Phoenix Suns: Predicting the Final 15-Man Roster
Who Will Make the Phoenix Suns' Final Roster?
As the Phoenix Suns head to training camp this week, there's a high amount of optimism surrounding the team, if only because of the unpredictability factor. Nine of the 18 players on the Suns' training camp roster are new to the team, and new general manager Ryan McDonough and head coach Jeff Hornacek seem to really be committed to turning around the organization. They've put an emphasis on building through youth and the draft, and it's shown this offseason, as the team took both Alex Len and Archie Goodwin in the first round and engineered a trade that allowed them to dump aging forward Luis Scola while adding a first rounder for next year along with 25-year-old former first rounder Miles Plumlee. Though the Suns don't yet have a standout star, it should give faith to Suns fans everywhere that the team is making a serious effort to build around youth, instead of just doing as the previous administration did, plugging holes with high-priced role players such as Hakim Warrick, Josh Childress, and Michael Beasley.
After such a busy offseason, however, the Suns are left with a surplus of players, mainly because of all the trades they made. They'll have to cut the squad down to a maximum of 15 players by the end of training camp, though in the past the Suns have gone with less than a full complement of players to save salary.
Here's a guess at who the 15 players will be that make the final cut.
Eric Bledsoe, G
Bledsoe, the Suns' biggest offseason acquisition, will likely work out of the starting 2-guard position and will be relied upon to be one of the team's primary scorers, as well as sharing ball distribution duties with Goran Dragic. After being blocked throughout his career with the Los Angeles Clippers, this will be Bledsoe's first chance to prove himself as a legitimate starter, so expect him to be working his hardest to make that happen.
Goran Dragic, G
Dragic was the Suns' leading scorer and most consistent player in 2012-13, averaging 14.7 points per game. The Suns are probably hoping that Bledsoe will take those titles away from Dragic this season, but expect him to continue to contribute as the starting point guard and facilitator of the offense.
Shannon Brown, G
During his two seasons with the Suns, Brown has struggled to fit into a consistent role. He's had periods where he's failed to even get into the rotation, and there have been other times where he's been a part of the starting lineup. Brown has a chance to get some decent playing time this season, depending on a couple of factors. First of all, he needs to show the ability to be consistent, but his role will also be affected by the progress of recent draft picks Archie Goodwin and Kendall Marshall. If either of those two show that they're ready to get regular playing time, Brown will probably be pushed down the bench.
Archie Goodwin, G
It's unclear how much of a shot the 19-year-old Goodwin will get this year. He put together a good showing with the Suns' summer league team, but he still has a lot of things he needs to work on to become a complete player. Jeff Hornacek will probably avoid exposing him too much until he's more ready.
Kendall Marshall, G
Marshall is in a difficult position at this point. Though he was the 13th pick in the 2012 draft, he was taken by the old administration, and there's not too much allegiance to him at this point. He struggled in the summer league, and he probably goes into the season as the team's fifth guard. He needs to work on his scoring ability if he wants to get more playing time, and he may not even be a part of the active roster if he continues to struggle.
Dionte Christmas, G
Christmas, a summer league success story, seems to have the inside track at the final guard position. He showed some skills during the summer and holds some value because the Suns do not really have any other pure 2-guards. Even if Christmas makes the roster, though, he will probably start the season on the inactive list and only be given a shot in the event of injury.
Markieff Morris, F
With his impressive showing down the stretch last season and during the summer league, Morris likely has earned himself a steady starting spot going into 2013-14. As he enters his third season, Morris is close to being fully developed, and he is the closest thing to an all-around power forward that the Suns have on their roster.
P.J. Tucker, F
As crazy as it may have sounded earlier this offseason, Tucker probably will end up as the Suns' starting small forward on opening night. He's a role player, but he does a great job with it, taking advantage of his energy and physicality to wear out opponents. He's displayed a great commitment to the organization, and he should reap the benefits this year.
Marcus Morris, F
Morris is a guy that still has a lot of potential, and his presence on the roster seems to improve the play of his bigger, more physical older brother. Morris is a player that is kind of a tweener and doesn't really fit any position well enough to be in the starting lineup, but he delivers energy and some scoring ability off the bench, so he'll likely get decent minutes this year.
Channing Frye, F
In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Frye returned to team this week after sitting out all of last year with a heart condition. It's not clear what kind of shape Frye will be in or how much basketball he has left in him, but no matter what the 30-year-old will be a good veteran presence in the locker room and might be able to provide some minutes off the bench if he's fully healthy. This is a huge best case-worst case situation, as Frye could end up a starter if he's back to normal, but may end up on the bench in a suit if his skills have significantly diminished.
Miles Plumlee, F
Depending on how he develops, Plumlee could end up being one of McDonough's biggest adds. The 6-foot-11, 255-pounder was the 26th pick overall last year, and if he becomes more physical and hones his offensive skills, he could combine with Markieff Morris and Alex Len to form a very imposing big-man rotation in the near future. Plumlee does need to work on his scoring, though; he averaged just 0.9 points per game last year over 14 contests.
Gerald Green, F/G
Green, the other piece in the Plumlee trade, likely will stick as the final forward on the roster. The 27-year-old has the ability to fill in at either the shooting guard or small forward positions, and though he doesn't really excel at any particular aspect of the game, he's proven that he can soak up minutes, as he averaged 18 minutes per game over 60 games for the Indiana Pacers last season.
Marcin Gortat, C
Gortat will return as the starting center and look to re-establish himself after missing the end of last season with a foot injury. He'll need to put up a good performance as first-rounder Alex Len will be angling for his starting job, but for now Gortat will be expected to be the Suns' biggest presence in the paint.
Alex Len, C
Len is recovering from multiple offseason ankle surgeries and probably will be eased into the rotation as he works his way back to 100 percent. He'll be expected to be a major contributor this point, but he may not see too much playing time at any time this season, seeing as he is a raw post player who still needs to develop.
Viacheslav Kravtstov, C
The Suns picked up Kravtstov when they traded Caron Butler to the Milwaukee Bucks, and he has a decent shot to stick on the roster as the third-string center. Seeing as the Suns seem to be believers in the traditional center position and Gortat and Len both have health concerns, Kravtstov gives them insurance should either of their top two options go down. The 6-foot-11, 254-pound Ukrainian had a decent rookie showing, averaging 3.1 points and 1.8 rebounds per game over limited minutes with the Detroit Pistons, and if he is properly coached he could turn into a decent rotational player.
Who Doesn't Make the Cut?
The Suns have to let three players go to reach the NBA's regular season roster limit, and the three best bets to go right now seem to be guards Ish Smith and Malcolm Lee and forward James Nunnaly.
Smith has gotten some decent opportunities through his three-year career, playing in 121 games for five different teams. Smith is just 25 years old and provides some experience, but he doesn't really have much upside and the Suns are pretty well set at the guard position. He'll battle with Lee and Christmas for the final guard spot but seems to have the least chance of making it between the three.
It was somewhat of a surprise that Lee even made it to camp. When the Suns traded for him, they did not acknowledge his acquisition as they held a press conference to announce that they had traded for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler. They didn't issue him a jersey number and didn't include him in their summer league workouts, yet here he is. As he comes off knee and hip surgeries, the 23-year-old will vie for a spot.
Nunnaly is an undrafted free agent out of UCSB. The 6-foot-7 forward would seem to be trying to steal away Gerald Green's spot, though with no NBA experience and a non-guaranteed contract, his chances probably aren't very good.