Last year showed fans of the Suns how dangerous hope can be. Coming into the season it seemed like Phoenix could be poised to take a big step forward and maybe even make a push for the playoffs. They had closed out the last season strong, and they had a good mix of youngsters and veterans with a coach in Jeff Hornacek who seemed dialed in to the needs of the team. The pieces were in place. Except apparently they were the wrong pieces. They got off to a slow start and then everything just blew up. Hornacek was fired in February, and the team won just 23 games. It was really ugly. Since then they have done some tweaking, thankfully gotten a little older with time, and are back for more. Now the task for bettors is to figure out if this is just more of the same old team or if this is when we will start to see the improvement we expected last year.
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2016 Phoenix Suns Betting Storylines
When Hornacek was fired he was replaced on an interim basis by Earl Watson. Watson is only 37 years old and only retired as a player in 2014. His entire coaching career before taking over consisted of a year as an assistant with the Austin Spurs of the D-League, and part of a year with the Suns. He didn't do any better on the scoreboard - he was just 9-24 - but his sunny personality as a player was still there as a coach, and his positive attitude was cited as a big reason why he was given the job full time after the season. I have nothing against Watson, and I liked him in his glory days in Seattle. I just don't think that he is the right choice in this spot. This is a team trying how to figure out how to play and how to win. They need a stable voice guiding them, not a guy who is also trying to figure out what he is doing. It helps that there is experience in the assistant ranks - both Jay Triano and Ty Corbin have been head coaches - but I still would be happier if a different coaching decision had been made. Watson connected with his players well last year, but it was for a short time. Only with experience do you know how to keep connecting when things are going poorly, what you have been doing isn't working, and faith is being shaken.
Devin Booker is going to be an interesting player to watch. He was good as a rookie all year last season and quite spectacular after the all-star break, averaging 19.2 points per game. He has all-star potential in the long term. This year, though, is when he needs to establish consistency and become the on-court leader that this team really needs. Eric Bledsoe is the offensive leader of this team right now, but they would be better off if Booker can take over that mantle sooner rather than later. The key, though, will be not to put too much pressure on him too soon. He showed that he is capable of being an offensive force, but he has to grow into that. If the pressure to perform is in intense it could be stifling.
2016 Phoenix Suns Additions and Departures
On the veteran front the movement was not significant. They added only Leandro Barbosa from Golden State and Jared Dudley from Washington. Gone are Chase Budinger, Jon Leuer, Ronnie Price and Mirza Teletovic. Where the real interest happened was in the draft, where the Suns had three first-round picks. With the fourth overall choice they added forward Dragan Bender - a very exciting Euro. They then dealt their next two picks to Sacramento, and in exchange got the eighth pick, with which they took forward Marquese Chriss from Washington. Two high lottery picks is a heck of a haul by itself, but then they got a bit of a steal in the second round when point guard Tyler Ulis of Kentucky was still available. As a freshman he played with Booker, so there is some familiarity there to build on.
2016 Phoenix Suns Futures Odds and Trends
Phoenix was in a dubious group - tied with Chicago, New Orleans and the Lakers as the worst betting team in the league. They were 36-46 ATS, so the good news is that good money could be made by consistently betting against them. They went "under" the total 42 times and "over" 39, so totals were less attractive to bettors than the sides.
Phoenix Suns Futures Odds (from Bovada)
NBA title odds : +50000
Western Conference title odds : +25000
Dragan Bender ROY Odds : +3300
Marquese Chriss ROY Odds : +5000
Season win total (from Westgate): 26.5
2016 Phoenix Suns Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
It's going to be another long season as these youngsters try to figure out how to play in this league and the organization evaluates what they have and how to use it. It will be a battle with the Lakers to see who gets to occupy the cellar in the Pacific Division. My money is on the Lakers, but it will be somewhat close. I am optimistic about Bender this year - not Rookie of the Year, but a contender.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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