Over the next month, Blazer's Edge will be rolling out season previews for all 30 NBA teams. Continuing this feature, we discuss the Phoenix Suns with Bright Side of the Sun editor Kris Habbas. (Yesterday's preview: New York Knicks)
Phoenix Suns 2014-15 Season Preview
2013-14 Record: 48-34, No. 3 in Pacific Division, No. 9 in Western Conference
Roster additions: Earl Barron, Zoran Dragic, Tyler Ennis (rookie, No. 18), Joe Jackson (rookie, undrafted), Casey Prather (rookie, undrafted), Isaiah Thomas, Anthony Tolliver, T.J. Warren (rookie, No. 14), Jamil Wilson
Roster subtractions: Leandro Barbosa, Dionte Christmas, Channing Frye, Ishmael Smith
SB Nation affiliate: Bright Side of the Sun
Blazer's Edge: Are things settled after the dispute with Eric Bledsoe's contract negotiations? Can both parties move forward?
Kris Habbas: Absolutely, this is just business at the end of the day. Let's all just be glad that it did not escalate to the point where Bledsoe was diming out Ryan McDonough to the Western District police and McDonough giving the "okay" for a hit on Bledsoe. They didn't get "The Wire" deep into things so I would say all is good especially with hindsight, money, and closure to lean on. Most of this was overblown in the media with irresponsible articles and rumors casting a light on the situation that was not there to begin with.
BE: What do you expect from young guys like Alex Len and Archie Goodwin this year?
KH: Well, McDonough is selling Len's stock right now as the "most improved player" from the off-season. Then again that doesn't really mean a ton because it was before Training Camp and any pre-season games. Len needs to provide this team with a steady, valuable, 15-20 minutes a night to allow Plumlee to be himself all season, which, after last season, is imperative to the team's success with the wall he hit last season down the stretch. While he does not need to be a star or steal the starting spot, Len needs to be a productive member of this roster. As for Goodwin, he is going to get the squeeze with the depth in the backcourt this season. I'm hoping Tyler Ennis, Goodwin, and T.J. Warren create a dynamic trio in the D-League that puts the rest of the NBA on notice.
BE: Does Goran Dragic hit another level this season? What do you expect from his brother, Zoran? Was his signing in Phoenix more meaningful than an incentive to keep his brother happy?
KH: Think of it this way, Slovenia was Goran's home through his childhood and up until college and then Phoenix became what represented home to him for his adult life. He had a detour in Houston, but that was against his will. A Goran slide back down to reality is very likely this year, but what is reality? Is it a humble sixth man type or the All-NBA player we saw last season? I expect the numbers to slide down a notch because of the depth, but for him to be the most important player on the team regardless. Zoran will be good depth, a quality practice player, and battle Gerald Green for minutes as the fourth guard at times. He is going to be a defensive catalyst and bring the same style of hectic energy his brother is known for.
BE: The Morris brothers both recently signed four-year extensions to stay in Phoenix...what do they bring to the table that the casual NBA fan might not see at first? Do you think they're both deserving of their respective contracts?
KH: It was a slight underpay for Markieff (4yrs 32mill) and a decent overpay for Marcus (4yrs 20mil), but if they share money like tattoos then they both get 26 million, right? Combine them together and they make for the perfect NBA power forward. They bring a confidence to the team that can be a little infectious. Most of the team is quiet (as are the Morrii) and humble, but the twins have no doubts about how good they are. They were like that in college and have been the same in the NBA even during their tough times on the court. When together they are confident, separate them and they flounder, think of the Morrii like Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup. Good alone, sure. One is clearly better than the other, obviously. Together, maximizes potential.
BE: The Suns barely missed the playoffs last year...do you think they'll get in this season? What has to go right for them?
KH: I hate to be the guy that says this, but someone above them has to take a dive or have a major injury change the course of their season. Out East the Pacers lost Paul George which opens some doors, but in the West that has not happened to date. I'm thinking 50 wins is the baseline for a playoff team in the Western Conference and I see seven teams that I am confident will win 50+ games with the Suns, Rockets, Nuggets, and (a reach here, but) the Pelicans as teams right on the fringe. They got better in certain areas and are softer in others, more on that below, which leads me to think they are closer to a 45 win team and another trip to the late lottery.
BE: Aside from a 33-year-old Earl Barron, Miles Plumlee and Len are currently the only centers in Phoenix' lineup. Anthony Tolliver, Shavlik Randolph and the Morrii are the only power forwards listed. Do you see a lot of small-ball being employed by Coach Jeff Hornacek this year? How does that match up to the rest of the league on a nightly basis?
KH: Expect to see a decent amount of P.J. Tucker at the four, some Gerald Green at the three, and a healthy amount of three guard line-ups this season. It will be a good curveball for when other teams trot out their benches in the middle part of each half to give the Suns a clear stylistic advantage. It will be a part of the gameplan every night and Coach Hornacek will try and exploit the opposition where he feels he can with it. The starters will be typical, then the mayhem throughout the game, and then whoever is hot will close things out. The Suns will be at the very minimum appointment viewing for national fans.
Special thanks to Bright Side of the Sun editor Kris Habbas for taking the time to discuss the Phoenix Suns' upcoming season with Blazer's Edge. Kris can be found on twitter @Kris_Habbas. Bright Side of the Sun has you covered for Suns news and analysis.
-- Chris Lucia | email@example.com | Twitter