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Phoenix Suns: NBA season preview, roster and schedule 2018

The Suns appear to have a bright future with their promising young core. Can they continue to make strides and show more progress this season?


Offseason Recap

Arrivals: Josh Jackson, Davon Reed, Troy Daniels, Alec Peters, Mike James

Departures: Leandro Barbosa, Ronnie Price

Despite rumblings of potentially targeting the likes of Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap in free agency, and possibly even Kyrie Irving in a trade, it turned out to be a quiet offseason for the Phoenix Suns. They kept their promising young core intact and added another piece to it by drafting Josh Jackson fourth overall in the NBA Draft.

Jackson figures to provide the Suns something they were still missing, which was a consistent perimeter defender. And while Jackson has to prove he can be a consistent jump shooter, he has the athleticism and passing ability to contribute on offense.

Second-round pick Davon Reed was also supposed to provide some steel defensively on the wing, but he’s out for nearly the entire season after undergoing knee surgery. He’s one of three long-term injury casualties after Alan Williams, who just signed a new contract this summer, and Brandon Knight also suffered significant injuries this offseason.

Projected Depth Chart

C – Tyson Chandler / Alex Len / Alan Williams

PF – Marquese Chriss / Jared Dudley / Dragan Bender

SF – Josh Jackson / T.J. Warren / Derrick Jones Jr. 

SG – Devin Booker / Troy Daniels / Davon Reed

PG – Eric Bledsoe / Tyler Ulis / Brandon Knight

Strengths

The Suns have one of the better offensive backcourts in the game in Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker. Both are proven 20-point scorers in this league. Bledsoe is a blur who can get to the rim seemingly at will. He was having a career year last season, averaging 21.1 points per game before getting shut down prematurely.

Meanwhile, Booker has developed into one of the more explosive scorers in the game despite his relative lack of explosion physically. His 70-point masterclass against the Boston Celtics was one of the highlights of the season. He’s maturing into the Suns’ go-to guy offensively and should continue his upward trajectory.

Phoenix played some of the fastest basketball in the league last season and they have the athletes to turn that fast pace into quick points. The thought of explosive finishers like Marquese Chriss and Jackson running the court with Bledsoe on the break and finishing at the rim is intriguing and exciting.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Suns were one of the league leaders in terms of free throw attempts per game last season. That should see a slight uptick in that department this campaign as Booker gains more respect as a premier scorer.

Phoenix was also one of the stronger offensive rebounding teams in the league. But with Tyson Chandler slowing down and Williams set to miss most of the year, they may not be as strong in that department.

Weaknesses

Defense remains a major concern for the Suns. They were third from bottom on that end of the floor last year and figure to remain right near the bottom given their sheer lack of above-average defenders on the roster. While Jackson is a good pick up, they still need a lot more talent to make significant improvements.

The bench could be a particularly gruesome defensive nightmare with awful defenders like T. J. Warren, Troy Daniels, and Tyler Ulis possibly playing together. The young Suns’ lack of defensive awareness manifested itself in fouls and opponents’ free throw attempts last season when they were among the league leaders in both categories. They were also one of the leaders in turnovers. Both Bledsoe and Booker were way too careless with the ball, and each averaged over three turnovers per game.

Additionally, the Suns were secretly also one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the entire league. Despite their fast pace, they hardly shot enough threes relative to the amount of total shots they took. Booker took another step forward as a three-point shooter, but aside from Daniels and veteran Jared Dudley, this team still doesn’t have many reliable spot-up shooters.

That continued lack of reliable shooting will likely hamstring an offense which was way below average last season in terms of efficiency, despite the best efforts of Bledsoe and Booker. 

Players to Watch – Marquese Chriss/Dragan Bender

The Suns took a calculated gamble in the 2016 NBA Draft by picking not one but two promising, albeit very raw big men in Chriss and Bender within the first eight picks. However, neither was able to show much of that promise during their rookie campaign. 

Bender’s season was shortened with an ankle injury, while Chriss had an inconsistent campaign marked by the lack of basketball instincts and intelligence that were the major knocks on him coming out of college.

While both are still young and have a lot of room to grow, this season will be a big one for both to show some progress. Bender, in particular, must show more aggression offensively after he played too passively in 2016/17.

The Suns have invested major resources in the two of them and it would be a real disappointment if they somehow strike out on both.

2017/18 Schedule

1 Oct 18, 2017 vs. Portland Trail Blazers     

2 Oct 20, 2017 vs. Los Angeles Lakers     

3 Oct 21, 2017 @ Los Angeles Clippers     

4 Oct 23, 2017 vs. Sacramento Kings     

5 Oct 25, 2017 vs. Utah Jazz     

6 Oct 28, 2017 @ Portland Trail Blazers     

7 Oct 31, 2017 @ Brooklyn Nets     

8 Nov 1, 2017 @ Washington Wizards     

9 Nov 3, 2017 @ New York Knicks     

10 Nov 5, 2017 @ San Antonio Spurs     

11 Nov 6, 2017 vs. Brooklyn Nets     

12 Nov 8, 2017 vs. Miami Heat     

13 Nov 10, 2017 vs. Orlando Magic     

14 Nov 11, 2017 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves     

15 Nov 13, 2017 vs. Los Angeles Lakers     

16 Nov 16, 2017 vs. Houston Rockets     

17 Nov 17, 2017 @ Los Angeles Lakers     

18 Nov 19, 2017 vs. Chicago Bulls     

19 Nov 22, 2017 vs. Milwaukee Bucks     

20 Nov 24, 2017 vs. New Orleans Pelicans     

21 Nov 26, 2017 @ Minnesota Timberwolves     

22 Nov 28, 2017 @ Chicago Bulls     

23 Nov 29, 2017 @ Detroit Pistons     

24 Dec 2, 2017 @ Boston Celtics     

25 Dec 4, 2017 @ Philadelphia 76ers     

26 Dec 5, 2017 @ Toronto Raptors     

27 Dec 7, 2017 vs. Washington Wizards     

28 Dec 9, 2017 vs. San Antonio Spurs     

29 Dec 12, 2017 @ Sacramento Kings     

30 Dec 13, 2017 vs. Toronto Raptors     

31 Dec 16, 2017 @ Minnesota Timberwolves     

32 Dec 18, 2017 @ Dallas Mavericks     

33 Dec 20, 2017 @ Los Angeles Clippers     

34 Dec 21, 2017 vs. Memphis Grizzlies     

35 Dec 23, 2017 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves     

36 Dec 26, 2017 vs. Memphis Grizzlies     

37 Dec 29, 2017 @ Sacramento Kings     

38 Dec 31, 2017 vs. Philadelphia 76ers     

39 Jan 2, 2018 vs. Atlanta Hawks     

40 Jan 3, 2018 @ Denver Nuggets     

41 Jan 5, 2018 @ San Antonio Spurs     

42 Jan 7, 2018 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder     

43 Jan 12, 2018 vs. Houston Rockets     

44 Jan 14, 2018 vs. Indiana Pacers     

45 Jan 16, 2018 @ Portland Trail Blazers     

46 Jan 19, 2018 @ Denver Nuggets     

47 Jan 22, 2018 @ Milwaukee Bucks     

48 Jan 24, 2018 @ Indiana Pacers     

49 Jan 26, 2018 vs. New York Knicks     

50 Jan 28, 2018 @ Houston Rockets     

51 Jan 29, 2018 @ Memphis Grizzlies     

52 Jan 31, 2018 vs. Dallas Mavericks     

53 Feb 2, 2018 vs. Utah Jazz     

54 Feb 4, 2018 vs. Charlotte Hornets     

55 Feb 6, 2018 @ Los Angeles Lakers     

56 Feb 7, 2018 vs. San Antonio Spurs     

57 Feb 10, 2018 vs. Denver Nuggets     

58 Feb 12, 2018 @ Golden State Warriors     

59 Feb 14, 2018 @ Utah Jazz     

60 Feb 23, 2018 vs. Los Angeles Clippers     

61 Feb 24, 2018 vs. Portland Trail Blazers     

62 Feb 26, 2018 @ New Orleans Pelicans     

63 Feb 28, 2018 @ Memphis Grizzlies     

64 Mar 2, 2018 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder     

65 Mar 4, 2018 @ Atlanta Hawks     

66 Mar 5, 2018 @ Miami Heat     

67 Mar 8, 2018 @ Oklahoma City Thunder     

68 Mar 10, 2018 @ Charlotte Hornets     

69 Mar 13, 2018 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers     

70 Mar 15, 2018 @ Utah Jazz     

71 Mar 17, 2018 vs. Golden State Warriors     

72 Mar 20, 2018 vs. Detroit Pistons     

73 Mar 23, 2018 @ Cleveland Cavaliers     

74 Mar 24, 2018 @ Orlando Magic     

75 Mar 26, 2018 vs. Boston Celtics     

76 Mar 28, 2018 vs. Los Angeles Clippers     

77 Mar 30, 2018 @ Houston Rockets     

78 Apr 1, 2018 @ Golden State Warriors     

79 Apr 3, 2018 vs. Sacramento Kings     

80 Apr 6, 2018 vs. New Orleans Pelicans     

81 Apr 8, 2018 vs. Golden State Warriors     

82 Apr 10, 2018 @ Dallas Mavericks 

Prediction

After resisting the urge to make some win-now moves in free agency, it’s becoming clear that the Suns are fully committed to this current youth movement. That means they’re perfectly fine with being one of the worst teams in the West for a third straight year. 

Given their glaring holes on defense, they’re bound for one of the bottom two spots in the conference with the Kings and the Lakers. They likely finish at around 28-54, second from bottom and just above the Kings.

How low can the Suns sink in the standings this season? Let us know in the comments below!

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Brad Taningco

Brad Taningco has been a RealSport NBA contributor since Decemeber 2016. But apart from basketball, he's also a fan of soccer, American football, baseball, and ice hockey.

Phoenix Suns: NBA season preview, roster and schedule 2018

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