Phoenix Suns 2013-14 Preview

Goran Dragic

Mar. 24, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic in the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at the US Airways Center. The Nets defeated the Suns 102-100. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns are fresh off of a 25-win season and the bad news is that some are expecting the team to be even worse in 2013-14. Phoenix did little to improve the team for this season and losing some key players, headlined by Luis Scola, there’s little reason for optimism for the Suns this year.

2012-13 Ranks:
Wins: 25
Points Per Game: 21st
FG%: 23rd
Points Allowed Per Game: 26th
Rebounds Per Game: 17th

Notable Additions: Eric Bledsoe, Emeka Okafor, Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee, Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, Slava Kravtsov, Ish Smith
Notable Losses: Luis Scola, Michael Beasley, Jared Dudley, Hamed Haddadi, Jermaine O’Neal, Wesley Johnson

Point Guards: Goran Dragic, Ish Smith – Grade: B
Dragic will keep his job as the starter even with the acquisition of Eric Bledsoe, who should become the starter at shooting guard. Both have a penchant for scoring and could give the team an exciting backcourt. Dragic was the team’s leading scorer and assist man in 2012-13 and one of the few reasons to follow the Suns.

Meanwhile, Ish Smith will back him up and the guard is playing for his sixth team in only four seasons. Bledsoe could play some minutes here if needed, but that would still leave a void in the backcourt at shooting guard. The bottom line is that Phoenix is thin at point guard and the team needs Dragic to not only stay healthy, but play significant minutes.

Shooting Guards: Eric Bledsoe, Dionte Christmas, Archie Goodwin – Grade: C-
One of the Suns’ major offseason moves was to bring in guard Eric Bledsoe, who joins the team after three disappointing seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers. The hope is that a change in scenery will help Bledsoe, who never quite turned into the player the Clippers thought he would when they drafted him in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft. Bledsoe will get his chance to sink or swim when he’s thrown into the starting lineup full-time for the first time in his career.

To this point in his career, he’s been such an average player that there have to be serious questions about his ability to start. Phoenix better get production out of Bledsoe, though, since there’s a lot of youth playing behind him in rookies Dionte Christmas and Archie Goodwin.

Small Forwards: P.J. Tucker, Gerald Green – Grade: D+
It’s extremely hard to get excited about this unit featuring two players who never fully reached their NBA potential. The Suns, though, are rolling the dice here after letting go of Michael Beasley. Green is a human highlight film at times in the open court, but is also a career underachiever. He’s suited up for seven different teams in his past seven seasons in the NBA and, at this stage in his career, doesn’t have the look of a player that can be productive if given a lot of minutes. He’ll be counted on a good deal, though, as P.J. Tucker is hardly a star, either. After being drafted in the second round of the Draft in 2006, the forward was out of the NBA within a year and didn’t get back in until the Suns took a flyer on him last year. After averaging a modest 6.4 points and 4.4 rebounds a game last year as a part-time starter, Phoenix is now relying on him to do more. Neither Tucker nor Green are quality starters heading into this year and asking both to play extensive minutes could be a disaster.

Power Forwards: Markieff Morris, Channing Frye, Marcus Morris – Grade: D
Mark this down as another area of weakness. Phoenix dealt one of their better players this offseason in starting power forward Luis Scola and that left a huge void behind. The Suns will try to fill it with some combination of Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, and Channing Frye. Neither of the Morrises did much behind Scola last season and Frye returns after taking last season off due to a heart issue. Markieff likely has the inside track to the starting role, but this is clearly an area of concern for the Suns.

Centers: Emeka Okafor, Miles Plumlee, Alex Len, Slava Kravtsov – Grade: C+
Emeka Okafor is the big name in this unit, but with a herniated disk, there’s a chance he doesn’t even suit up for the team in 2013-14. He came over late in October from the Washington Wizards as part of a big deal for the Suns’ Marcin Gortat and others. Because of that, Miles Plumlee steps in as the starter here, despite averaging only 0.9 points and 1.6 rebounds in very limited action with the Indiana Pacers last season as a rookie. He gets the job essentially by default, though, since the options are rookie Alex Len and second-year center Slava Kravtsov, who played sparingly for Detroit last season. Plumlee could turn into a player now that he’ll get time on the court, but this is still yet another questionable unit for Phoenix if Okafor can’t play this season.

Coach: Jeff Hornacek – Grade: Incomplete
Jeff Hornacek returns to the franchise that drafted him back in 1986 and is a first-year head coach. With only some experience as an assistant, his head coaching abilities can’t be assessed here. A strong showing for Hornacek, though, would be the Suns competing for a .500 record.

Team Grade: C-

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Anson Whaley is a freelance writer with more than 16 years of experience. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and a current member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA). Mr. Whaley has also been a credentialed member of the media for various events.
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