Phoenix Suns Season Win Total Prediction
It would be an understatement to say that the Phoenix Suns struggled in the 2017-2018 season. A chronic pattern of bad luck permeated the season. The misfortune started on July 20th when it was confirmed point guard Brandon Knight would miss the entire season with a torn ACL. In October, point guard Eric Bledsoe announced via twitter “I don’t wanna be here”. Not long after, head coach Earl Watson and three other coaches were fired. Bledsoe didn’t play for the Suns again and was traded November 7th. All these distractions occurred before they ever played their 4th game. Throughout the season the Suns suffered various injuries to their star players. Leading scorers Devin Booker (25 ppg) and TJ Warren (20 ppg) combined to miss 45 games. On May 15th, the NBA Draft Lottery was held for the last time under the old format. The Suns terrible luck resulted in an NBA lowest 21 wins, giving them a 25% chance to secure the #1 pick, which they did. The Phoenix Suns selected Deandre Ayton, from University of Arizona as the franchise’s first ever #1 pick.
“Deandre Ayton is a once in a lifetime player. He is the best talent in college basketball since Shaquille O’Neal” says Bill Walton. “He’s got it all.”
Deandre Ayton looks like he was sculpted from stone. At 7’1 and 260 pounds, if you dreamed about what an NBA post player would look like, here is where you start. Ayton was named the Pac-12’s Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, All Pac-12 First team as well as the Karl Malone Award winner. He averaged a double-double with 20.1 ppg and 11.6 rpg, recording 24 double-doubles through 35 games. Every Arizona game turned into must-watch TV as he displayed his incredible talent. The most impressive performance came in an OT loss at Oregon. The day before, a report came out alleging head coach Sean Miller had paid Ayton $100,000 to attend Arizona. Miller would not coach the game at Oregon but Ayton was allowed to play. How does a 19-year-old kid from the Bahamas handle the distraction? With nerves of steel. He scored 28 points on 11-15 shooting, never forcing a shot. He was 6-6 on free throws in a frenzied environment, and collected 18 rebounds. This kid is as calm and relaxed as any big man has ever been in the spotlight.
Ayton’s unique ability improves the game of his teammates. If you watched any interviews the past season, the veteran Wildcats showed zero signs of jealousy, often steering the conversation toward the talents of Ayton. His motor never stops, yet he never appears frantic in his play. His undeniable defensive talents are completely natural. This is where NBA level coaching will help in his defensive development over the season. Offensively, he is an absolute MONSTER. I just don’t think anyone can defend him. You can’t double-team him. He is completely unselfish and a tremendous passer. If you try to defend him one-on-one he will absolutely embarrass you. This is a very skilled post scorer that is limitless. With his back to the basket, his footwork is just amazing for someone who started playing basketball at 12 years old in the Bahamas. Facing the basket, his jump shot is flawless. He has three-point range (12-35 for 34%) to go along with his 73% free throw percentage (12-12 vs Colorado). Rebounding may be his greatest ability. His timing and placement are reminiscent of Dennis Rodman, but with unprecedented size, speed and strength.
Health will be the key for the Suns this year for their supporting cast. The aforementioned Booker and Warren have to stay healthy. Brandon Knight’s ACL surgery was rumored to be successful. Second year wing Josh Jackson is very talented, played in 77 games and averaged 13 ppg. He has the look of making a big second-year jump, especially with the attention Ayton will receive. The diminutive Tyler Ulis and Brandon Knight share the point guard duties. Troy Daniels provided another 3-point threat (40%) besides Booker and will only get more opportunities depending on how teams defend Ayton. Don’t be surprised early in the season if Ayton has some really high assist games while NBA teams determine if he can pass out of double teams. Dragan Bender was the only Sun to play 82 games. While his role will decrease because of Ayton, his production should improve drastically with less minutes.
New additions to the roster seem to fit perfectly. The Suns also drafted steady Villanova veteran Mikal Bridges. Bridges has a very solid game with outstanding athleticism. He adds another team-first player who is a proven winner with two National Championship rings. Richaun Holmes is a solid veteran with a physical presence that should provide adequate minutes in the post. A 14-year veteran, Trevor Ariza arrives from Houston with the intention of providing a battle-scarred influence to Ayton. The biggest addition besides Ayton is new head coach Igor Kokoskov, who becomes the first ever NBA head coach born outside the United States. Kokoskov was an assistant for the Suns from 2008-2013. Kokoskov says “We really, as a family, the Family Kokoskov, consider Phoenix as a home base. This is always home base.” He may have arrived from Europe, but Kokoskov is a Phoenix guy, and another perfect fit for the resurrection of the Suns.
An abysmal 21-win season was defined by bad luck. Beginning with the hiring of Kokoskov and the drafting of Ayton (over a very highly regarded European player), the Suns have been making very positive moves toward the future of the franchise. While making the playoffs might be a longshot this year, it is not out of the question. Expect Deandre Ayton to explode on the scene of the NBA this season and the Suns to easily surpass the 29.5 regular season wins total currently posted at the Westgate Superbook.