Joining in on this week’s edition of the Empire of the Suns Round Table are Craig Grialou, Jon Bloom, Kevin Zimmerman, Kellan Olson and Bryan Gibberman.
Craig Grialou: The easy choice(s) would be Eric Bledsoe or Brandon Knight. The ball will be in their hands most of the time, and they’ll play most of the minutes. But to make an All-Star team in the Western Conference would take one Herculean performance. Can either Bledsoe or Knight play better than a Stephen Curry, Ty Lawson, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook? How about James Harden or Klay Thompson? And then let’s not forget the popularity factor, which figures to add Kobe Bryant (if healthy) and Tony Parker to the mix. Because of that, Tyson Chandler would be my pick. Yes, it’s a little out of the box, but if he can stay on the floor, he should reap the benefits of playing with the Bledsoe-Knight backcourt tag team. Plus the center competition is not as deep with Marc Gasol, Rudy Gobert, Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan providing the stiffest opposition.
Jon Bloom: I am going to go with Eric Bledsoe, but that came after the same kind of agonizing you’d see from me when having to decide between the ribs, brisket, or pulled pork at my favorite BBQ spot. I have high hopes for Bledsoe this season and think his ceiling is the highest of the Suns potential All-Stars in 2015. That could change quickly depending on the maturation of the other young players on the roster like Knight, Len, Warren, and Booker. Markieff Morris could be in the conversation if he continues his trend of improving every season and you can’t sleep on Tyson Chandler if he’s consistently putting up double-doubles and leading this team to victories in the first half of the season.
Kevin Zimmerman: Eric Bledsoe is still putting things together, but he’s far and away the closest to reaching an All-Star bid. The other guy who might be in consideration, Brandon Knight, is still a few years away. Bledsoe’s unique defensive abilities combined with a more efficient, consistent offensive season than a year ago would put him on the cusp, but it’ll be tough as usual to climb into the mix with Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and all your usual characters that play guard in the Western Conference.
Kellan Olson: Eric Bledsoe. He’s the team’s best player and is the most likely to put up the best numbers. He’s also playing with his best backcourt fit since he arrived in Phoenix. Brandon Knight’s shooting ability and other skills on the floor will benefit Bledsoe. Hornacek’s staggering of the two will allow both to get their own touches of the ball and Bledsoe will spend much more time on the floor without ball-dominant players compared to last season.
Bryan Gibberman: I’m with Gri on this one. As good as I believe Eric Bledsoe is, the path to an All-Star spot for a guard in the Western Conference is like me trying to hike up Camelback Mountain (I’m out of shape, so that’s difficult). If the Suns become a top 10 defense this season Tyson Chandler is going garner much of the credit. Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol had injury issues last season, plus Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki are another year older. You can see a scenario where Chandler is battling it out with someone like DeAndre Jordan for the second center spot behind starter DeMarcus Cousins.
CG: Here is where the Suns should see the biggest benefit from the offseason additions of Tyson Chandler and Ronnie Price. Though newcomers to the team they are not new to the league. Chandler’s 14 seasons and Price’s 10 will most certainly provide some veteran leadership, something that was severely lacking a year ago and may explain some of the immaturity displayed by Markieff Morris, whose 15 technical were tied for the most in the league. Eric Bledsoe (10 technical fouls) should also be smarter after his first full season as a starter under his belt. Plus, Marcus Morris (9), Isaiah Thomas (5), Goran Dragic (4), Gerald Green (3) and Marcus Thornton (1) are no longer on the team so that technical foul number should automatically be lower, right?
JB: Not after five preseason games, but ask me a month from now and I may have a different answer. My hope is that this team is mentally tougher than the previous version. I’m all for passion and competitive fire, but it’s a fine line when it comes to dealing with the officials in the NBA. Hopefully the addition of veterans in the lineup will have a positivie effect (even if one of those guys just got tossed for arguing with a ref in a preseason game). I’m also not blind to the fact that there are teams that work the refs a lot better than the Suns do, and this team has a lot of work to do before we should expect a dramatic change in that category.
KZ: No. I don’t really believe technical fouls indicate much about overall team success, and I’ll give players and teams the benefit of the doubt if the techs are reasonable and due to competitive personalities. Last season, the issue is what the technicals meant — Phoenix was a young team, etc. — more so than how they hampered the Suns’ chances of winning. The constant defensive lapses and broken plays on offense were much more frustrating, frequent and harmful.
KO: I think you have to be. Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker have their history with technical fouls and this summer’s new signing Tyson Chandler is no stranger to them either. We saw last season that the Suns would simply not get calls from refs on occasion, and you have to believe that’s due to how much they talk and argue with officials. That on top of the technicals are an issue.
BG: I thought this was an extremely over blown issue last season. I just don’t believe getting technicals is all that big of a deal for NBA players. It might get worse this year adding Tyson Chandler to the mix, who has always picked up a bunch of Ts. Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers get a good amount of technicals and things typically work out fine for them.
CG: To star on a reality TV show a person needs to put themselves out there and not be afraid of the consequences. The Suns don’t really have a player that meets those requirements, but they do have P.J. Tucker. He’s the most vocal and the most fashion-conscious player in the locker room. Heck, his shoe collection alone (he claims to own over 1,000 pairs) would be grounds for a show. Plus, given his international experience — raised in Germany and five professional seasons overseas — makes him one of the more interesting Suns players currently on the roster.
JB: After thinking this one through, I’m going with the youngest player in the NBA because I think that is an enticing draw. Devin Booker also kind of looks like a TV star, not to mention he’s coming off the glitz and glamour of college basketball’s brightest lights with Kentucky and could incorporate his fellow lottery picked ‘Cats in the show on the regular. He’s an 18-year-old hoverboard-riding, sharp-shooting, Armani-middle-name-having star in the making. It’s gold, Jerry!
KZ: Let’s play a game of word association. Bieber’s pad. Outdoor activities. Social media beefs. Hoverboards. #FOE. With Markieff hanging with the departed Marcus Morris, there’s no doubt the entertainment value is there.
KO: This is a team that doesn’t have a lot of great candidates in my opinion. I’m going to go with Mirza Teletovic. Teletovic once said that “If I have to die, I die. For basketball, I’ll do anything.” Someone who says something like that has to be good for reality TV right? There’s also the journey of moving to a new city and being on a new team, which should bring some level of hijinks.
BG: I’m going to have to go with Tyson Chandler for a second answer. I have an advantage of knowing him a little better from following him as a Knicks fans, but he has some hobbies that could lead to fun stories. Chandler is involved in the fashion world and is big into photography. He’s also just an interesting personality in general. Having cameras follow around Chandler could lead to some quality television.
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