Regular season NBA basketball begins for the Western Conference at the end of the month, and we are sizing up the competition ahead of the October 28th Los Angeles Lakers season opener. The Phoenix Suns struggled in the 2012-13 season. But looking at the individual parts of their roster it was a bit of a wonder they struggled so much in the Western Conference. This year’s team isn’t that much different than the 2012-13 edition, which is why I think they’ll be at the bottom of the Western Conference for the second straight year.
Phoenix Suns 2012: 15th place Western Conference, Record 25-57
The biggest two differences in the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns is the addition of Eric Bledsoe, and subtraction of Luis Scola. Bledsoe came over from the Clippers in part of a 3-team deal where the Suns only gave up veteran Jared Dudley; and they traded Scola to indiana for a protected first rounder in 2014.
Bledsoe has the upside to dramatically alter their fortunes this season. Dramatically means being closer to a playoff berth, but still not getting there. Bledsoe has athleticism that would make an antelope both look slow and jealous. His exhaustive work rate is perfect for a bench role, but how he expands and expends his energy into a starting role will be the only determinant of the Suns success.
The Suns probable starting lineup consists of
Center: Marcin Gortat
Power Forward: 1 of the 2 ex-Kansas M. Morris
Small Forward: PJ Tucker
Shooting Guard: Eric Bledsoe
Point Guard: Goran Dragic
Gortat is an All Star center, but that was with Steve Nash running the point. Dragic has high scoring potential every night, but is a streaky scorer and subpar perimeter defender. Bledsoe should help balance the defensive portion out. And the Morris twins both can step out and shoot from 3 point range at the power forward position, as well as Channing Frye who could re-step into that role when healthy.
The two primary role players off the bench will be Kendall Marshall, the quick pass first point guard out of UNC who has played well, and first round pick Alex Len, the center out of Maryland. Len, who was never named to better than 2nd Team All ACC, may develop into an impact center, but is unlikely to have the impact of even a Spencer Hawes type center in his first year.
The quick guards of Bledsoe, Dragic, and Marshall will give the Lakers perimeter defense fits. And there is no reason to believe that when those guards do get to the rim they will be dissuaded from attacking with the again Gasol and Kaman in the paint. But they no longer have Scola who habitually scorched them too. Last season, the Lakers and the Suns split the season series 2-2. The Suns may finish worst in the conference, but the Lakers won’t dominate this matchup this season.