Phoenix Suns

2018-19 NBA Season Preview: What to expect from the Phoenix Suns

With the 2018-19 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we're dedicating one day to each team in the league.

After looking at the Sacramento Kings on Thursday, we're rounding out our Pacific Division focus with the Phoenix Suns.

2017-18 season record

21-61 (worst record in the league)

Projected 2018-19 season record

28.5 wins (No. 14 in Western Conference)

Notable additions

Ryan Anderson (trade)

Trevor Ariza (free agency)

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Deandre Ayton (No. 1 overall pick)

Mikal Bridges (No. 10 overall pick, draft night trade)

Elie Okobo (No. 31 overall pick)

Notable departures

Marquese Chriss (trade)

Brandon Knight (trade)

Elfrid Payton (free agency)

3 key storylines

Devin Booker's health

Months after signing a five-year, $158 million contract extension earlier in the offseason, the Suns' franchise player underwent surgery in mid-September to repair an injury on his dominant hand.

The timing of Booker's surgery means his status for the beginning of the regular season is uncertain.

While a hand injury won't prevent the 21-year-old from staying in shape or working on his left hand, it might take time for Booker to regain his rhythm in five-on-five situations.

Had he played in enough games to qualify, Booker's 24.9 points per game in 2017-18 would have made him the league's sixth leading scorer, meaning Phoenix can only go but so far without its young star.

While making it back in the playoff conversation will likely happen a few years from now, the Suns need to have Booker on the floor in order to take steps in the right direction.

Deandre Ayton's ROY Campaign

To whom much is given, much is expected, meaning the first No. 1 overall pick in Suns' franchise history will have lofty expectations to live up to in year one.

Ayton proved to be more than worthy of the top-pick billing throughout his freshman season at the University of Arizona, where he averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game while shooting 61.2 percent from the field and registering 24 double-doubles.

Just a few days into training camp, the 7-footer has already impressed many, including Booker, who spoke highly of the rookie's ability to retain information: "Coach tells him one thing, then I watch him the next five plays he does exactly how coach says."

With Ayton's sharp focus in conjunction with having the perfect mentor in Tyson Chandler, a Rookie of the Year campaign could be on the horizon for the 20-year-old.

Igor Kokoskov's new offence

In the 2017-18 season, the Suns' offence finished in the league's bottom-10 in points, assists, field goal percentage and 3-point percentage. After parting ways with head coach Jay Triano, the team desperately sought the right coach to improve the team offensively as a whole.

Enter newly-hired head coach Igor Kokoskov, the first European-born head coach in league history.

Kokoskov, a brilliant basketball mind, is working tirelessly to implement an offence predicated on "spacing, playmaking and decision making" during training camp - a system described by last year's second-leading scorer TJ Warren (19.6 ppg) as "a fun way to play and I feel like everybody is going to enjoy [it]" (via azcentral.com). Booker, Warren, Ayton and Josh Jackson should bear the majority of the offensive load for a team with a number of weapons.

In a new system, the additions of Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson to a roster that already featured Troy Daniels and Dragan Bender should bolster the team's 3-point shooting numbers as well. Early returns from training camp indicate an improved offence is a sure thing for this year's Suns team.

5 games to watch

Oct. 17 vs. Dallas Mavericks

Before the draft, the common debate was whether or not the Suns should select Deandre Ayton or Luka Dončić with the No. 1 overall pick. Phoenix went with Ayton, who will make his NBA debut against Dončić and the Mavs.

Look for the Suns' rookie to get his career started off in a big way.

Nov. 19 vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Ayton hasn't even played in an NBA game yet and has already become entrenched in a war of words - and pictures - with 76ers centre Joel Embiid.

Comparisons of the two have been made (and been denied by Embiid), making the first matchup between the two 7-footers a must-see game. Mikal Bridges, who was selected 10th by the Sixers before being traded to Phoenix on draft night, might have this game circled on his schedule as well.

Oh, and don't be surprised if Suns star Booker turns in a big game - he scored a season-high 46 points in a 14-point win over the Sixers last year.

Dec. 4 vs. Sacramento Kings

From their season as high school teammates to being selected first and second in the 2018 draft, Ayton and Marvin Bagley III will be linked throughout the course of their career. The two faced off in an entertaining Summer League tilt, so the first of four games between the Kings and Suns this season is sure to be entertaining.

There will be no shortage of talent, as the two teams have a combined 10 first-round picks from the last three drafts.

Dec. 19 vs. Boston Celtics

There's something about TD Garden that gets Booker going. After scoring a career-high 70 points against the Celtics in his second NBA season, Booker scored 38 in a five-point loss to the Cs last season, giving him an average of 54.0 points in his last two outings in Boston.

While a record-breaking outburst isn't as likely, it will be worth tuning into Booker's lone visit to Boston this season.

Feb. 4 vs. Houston Rockets

It'll be a reunion of some sorts when the Suns' Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson face their old Rocket teammates for the first time in early February. Last season, the Suns lost a one-point heartbreaker in Houston after leading by as many as 21 points.

With plenty of familiarity, this game should be both entertaining and emotional.

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