With the advent of real, actual NBA preseason basketball, fans get to flip their calendars to the 2017-2018 season and start gearing up for one of the more anticipated campaigns of the last decade. As always, at Knicks at Night, we look ahead and break down the upcoming year, not by the quality of each team’s roster, but by how entertaining each should be to watch on a nightly basis. With nearly half the league’s All-Stars changing homes over the summer, there’s a lot more variability in these rankings and a lot of exciting, new situations to monitor. There’s never been a better time to plunk down that 100 bucks or so for the league’s premier subscription service, but also never a harder time choosing who to watch on a given night. To help answer that question… here are your Fourth Annual League Pass Watchability Rankings!
Without further ado, my pick for the worst record in the Association.
After two straight seasons of finishing below 25 wins, I think its entirely possible that the Suns are even worse this year. With the exception of the Kings, every team at the bottom of the West improved dramatically over the summer, making every night even more of a grind for the team from the desert. What’s more, after 7 years in the lottery the Suns still don’t seem to have a franchise player on the roster (I’ll hear arguments for Devin Booker but c’mon now) and may look at their competition and at the loaded 2018 draft class and decide its time to bottom out once more. Simply put, I will be shocked, and find it idiotic, if Eric Bledsoe is still on this team come March.
Despite finishing two wins worse last year, the Suns were forced to watch the Lakers jump them in the lottery and select one of the two potentially franchise altering point guard prospects in Lonzo Ball. Ball’s passing chops combined with Booker’s shooting would have been enough to shoot this team up towards the top 10 in watchability, but Phoenix rebounded with an excellent consolation prize in Josh Jackson. At 6’8″ with a 7’0″ wingspan, Jackson represents a potential gamewrecking athlete on defense with the ability to switch and guard positions 1-4. The Kansas product should provide some secondary playmaking from the forward position, is an absolute monster in transition, and might just come into the league as one of the 5 or 6 best in-game dunkers from day one.
With Jackson and Booker, Suns fans have two blue chip prospects to make this developmental season a little more fun to watch. Unfortunately, they’re really going to need both of these guys to hit because of how talent-poor the rest of the roster is. Highlighting this fact would be Phoenix’s returns from the 2016 draft where the team used two top-10 selections to come away with Dragan Bender and Marquesse Chriss. While this draft does look comically terrible just one year removed, neither Bender nor Chriss showed that they could a decent rotation player in summer league this past year, let alone in the NBA (Bender averaged a mean 13 minutes a game for this terrible team last year, while Chriss’ per 36 metrics would have had him fouling out every night). With former 5th overall pick Alex Len on the eve of his rookie extension after getting badly outplayed by 34 year old Tyson Chandler last year, it’s fair to question how productive this front office has been when evaluating young talent.
It’s not going to be easy on the eyes. Only Orlando, Brooklyn, and the Lakers joined Phoenix as bottom 10 squads in both offensive and defensive efficiency and the Suns finished second to last in the number of team assists per game (Derozan pounding the ball into the ground for a convincing number 1). The team’s best player in Bledsoe has been on the trade block for what seems like 8 years now and moving him would only open up more minutes for the Isaiah Thomas-sized Tyler Ulis or some combination of Troy Daniels and players even NBA die-hards have never heard of. The Suns may not have been to the postseason since 2010, but that streak doesn’t seem like it’ll be coming to an end any time soon. At least with Booker and Jackson, there are a couple of gems to keep your eyes off the rest of this dumpsterfire, and some genuine hope that the team is just one more guy away from making this one of the league’s more compelling young cores.