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Phoenix Suns ranked No. 22 in ESPN’s NBA Future Power Rankings

(AP Photo/Matt York)

The Phoenix Suns are trending in the right direction, according to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks. In their annual piece NBA Future Power Rankings: Predicting teams 1-30,Pelton and Marks ranked Phoenix as the 22nd-best team in the NBA heading into the 2018-19 season and beyond.

Phoenix moved forward three places from their ranking of 25th last season. After a long and grueling year that resulted in the league’s worst record of 21-61, general manager Ryan McDonough accelerated his team’s rebuild by acquiring new talent and relinquishing unproductive players.

“Since our last FPR update, the Suns won the NBA draft lottery, earning the right to take Arizona center Deandre Ayton No. 1 overall. They also accelerated the timetable on returning to contention by signing Trevor Ariza to a one-year, $15 million deal and adding Ryan Anderson in a trade with the Rockets. Nonetheless, Phoenix might be hard-pressed to compete after finishing with both the NBA’s worst offensive and defensive ratings a year ago.

With their own first-round picks plus an additional one from the Bucks, the Suns remain well-positioned to add through the draft. However, a max contract extension for promising shooting guard Devin Booker will make it difficult for Phoenix to create substantial cap space next summer. Whether it’s via free agency, trades, the draft or unexpected development of their young prospects, the Suns still must find a starting-caliber point guard to go along with Booker and their frontcourt talent.”

In addition to selecting Ayton first overall, McDonough traded the rights to Zhaire Smith and a 2021 unprotected first-round pick for forward Mikal Bridges during the draft. By adding Bridges and second-round point guard Elie Okobo into the mix, Phoenix will partner an array of young talent with veteran players.

With roughly half of their roster returning, newly-hired head coach Igor Kokoškov should have a lot to work with. Shooting guard Devin Booker took strides in his third season, putting up a stat line of 24.9 points, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 43.2 percent from the field. Fresh off of a five-year extension, the Suns are committed to Booker as the face of their franchise moving forward.

Pelton and Marks ranked the Suns 18th in players, 28th in management, 17th in money, third in draft ranking and tied for 10th in market. In spite of their poor management ranking and mediocre player ranking, Phoenix made concise decisions throughout the offseason to move the franchise back toward the limelight as reflected by their draft ranking.

After a hectic summer, it’s uncertain how the Western Conference standings will pan out in the coming year. Whether or not they can reach the playoffs is debatable, but it’s clear that the Suns are taking proper steps toward a return to the postseason.

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