Initial Post-Draft Depth Chart for Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns just got a whole lot deeper.
Phoenix entered the 2014 NBA draft with four picks, including three-first rounders, and exited the draft with four talented rookies.
One of those youngsters, Serbian guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, is a lock to play overseas next season, per Azcentral's Paul Coro. But the other three at least have a chance for a roster spot and maybe much, much more.
It's hard to really lock down a depth chart for the Suns, as they have a few players entering free agency, but here's a quick rundown of how things might look heading into next year.
All statistics accurate as of 6/27/2014 and courtesy of NBA.com unless specifically stated otherwise.
Projected Starter: Eric Bledsoe (Restricted Free Agent)
The Suns front office has made it clear all season that they intend to re-sign Eric Bledsoe to a new deal, so at the moment, there's no reason to believe that he won't be suiting up for Phoenix next year.
Though he only played 43 games due to a knee injury, Bledsoe was killer when he was on the floor. He averaged 17.7 points, 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game, did so efficiently (58 percent true shooting) and was a defensive terror.
ESPN's real plus-minus system ranks Bledsoe as the league's top defensive guard, and no one else comes close. Bledsoe's big and strong enough to check most of the league's 1s and 2s, and he allows the Suns to hide weaker defenders. So long as he's on the roster, he's playing big minutes.
Tyler Ennis (No. 18 pick in the 2014 NBA draft)
Tyler Ennis is the ideal change-of-pace guard to backup Bledsoe. Bledsoe is an athletic, rim-seeking missile. Ennis is a patient, “pure point guard.” Perfect.
Ennis is a decent scorer (13 points per game last year), but his real strength is as a distributor. He posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of over three-to-one last season, and his assist rate of 32.3 percent (per Sports-Reference) would have ranked near the top 10 in the NBA.
He's not a great athlete, but he's quick enough to create space on his own—basically, he's not Kendall Marshall—and he shot a solid 35 percent from outside last season as well.
The one big question surrounding Ennis is defense—he played almost exclusively in a zone scheme at Syracuse and will have to adjust to guarding NBA athletes man-to-man. He doesn't project to be anything more than an average defender, but playing alongside Bledsoe (at times) will help negate that.
Ennis is a really intriguing player, and he'll play a big role in Phoenix next season.
Ish Smith played far more than was expected last year due to Bledsoe's injury, and while he was okay, he certainly wasn't good.
Smith did play solid defense, and he got to the rim quite a bit. With that being said though, he can't shoot a lick—he made just one three and shot only 53 percent at the rim—and is a damaging offensive player overall.
Smith may still get a few minutes next year, but unless Ennis really struggles, his role on the team will be greatly reduced.
Projected Starter: Goran Dragic
Goran Dragic can be slotted into either guard spot, but he plays the 2 when he shares the floor with Eric Bledsoe, per 82games.com. So unless disaster strikes concerning Bledsoe, that's where he'll play a good chunk of his minutes.
Dragic, the league's reigning Most Improved Player, was wonderful last season, averaging 20 points and six assists per game on 60 percent true shooting. There might not a more fun NBA viewing experience than watching Dragic attack the rim in semi-transition, and Phoenix is counting on him to carry his breakout play over to next year.
The Bledsoe-Dragic backcourt may be a bit unconventional, but the Suns crushed teams when the two played together last season, and there's no reason to think the same thing won't happen in 2014-15.
Gerald Green completely revitalized his career last year, morphing into one of the deadliest spot-up shooters in the league.
Green hit 40 percent of his threes on nearly eight (!!) attempts per 36 minutes, a combination of accuracy and volume that no player but Stephen Curry matched.
Green's a dynamite off-the-bench scorer, and considering how good Dragic and Bledsoe are when they're surrounded by shooters, it wouldn't be surprising to see him get a lot of burn at the 3 next year as well.
Archie Goodwin played sparingly last season (just over 500 minutes), but he flashed enough potential to think that he might compete for playing time next year.
Goodwin's 29-point explosion in the final game of the season was impressive, yet more impressive still is how he does most of his scoring. The vast majority of Goodwin's shots come at the rim, and he finishes well there, an indication that he's putting his athleticism and quickness to good use.
He'll have to up his ugly outside shooting (just 14 percent from deep last year) to be a truly useful player, but the Suns may have a keeper in Goodwin.
Dionte Christmas mostly appeared in garbage time, and unless something drastic happens, there's no reason to expect anything different next year. He's fine for depth, but the Phoenix backcourt is far too crowded for him to get real minutes.
Projected Starter: P.J. Tucker (Restricted Free Agent)
Like Eric Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker is a restricted free agent and coming off a strong season. Also like Bledsoe, the Suns would like to re-sign him.
Tucker is a versatile stopper, and though he mostly defends opposing 2s and 3s, he's strong enough to switch onto some 4s and not give up ground. Offensively, he took a big step forward by upping his three-point shooting from 31 percent to 39 percent, making him a much more flexible option.
The one concern about Tucker is that the three-point shooting might be a fluke—he made less than one three per game, and it'll be interesting to see if he can hit at that rate on more attempts. Overall though, Tucker had a great season and is an easy pick as next year's starter should he return.
Marcus Morris found his NBA niche last year, emerging as an off-the-bench sharpshooter who can create a bit of offense when needed.
Morris shot 38 percent from deep and hit 45 percent of his spot-up threes, per Synergy Sports Technology (subscription required). He did so on solid volume as well, launching over five of them per 36 minutes.
Beyond shooting, Morris is a smart cutter and a serviceable post player, especially if he's matched up against a smaller defender. He also runs a surprisingly mean pick-and-roll with his twin brother Markieff Morris, which is fun for obvious reasons.
T.J. Warren (No. 14 pick in the 2014 NBA draft)
Like Tyler Ennis, T.J. Warren can be seen as an insurance pick in case things go wrong for the Suns in free agency. And again, like Ennis, Warren can really play.
Warren's a natural scorer, but a strange one.
He's not a great athlete and can't shoot very well (27 percent from deep last year), but he's very efficient inside the arc thanks to his penchant for hitting floaters and runners. According to his DraftExpress profile, he took the third-highest amount of runners and floaters in college basketball last season and hit over 50 percent of them, an elite rate.
Warren's outside shot is a question mark, as is whether he can transition to defending the perimeter after spending a lot of time guarding bigs in college. Still, the Suns don't have a ton of players who can routinely create their own offense, and Warren can absolutely do that.
He's listed here as Phoenix's third-string small forward, but he'll get serious minutes next season, no matter what happens with Tucker.
Projected Starter: Markieff Morris
Should the Suns end up re-signing Channing Frye to a long-term deal, Markieff Morris gets bumped down to No. 2, but as of now, he's the top power forward on the roster.
Morris unfortunately lacks the outside shooting that Frye brought to the table, but he's a very versatile offensive big.
He's the top post player on the team and one of the better post scorers in the league, per Synergy. Morris has a strong mid-range jumper and is quick enough to face up and blow by most 4s off the dribble. He's also terrific in the pick-and-roll, as he's a strong finisher at the rim and fits well into pick-and-pop sets.
Morris took a big leap forward last season, and with any luck, will do so again in 2014-15.
Shavlik Randolph gave the Suns useful minutes at times, but there's really no reason to expect much from him next season. He'll be 31 years old in 2014-15, and it's hard to find a situation in which he'd merit minutes over either Morris brother or T.J. Warren.
Alec Brown (No. 50 pick in the 2014 NBA draft)
It's unclear whether Brown will actually be on the Phoenix roster next season, per Azcentral's Paul Coro, but either way, he's unlikely to see many minutes.
Brown is a seven-footer with terrific range, and with any luck, he could play the Channing Frye role for the Suns a few years down the road. He shot 42 percent from deep last season on over three attempts per game.
Brown will need to bulk up to defend NBA 4s, as he's only 230 pounds, per DraftExpress, but given a year or two, he could end up being a part of the Suns' rotation.
Projected Starter: Miles Plumlee
Miles Plumlee greatly surprised last season, averaging eight points and eight rebounds per game and chipping in some solid defense to boot.
Plumlee's not an elite rim-protector (opponents shot 50 percent at the basket against him), but he's solid and should improve as time goes on. He's really mobile and athletic for a guy his size, and it wouldn't be at all surprising to see his defensive numbers jump next year.
Plumlee's a decent contributor on the other end as well. Though he's a poor post-up player, he's terrific in the pick-and-roll and shot 62 percent in those sets, per Synergy.
Some of that can be attributed to Goran Dragic's pick-and-roll wizardry, but that's not to discount Plumlee's ability to catch and finish in traffic.
Plumlee far surpassed expectations last year, and it would take quite an effort to unseat him as Phoenix's starter.
An ankle injury led to Alex Len getting a late start on his rookie season (he played just 362 minutes in 42 games), and he was unimpressive in the time he did get.
Honestly, Len's season numbers are pretty ugly. He averaged 8.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per 36 minutes, but he offset that with his dreadful shooting (47 percent true shooting), his 22 percent turnover rate and his extremely high foul rate.
Len has plenty of room to grow and could someday become the back-to-the-basket threat he was billed as. But barring a massive offseason improvement, he's the clear No. 2 center in Phoenix
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