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ESPN Forecast: Suns in line for another 9th-place finish

ESPN’s Summer Forecast series this week released a long list of NBA writers’ opinions to focus on where teams will finish the 2014-15 regular season. Wouldn’t you know it, the Phoenix Suns are predicted to have another ninth-place finish. Suns players were still stung by winning 48 games last year and missing the playoffs, and the front office has likewise been quick to remind that they were on the wrong end of history.

Any forecast is, of course, about perception from a national perspective, but it’s hard to argue with the prediction. This is who the Suns are dealing with in a Western Conference that only seems to have gotten stronger.

1. Oklahoma City Thunder
2. San Antonio Spurs
3. Los Angeles Clippers
4. Portland Trail Blazers
5. Dallas Mavericks
6. Memphis Grizzlies
7. Golden State Warriors
8. Houston Rockets
9. Phoenix Suns
10. New Orleans Pelicans
11. Denver Nuggets
12. Los Angeles Lakers
13. Sacramento Kings
14. Utah Jazz
15. Minnesota Timberwolves

The top-three makes sense, and Dallas put together some major upgrades this summer. Memphis (age), Portland (few roster upgrades) and Golden State (a new coach) have their own issues to overcome, as do the Suns — even if Eric Bledsoe returns on a contract, qualifying offer or otherwise.

The Pelicans, Nuggets and Lakers probably will be more competitive than last year. IThe projected bottom-dwellers are the Minnesota Timberwolves, who don’t have a roster completely void of talent. That says it all.

League-wide, there will be more parity with a five-some of elite squads and likely fewer teams compared to last year on a pace of 25-or-less wins. Phoenix is projected to 45 games in this forecast, but even bumping them back to 48 victories would seemingly once again keep them out of the playoffs.

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