Playoff Result: N/A
Key Additions: Eric Bledsoe (trade), Alex Len (draft), Archie Goodwin (draft), Emeka Okafor (trade)
Key Losses: Jared Dudley (trade), Michael Beasley (cut), Marcin Gortat (trade)
Predicted 2013-14 Record: 26-56, pre-Gortat trade (15th in West)*
What to Expect: It’s a new day, the sun is rising….
That was a terrible pun…
Going with it.
Last season, the Phoenix Suns might have been the most unwatchable team in the league. With the departure of Steve Nash, the team tried a rebuild on the fly with a Michael Beasely reclamation project that went exactly how it sounds. They fired Alvin Gentry, picked up the other Morris twin in a savvy move to complete their package, and made the other Zeller relevant for a short amount of time. Despite all of these efforts it was much of the same under Lindsey Hunter. At least Goran Dragic seems like a bargain at $7.5 million. It wasn’t all bad last year.
Coming into 2013-14 however, it is all about what is new with the Suns. They went out and grabbed Ryan McDonough from the Boston Celtics to be the new GM. Jeff Hornacek became the new head coach soon after. Hornacek expects the Suns to be a hyper paced team and brings a fresh take of applying analytics that maybe would have saved Phoenix from the Beasley experiment last year. Eric Bledsoe and Alex Len are in as new building blocks of the future. They even went out and grabbed flashy new uniforms, that are at least better than the old ones.
The uniform change, in fact, is quite symbolic to the state of the organization this season. They won’t be much better than last season on paper, but some of the moves are there. The fact they could snatch away Bledsoe without giving up a first round pick is huge, and is much more promising to the outlook of the season than you could say about anything last year. In the here-and-now, meh whatever, they are a bottom feeder. In the future though — and those new uniforms are futuristic more than anything — this team is planting the seeds of growth. Their stay in basketball purgatory was only one season long. There are actually things to be excited about with this year’s rendition of the team.
Of course, Phoenix finally pulled the trigger on a Marcin Gortat trade, sending him to Washington for Emeka Okafor and a protected first rounder. After this trade, you have to wonder: will Dragic be dealt this year or next offseason for a piece on the wings, or will the Suns roll out two point guard lineups most of the time? As far as team transactions go, this team could be the most active.
So be excited, Suns fans. They are rising. It may be a multi-step process, but you have to certainly like what they are doing with what they use to have. Maybe a couple more savvy moves and a few hits in the draft and they can be back in playoff contention. At the very least, the worst of the worst is probably over.
Matchup with the Hawks: The Hawks should look to sweep Phoenix this season. Outside of possibly Eric Bledsoe slipping into the two, Atlanta should win every matchup across the board. Even then, both these games are in March, so Lou Willams should already be back by this time.
In the front court, these should be some of Paul and Al’s best games of the season. Emeka Okafor (if he’s healthy) isn’t a bad player, but he won’t be able to match Horford at all. Millsap should hit whatever Morris twin he is up against like a Mack truck. In Budenholzer’s offensive system, this should be extra juicy. Al and Paul are the superior options from an athleticism standpoint and all of that motion should make the Suns bigs look like they have cement shoes on their feet.
On the wings, Kyle should love the Gerald Green defense he will be seeing. Green gets lost off the ball defensively, and Kyle loves moving off the ball. Game. Set. Match. Going the other way, Gerald will probably look to be a force in transition, because that might be the only way he can look to beat Korver with his athleticism. DeMarre could stand to be an effective defender guarding Bledsoe.
Goran Dragic is another point guard Jeff Teague needs to consistently be better than if he is going to make that leap forward as a player. So like usual, this is a very intriguing matchup for him. Dennis will be much more interesting in these games, however. The ultra-athletic Bledsoe could possibly give him fits on both ends of the court. Eric is the exact type of player Schröder doesn’t see a lot in European competition. So watching what adjustments he will make could be fun. All-in-all though, this should go Atlanta’s way without too much of a struggle.
*predicted record based on Bo’s ESPN Forecast projections for every team