Three things to watch during the 2016-2017 NBA preseason for the Phoenix Suns.
With the Suns beginning their preseason schedule tonight, it’s time to take a look at the most important developments that fans should expect to pan out before the start of the regular season.
How ready are the rookie forwards?
First and foremost, this young team has two promising forwards that should factor into the rotation early despite projecting as raw players entering the league. However, if either Dragan Bender or Marquese Chriss can establish themselves as being farther along in their respective developmental processes than anticipated, it could have a drastic impact on how Earl Watson approaches his team’s rotations early in the season.
Though the likeliest scenario is that both rookies will see similar amounts of time on the court and a progressive uptick of minutes throughout the season, a strong preseason performance could push either onto the fast track for a long term starting forward spot. The residual benefit of a youngster stepping up is that it will limit the amount of time that Tyson Chandler and Alex Len will spend on the court together. Speaking of which…
How much time will Chandler and Len spend on the court together?
When Chandler and Len were on the court together last season, the Suns shot a miserable 41.9 percent from the field. Though each player deserves a share of the minutes, a 50-50 (or rather, 24-24) split would be ideal, at least until one player can take the reigns as the top center in Phoenix. Hopefully, this can be the younger Len, but unfortunately that has not looked to be the direction things are headed.
If Watson is set on winning in the long term, he will do his best to stagger the minutes of Chandler and Len. Unfortunately, short term winning may actually favor more minutes for the two experienced big men if neither of Phoenix’s young forwards are ready to take on a heavy load of minutes. Should this prove itself the case, watch out for how Watson approaches the power forward position. Namely, how will he remedy the pitfalls of putting two clunky big men on the court at once?
How will Watson manage the guard rotation?
The most exciting development in the recent history of Suns basketball was the breakout performances of Devin Booker towards the end of last season. He looked like a future star capable of carrying an offense. This is unmistakably good, but does come with one problem: the Suns already have two starting-caliber guards. Unless Watson is willing to throw Booker at the small forward position, a small ball proposition that it does not yet look like this team will be equipped to handle, there will be a logjam.
This dilemma (albeit, a good dilemma to have) has led to trade speculation regarding Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight. However, with no deals on the near horizon, there may be a bit of drama in how these lineups play out. This could end up being a non-issue if Watson is willing to put all three on the court for significant stretches. However, it remains to be seen whether the Suns can realistically stay in games on the defensive end with such small lineups, particularly given the defensive woes of Booker and Knight in particular. Pay close attention to whether one of these three guards seems to be handed the short straw during the preseason, as it this could be indicative of the team’s direction at the position.