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Tuesday, 10 October 2017 14:09

Phoenix Suns vs. Boston Celtics: 2017-18 NBA Season Preview

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Phoenix Suns vs. Boston Celtics: 2017-18 NBA Season Preview | Powered by CLNS Media

2016-17 Round-up: Their record might not have shown it, but the Phoenix Suns proved to be a young team with flashes of potential last season. Finishing just 24-58 last year earned the Suns 15th place in the Western Conference and 29th overall in the league. It was the second consecutive season where they finished as a bottom four team in the NBA, earning them a top-four lottery pick in the draft.

Along with being the fourth-youngest team in the NBA, the injury bug plagued the Suns big time last season. Veteran point guard Eric Bledsoe suited up for just 66 games, launching rookie Tyler Ulis into a starting role quite often. Along with Bledsoe, the team saw injuries to other key vets like Brandon Knight, TJ Warren, and Tyson Chandler. Team defense was also an issue for this squad last year, finishing dead last in opponent points per game. The mid-season trade of forward PJ Tucker can attest to their poor defense in the second half.

Three-point shooting was another weak spot for the Suns in 2016, finishing just 27th in the league in that category.

While it was another year where Phoenix didn’t accumulate many wins, Devin Booker managed to become a household name last season. The second-year Kentucky product scored a career high 70 points in a game against the Celtics at TD Garden. He now holds the record for the most points scored by a player at the Garden. Putting that incredible performance aside, he managed to post career high numbers in nearly every statistical category as well.

Offseason Grades: C+

The Suns came up short of acquiring some of the big names free agency had to offer including Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap. They were also involved in multiple trade rumors surrounding some of the league’s biggest names like Kyrie Irving and Kristaps Porzingis, but deals ultimately fell through.

Instead of adding big names, they took care of some of their own guys. This includes signings of Alan Williams at 3 years, $17M, TJ Warren at 4 years, $50M, and Alex Len at 1 year, $4M. Outside of their roster from last season the team also added former number one overall pick Anthony Bennett and completed a trade with the Grizzlies for shooting guard Troy Daniels.

In the draft the Suns held three selections at 4, 32, and 54. With those picks they took Josh Jackson out of Kansas, Davon Reed out of Miami, and Alec Peters out of Valparaiso.

It would be hard to give this team a bad grade considering they didn’t really add any new faces to the roster. Getting Josh Jackson at #4 was a good enough pick to earn them a just above average grade for this offseason.

Training Camp Questions: Will we see Devin Booker take another big step? His scoring totals jumped drastically after his rookie season from 13.8 PPG to 22.1. While he’s shown flashes of elite scoring potential, he can still improve his game in other areas. Becoming a better defender and three-point shooter are two places I expect him to focus on improving himself. Does Eric Bledsoe fit the timeline of the Suns’ rebuild? With 2 years and close to $30M left on his contract, it should come to shock nobody if he is traded for assets that this team can use to continue rebuilding around their young guys.

Next Move They Make: The Suns have some serviceable vets who could make a difference on a team looking to contend for a championship. Guys like Eric Bledsoe, Tyson Chandler, Jared Dudley, and Brandon Knight could end up being mid-season trade candidates if they can get out to hot starts individually.

How They Beat The Celtics: In their two matchups last year, the Celtics and Suns split the season series 1-1. The game in Phoenix came down to the wire, with Tyler Ulis stealing the ball from Isaiah Thomas and hitting a game winning three as time expired. In Boston, Devin Booker exploded for a 70-point performance, but it wasn’t enough to beat the C’s.

If they are to beat the Celtics this year it will most likely come at the hand of Devin Booker, who is clearly the team’s best scorer. Without Avery Bradley, it could be tough to defend the kid who lit them up for 70 last year when Avery was out with an injury.

The Celtics will see this team twice this season, with the first matchup on December 2nd in Boston, followed by their last matchup in Phoenix on March 26th.

Trending: At the end of the day, this is a team that has been trying to rebuild since their last post-season appearance in 2010. If they can continue to add talented young players and build on their assets, they will be trending upwards. Devin Booker has a bright future, but it’s hard to say what the future holds for their other young guys. Booker’s talent is enough to have this team slightly trending upwards, but who knows how long it will be before they can put a talented squad together. Head coach Earl Watson hopes get this team going in the right direction heading into his second full season.

Final Record/Standings: 27-55, 15th in the Western Conference

The Suns didn’t add many new faces to the roster, bringing back close to the same exact roster from last season. The addition of Josh Jackson will benefit this team in the long run, but he could have some ways to go before he ends up being a key contributor in the NBA.

With all the talent that headed out West this offseason, it is going to be tough for this team to win games in the conference. Out of conference however, is where this team could grab a few more wins than they did last year. The East is completely depleted at the bottom, and they could steal a good chunk of games from the bottom feeders.

This team will more than likely finish at the bottom of the league again this season, earning them another potential top-five lottery pick.