4-on-4: Phoenix Suns 2013-14 season preview


It’s that time. The NBA season is upon us, and it’s already expected to be one of the most miserable but gripping in Phoenix Suns franchise history. Never before have so many NBA teams been so willing to tank, but never before have the Suns gone into a season with so few expectations.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of storylines that will encapsulate us. So here we start. As the Suns ignite the future, I went 4-on-4 with Michael Schwartz, Dave Dulberg and Ryan Weisert, asking what is to make of this 2013-14 season.

1.What’s the most intriguing storyline for this season?

Michael Schwartz: To tank or not to tank. Perhaps it’s not so much the question but the execution that’s so intriguing. By pawning off vets like Jared Dudley, Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat, it’s easy to say the Suns are roster tanking. But players are competing for their NBA lives, so it will be interesting to see how the underlying desire for ping pong balls fares against a young team seeking to rapidly improve.

Ryan Weisert: Can Dragic and Bledsoe be a competitive NBA backcourt duo? Both guys play at top speed every minute they’re on the floor. Both guys like to be physical and get to the rim. But can they play off one another, one controlling the ball and the other moving without it? The answer will likely determine Dragic’s future in Phoenix.

Dave Dulberg: As Jeff Hornacek referred to it as, ‘Bledic.’ In an NBA era where positions seem to matter less and less, the development and evolution of a Goran Dragic-Eric Bledsoe backcourt, both from an offensive and defensive standpoint, will make the 2013-14 season must-see TV. It probably won’t be pretty at all times, but charting the duo’s growth should make the 82 games bearable in and of itself.

Kevin Zimmerman: The tanking issue is league-wide and because of it, the projections of one team being absolutely terrible doesn’t add up across the NBA landscape. Phoenix, Philly, Utah and Orlando are at the bottom, but don’t forget it won’t be all that easy for them to lose every game to each other, let alone teams like Sacramento, Charlotte and Boston. Who takes the tank to the bank best?

2. If you had to choose one player to surprise, who would it be?

Schwartz: Archie Goodwin. With Shannon Brown and Kendall Marshall shipped out of town, Goodwin should get every opportunity to be the first guard off the bench. The 19-year-old will surely look like a rookie at times, but by season’s end I see him being one of the team’s most positive surprises.

Weisert: Gerald Green. He’s got all the athleticism in the world, but he’s never put it all together. Green came to Phoenix ostensibly for yet another fresh start. Maybe this time, on a team trying to find an identity in a sea of youth, Green will finally realize his limitless potential. And now there’s no Shannon Brown to steal minutes.

Dulberg: Marcus Morris. Given that the Suns picked up the option on his contract over the weekend, the former first-round pick needs to understand that this might be the best chance he has left to prove he’s worthy of being in an NBA rotation. Already traded once, I think he as a ton to prove. If Morris can provide Phoenix with something it sorely missed in 2012-13 — a consistent perimeter shooter who stretches the floor — his season will be considered a success.

Zimmerman: I flip-flop between Goodwin and Miles Plumlee, but I’ll go with Plumlee considering he comes to Phoenix with Pacers fans having been down on him from the minute Indiana drafted him.

3. Make one wild prediction about the Suns. Go out on a limb.

Schwartz: The Suns will trade Emeka Okafor. Perhaps Ryan McDonough’s propensity to deal doesn’t put this too far out on a limb, but it won’t be easy for the team to get rid of a $14.5 million expiring chip without taking on too much future salary. One way or another, I see McD securing another asset with the Okafor contract.

Weisert: The Suns will go .500 over the course of one month this season. This team is going to be a mess at the start of the year. That’s a certainty. But once all this youth gets three or four months of playing together under their belts, they will actually be competitive. Prediction: Suns go 8-8 or better in March.

Dulberg: He might not start the season as a starter, but Gerald Green will lead the team in scoring. Getting big minutes at both the two and the three, Green has an opportunity to be the type of slasher/athletic wing that benefits from running alongside Bledsoe and Dragic in an up-tempo style offense. He has only 50 career starts, however, I think he nearly doubles that total by the end of 2013-14 simply because of on-court production.

Zimmerman: Channing Frye’s comeback is so good he gets traded, or at least causes a few texts to shoot across McDonough’s cell phone. No, he’s not in shape yet, but it isn’t crazy to guess Hornacek will rely on Frye by the beginning of 2014 so much that a playoff team sees a him as a piece to the puzzle.

4. So, what’s your final prediction for this Suns team?

Schwartz: I see the Suns going 20-62 this season, which almost seems optimistic considering where the national media is pegging them. It will be an ugly year for sure, but with the Suns’ unique backcourt look and up-tempo approach I think they will sneak away with a couple wins against more talented foes.

Weisert: Final record: 25-57. The Suns have improved overall since last year, but they’ll finish with the same record because the West has gotten so strong. Phoenix will be in the cellar by November and stay there all year. The only thing to look forward to is the possibility of multiple players in the Rookie-Sophmore game at All-Star Weekend.

Dulberg: There’s no question this team will ‘Ignite the Future’ by struggling mightily in the present. With Marcin Gortat and Shannon Brown, the Suns were probably a 23-win team. The trade knocks five victories off that total, giving them a Western Conference-worst 18-64 record. Too bad it’ll only give them the second most ping pong balls in the upcoming 2014 NBA Lottery. Yes, that’s how historically bad the Sixers will be.

Zimmerman: Phoenix finishes 23-59. With Gortat, the optimist in me said it’s a better defensive team with more of an identity than last year’s randomly strewn together roster. Without Gortat, this team isn’t very good, but talent-wise it could be worse — believe it or not.

  • Richie

    If Channing gets traded a pick must be given to phoenix. I can see some team giving us a crappy bench warmer for phoenix. Maybe a second round pick ?

  • vtsunrise

    Following my comment on the other thread, I just called Comcast to add back the channels I cancelled last month (to save $14 a month) and I not only have NBA TV again plus a bunch more, but I also saved another $24 a month because of some promotion. So, for the hassle of losing NBA TV and a bunch of other unwatched channels for a month, I net $38 a month savings, apparently. *shakes head and smiles*

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    19-63…a tumultuous year in American history for sure…
    @ Dave Dulberg….predicting Gerald Green leads the Suns in scoring is definitely wild….but incredibly, it may come to pass.

    Game to watch…Dec. 28th…76ers @ Suns..final score 43-42….that’s my wild prediction.

  • vtsunrise

    I just realized I am now a professional basketball fan. I am essentially being paid to subscribe to NBA TV and watch basketball.

  • vtsunrise

    @hawki – Dec. 28 – 43-42 – If I have insomnia around then, I will be sure to tune in. A cure-all snooze-all? Aren’t the Suns destined to go run & gun again? How in the world do you call – even as a joke – an uber low score like that?

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    VT…you money-making machine…you just made more money than I have in my bank account.
    If ya wanna hook up for some beer drinking when you hit the mean streets of Phoenix, let me know.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    @ VT…re: 43-42
    76ers & Suns are the 2 leading candidates in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes…the coaches will probably have half the players out with a sudden flu attack…
    In reality though, it’s just a bad joke…not my 1st…nor last.

  • Freddy

    All the pieces are not in place yet…Be patient.

    By the way vtsunrise tell me more about your comcast package I plan to do some changes..

  • EBJM

    To the surprise of many, I think this version of the Suns are going to do better than expected. I see
    Plumlee actually being better than Gortat because I think he will do a better job defensively because he is hungrier and wants to prove himself.

    Interesting Frye trade would be with Houston. McHale has already discovered his best line-up is with Casspi in place of Asik. If McHale can lose his Celtic model coaching style and realize he needs a veteran stretch 4, Frye for Asik works plus Houston has plenty of 2nd rd picks to sweeten the deal since Phoenix would take back an extra $2 million in salary. Having a proven starting center in Asik would be a future asset.

    I’m also jumping on the Green bandwagon, that just means if they could get production from another big they might have slow things down to keep the number of ping pong balls up.

    I’d rather they just let Okafur sit until summer and let him walkand save that $14.5 millon.

  • Azbballfan

    My bold prediction is that the deadline to sign Eric Bledsoe passes without us signing him long term, and rather than fight a protracted bidding war for him next summer, the Suns move him and Okafor at the deadline in deal involving picks, and a young prospect

    such as

    Okafor and Bledsoe to Cleveland in return for

    Dion Waters, Anderson Verajo, and a pick

    Verajo has only two years on his contract, will probably be injured by the time we trade for him, and Cleveland will want the flexibility that an expiring contract brings

    oh yeah the Suns would still be under the cap in that scenario as well

    thats my prediction

  • Foreveris2long

    I am definitely in Green’s corner as i expect him to have a career year playing the 2 and the 3 and playing with two pretty good point guards at a fast pace. I cannot for the season to start.

  • vtsunrise

    Yes, hawki, for sure. That’d be cool. How do we arrange that?

  • vtsunrise

    @hawki – ah, I see there’s a method to your madness. Getting’ wiggie over Wiggins already. I need to bone up on my prospect stuff. No clue about next year’s crop other than it’s supposed to be loaded with talent.

  • vtsunrise

    I like Green too, for what it’s worth. I also like orange and purple, and I’d probably like Orange is the new Black if I checked it out.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    VT…once you get in PHX will you still be able to communicate thru this board?

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    @ Azbballfan
    Cleveland is desperate to win NOW….can’t see any way they give up Waiters & Verajao….at least not this year.

  • vtsunrise

    Hawki, I’ll be super busy. Best bet is drinks after the Suns game Nov. 10, I think. 9 p.m.-ish. Tell me where to meet you near the US Airways Center and I’ll be there with my petite Latina-Asian girlfriend.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    OK VT…I’ll come up with a place in the next day or so…haven’t been down to that part of town in awhile

  • vtsunrise

    hawk – See my note on the previous thread.

  • Smovas

    vt & Hawki,

    I’d love to be a part of that, if you’d have me.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    VT…Got it….if something goes wrong…meet at Majerle’s Sports Grill 24 N 2nd st…walking distance from US Airways…Nov. 10th 9:00 pm

    Smovas….absolutely

  • vtsunrise

    Sounds like a plan guys. See you at Majerle’s at 9:00 on 11/10/13. I’m sure you won’t have much problem spotting us, my gal and me.

  • Foreveris2long

    AzBball, After reading Coro’s article where he seems to suggest Bledsoe has not openly said he wants to play for the Suns beyond this year there is reason for concern that he will do a reasonable deal. However this seems to conflict a bit with reports that early negotiations were going well with Bledsoe’s agent.

    In any regard if he is traded it will not be to Cleveland where they already have a young promising point guard. I also have no idea why Suns would want a young 2 guard when they just drafted a promising 2 guard. Anyway the next 2 days will prove interesting to say the least. I will add that the alleged lack of communication by Bledsoe of his Phoenix desires could be a tactic by his agent reflecting that money is not the only issue.

    Stay tuned.

  • EBJM

    Swap Bledsoe for Monroe and be done with it.

  • vtsunrise

    So, what’s the average tenure on the Suns versus the Spurs now? 0.25 seasons vs. 10?

  • DBreezy

    I’m still thinking 18 wins, but I’ll be consistent with my previous predictions and give it a 5 win window. So 18-23 wins, but far far more interesting for us to watch night in and out. They really seemed primed for a bad start, the kind that teams like this don’t really recover from although I’m sure they’ll have a bright wining stretch or two as Weisert alluded to. Half the games in the first month being on the road, which is murder for young teams, doesn’t help either.

    Vt, Hawki, Smov, wish I could get in on that ‘meeting’ too bad I’ll be out of town that weekend.

  • dave:f32

    My two-cent prediction for this upcoming season: Phoenix Suns will finish the season at 21-61, and win the 1st pick in the Draft. They will trade pick/players to move up in the Draft. #1 pick: Andrew Wiggins, #3 pick: Julius Randle The Tank Tank Season!!! Go Suns!

  • vtsunrise

    It seems the window of consensus on Suns wins is between 16 and 25, with most people weighing in in the low 20s. Without seeing them/analyzing them closely and what they’re up against, my rough guess, and it appears optimistic:

    26-56

    I always break down my predictions into home and away. I think they’re good enough to win 45% of their home games. 18-23 at home, which is 1 game better than last year, when they stank at home. And on the road, I looked quickly at the worst 12 teams in the league, other than the Suns, and I figure they can perhaps pick off a game against each of them on the road and come up with 2 upsets of other teams. That’s 8-33 on the road, the same as last year.

    That may be optimistic (which is a sad statement), but they don’t call me vtsunrise for nothing.

  • vtsunrise

    David, I’d love to meet up the following weekend -Nov.16-17 – if you’re around. Itinerary has us heading up through Sedona-Flagstaff (yeah, Butler!)-Grand Canyon from Tues to Sat and back in PHX Sat-Sun. See contact info previous thread.

  • Scott

    @EBJM -

    Earlier, I was confused by the salary status of Asik and Lin, but I’ve since straightened myself out.

    Both players are under poison pill type provisions. I thought maybe something had changed about that, but it hasn’t. While the Trade Machine says the salary for each player is $8.3m, with one year after this to go, the truth is that this is only their salary value for trades. They’ve not been paid this, and they won’t be – at least under this contract.

    The true salary – the money that has been and will be paid – for Asik (and Lin) is: $5m last year, $5.2m this year, and then a whopping $14.9m next year.

    What happened is the league allowed Houston to write contracts where the total value of the contract was averaged out over the 3 years for cap purposes, so the trade value each year has been and will be ($5m + $5.2m + $14.9m) / 3 = $8.3m.

    If Lin or Asik is traded, whoever gets either player will have to pay a whopping $14.9m next season, even though only $8.3m counts against the cap.

    Basically, whoever gets either player in year 3 of their contract will have to pay 3x what Houston paid for them in year 1 and year 2.

  • Scott

    ^^ I suppose I should add that the Suns could still trade Frye to Houston, but the Suns would want a 3rd party with deep pockets and playoff aspirations in the trade to take on Asik (or Lin). That’s not impossible, as NYC, Brooklyn, Lakers, and Dallas would all probably be happy to pay the umpteen extra millions for a one year rental of Asik.

    If the Suns do that deal, they should aim to get a first round pick from both teams, and maybe another asset as well.

  • azbballfan

    I’m just throwing that trade out there, but in any Case, I would rather trade bledsoe for assets than give him a max deal which is what you know other teams will do when he becomes a rfa

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