ESPN’s Haberstroh: I don’t see the Phoenix Suns contending for playoff spot in 2015-16

Jul 7, 2015, 2:09 PM | Updated: 2:16 pm
LISTEN: Tom Haberstroh, ESPN NBA Insider

The Phoenix Suns were not successful in their attempt to woo LaMarcus Aldridge, but the four-time All-Star did seriously consider offering them a rose.

That the team came this close was something few really saw coming when free agency began. But, their bringing veteran center Tyson Chandler into the fold — along with the other young talent on the roster — proved to be rather enticing for the former Portland Trail Blazer, who ultimately elected to sign with the San Antonio Spurs.

“I think it is pretty shocking, but once you come to get to know (GM) Ryan McDonough and Jeff Hornacek, the head coach, you begin to understand they have a real strategy in place,” ESPN NBA writer Tom Haberstroh told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday. “You saw a couple years ago their strategy was play a little up-tempo, push the ball and get every ounce on the margins using three-pointers and pick-and-roll attack.

“So I think Tyson Chandler is going to really help there, and even though they lost out on LaMarcus Aldridge, I think it really speaks to the professionalism that Ryan McDonough and the Suns organization has implemented, that among all the teams, it came down to one of the best franchises in sports — if not the best franchise in sports — and the Phoenix Suns.”

The writer said just being in the conversation for Aldridge should be some consolation for the Suns, but added at the same time, they didn’t get the player so it’s not exactly a win.

But while Aldridge would have made the Suns better, they still have Chandler, a former Defensive Player of the Year, along with Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe and others.

So it’s not as if the cupboard is completely bare, even if it’s not quite clear what the Suns are trying to do.

“It’s tough because I like Tyson Chandler, in a vacuum; I mean, he’s a guy who is going to suck defenders into the paint on those pick-and-rolls, which can open up the drive-and-kicks,” he said. “The question is if they have the shooters to do that.”

Haberstroh mentioned Devin Booker, the team’s first-round pick out of Kentucky, as someone who could be that kind of shooter. However, while he shot 41 percent from three last season with Kentucky, Booker will still be just 19 years old this season and cannot necessarily be counted on to play big minutes as a rookie. Of course, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

“I’ve seen it happen before with the Suns over the last couple of years, that they’ve squeezed a lot more potential out of their players than we really expected them to, so a little bit earlier in their contribution,” Haberstroh said.

If not Booker, the Suns are a little shaky in terms of long-range shooting.

The best three-point percentage on the team last season belonged to Marcus Morris, who made 35.8 percent of his tries, though he was traded to the Detroit Pistons last week. Among players expected to return, P.J. Tucker’s 34.5 percent mark is the highest. Knight made just 31.3 percent of his attempts as a Sun, though he shot 40.9 percent from three with the Milwaukee Bucks before the trade.

Traditionally one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the NBA, the Suns’ finished tied for 20th in the NBA in percentage last season while being No. 10 in the league in attempts.

Finding their range could go a long way towards the Suns having a successful 2015-16 season. Conversely, failing to sink the shot more regularly could prove to be their downfall.

“I don’t think that they’re going to be contending for a playoff spot quite this year,” Haberstroh said, adding if they had signed Aldridge it would be a different story. “But the West is just too good, and I think this team needs a star away from contending.

“I know Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe are two young, nice pieces, but I just worry that they won’t have the shooting to really space the floor. I think a lot of teams are going to try to pack the paint and dare those guys to shoot.”

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ESPN’s Haberstroh: I don’t see the Phoenix Suns contending for playoff spot in 2015-16