Is This 2018 NBA Team Any Good?: Phoenix Suns

by Fox Doucette

For every yin, there is a yang, and for every Golden State Warriors squad tearing up the top of the league and redefining the word dynasty for a modern age, there is a sad-sack franchise with a cheapskate owner and no discernible leadership doomed perpetually to suck.

Say hello to your 2017-18 Phoenix Suns, folks, as easy a case of Busted as the Dubs were Confirmed.

Let’s unpack the sad tale of a pathetic franchise, which spends every waking moment of its life in the futile pursuit of a sadistic playoff berth, which mocks them and laughs at them as they’re repeatedly crushed and maimed. Hope you enjoy it!

(yes, I stole that joke from Weird Al Yankovic, and no, I’m not ashamed.)

Stats via Basketball Reference and over/unders via Sports Insights, you know you love it, so come and get it:

2016-17 Record: 24-58
2018 Over/Under: 28.5

It Aims Low And Hits Its Mark

Only Chicago (21.5) and Atlanta (25.5) have lower over/unders at the Westgate sports book in Vegas. Brooklyn and Sacramento share a three-way tie for the bronze medal in this Olympics of suckage with Phoenix. We’ll get to the Kings (and why that number’s perhaps a bit low for them) tomorrow, but for now, let’s talk about just how little the Suns have in terms of talent.

Let’s Not Overrate Devin Booker

Booker is fun to watch, puts up good counting stats, and looks by all accounts to be the bright spot on this roster.

But if that’s true, why do the advanced stats hate him?

We’re talking a 103 Offensive and 116 Defensive Rating, as bad as it gets for a star. Booker is a mediocre shooter on his best day (42.3 percent from the floor, 36.7 from three), actually regressed (from .048 to .035) on WS/48, put up a sub-league-average 14.6 PER, and for a guy who’s 6’6”, he’s a terrible finisher (57.8 percent inside three feet.)

Yes, he’s still too young to legally drink (Booker turns 21 on October 30), but in two NBA seasons, either a guy shows you that he’s got big-time potential (Kyrie Irving had .125 WS/48 his first two years in Cleveland, and those teams were just as bad as Booker’s in Phoenix) or he puts up numbers that suggest a bench player on an 8 seed.

Booker’s an eye-test guy, but his numbers simply don’t suggest he belongs on a good team.

Tyson Chandler, Bluesmobile

Chandler started 46 games last season, showing the fragility he showed in New Orleans.

Trouble was, he was 26 when he played in 45 games for the then-Hornets in 2008-09. He turns 35 before the season starts.

In other words, “the injured center announced his retirement mid-season” is the most likely outcome here.

No Max Guys, No Hope Of Signing One

How cheap is Robert Sarver? The highest-paid player on the roster, Eric Bledsoe, makes $14.5 million. Not that having a .434/.335 guy on your team is worth that kind of scratch. At least Bledsoe has a plus-3.4 Net Rating on/off split; he may be bad but he could be worse.

Brandon Knight makes $13.6 million and gives you .015 WS/48 and a minus-0.7 VORP while struggling to stay healthy. Whoops.

And Chandler makes $13 million.

That’s the best you can do? Your “Big Three” is three guys who are either over the hill and far away or just aren’t that good?

Hey, Dragan Bender, Bite My Shiny Metal Ass

It’s not fair to call 2016 fourth-overall pick Dragan Bender a bust, but he’s looking a lot more Darko than Kukoc on the list of ballers from the former Yugoslavia. As NBA dragons go, I think I’ll stick with America’s Greatest Slovenian Goran Dragic.

Because .354/.277/.364, minus-0.3 Win Shares, and a stunning minus-4.0 Offensive Box Plus-Minus in only 574 minutes? Oh, and that 27.7 percent mark from beyond the arc? He took 62.7 percent of his shots from out there!

That is a level of failure that doesn’t just say “this guy belongs in the G-League.” That says “this guy wouldn’t even start in the G-League.”

Oh, and a 9.7 rebounding percentage on a guy who’s 7’1” is just the icing on the poop cake.

The Other First Rounder Sucks Too

Marquise Chriss, eighth overall pick by Sacramento, acquired by Phoenix, getting his stank on in the desert heat. A .449/.321/.624 slash line, minus-10.8 plus/minus per 100 possessions, and 10.8 rebounding percentage for a 6’10” power forward…cover your eyes, folks.

Youth Gratia Youthis

There are four guys on the team with six or more years of experience; the same could be said for “more than three years.” This is a young squad. Besides the three creaky Rice Krispies Treats we mentioned above, there’s Jared Dudley, and he is—you guessed it—injured, recovering from surgery to repair a left toe ligament, although he should be back for the start of the season.

Still, when you’ve got young guys reinforcing each other’s bad habits, all the veteran leadership in the world does not a good team make (Kevin Garnett and Tayshaun Prince in Minnesota, looking at you.)

THE VERDICT!

The Suns suck. Like, really, catastrophically suck. I’d say they’d best start tanking, but the league just tightened up the screws on the lottery system, so that might not even do them. Then again, if they try to win, they’re not winning more than 25 games. 28.5 is wildly optimistic for this garbage squad. Busted, busted, busted!

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