Welcome to Hoop Dreams, a season preview unlike any other. The premise is simple: We’ll be providing 30 of these fictional forays because it simply stinks that only one team can win the title each year. The list of contending teams seems to shrink with each succeeding campaign, and we wanted to provide something to those fans who only get to dream of Larry O’Brien during the offseason. Before October, every team can win the NBA title. Don’t believe us? Then keep reading. – Ed
The Phoenix Suns may not be the worst team in the NBA this season, but they might be the most, well, blah. That’s not to say they won’t be as exciting as Suns teams of yesteryear, but this particular lineup makes it very difficult to put a finger on how this team could win it all. However, that might actually tell us everything we need to know.
Sometimes a team just clicks. Sometimes a team just wins games because everything works, each guy does his job (and then some), and everyone gets hot when it matters most. And when the Suns win the Larry O’Brien trophy this season, it will be because this is that classic true grit team comprised of a bunch of guys who go out night after night and get the damn thing done. It’s almost communistic, the way each player has his role and responsibility, but everyone is paid well and we won’t send John Jenkins off to the gulag if he doesn’t dazzle in his role as third string guard.
Some players and even personnel will obviously be more important than others. This is a team that appears, on paper, to be built to contend for the 8-seed, but the Suns are going to win it all. So, let’s rank the eight most important people in the Suns’ campaign to win the NBA Championship this season, which is most certainly going to happen, since this will all come true.
8) Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender
What they will do: Contribute, learn, don’t make a lot of mistakes
Those don’t even sound like real names, but we assure you they are and they’re actual human basketball players, and some people think they’ll be very good someday. The Suns probably don’t expect Chriss and Bender to step in and begin dominating right away, so there’s no pressure on them. But why wouldn’t they want to be good right away and help the team cruise to a championship? More players should just say, “Okay, I’m going to be good now.”
7) Tyson Chandler
What he will do: Teach and rebound, but mostly rebound
At 34, Chandler is the oldest guy on the Suns’ roster, and he’s also one of the highest paid. But his job is so simple: Rebound, dude. Jump up and grab the ball approximately 10-15 times a game. That’s it. If he feels like it, Chandler can put the ball in the basket if he thinks he has a shot, but it’s not even that big a deal for him. Just get the ball if it bounces off the rim or board and then give it to someone else. Bonus points will be awarded (in the form of postgame ice cream) if he mentors Chriss as the team’s center of the future.
6) Devin Booker
What he will do: Be very good and exciting
Booker flashed a ton of potential in his rookie season, so if he simply offers the same production we can probably pour gasoline on that “this team is blah” remark and burn it like a car outside the Talking Stick Resort Arena after Game 4. (Not that we condone such behavior in championship celebrations. Suns fans know their team is going to win, so they should act accordingly when it happens.)
5) P.J. Tucker
What he will do: Bust his ass
Tucker isn’t a great offensive player, but he’s the kind of gritty, scrappy hustler you always want on your team, because he makes everyone better by being contagious. He’s also the kind of guy who suddenly blows up in the playoffs, hitting impossible runs of three-pointers and locking down the opposing teams’ star players on defense. He’s not a household name, even in Phoenix, but he’s the 2016-17 Finals MVP simply by motivating his teammates.
4) Brandon Knight
What he will do: Redefine the role of the sixth man
It’s weird that a guy who averaged almost 20 ppg last season isn’t a starter, but he’s going to accept his role off the bench because it’ll be crucial. While Eric Bledsoe rests (and stays healthy) Knight will make sure opposing defenses are exhausted by averaging 15 ppg and hitting clutch threes like it’s his job. Of course, that is literally his job this season.
3) Earl Watson
What he will do: Believe in his players, damn it! Be a leader of men, for goodness sake!
Watson’s job won’t be easy, but he’ll make it look that way. At 37, he still has the mentality of a player, and that will help the Suns coach teach his young players how to adapt and improve. Along with Chandler, Tucker (31), and Leandro Barbosa (33), Watson perfectly blends veteran savviness with the raw talent and potential of guys like Chriss, Bender, and Booker. That will also make the star’s job easier.
2) Eric Bledsoe
What he will do: Just stay healthy, baby
When Bledsoe is healthy, he is a pretty good basketball player. When he’s injured, he’s not a good basketball player at all. You probably weren’t expecting to have your minds blown like that today.
1) Dr. Tom Carter
What he will do: Wrap everyone in bubble wrap when they’re not playing
This is one man who’s going to earn every penny this season. The team’s physician will help the Suns in their title run by implementing groundbreaking new medical strategies and treatments like making Bledsoe live inside a giant hamster ball and injecting adamantium into Booker’s ankles so he’ll never sprain them again. Sadly, he won’t be able to prevent Bledsoe from shattering his collarbone when he hoists the Larry O’Brien Trophy.