Last season the numbers didn't lie about the 25 win Phoenix Suns, they told a pretty appropriate tale for the team on the whole.
The team finished in the bottom third of the league in points scored, field goal shooting, three-point shooting, turnovers, rebounds allowed, and defensive points allowed. They did not fair well in the advanced stats either at or near the bottom of the league in the "Four Factors" advanced stats as well.
This is a new season and the team has the opportunity to make some progression and there is a whole new cast in place to do just that.
Twenty-Second Topic: Who likes projections, predictions, and (un)educated guesses?
1. Breaking the Ice: Who will lead the team in scoring this year? Over/Under 14.7 points per game (Goran Dragic, the team leader last year's per game number) for the teams high point man?
Jacob Padilla: I'll stick with the Dragon to repeat with a similar average to last season, perhaps going slightly over. I think he'll be a more consistent scorer than Eric Bledsoe (the other guy that will have the ball a lot). There aren't really any guys on the wing or in the front-court that can challenge those two as the team's top offensive threats.
Dave King: I believe that Dragic will be the high scorer again. Maybe more than 14.7, maybe not, but his efficiency will be better because he will be playing off the ball more often leaving him open shots. I also believe the Suns will have at least 7 guys averaging more than 8 points per game. With no standout, that's the way it has to be.
Kris Habbas: Three things contribute to a player being able to score in volume at the NBA Level 1) Floor Spacing -- Shooting 2) Floor Spacing -- Reliable Post Scorer 3) Elite talent. The Suns are feeling out a few players to see if they have elite talent, but the team clearly does not have numbers one and two. This season will be similar to last season with 6-8 players averaging between 8-15 points per game. Eric Bledsoe will have the most opportunity so he is the safe bet and just over for the points, likely 15-17 points per game.
Sreekar Jasthi: I don't want to beat the Dragon to death but I have to go with Goran Dragic here as well. With a complete season under his belt as a full-time starter and the team's best player, I think he'll have an even better year in his new role this season. I think Hornacek's coaching schemes will help Dragic more than anyone else and he'll have a great year. Furthermore, I really think his summer leading his national team will really help his growth as a player and leader.
Sean Sullivan: I'm going with Bledsoe, and I think he'll be just over Dragic's numbers from last season. The Suns will also benefit from the return of Channing Frye because of his spacing, especially the guards. Couple that with our fast paced offense, and I don't think Bledsoe should have a problem being a potent scorer this season.
2. Will the team have a rebounder that qualifies for the league leader in rebounds per game? Over/Under 7.0 rebounds per game for the teams' leader?
JP: This is a tough one. The Suns have some pretty good perimeter rebounders in P.J. Tucker and Eric Bledsoe, but if those are the guys leading you in boards then you're in trouble. However, the front-court is difficult to figure out. How man minutes each do Channing Frye, Markieff Morris, Alex Len and Miles Plumlee get? Whoever gets the most minutes among those four will likely be the answer to this question. I sort of want to go full troll here and pick Channing Frye, but I'll stick with Keef (the Suns leading returning rebounder).
DK: Haha tough question. Now that Gortat is gone, the rebounding, just like scoring, will be done by committee. I think that several players will have good per-minute rebound rates but that no one will get more than 7 rebounds per game on an individual basis.
KH: The team will have a lot of players average five or six rebounds a night. My vote goes to P.J. Tucker to lead the team in rebounds with somewhere around 6.5 per game, with Bledsoe or Miles Plumee nipping at his heels.
SJ: This is a tough call. If Miles Plumlee consistently gets 30 minutes a game, I think he'll definitely be above that 7 rebs/game average. However, I'm just not sure if he'll get those consistent minutes.
SS: I think we will average right around the same 7 rebounds per game, if not slightly more. Plumlee can be a decent rebounder if he gets minutes, so I'll go with him to be our leader. I think the Suns should also see plenty of contributions from Tucker, Frye, and the Morri as well. Len could also be a big factor, but I'm not sure how many minutes he will see.
3. Who averages more steals per game, Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe? Can either finish in the Top 10 in steals per game this season?
DK: Bledsoe might just lead the league in steals, while Dragic will be in the top 30 or so. They will certainly gamble a lot in that area. I think this was the easiest question to answer yet.
KH: Per 36 minutes Bledsoe was the third in the league in steals per game and this season he will actually play 35+ minutes a night more consistently. He will likely get to jump passing lanes more than Dragic as more of a free-safety on the defensive end. Bledsoe will be Top 5 in steals per game this year and average between 2.0-2.2 steals per game.
SS: Bledsoe will lead the team in steals, and I think he will crack the top ten in the league with ease. His per 36 numbers may decrease somewhat while playing more minutes, but he has shown to be a very aggressive defender, and his quickness and tenacity will force plenty of turnovers.
JP: Bledsoe should easily make the top 10, and depending on how the Suns are coached and what kind of defensive schemes they use, Dragic could have a chance to sneak in there as well. I wouldn't bet on it at this point, but it is certainly possible. Steph Curry and Monta Ellis accomplished the feat for the Warriors when they played together if I remember correctly, so why can't our Suns?
4. The Phoenix Suns had the lowest team leading PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of any team with Goran Dragic's 17.52... Which player will the advanced stats love this year?
KH: Smaller minutes with efficiency will not be the teams forte this year. In the pre-season Marcus Morris was an efficient shooter, but traditionally he has not been. The advanced stats did not love Alex Len in the draft process and Archie Goodwin is very much 18 years old. With the roster moves the players with the best chance to be efficient and have the advanced stats crowd swooning are Goran Dragic and P.J. Tucker, which might bode well for future trade.
SS: Dragic gets my vote here. I think Dragic's PER will rise now that some of the pressure is off of him to be both a distributor and a scorer. Hopefully Dragic will benefit from having another guard who can also play both on and off the ball along side of him, and I think that will help Dragic become more efficient and more productive as well.
JP: Kris is right. Dragic and Tucker are really the only answers here. You can't expect raw rookies to put up great numbers, and none of the other guys have shown the ability to do so thus far in their careers.
DK: You know, I think the Suns will have a few players over 17 on the PER scale. PER is all about shooting percentages, rather than minutes. I think Plumlee and Frye will have good PERs, as will Bledsoe and Dragic again. The team leader will likely be Dragic.
5. Over/Under 0.5 players that shoot over 50% from the field and players that shoot 38.5% from three? Who are your candidates for efficiency?
SS: I think Dragic will get there, and possibly Frye. Gerald Green also has an outside chance if he can continue his stellar pre-season play, but I have a feeling he will begin to regress to the mean once the regular season starts.
JP: Someone like Slava Kravtsov could end up shooting better than 50 percent. However, none of the rotation bigs are known for high shooting percentages and it is pretty difficult for guards to accomplish this feat. As for 3-point percentages, I feel pretty confident in my answer of under. Channing Frye is likely the only one who has a shot at cracking 40 percent, but he just came off a year-long absence and would be hard-pressed to hit that number over the course of the entire season.
DK: Over. I think Frye gets more than 38.5% from three and maybe one other player, though I'm not sure who. Frye's numbers will be closest to that mark.
KH: Under. The team will find themselves in early holes a lot this season requiring them to shoot themselves back into the game. This roster does not have one pure shooter on it. Also, if they want to run and play fast it is going to lead to some unorganized basketball and bad shots while the players get used to this style.
BONUS: Who will be the king of the "DNP Coaches Decision" this year? This award has been given to the likes of Hakim Warrick, Shannon Brown, and many others...
SS: Dionte Christmas. The Suns are loaded with guards, and they are also looking to give the lion's share of back-up minutes to Goodwin, I'm sure. Dionte Christmas is a good insurance policy as someone who can come in off the bench and score, but I don't see the Suns needing him very often.
JP: Ish Smith and Dionte Chrstmas will likely be sitting out a lot of games this year despite being healthy. It will be interesting to see how the coaches manage the rookies, particularly Archie Goodwin. There's no way Tucker gets benched as Kris mentioned as a possibility below, but Mook certainly could.
DK: This has to go to Dionte Christmas. Ish Smith is also a candidate, but he's the third PG so all it takes is a single injury to get him minutes. Same goes for Kravtsov. Not only is he one injury away from getting minutes (Alex Len recovery) but he's also about 8 fouls away from it too (4 fouls each by Plumlee/Len).
KH: This has to be a player considered to be a rotation player in some capacity. The candidates are P.J. Tucker (which kills all my previous predictions), Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Archie Goodwin, and Gerald Green in my estimation... Let's go with Marcus, roughly 12-15 DNP Coaches Decisions. Sorry.
Bright Siders, what do you think?
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