5 Reasons To Watch The 2013-14 Phoenix Suns

With the start of the 2013-14 NBA season rapidly approaching, we thought it only fair to share what makes each team so exciting. Ontologically speaking, all 30 teams deserve our eyeballs this season. Even disastrous lineups still present oodles of plays, personalities, highlights and headaches. Here are five things to keep in mind for each team before flipping the channel.

Next up, a Suns team that will threaten to be the league’s worst.

[5 Reasons To Watch: Kings, Lakers, Knicks, 76ers, Bobcats, Cavs, Magic, Warriors, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Clippers, Clippers, Rockets, Bulls, Pistons, Bucks, Nets, Pacers, Wizards, Thunder, Heat, Mavericks, Celtics, Raptors Hawks, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Suns, Jazz]

Poor Phoenix fans. They were so close with those SSOL teams spearheaded by the floppy hair of Steve Nash, but in the ensuing year since he was traded to the Lakers, the Suns have toppled even faster than many thought possible. Not only that, but with their two best players — and they really are the only — playing the same position, one or both could be gone by this time next year.

At least the Suns have hired a smart, but inexperienced, guy to coach, but there is no team identity. They keep flipping players and there doesn’t appear to be a plan in place. At least with the Sixers, the Celtics, heck, even the Jazz, there’s something to build around. But once you get past the talented, though clashing, backcourt, there’s not much there.

Nevertheless, there are some bright spots Suns fans can look forward to next season. While any chance of even competing for a playoff spot is laughable, they probably won’t be as bad as the Sixers. Then again, they might. It all depends on a first-time NBA head coach, a point guard who might have had his ego bruised once agan, and a point guard looking for his first big payday after his rookie deal. What could go go wrong?!

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Jeff Hornacek’s Wide-Open Offense
New coach Jeff Hornacek might be known for wiping his face during free throws to acknowledge his kids, but he’s learned to coach under one of the best. The former Jazz guard was brought on with Utah during the 2007 season to help AK-47 work on his shooting. When Jerry Sloan left, Hornacek became a full-time assistant coach and even interviewed for the head coaching vacancy in Chicago. But now, the Suns have hired him to man an underwhelming rotation of players. So underwhelming, in fact, maybe Hornacek should consider suiting up.

Despite the lack of personnel, Hornacek will be running an uptempo form of attack. They’ll be the yin to the Grizzlies yang, losing most of their games, but looking more aesthetically pleasing — to the casual fan’s eye. This is a good thing. With Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe manning the guard spots, more on this later, the up-and-down pace will be fun, if not effective.

Eric Bledsoe Finally Starts
The big move the Suns made this offseason after the hiring of Hornacek, was the trade sending out Jared Dudley in return for Eric Bledsoe. The 23-year-old Bledsoe is an exciting acquisition able to play top-notch defense while showing some improvement on his outside shot. All of those traits complement his elite athleticism. While Bledsoe has spent two of his first three years in the league learning under the tutelage of Chris Paul, it’s not yet clear he can take on the responsibility of a starting point guard. He played OK during Paul’s absence from the Clippers last year, but the Clippers stopped winning.

Wins and losses aren’t a problem this year, but for the Suns, keeping Bledsoe might be. If they don’t sign him to an extension on his rookie deal by this Thursday’s Halloween deadline, he’ll become a restricted free agent next summer and the Suns may have dealt Dudley for nothing.

Teams are intrigued by Bledsoe’s improved shooting from the field. In limited attempts (less than 1 a game), Bledsoe saw his 3-point shooting improve from sub-30 percent in his first two seasons to just below 40 percent (39.7) this past year. While that’s impressive, defenders still slacked off when he was behind the arc.

It’s on defense where Bledsoe has always thrived using long arms and quick feet. His 36-minute stats are excellent, and he’s right up there with Paul in his ability to swipe the ball from opposing guards. Watching Bledsoe’s defense will be fun for dorks like us, but if the Suns are going to get any return on a possible pre-deadline investment they could make this week, they’ll want to see it on the offensive side of the ball. Bledsoe also has an added incentive if the Suns fail to offer him an extension in time: he’ll be playing for his new contract this season. That could be a problem moving forward…

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Goran Dragic Teaming With Eric Bledsoe
Goran Dragic is the Suns’ starting point guard, and he’s the team’s highest paid player not counting Emeka Okafor‘s expiring contract and already-expired knee. Dragic averaged career highs almost across the board last season, but in the first season where he averaged over 30 MPG, his shooting faltered as well. He was hovering near 30 percent on 3-point attempts, a career low. That’s either the law of diminishing returns, or it’s an indicator that Dragic maybe isn’t prepared to handle all of his offensive responsibilities this season.

But the addition of Bledsoe throws even more of a wrench into the Suns’ backcourt. Bledsoe found himself in the backcourt with Paul on occasion, but Dragic needs the ball to be effective. He’s already done the shared point duties with Kyle Lowry in Houston earlier in his career. As the team’s highest paid player and the only returning player to average double-digits in scoring, he’ll be assuming those same responsibilities this season, while sharing the ball with Bledsoe. Whether they can coexist will go a long way towards figuring out whether Dragic will be on the move if the Suns agree to extend Bledsoe.

Gerald Green Dunks
The arrival of Gerald Green meant the exit of Luis Scola — a far more polished offensive player — but Green orbits above Scola’s limited physical gifts. Green has already shown his hops in preseason play, and after practice, but we’re not sure he’s going to provide much more than the occasional rim-rocker. He shot close to 40 percent from 3-point range in 30 games with the Nets in 2011-12, but that percentage fell back to 31.4 in a full season with Indiana last year as he failed to provide offense off the bench like they had originally hoped when they signed him.

But man, can he get up, and that’s at least something to look forward to for Suns fans:


Robert Sarver’s Budget
How cheap can owner Robert Sarver, get? We’ll know in the next couple of days whether Sarver decides to pay Eric Bledsoe to set the foundation for something, anything after the departure of Steve Nash two summer’s ago robbed the Suns of their entire identity. Sarver has been notoriously finicky when it comes to spending money in the past, so Bledsoe’s extension is a big test. But is it a smart move since quantifying Bledsoe’s impact is a hazy proposition right now?

While the Suns were in the Western Conference Finals as early as 2010, Sarver’s budget demands led to their cataclysmic fall last season, their first without Nash. If the tightwad owner decides to extend Bledsoe, the Suns will have another problem since Bledsoe and Dragic are unlikely to team well in the backcourt, especially after Dragic thought he’d finally found a place where he didn’t need to compete for the starting job.

But it’s worth keeping an eye on how much money they offer Bledsoe. They’ve only got around $40 million committed next year after Okafor comes off the books (only $23 million is guaranteed, per HoopsWorld), and we’re guessing Channing Frye will pick up his option for $6.8 million next year, too. Maybe Sarver will be content with whomever the Suns get in the draft next summer. Maybe he’ll try to have an NBA team exclusively on rookie deals that barely creeps above the league minimum payroll. Maybe Suns fans deserve better.

What do you think?

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