Over the coming weeks, we at FanSided will do a team-by-team breakdown of each NBA franchise’s fantasy prospects for the 2017-18 season. Let’s continue today with the Phoenix Suns.
Heading into the 2017-18 season, the Phoenix Suns project to be one of the NBA’s worst teams. While they may struggle to win 25 games this year, fantasy basketball owners still shouldn’t ignore them on draft day.
If Eric Bledsoe can avoid the injuries that have plagued him over the past few seasons, he’ll be a rock-solid PG1 for those who miss out on the top-tier floor generals. Devin Booker is a scoring machine who flashed additional facets to his game as the 2016-17 campaign progressed. With the Suns heading straight for the lottery, they’re likely to give heavy minutes to young prospects such as Marquese Chriss, Josh Jackson, TJ Warren and Dragan Bender, especially as the year progresses.
Drafting a Suns veteran, meanwhile, carries some inherent risk given what happened following the All-Star break last season. Phoenix shut down Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight for the final two months of the year, while Bledsoe played his final game in mid-March due to what head coach Earl Watson described as a “management decision.” If the Suns find themselves in a tight race for the best lottery odds, Bledsoe and Chandler could again begin picking up DNPs at the worst possible time for fantasy owners in 2017-18.
Which Suns players should fantasy owners target with early-, mid- and late-round picks, and who should be left on the waiver wire? Let’s take a look.
Eric Bledsoe, PG: Before the Suns parked him on the bench, Bledsoe was in the midst of a career year. He finished as the 24th-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues after averaging 21.1 points on 43.4 percent shooting, 6.3 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 1.6 triples and 1.4 steals in 33.0 minutes, and he missed only one game all year prior to his forced exile. Bledsoe’s history of knee injuries and shutdown risk loom large as threats to his fantasy upside, especially given where he’s being drafted on average in early ESPN.com leagues (33.9 overall). With Knight already ruled out for the year with a torn ACL, Phoenix lacks substantive depth behind Bledsoe, so non-risk-averse fantasy owners should give him a look at his early fourth-round price. Just know you’re playing with fire.
Devin Booker, SG: Though Booker isn’t yet a real-life NBA superstar, he’s rapidly approaching that territory in fantasy basketball. He finished as the 71st-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues during his age-20 campaign, as he averaged 22.1 points on 42.3 percent shooting, 3.4 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.9 triples and 0.9 steals in 35.0 minutes across 78 outings. With Phoenix all but punting on the 2017-18 season, Booker should get as much burn as he can handle, giving him top-50 upside if he can increase his output in 3-pointers or boost his shooting efficiency. He’ll have a tough time living up to his early ESPN.com ADP of 43.2, but the Suns’ likely late-season shutdowns will only boost his value heading into the fantasy playoffs, making him a solid sixth- or seventh-round pick.
Marquese Chriss, PF: It took Chriss much of his rookie season to find a groove, but when the Suns began handing him extensive playing time after the All-Star break, he responded emphatically. Over his final 25 appearances, the Washington product averaged 12.7 points on 49.8 percent shooting, 5.9 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.2 triples, 1.0 assists and 0.9 steals in just 26.9 minutes, finishing as the 94th-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues during that span. Players capable of chipping in at least one block, one steal and one 3-pointer per night are worth their weight in gold in fantasy — only five players met that threshold last season — and Chriss wasn’t far off in the final two months of the year. As such, he’ll be worth a look come the 10th round.
TJ Warren, SF: The Suns drafted Warren’s heir apparent in Josh Jackson with the No. 4 overall pick this past June, but the NC State product won’t roll over without a fight. Prior to suffering a head injury that sidelined him for a month, Warren was one of the biggest early-season surprises in fantasy last year, as he went off for 19.0 points on 45.8 percent shooting, 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 1.1 assists and 0.7 triples in 34.3 minutes across his first 12 games. Jackson figures to cut into his playing time, but with Warren heading into a contract year, the Suns will need to evaluate whether he’s worthy of a long-term contract next summer. That makes him a reasonable 11th- or 12th-round investment.
Josh Jackson, SF: As a rookie, Jackson profiles as little more than a late-round steals specialist. While he shot a surprising 37.8 percent from 3
-point range during his lone season at Kansas, that efficiency came on a relatively low volume of long-range attempts (90 across 35 games). In Bledsoe, Booker and Warren, Phoenix already has a number of primary scoring options, which means Jackson should slot in as the team’s primary wing stopper. He’s likely to be drafted earlier than he should be since fantasy owners tend to get overly excited about shiny new toys, but he’d be a sound investment with one of your final few picks.
Tyson Chandler, C: If you draft Chandler this season, be prepared to shop him heavily as your league’s trade deadline approaches. The 16-year veteran finished as the 79th-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues last season after averaging 8.4 points on 67.1 percent shooting, 11.5 rebounds and 0.5 blocks in 27.6 minutes across 47 minutes, but he didn’t play a single minute after the All-Star break. Phoenix has yet to re-sign Alex Len, which should further solidify Chandler’s grip on the starting job, but the risk of another late-season shutdown makes him a risky pick despite his top-100 upside.
Brandon Knight, PG
Tyler Ulis, PG/SG
Peter Jok, SG
Davon Reed, SG
Elijah Millsap, SG
Jared Dudley, SF
Derrick Jones Jr., PF
Dragan Bender, PF
Alan Williams, C
Sleeper: TJ Warren
Bust: Devin Booker
Other team breakdowns
Atlanta Hawks | Boston Celtics | Brooklyn Nets | Charlotte Hornets | Chicago Bulls | Cleveland Cavaliers | Dallas Mavericks | Denver Nuggets | Golden State Warriors | Houston Rockets | Indiana Pacers | Los Angeles Clippers | Los Angeles Lakers | Memphis Grizzlies | Miami Heat | Milwaukee Bucks | Minnesota Timberwolves | New Orleans Pelicans | New York Knicks | Oklahoma City Thunder | Orlando Magic | Philadelphia 76ers
All average draft position info via FantasyPros. All rankings via Basketball Monster are based on nine-category leagues.