One season after being the surprise of the NBA, preseason expectations for the Phoenix Suns are totally different than they were in 2013-14.
After a busy offseason during which the Suns re-signed restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe and penned a contract with free agent Isaiah Thomas, coach Jeff Hornacek now enters the season with a strong stable of young, promising players.
Last season, Hornacek’s squad became just the second 48-win team in the last 40 years to miss the playoffs, finishing ninth in the Western Conference. The run reaped them much more respect as they prepare for the 2014-15 season.
Here’s a look at how Phoenix fared in the final edition of preseason power rankings, released just ahead of the NBA season tip-off Tuesday night:
I won’t get caught sleeping on the Suns two years in a row, but I do find it hard to believe they’ll improve on last year’s surprise campaign. Phoenix’s two biggest additions—Isaiah Thomas and Zoran Dragic—play the same position as their two best players. The loss of Channing Frye could loom large on the frontline.
Phoenix has a real shot to inherit the Lakers’ lottery pick in June — protected only 1 through 5, thanks to the Steve Nash trade — no matter what happens on the floor. The bad news: I can scarcely find a pundit outside Phoenix who believes the Suns can avoid slipping out of the West’s top eight.
After being the best team not to make the playoffs last season, the Suns drew respect from our voters, who put them as … the No. 9 team in the West.
It’s always difficult to imagine a team like the Suns repeating the kind of success that came as such a surprise last season. You’re banking on another career year from Goran Dragic and for point guard Eric Bledsoe to A) stay healthy and B) repeat his success from his first half. Of course, every young franchise has to start like that, but this roster doesn’t have the marquee superstar it takes to lift into a real contender.
A suddenly uncrabby Eric Bledsoe might be an anchor, but Phoenix’s 19-point guard attack should make them among the league’s most entertaining squads.
It’s all well and good that Phoenix now has three starting-caliber point guards on its roster, but unless the Suns can find someone (i.e. Markieff Morris) to assume Frye’s role or rejigger their system, the 2014-15 season may not feature the sort of growth that fans in Arizona would otherwise expect.