majority of the first half of the season. Eric Bledsoe was back healthy, and Thomas was pouring in 15 points per game as the team's sixth man.
Halfway through the season, however, Goran Dragic wanted a change of scenery and not only did he ask management to fulfill his wish, he made it a public demand. On February 19, Phoenix eliminated the distraction and sent him to Miami in a three-team deal with New Orleans, receiving two future first round picks and spare parts.
That wasn't all Phoenix did before the NBA's trade deadline, however, as they were as busy as anyone working the phones and were involved in three major three-team deals. The Suns moved Isaiah Thomas to Boston in a three-team deal with Detroit, which landed them Marcus Thornton and a 2016 first round pick (from Boston via Cleveland).
To replace Dragic and Thomas at the one-spot, the Suns traded Tyler Ennis, Miles Plumlee and a future first round pick (via Los Angeles) in a third three-team deal with Milwaukee and Philadelphia, landing them Brandon Knight from the Bucks.
At the time of all of these deals, Phoenix was 29-23 and felt that their new-look roster could help make a strong push to close the season and put themselves in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, Brandon Knight struggled throughout his first 11 games with his new club, shooting 36% from the floor and failing to find any kind of rhythm as he made the transition. Not only that, but he came away with an ankle injury at the worst possible time, ruling him out for the remainder of the season and leaving the Suns shorthanded to close the year.
Phoenix went 10-20 following the trade deadline, dropping them out of the playoff picture and placing them 10th in the Western Conference.
SUMMER OF 2015
Key Additions - Tyson Chandler, Devin Booker, Mirza Teletovic
Key Losses - Marcus Morris, Gerald Green, Brandan Wright
Phoenix opened up the free agent process adding a brand new dynamic to their team, signing 2010-11 NBA champion and 2011-12 Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. The 7'1" center averaged a double-double for the third time in his career last year, producing 10.3 points and 11.5 rebounds per game in his return to Dallas. Chandler is a champion, one of the best defensive quarterbacks in the game and he brings the Suns something they have not had in a long time.
The Suns also locked up their backcourt, signing mid-season acquisition Brandon Knight to a five-year extension worth up to $70 million. Knight struggled to make a smooth transition to his new team on the fly, but was in consideration for an Eastern Conference All-Star selection before the trade and could form a lethal guard combination with Eric Bledsoe for years to come.
To add depth on the wing, the Suns signed Sonny Weems to a two-year, $5.8 million deal after spending the last four years overseas.
In the draft, Phoenix went with University of Kentucky sharpshooter Devin Booker at 13th overall. Booker has good size on the wing at 6'6" and could really fit in any system as a pro with his stroke from the outside. He's not the greatest athlete and doesn't necessarily create his own off the bounce at a high level, but he has a chance to make a difference as a big time floor spacer and could see a key role right away.
To free up some extra cap room in order to sign Chandler, the Suns traded Marcus Morris to Detroit with Reggie Bullock and Danny Granger in exchange for a 2020 second round draft pick. Replacing Morris in the lineup will be stretch-four Mirza Teletovic, who signed with Phoenix on a one-year, $5.5 million deal.
An unresolved issue to keep an eye on is the future of Markieff Morris, who publicly voiced his displeasure with the Suns organization and has made it clear that he would like a new home.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
C - Tyson Chandler / Alex Len / Henry Sims
PF - Markieff Morris / Mirza Teletovic / John Leur
SF - P.J. Tucker / T.J. Warren
SG - Eric Bledsoe / Devin Booker / Sonny Weems / Jerel McNeal
PG - Brandon Knight / Ronnie Price / Archie Goodwin
X-FACTOR - Brandon Knight
As mentioned above, Knight had a difficult time making the transition to his new team after being traded to Phoenix in the middle of last season. Knight was exceptional in the first half of the season in Milwaukee, averaging 17.8 points, 5.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds before the deal.
Knight played 11 games with the Suns before hurting his heel, averaging over 13 points per game while shooting just under 36% from the field. There is no question that Knight will perform at a higher level going forward, but he still has to prove that he can co-exist with Bledsoe and live up to that $70 million contract he signed this summer.
Bledsoe and Knight are both exceptional creators with the ball. If they can both find a way to make a serious impact on the floor together, it changes everything about how lethal their offense can be.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2015-16
You never know how the standings will shake out in the Western Conference, but there is no reason why the Suns shouldn't be in the hunt for the seventh or eighth seed. They have a very interesting group of guys, highlighted by a supremely talented backcourt and a defensive anchor that could completely change the way they defend the rim.
It certainly will be no cake walk to the playoffs, and I wouldn't be surprised if they fell just short again, but you can expect them to be in the mix with teams like Dallas and New Orleans for those low seeds in the top eight.
5th in Atlantic Division
9th in Western Conference
I honestly have no idea what this team will do. If their supporting cast meshes well and one or both of Bledsoe/Knight has a career year, this could be a very good team. Chandler and Len will do all the dirty work in the paint, and there are enough lunchpail guys on this team to make me feel wary about doubting them.
On the other hand, there are a few too many question marks to allow much confidence until we all get a long look at these guys.
Flip a coin. I really can't even guess.