Phoenix Suns

The Suns’ breakout player will be…

A team that won 19 games a year ago needs several breakout players, not just one. However, the player most likely to exceed all hopes and expectations would be small forward Mikal Bridges. Bridges spent all summer in Phoenix working on his game and strengthening his body for the rigors of the NBA. Bridges is already a very good defender with All-NBA Defense potential, so now he just needs to develop the consistency on offense he showed at Villanova on their way to a national championship. If Bridges makes 40% of his threes (his college average), he could supplant Kelly Oubre Jr. in the starting lineup by the new year.

It all goes wrong if…

The Suns should definitely be better than any iteration of this team in years, but that does not make them a playoff team. It all goes wrong if the players begin to wallow in the inevitable losing record. If Dario Saric begins to sulk like he did in Minnesota, and Kelly Oubre bristles at Bridges’ push for the starting lineup and Aron Baynes and Ricky Rubio mope around and quietly request trades to playoff teams, well this could all go downhill spectacularly. The overall roster is still the youngest in the league (just under 24 on average), so any adversity has the chance to cause a meltdown.

What we’ll be saying about the Suns at the end of the season…

I firmly believe that the national message next spring will be that the Suns are quietly, surprisingly pretty good and poised to become a playoff contender in the coming years. The Suns have a quality young roster, a pair of future All-Stars, seasoned coaching staff and with the $150+ million in arena renovations looming there will certainly be a commitment by ownership to get a winning team on the court. The Suns are on the rise, and 2019-20 will be seen as the beginning of that rise.

Final prediction

Vegas thinks the Suns will win less than 30 games, as they should. This franchise has not played better than a 25-win team since the ‘Morrii Meltdown of 2015’ killed Horny (coach Jeff Hornacek). After that, GM Ryan McDonough pushed the Suns all-in to tank mode, but then failed miserably at that too. Despite taking three players in the top 8 of the next two drafts, there’s nothing left of the 2016 or 2017 drafts on the team and barely in the league. The 2018 Draft was quite lucrative though, and new GM James Jones has brought in a good nucleus of supporting players around future All-Stars Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. Look for the Suns to nearly double last year’s win total, which is a good start at climbing out of the muck.

Final prediction: 34-48

Dave King (@DaveKingNBA)