Last season, my League Pass Legends squad shattered expectations and comfortably made the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference. While I wouldn’t be shocked if Phoenix had a similar breakout, expectations are generally much higher than they were for this team a season ago. Last season, projected by many to win 20-25 games, the Suns burst out of the gate and never truly slowed down, finishing 48-34. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to crack the top eight in the absurdly stacked Western Conference (The Bulls and Raptors each won 48 games as well, and received home-court advantage in addition to making the playoffs out East).
This year, the Suns would likely have to win 50 games to qualify. That’s gonna be tough, but certainly not impossible. Phoenix is bringing back star guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe (fresh on a new long-term deal!) in addition to most of last year’s team. Dragic emerged as a stud last year, averaging 20.3 PPG on insane 50.3% FG shooting and 40%+ from downtown. That is some next level stuff right there. If Bledsoe can play 75 games, watch out. The kid is an athletic freak and in his first starting gig last season, he proved it.
The one key departure Phoenix is faced with is that of Channing Frye. Frye has had an up and down career in the NBA, including missing the entire 2012-13 season for heart surgery. He came back strong last year and provided a dangerous weapon in the Suns’ offense by spacing the floor as a big man. Frye is in Orlando now, and the Suns will struggle to fully replace his contributions with the Morris twins.
Speaking of the Morris twins, Markief and Marcus, they’re another fantastic reason to watch Phoenix on League Pass this year. The Suns, knowing the brothers prefer playing together, knew they could only afford to pay a combined $52 million to them. Rather than trying to figure out how to distribute the money, the Suns were upfront with the twins and let them decide how to split it. The Morris twins were locked up, the Suns received good deals on both players, and everyone’s happy. The Morris bros. should see a lot of playing time this year and their development, especially from range, is key to Phoenix staying afloat out West.
The biggest offseason addition the Suns made comes in the form of the NBA-tiny Isaiah Thomas. The Suns stole Isaiah on a four year, $28 million deal. The last pick (!) of the 2011 draft, Thomas has emerged as an elite scoring guard who can pass the ball as well. Thomas averaged over 20 PPG in Sacramento last year, which makes it all the more insane that the Kings think they improved by replacing him with the ever-mediocre Darren Collison. Thomas will be a huge addition to the Suns bench, and it’s hard to imagine a more fun/potentially great backcourt then a rotation of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, and Isaiah Thomas. I’m giddy just thinking about it!
Oh, and possibly most importantly…ZORAN DRAGIC!!!! The Bros. ‘oran Dragic are an incredibly fun thing about the Suns. I mean two talented, chippy, LEFTY, Slovenian guards playing on one team? And they’re brothers? So down. (Note: I don’t think Zoran will be particularly good or important to this team on the court.)
Overall, it’s going to be extremely tough for Phoenix to displace Memphis, Houston, Dallas or another Western Conference playoff team. However, this extremely talented core of young players combined with year two of the potentially great Jeff Hornacek at head coach means the Suns are a team I will rarely miss on League Pass.