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FiveThirtyEight’s early NBA projections have Suns at 35 wins

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams smiles as he answers a question about the re-signing of Kelly Oubre Jr. with the Suns NBA basketball team during a news conference Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Stacking up and comparing last year’s Phoenix Suns roster to the one they currently have, there’s noticeable improvement across the board.

How much that swings the team’s win total, however, remains to be seen. But the numbers on one analytics-based website point towards a dramatic rise.

FiveThirtyEight has annual projections that stay live throughout the year, and its first look at the NBA after a wild offseason has the Suns jumping all the way from 19 wins to 35.

At the bottom, CARMELO thinks the Suns have improved quite a bit from last season, anticipating Phoenix to leap from 19 wins to 36 on the strength of better play from Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton, plus the acquisitions of better-rated talent such as Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric and even underrated big man Aron Baynes.

The website uses its Career-Arc Regression Model Estimator with Local Optimization (CARMELO) player projections system that calculates how many wins above a replacement-level talent a player will be. That is then crammed into a depth chart algorithm, which simulates the season and attempts to factor injuries, suspension and load management in as well.

The projections see a closely-contested Western Conference.

After the top features six-team separation of the Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers, the remaining nine teams are projected to finish within 11 wins of each other. That includes the Suns only eight wins behind the New Orleans Pelicans and Minnesota Timberwolves’ 43-win mark on the eighth and final playoff spot.

FiveThirtyEight projects the Suns with a 13% chance of making the playoffs.

The Suns’ favorable look-ahead is placing a bet on their potential while banking on the proven commodities. There’s a drastic uptick in comparing the Suns’ CARMELO numbers from last season to the forecast for this upcoming season.

Both Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges have their CARMELO from last season of 0.9 bump to a 2.3 projection for this upcoming season. Add in Devin Booker (4.0), Ricky Rubio (2.7), Dario Saric (1.2), Kelly Oubre Jr. (0.7), Tyler Johnson (0.5), Frank Kaminsky (0.4), Ty Jerome (0.2) and Aron Baynes (0.1) and you’ve got 10 players above replacement level in next season’s projections.

Five of those project to be above 1.0, and when compared to last year, it was only Booker (3.5) and Richaun Holmes (1.7) to make that cut. In fact, it was only those two plus Ayton and Bridges to grade above a replacement-level projection. Yes, that does not include T.J. Warren, who checked in at a -0.3 last season.

FiveThirtyEight sees the Sacramento Kings at the bottom of the West with 33 wins, followed by the Suns and Memphis Grizzlies at 35.

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