It's been a long rebuilding process, but the Phoenix Suns are hoping for more success in 2019-20.
The Suns have gone nine straight years without a playoff appearance, dating back to when Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire were on the roster. Things haven't gone any better as of late, finishing with the worst record in the Western Conference last season.
Their 19 wins were the fewest since 1968-69, the first year of the organization's existence.
Despite the struggles, there are still reasons for optimism in Phoenix thanks to a young core that includes Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Kelly Oubre. The franchise also added veterans Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric and Aron Baynes as well as rookies Cameron Johnson and Ty Jerome, to hopefully provide enough of a talent boost to become competitive in the Western Conference.
With Monty Williams joining the squad as head coach, there will be plenty of intrigue throughout the upcoming season in Phoenix.
Season Opener: Oct. 23 vs. Sacramento Kings
Championship Odds: 500-1 (via Caesars)
Full Schedule: NBA.com
Memphis Grizzlies (First Game: Nov. 2)
As this past year showed, the changes to the lottery system create less of an incentive to tank. This makes it important to grab wins when you can, especially against low-level opponents.
The Grizzlies were significantly better than the Suns last season, but they were still one of the worst teams in the Western Conference. This was also with Mike Conley Jr. and half a season with Marc Gasol, both of whom are now gone after carrying the team for years.
Memphis is now in a full rebuild behind players such as Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., hoping they can create a new era for the organization.
Phoenix will hope its young guard and big will be better as it tries to stay ahead of its competition.
Additionally, the Suns will see an old friend in this matchup in Josh Jackson. The 2017 No. 4 overall pick was shipped out this summer in a deal that effectively only cleared cap space.
While his level of play on the court and his actions off it caused Phoenix to give up on Jackson, he still has a lot of talent and can make the team pay when these squads get together. De'Anthony Melton was also involved in that deal and could make an impact as well.
Sacramento Kings (First Game: Oct. 23)
The best chance the Suns have to move up the standings is to find success against the Sacramento Kings.
Sacramento has had an even longer playoff drought than Phoenix, dating back to 2006.
However, the team appears further along with its current roster thanks to the backcourt of De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. Re-signing Harrison Barnes should also go a long way toward helping the squad reach the postseason.
It won't be easy, but the Suns will need to improve upon last year's 1-3 showing against the Kings next season.
Another battle between Ayton and Marvin Bagley, the top two picks in the 2018 draft, should also be fun to watch.
The Suns were criticized for their decisions this summer, with the signing of Rubio considered one of the worst moves of the offseason in a poll of coaches and executives by Tim Bontemps of ESPN.
The team's direction is questionable, especially after trading away Jackson and T.J. Warren, with many wondering about the long-term plan.
With that said, the squad should be better than last year with a legitimate point guard on the roster in Rubio. The veteran might not be a real scorer, but he's an impact player on both ends who can take the pressure off Booker.
Saric can also help replace Warren while opening up space in the frontcourt.
Johnson should also have a role right away thanks to his outside shooting, improving the worst shooting team in the NBA last season.
With Booker hopefully back to full health and Ayton expected to take a leap in his second year, the Suns should be better than in 2018-19. Unfortunately, the depth of the Western Conference will keep them far from playoff contention.
Record Prediction: 25-57