The Phoenix Suns tip off the 2013-14 season by hosting the playoff-hopeful Portland Trailblazers at 7pm tonight in US Airways Center. Tonight mark's Channing Frye's return to NBA basketball, and the Suns first foray into a transition year while they develop their youth.

Tankapalooza begins

According to national pundits who interview rival GMs, scouts and beat writers on a regular basis, the Phoenix Suns would be happy to see an 0-82 record slapped up on the board over the next five months.

A few national outlets have created a brand new topic to follow all season, and the Suns rank at the top of the list to start the year. ESPN's Suns fan fave Chad Ford has the Suns all alone at the top of the charts in the race for the worst record in the NBA.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough shook things up on Friday in a "tanktastic" blockbuster trade that sent the best player on Phoenix's roster (and one of its few vets), Marcin Gortat, to the Wizards in exchange for Washington's protected first-round pick in 2014 and a guy with a herniated disk in his neck -- Emeka Okafor. The move, in the opinion of a number of GMs I spoke with, catapulted the Suns into the lead for the worst record in the NBA this season.

Congratulations, Suns fans.

Coming closer to home, our own SBNation.com has a Tankapalooza ranking as well, placing the Suns in the top tier along with Philadelphia and Orlando.

The Suns may be better off without Michael Beasley, but after last week's trade of Marcin Gortat to the Wizards for indefinitely hurt Emeka Okafor, they're clearly neck-and-neck with the Sixers. Alex Len appears healthy after the preseason, but he's considered a project anyway. Gone is Jared Dudley, and while Bledsoe is talented, there isn't enough on this roster to compete most nights against the Western Conference.

All along, our own Jim Coughenour plans to keep the Bright Side faithful up to date on the Suns tanking status as the season progresses.

The Suns new GM eviscerated a roster that only won 25 games and collected young assets and picks while reconstructing a new roster that will only win slightly less. The Suns are near the bottom of this group in young assets, though, as they are still much closer to the beginning than the end of their rebuild.

Okay we get it. The Suns are tanking. Just don't tell the players on the court.

Ticket sales up anyway

You won't find a single Suns fan saying they'd buy tickets because the team is so talented and it's fun to see them beat up on the competition.

But you WILL find Suns fans more excited about the prospects of the time than they have been in years. And the ticket sales apparently show it.

While the feds won't release how many people have signed up for insurance since the release of healthcare.gov, the Suns have decided it's time to tout their horns on ticket sales, as Paul Coro of azcentral.com and the Arizona Republic reports this morning.

After selling about 8,500 full season-ticket equivalents (partial-season tickets are combined) last season, the Suns are closing in on 10,000 for this season. That would put the Suns on par with the 2008-09 season, when the club was coming off four consecutive playoff appearances. This team is coming off three consecutive non-playoff years for the first time since 1985-88, but its retention rate has risen by 12 percent.

What's there to see?

If you're reading this article and you don't know anything about the team, then I recommend reading any number of other articles here. On the right-hand sidebar is a long list of season preview articles created just for you over the last few weeks. Read up!

Rookie coach

One likely reason for a rise in ticket sales is the promise to emulate run and gun Suns teams of old. No, they aren't trying to recreate 7SOL from the mid-2000s. Rather, these Suns are trying emulate the exciting teams of the late-80s. Not only do the current Suns boast a couple of combo guards in the lineup just like those late-80s teams did, these Suns boast no less than THREE of that team's roster on the new coaching staff.

Jeff Hornacek, Mr. Combo Guard himself who was the only person to make a half-court shot at the last open practice, takes over the reins of the young Suns after a few years as an assistant coach in Utah. To help him, he hired Mark West and Kenny Gattison to the staff - both players on those late-80s teams. West and Gattison work with the bigs while Hornacek works with the guards along with assistant head coach Jerry Sichting, and Mike Longabardi organizes the defense.

Hornacek is sure to get a rude awakening to the tough challenge of winning NBA games when they matter while saddled with a talent-limited roster, but so far he's been the aggressor on the competition. Somehow, the undertalented Suns went 7-1 in the Summer League, and then 5-2 in the preseason.

Not only did the Suns have a 5-2 preseason record, but somehow they had the league's 7th best offense and 6th best defense through 7 preseason games.

Preseason stats

You can see the Blazers individual stats here, and the Suns stats here. As mentioned above, the Suns were preseason top-10 in both offense (7th) and defense (6th), while the Blazers were 19th in offense and 5th in defense.

Summary:

Screen_shot_2013-10-30_at_6

Both teams had a good preseason as they try to establish a winning culture. The Blazers made it their business to play their rotation a lot of preseason minutes to get their chemistry right. Lillard, Frolo and Matthews got lots of burn (25+) along with sixth man Mo Williams. And while Aldridge and Batum sat out three of the games, when they played they got 25+ minutes a night.

The Suns, on the other hand, regularly played 13+ players a night and only Bledsoe played more than 20.7 minutes a night. It was a mix and match affair, made easier last Friday by shipping out four players without returning anyone who is ready to play immediately. That leaves Jeff Hornacek with a likely 11-man rotation (at most) with three guys in reserve in case of foul trouble or injury.

Probable Lineups

The actual lineups haven't been announced, but this likely what you will see tonight.Screen_shot_2013-10-30_at_6

The Blazers have the advantage at every single position in the starting lineups, and that's no surprise. The Blazers starters were actually very good last year. It was the bench that did them in, leaving them in late lottery land.

The Suns are missing Markieff Morris, suspended for elbowing another player in preseason last week, so Channing Frye gets the nod at starter despite likely being limited to 20-25 minutes of game action. Expect to see Miles Plumlee slide into the PF spot for size at some point when Channing comes out, with Alex Len taking over the pivot.

Return of ICMF

Tonight mark's Channing Frye's first regular season game back from missing an entire year due to his enlarged heart. Frye played in six preseason games, and has logged more minutes than he ever imagined he'd be able to log. Now he has to go up against former teammate LaMarcus Aldridge as he continues to get back into shape.

He will likely be very pumped up for this game, so let's hope he doesn't log too many fouls and/or rim-clankers in the first few minutes to mess up the game.

Bring on the FroLo!

On his third team now, Robin Lopez enters the season as the clear #1 option at center for the Blazers. He is backed up by disappointing Joel Freeland and Myers Leonard. Since being beaten out for the center position in Phoenix to since-traded Marcin Gortat, Lopez spent a year in New Orleans impressing them so much they'd rather have a future second-round instead of his reasonable $5 million expiring salary.

Now Lopez comes in with health on his side and a chance to make a difference for a playoff team. Shades of 2010 for him. Let's hope he stay healthy the whole time.

Tonight he matches up with energizer bunny "Frequent Flyer" Miles Plumlee, who logged all of 55 minutes last season in his rookie year. Plumlee is somehow less than a year younger than FroLo, even though FroLo has four more years of experience in the league.

Keys to the game

The key for the Blazers is to beat up on the lesser Western Conference teams, and that certainly includes the Suns. Nobody is going to predict a Suns win, so the Blazers really need to make sure they don't mail this one in by assuming an easy win.

The key for the Suns is to punch hard and fast. Nobody knows what to expect from the Suns, including the Suns themselves. Over the course of the year, they are likely going to be a very poor shooting team that lacks production along the front line, and lacks a star to close out close games. Yet on any given night, the Suns are liable to put it all together to beat anyone thanks to their hustle and hopefully a helter skelter style.

The Suns must get the number of possessions as high as possible, and generate easy buckets through steals and fast breaks. Portland will rebound the heck out of the ball, so the Suns need some back court steals to turn the tide before the ball gets dumped into the paint for Lopez or LMA to finish the possession.

The faster the game, the more likely the Suns will be competitive. And, if Channing Frye and Marcus Morris and Gerald Green can dump some three-balls, the Suns just might surprise the Blazers tonight.

Logistics

Time: 7pm (7:12 tipoff)

Location: Phoenix, US Airways Center

TV: Fox Sports AZ

Radio: KTAR 620

Poll
Will the Suns win their opener?

  417 votes | Results

Toeing the line between contending in the playoffs and making them is a questionable enough position to be in. The space between a lower-seeded playoff squad and a team, as it’s been known...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

Charlotte Bobcats

Front Office: Likely some combination of owner Michael Jordan, Director of Player Personnel Larry Jordan, PBO Rod Higgins and GM Rich Cho

Coach: Steve Clifford (first season).  Previous: Orlando Magic assistant coach 2007-12.  LA Lakers assistant coach 2012-13.

Assets/Veteran Talent: Al Jefferson

Assets/Young Talent: Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo

Other: Ben Gordon, Brendan Haywood, Gerald Henderson, Ramon Sessions, Jeff Taylor

Guaranteed Salary: 2014/15: $41.6 million 2015/16: $40.6 million

Draft Picks: In: First round pick from Portland, top 12 protected 2014 and 2015, unprotected 2016.  First round pick from Detroit, top eight protected 2014, top one protected 2015, unprotected 2016.  Out: First round pick to Chicago, top 10 protected 2014, top eight protected 2015, unprotected 2016.

Outlook: The front office section is cluttered here since Jordan has been historically meddlesome, including recently naming his brother the team's director of player personnel (a la Lindsey Hunter)... raising suspicions of nepotism. The acquisition of Al Jefferson has also raised eyebrows, as some see it as a desperate attempt by a traditionally dysfunctional franchise to reach for the pinnacle of mediocrity.  The team has put together an interesting young core, though, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Kemba Walker continue on the ascending trajectory he established last season.

The Bobcats may face a bit of a dilemma as the season winds down.  Unless they are in the thick of a battle for the privilege of getting brutalized by the Heat/Bulls/Pacers in the first round of the playoffs, they have incentive to lose and keep their draft pick (which is owed to Chicago top 10 protected).  I foresee the Bobcats keeping it, while possibly getting one or more from Detroit and Portland, and building through the draft for at least one more year.  Ultimately, the duo of Jefferson and Walker don't provide enough punch in terms of top end talent and the rest of the squad is either not ready to or incapable of contributing at a high level.

Predicted 2013/14 record: 29-53

Sacramento Kings

Front Office: GM Pete D'Alessandro (new owner Vivek Ranadive)

Coach: Michael Malone (first season).  Previous: Golden St. Warriors assistant coach 2011-13.

Assets/Veteran Talent:  Greivis Vasquez

Assets/Young Talent: DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore

Other: Marcus Thornton, Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, John Salmons

Guaranteed Salary: 2014/15: $49.2 million 2015/16: $17 million

Draft Picks: In: None.  Out: First round pick to Cleveland, top 12 protected 2014, top 10 protected 2015-17, then expires.

Outlook: Ding, dong the witch is dead! With the Maloofs in the rear view mirror the Kings finally have a chance at building with a sense of stability. Unfortunately, the Kings are a step behind many of their rebuilding brethren.  With no extra draft picks stockpiled and veteran role players still eating up cap through next year, Sacramento promises to be mired in mid-lottery purgatory for the near future.  Much like the Bobcats, they have surrounded two above average (non-all stars) players with middling role players... Unlike the Bobcats, who selected Kidd-Gilchrist in the 2012 draft, the Kings wasted a draft year on Thomas Robinson (#5 overall)... who apparently wasn't even good enough to play on the Kings.  Digest that.

The best immediate hope for the franchise is the enigmatic, but uber-talented, Cousins.  He could anchor this team as a perennial 20/10 all-star if he could get his sh** together, but I'm not holding my breath.  Adding the play-making Vasquez (#1 in total assists -704, #2 in assist % - 44.9 and #3 in apg - 9.0) as a facilitator is an upgrade, but the pack of teams Sacramento is chasing seem to have improved more than they have.  The Kings defense, perhaps their biggest flaw, doesn't seem to have been addressed, either. Expect them to be in a battle for most points allowed (which they led last season) with cohorts such as the Sixers and Suns.

Predicted 2013/14 record: 28-54

Orlando Magic

Front Office: GM Rob Hennigan

Coach: Jacque Vaughn (second season).  Previous: San Antonio Spurs assistant coach 2010-12.

Assets/Veteran Talent: Arron Afflalo

Assets/Young Talent: Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo

Other: Glen Davis, Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu

Guaranteed Salary: 2014/15: $45.1 million 2015/16: $18 million

Draft Picks: In: First round pick from Denver, least favorable between Denver and New York.  First round pick from Philadelphia, top 14 protected 2016, top 11 protected 2017, top eight protected 2018, then becomes two second round picks.  First round pick from LA Lakers 2017, messy restrictions.  Out: None.

Outlook: Jacque Vaughn has tenure in comparison to many head coaches on this list... with a total of five rookie coaches ready to be beaten mercilessly develop young rosters. And the Magic have a group of ready to play, precocious youngsters ready to be developed under his tutelage. Vucevic (23), Harris (21) and Harkless (20) return and are expected to make a significant impact, while many consider Oladipo to be the most NBA-ready player from the 2013 draft.

They'll need their prodigies to excel, because the veteran talent on this team is pretty much rancid, fetid garbage.  Arron Afflalo is the best of the upperclassmen, but he will need to revert course after his shooting numbers were in thedoldrums last season. Replace Nelson, Hedon't and Davis, who is a particularly terrible basketball player in his own right, with real basketball players and this team would be in business.  As it is, the potential of adding two more first round picks and (hopefully) shedding some dead weight next summer leave this team poised to be the most ready to make a jump on this list.

Predicted 2013/14 record: 26-56

Utah Jazz

Front Office: GM Dennis Lindsey

Coach: Tyrone Corbin (third season).  Previous: Utah Jazz assistant coach 2004-11.

Assets/Veteran Talent: None

Assets/Young Talent: Trey Burke, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward

Other: Brandon Rush, Marvin Williams, Richard Jefferson, John Lucas III, Andris Biedrins

Guaranteed Salary: 2014/15: $17.5 million 2015/16: $3.8 million

Draft Picks: In: Two unprotected first round picks from Golden St. (2014 and 2017).  Out: None

Outlook: Organizationally, this may be the most stable team on the list.  Head coach Tyrone Corbin has been a fixture with the team for quite some time. The roster, however, has been much more mercurial.  After winning 43 games last year (the treadmill of mediocrity) the Jazz bid farewell to four of the top five players in minutes played per game from that incarnation. They replaced those departing veterans with... absolutely nothing.  I wasn't completely sure who to put in the other section from this band of misfits. The Jazz may vie for the biggest drop off in wins from last season to this season (I've got them at -20).

A meteoric rise from Kanter and Favors, who seem like a great tandem in the frontcourt, could help make up for the loss of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, but even then the bench is threadbare. I expect Hayward to be solid, but the Jazz might have some of the weakest point guard play in the league.  Not good considering that is such a deep position across the league.  The good news for Utah is that the rest of their crappy "depth" falls off next year. Yes they're paying the trio of Jefferson, Biedrins and Williams a combined $28 million, leaving them with basically just the contracts of their core (Kanter, Hayward and Favors).  The Jazz also have two first round picks coming up (everyone on this list except Sacramento will probably have at least two when the dust settles).

Predicted 2013/14 record: 23-59

Boston Celtics

Front Office: PBO Danny Ainge

Coach: Brad Stevens (first season).  Previous: Butler Bulldogs head coach 2007-13.

Assets/Veteran Talent: Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green

Assets/Young Talent: Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk

Other: Brandon Bass, Jordan Crawford, Kris Humphries, Courtney Lee, Gerald Wallace

Guaranteed Salary: 2014/15: $59.6 million 2015/16: $38.1 million

Draft Picks: In: Three first round picks from Brooklyn (2014, 2016 and 2018) and one from the Clippers (2015).  The 2014 pick is the least favorable between Brooklyn and Atlanta.  The other three are unprotected.  Out: None.

Outlook: The Celtics did what the Suns were unwilling/unable to do.  They jettisoned players firmly ensconced in the team's vaunted history to accelerate a rebuild.  Well, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce at least. Jason Terry is more of a tool in the annoying sense than the useful one.  Rather than keep the trio of wizened old men (by NBA standards) for another run at a first round exit, they hit abort and absorbed a bunch of crappy players from the Nets.  The Celtics loaded up on draft picks in the exchange, but also got saddled with bad contracts, such as three years of Gerald Wallace for the low, low price of $30.3 million.

Rondo (who's hurt right now anyway) doesn't seem to fit this team's new direction, which appears to be at least two to three years of doleful despair in the NBA's dungeon.  With him MIA the team is basically Jeff Green, some fringe starters and generally useless refuse.  The Celtics lost all of their leadership, toughness, defense and scoring.  At least the exit of Boston's veterans may keep the voice of new coach Brad Stevens (37 years old) from being drowned out.  I can see this team struggling to score points and being damn near unwatchable at times. Oh yeah, that least improved (most regressed) win total... I've got Boston -21.

Predicted 2013/14 record: 20-62

Phoenix Suns

Front Office: GM Ryan McDonough

Coach: Jeff Hornacek (first season).  Previous: Utah Jazz assistant coach 2011-13.

Assets/Veteran Talent: Goran Dragic

Assets/Young Talent: Eric Bledsoe, Alex Len

Other: Channing Frye, Markieff Morris, P.J. Tucker, Miles Plumlee

Guaranteed Salary: 2014/15: $35.8 million 2015/16: $17.6 million

Draft Picks: First round pick from Minnesota, top 13 protected 2014, top 12 protected 2015-16, then expires.  First round pick from Washington, top 12 protected 2014, top 10 protected 2015-19, unprotected 2020.  First round pick from Indiana, top 14 protected 2014-19, unprotected 2020.  First round pick from LA Lakers, top five protected 2015, top three protected 2016-17, unprotected 2018.

Outlook: The Suns new GM eviscerated a roster that only won 25 games and collected young assets and picks while reconstructing a new roster that will only win slightly less.  The Suns are near the bottom of this group in young assets, though, as they are still much closer to the beginning than the end of their rebuild.  Miles Plumlee, who only managed to wrestle away 55 minutes from Ian Mahinmi last season, appears to be the starting center. Markieff Morris has a chance to be one of the worst starting power forwards in the NBA... and has barely flashed any signs of hope for improvement. There are only a handful of teams in the NBA Tucker could start for (one is a handful, right?).

The only stable veteran presence, Dragic, is being displaced from the role he played last season as the primary ball handler so that the key off-season acquisition, Bledsoe, can step into a role he hasn't played in so far in his career.  The team will try to run under new coach Jeff Hornacek, but ball control, shooting and defensive issues (along with lack of overall talent) will make this a long season.  The Suns will have plenty of rooting interests this season, though, as they await the fate of up to three protected first round draft picks they may receive.

Predicted 2013/14 record: 16-66

Philadelphia 76ers

Front Office: GM Sam Hinkie

Coach: Brett Brown (first season).  Previous: San Antonio Spurs assistant coach 2007-13.

Assets/Veteran Talent: Thaddeus Young

Assets/Young Talent: Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel

Other: Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, James Anderson, Lavoy Allen

Guaranteed Salary: 2014/15: $22 million 2015/16: $17 million

Draft Picks: In: First round pick from New Orleans, top five protected 2014-2020.  Out: First round pick to Miami, top 14 protected 2014 and 2015, then becomes two second round picks.  First round pick to Orlando, top 14 protected 2016, top 11 protected 2017, top eight protected 2018, then becomes two second round picks.

Outlook: The 76ers have been castigated for egregious tanking, but I don't know that I'd necessarily put them at the top of the list.  The reality is that Philly already had a pitiful roster headed into last off-season.  The deal that sent all-star point guard Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans for future assets definitely diluted the talent pool, but the only other significant loss was Nick Young.  I would argue that teams like Utah and Boston evacuated more talent, they just had more to begin with.

It's hard to even find enough NBA talent on this roster to fill 240 minutes a night.  I've already quipped that this team is a Thaddeus Young injury away from being the worst team in NBA history.  Hopefully Brett Brown is an inspirational motivator, because this team will be overmatched every time they step foot on the court and it will be easy for them to become disengaged.  To compound the dearth of talent on this roster, Philadelphia actually owes a couple of their first round picks (protected) to other teams. They better get lucky in next year's lottery.

Predicted 2013/14 record: 13-69

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

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?

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

It is that time. It is time for the Top 5 in #SUNSRANK for the 2013-2014 Phoenix Suns. This has been an emotional roller-coaster of a ride that led to the team saying good-bye to some friends.

With all the moves, changes, and new direction that the team is headed in they did one thing that is very similar to last summer. They brought in nine new players. The roster is at 14 total players after waiving James Nunnally with only four players that logged a minute for the Suns last season. For a second straight season this is a brand new, again, with a clear path.

Importance is not created equal and the top five players on this ranking there were three individuals that were a consensus top six. Not quiet a consensus top five, but close.

For the most part the staff was in agreement on who are the "who's who" of the 2013-2014 Suns.

There is no disagreement or alternate opinion. This is definitive. All pre-season rankings that are done with no proof, nothing tangible, and pure opinion are clearly the most relevant analysis of a team or player. This #SUNSRANK is another example of just that. Or just the opposite...

Here is the Top 5!

*************************

25-21 << 20-16 << 15-11 << 10-6 << 5-1

*************************

No. 5: Goran Dragic (6.6)

Profile: 6-3 190 lbs. Point Guard -- Sixth Year Slovenia

Stats: (Pre-Season) In 20.7 MPG 11.5 PPG 4.2 APG 0.67 SPG 58.3% FG

Interesting Fact: The Dragon is in a class with Reggie Miller (25 points) and Sleepy Floyd (29) in terms of fourth quarter scoring in the playoffs. His 23 against San Antonio in 2010 will never be forgotten.

Analysis: I actually had Gogi #17 on my list (#11 not including all the write-ins that Kris made me delete - he can be a cruel taskmaster). Call me a hater, but I just don't see the current players being that important in a season that mostly serves as a vessel to the 2014 lottery. Talent acquisition, player development and trying to squeeze a scintilla of excitement out of a lost season are more important to me than players who very likely have no role in the next competitive version of Suns basketball, which is very likely several seasons away. To me Dragic is more moveable asset than point guard of the future. This is the blown up version of the team. The players aren't supposed to be that important. - Jim Coughenour

Important Question: Will he defer to Bledsoe as the on court leader? Dragic has always struck me as more passive than assertive...

No. 4: Aaron Nelson (5.6)

Profile: Trainer -- 13th Year Iowa State

Stats: Helped keep Steve Nash healthy to a tune of playing 94.8% of regular season and playoff games combined. Nash played in 60.4% of his games with the Lakers last season...

Interesting Fact: Nelson is Head Coach Jeff Hornacek's brother-in-law

Analysis: I personally had Aaron Nelson No. 1 on my list. The Suns' head athletic trainer the only member of the Suns organization that can be called the best in the business with little to no argument otherwise. He's proven how good he and his staff are over the course of the last several years. He rejuvenated/improved the careers of Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal among others, and although the team doesn't have as many old guys as the last few years, that doesn't take away from how good Nelson is at his job. Therefore, on my mostly arbitrary rankings, he takes the top spot. - Jacob Padilla

Important Question: When will Nelson have Channing Frye and Alex Len on the court at the same time?

No. 3: Jeff Hornacek (4.4)


Profile: Head Coach -- Rookie Iowa State

Stats: (Pre-Season and Summer League) 11-3 record and a trip to the first ever Summer League Championship Game

Interesting Fact: The pick that was used to draft Hornacek was traded by the Lakers, Clippers, and Pistons before the Suns decided to keep it. Players involved? Byron Scott, Ricky Pierce and David Thirdkill.

Analysis:

Important Question: Can he reach the young players?

No. 2: Eric Bledsoe (4.2)

Profile: 6-1 195 lbs. Point Guard -- Fourth Year Kentucky

Stats: (Pre-Season) In 26.0 MPG 13.0 PPG 5.9 APG 2.71 SPG 45.8% FG

Interesting Fact: Bledsoe averaged as many blocks per 36 minutes as Markieff Morris last year. Markieff is nine inches taller and plays power forward.

Analysis: I ranked Bledsoe lowest on the SunsRANK simply because I listed McDonough, Aaron Nelson, the Gorilla, Al McCoy and Jeff Hornacek above him on the totem pole. This year is about building the next great Suns team, and that effort must include the Brand and Culture of the Suns even more than the current player roster. If everyone, including Bledsoe, is available in the right trade, then they can't be more important than the Suns brand. Bledsoe has the chance to be a great all-around player, but rarely does a PG excel in the NBA without the ability to score when he wants to score. For every Rajon Rondo there's a Tony Wroten. Bledsoe will be fun to watch, but very frustrating at times too. Dragic may be better right now, and Goodwin and Len might be better in the future, but Bledsoe has the greatest combination of potential and production right here and now, so he's the best Suns player/asset on the roster. However, the moment he starts making $12 million per year is likely the moment he's being overpaid. - Dave King

Important Question: Can Bledsoe hit a jumper with consistency?

No. 1: Ryan McDonough (1.2)

Profile: General Manager -- Rookie North Carolina

Summer Stats: Traded (7 players) Let Go (5 players) Acquired (9 new players), New Coaching Staff (4 new coaches), and a renewed sense of direction.

Interesting Fact:

Analysis: Since Nelson took No. 1, I only had McMiracle at No. 2. I am apparently alone in this opinion. I mean no disrespect as he has gotten off to a tremendous start as general manager in Phoenix (acquiring Bledsoe, getting rid of Beasley, trading Butler for cap flexibility getting a first round pick for Luis Scola, and so on), but I had to go with Nelson. Here's to McDonough taking that top spot on my list next year after drafting Andrew Wiggins and trading for Kevin Love. As for now, I have no problems with my fellow writers ranking him No. 1. - Jacob Padilla

Important Question: Does he have any more bullets to fire?

Tell us what you think about #SUNSRANK. What did we get right? Wrong? Who did we miss?

Ohhh....

Write-In Ballot: Ping-Pong Balls (Jim)

Profile: White balls bouncing in a locked room with no surveillance that determine the future of 10-14 teams a year.

Stats: Worst team in the NBA winning the lottery, two times. Second worst, three times. Once before a team tied for the worst record won the lottery, so technically the worst or second worst.

Interesting Fact: Potential worst pick for the Suns if they finish with a bottom two record; the fifth overall pick.

Analysis: That's easy. It's the ping pong balls. More specifically that one magical ping pong ball that acts as a cantrip to the Suns drafting their next franchise player (sorry Alex). I know it's number combinations, but ping pong balls just sounds sexier. Maybe we can call the computer Ping Pong? You may argue that the lottery is not part of this year/season... allow me to retort. The lottery selection show actually takes place during the playoffs, plus... the end of the NBA year is prior to the free agent period - which means this is in fact part of the 2013-14 season. This is easily the most crucial part of the season. A #1 pick could be a franchise altering event considering this draft class, while another number four finish that culminates in another number five pick would likely feel a whole lot like kissing your sister. So maybe you're looking forward to a bunch of other factors being the highlights of the season, but those pale in comparison to what could be one of the most memorable events in franchise history - a #1 overall pick. While you're #ignitingthefuture I'll be #playingpingpong. BTW, I picked draft day #2... -- Jim Coughenour

Important Question: With David Stern out of the picture will the balls finally bounce our way?

What did you think about the 25 Most Important Members of the 2013-2014 Phoenix Suns? Did we leave anyone out? Difference of opinion in the rankings? With that, #SUNSRANK is over...

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

Page 978 of 2083

978

Web Links

Sponsored Ads