The fantasy basketball season is almost here and it’s time to do some preparation work before the big draft. For the next few weeks at BFantasyHoops, you’re going to see every team’s fantasy preview right here… And with every preview, there is going to be a TL;DR section if you scroll down. So far, I’ve covered the Eastern Conference and now I’ve just started the Western Conference with the previous post on the Los Angeles Lakers. This time we’re heading to the desert!
Notable Arrivals: Jared Dudley (Washington), Leandro Barbosa (Golden State), Dragan Bender (rookie), Marquese Chriss (rookie), Tyler Ulis (rookie)
Notable Departures: Mirza Teletovic (Milwaukee), Ronnie Price (Oklahoma City), Jon Leuer (Detroit), Chase Budinger (free agent)
The Suns finally gave up on their plan to sign a big time player. Having false hope for the past couple of seasons must have been pretty disappointing (especially when they were so close to LaMarcus Aldridge last year). They changed things up this offseason and loaded up on a lot of young guys with potential through the draft. They also acquired a couple of vets to help guide and set a good example for the young fellas. The rookies probably won’t find enough playing time to be fantasy relevant this year though. Heading into opening night, the Suns have Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and T.J. Warren returning from injury. Having these key players back healthy will mean good news for a lot of fantasy owners. Let’s take a look at who you should target and avoid on the Suns.
Eric Bledsoe – Eric Bledsoe is probably the best representation of the term risk-reward player. In the six years he played in the NBA, Bledsoe only played 75 games or more in three seasons. He clearly has an injury prone label on him and I look at it as a 50/50 chance of whether he’s going to get hurt again this year. Before he tore the meniscus in his left knee last year, Mini-LeBron was averaging 20.4 points on 45.3 percent from the field. He also grabbed 4.0 rebounds, dished 6.1 assists along with 2.0 steals, 1.5 triples, 0.6 blocks and 3.6 turnovers in 34.2 minutes per game. That’s top-25 value in 9-cat leagues and even higher if you’re in 8-cat. His ability to contribute stats across the board is on par with the elite first-rounders but having been plagued by injuries for his whole career, you probably have the right to be concerned about it. He suffered from meniscus injuries in each of his knees for the past three years and I wouldn’t want an early round pick of mine miss significant amount of games. His ADP is hovering around the 32nd pick but he’s been sliding in some mock drafts. If you manage to pick him inside the top-40 and he’s healthy this year, it could work out brilliantly and be the steal of the draft.
Brandon Knight – Knight’s situation is similar to his partner-in-crime. Since joining the Suns a year and a half, he’s been plagued by injuries as well. He only played in 52 and 63 games for the past 2 seasons and hopefully he’ll have a twist of luck. He played well in the limited games he had last season, averaging 19.6 points on 41.5 percent shooting, 3.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.3 treys, 1.2 thefts and 3.4 turnovers in 36.0 minutes per game. That’s good enough for top-75 value in 9-cat but keep in mind that Knight’s production was inflated due to the absence of Bledsoe last year. Entering into this season, Knight is back to being the second or third ball handler on the team and his stats and usage rate will likely take a dip but don’t expect his efficiency to rise either. If you can get past the injuries, there’s still Devin Booker looming around for the starting gig. The positional battle will be intense and it’ll be interesting to see what Earl Watson will run in their line up. With the emergence of Booker, there were trade rumours about the Suns shipping Knight away during the offseason. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in a different jersey at trade deadline. His ADP is just inside the top-75 mark, which is really high considering he only has top-100 upside. The trifecta of injury proneness, positional battles, and trade rumours definitely warrants a stay clear sign.
Devin Booker – Devin Booker should be the face of the franchise for the Suns going forward. He was probably the best player on the team last season in his rookie year. With Bledsoe missing 52 games, Booker had an opportunity to experience life as a starter in the NBA for the first time in his short career. After the All-Star break, Booker averaged 19.2 points on 40.1 percent from the field. He also grabbed 3.1 rebounds, dished out 4.1 assists, shot 1.5 threes to go along with 0.6 steals and 0.5 blocks per game. However, because of his inefficiency and high turnovers, he was only ranked 108 over that span. He was the offensive focal point for the Suns during that period and opposing defense made it a priority to stop him every night.
There is no confirmation of the starting line up now that we’re in the middle of training camp and it seems like they’ll just play it out, so keep an eye out during preseason games. Watson did mention about using unconventional lineups and I’m assuming that’s a Bledsoe-Knight-Booker on the floor at the same time. The return of Bledsoe and Knight should help Booker’s game offensively which will increase his efficiency and lower his turnover numbers. I can also see his points and assists take a hit as well. He’ll likely have more threes this year, as I see him improving his 28.7 percent from range post All-Star. His low accuracy from three is likely a result of being the main focal point of his offense and being harassed by the opposing team’s best wing defender. Just a quick reminder, he shot 40.3 percent from range before the break and he’s known for his elite shooting coming out of college. His fantasy value is still capped because of his low contribution to defensive stats and right now his ADP is hovering around top-100. Booker has definite upside to his game and I like him but realistically, he only has top-75 upside this year.
T.J. Warren – I think Warren might be a sneaky sleeper this year. He had to have surgery to repair his broken foot in February and it caused him to miss 35 games. He’s been cleared by the doctors and is ready to return to the court, just in time for training camp. In the 47 games he played, he averaged 11.0 points on 50.1 percent shooting. He also grabbed 3.1 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.6 threes on 22.8 minutes per game. He made significant improvements to his defense and shooting range last year. Heading into this season, Watson is going to tweak his offense and instil a philosophy called “Point-five mentality”. This consists of passing, driving, shooting, don’t hold the ball, cut to the rim, sacrifice cuts and play with pace. Hearing this from Watson is good news to Warren’s fantasy stock as it perfectly fits his game. Warren is going to fight minutes with P.J. Tucker but he’ll most likely miss time as he recently had a back surgery operated on. He’s going to have the starting small forward role on opening night and if he continues to improve on his range, the starting gig might stick with him for the rest of the season. His ADP is at 150.5 and he’s a good late-round pick with some solid upside.
Alex Len – There’s another positional battle down in Phoenix. Seems like almost every position is up for grabs except for Bledsoe’s spot. Between Len and Tyson Chandler, I’d much prefer the younger center with upside over the washed-up 33-year old for my fantasy team. The thing is, we don’t know if Watson is going to play Len over Chandler. There were times when Len was played at the power forward spot next to Chandler. Playing a 7’1 big man at the four spot is a little ridiculous in today’s NBA unless your name is Dirk Nowitzki or Kristaps Porzingis. Len did make the best out of the situation after he was inserted into the starting line up after the All-Star break, averaging 13.0 points 10.3 rebounds 0.4 steals and 0.6 blocks on 39.1% shooting in 23.3 minutes per game. His low percentages is a turnoff but it’s mainly due to him being played out of position and forced away from the basket both offensively and defensively. With the new addition of Dudley and Bender this year, he likely won’t play much power forward. Hopefully Watson will give Len a chance and boost his minutes up to the 26-28 range. Centers with upside are hard to find towards the end of the draft and Len is a good option.
- Early–Rounds: Eric Bledsoe
- Mid–Rounds: None
- Late–Rounds: Brandon Knight, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Alex Len
- Deep Leagues: Tyson Chandler
- Busts: Brandon Knight, Tyson Chandler
- Sleepers: T.J. Warren
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