#CrystalBasketball: Ranking the Phoenix Suns for 2017-18

How does every NBA player stack up heading into 2017-18, based solely on the level at which we expect them to play during the upcoming season?

That’s the question 16 NBA Math staff members and contributors sought to answer, ranking each and every player in the sport’s premier league on a 1-to-12 scale and then seeing who emerged with the highest averages. The distant past was irrelevant. Long-term potential doesn’t matter. Only what could come to pass in 2017-18 is factored in, assuming health for those currently healthy and full recoveries from those presently injured. For example, Brandon Knight will still be included in this analysis; we just assumed he’d already completed his rehab for the torn ACL and now has that as a prior portion of his overall injury history.

All players were graded on the following scale by each evaluator, and ties between players with identical averages were broken by sorting the 16 scores from best to worst and propping up the men who had the highest mark at any point in the top-down progression:

  1. Shouldn’t Get Minutes
  2. End-of-Bench Pieces
  3. Depth Pieces
  4. High-End Backups
  5. Low-End Starters
  6. Solid Starters
  7. High-End Starters, Non-All-Stars
  8. All-Star Candidates
  9. All-NBA Candidates, Non-MVP Candidates
  10. Lesser MVP Candidates
  11. MVP Frontrunners
  12. Best Player in the League (only one player could earn this grade on each ballot)

Journey with us team by team as we unveil the entirety of these rankings, culminating in a look at every player set to suit up for the 2017-18 campaign.

Today’s featured squad? The Phoenix Suns, who boast one of the league’s most overlooked players at the point and young talent everywhere else.

20. Peter Jok: 1.15

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 23
  • Position: SG
  • 2016-17 Stats: 19.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.1 blocks, 109.13 TPA (for Iowa Hawkeyes)
  • Highest Grade: 2 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 1 (multiple voters)

If Peter Jok can fix his defensive woes, he’ll have a chance to stick in the NBA. And despite the putridity of his positioning in last year’s collegiate landscape (see below), his stamina was trending up toward the end of his Iowa career and offers hope that he can make the most of his anticipatory skills in passing lanes:

Still, offense is his calling card.

Jok can light up the scoreboard with a sweet jumper that helped him shoot 46.7 percent from the field and 38.0 percent on triples during his senior season. And don’t be disheartened that the second number doesn’t start with a four, because this 2-guard took a whopping 6.9 attempts per contest.

19. Anthony Bennett: 1.20

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 24
  • Position: PF
  • 2016-17 Stats: 5.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.1 blocks, minus-16.72 TPA (for Brooklyn Nets)
  • Highest Grade: 2 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 1 (multiple voters)

Anthony Bennett may be one of the biggest busts in NBA history after going No. 1 overall in 2013 NBA draft and failing to stick with four different teams in just four years, but that doesn’t mean he’s devoid of talent. He remains a quality per-minute rebounder (10.6 per 36 minutes in 23 games for the Brooklyn Nets last year) and has enough athleticism to finish plays around the basket.

But teams have to use him correctly. So far, they haven’t. Bennett shouldn’t be spending time at small forward or asked to stretch out the floor from beyond the arc; that’s simply not who he is at this stage of his still-young career.

Now, he’ll be more motivated than ever to stay in shape and play to his strengths. Though he’s only 24 years old, this could very well be his last chance to make an NBA roster.

18. Davon Reed: 1.44

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 22
  • Position: SG
  • 2016-17 Stats: 14.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.5 blocks, 162.31 TPA (for Miami Hurricanes)
  • Highest Grade: 2 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 1 (multiple voters)

Davon Reed could miss up to five more months as he recovers from surgery to repair his meniscus, and that’s never a good thing for a 2-guard just trying to avoid cuts. Making the jump to the NBA is tough enough when you can participate in every activity and learn on the fly; it’s downright impossible when you’re a second-rounder attempting to watch and pick up tricks from the sidelines.

Fortunately for Reed, the Suns have invested enough in him that they’ll likely be patient. The No. 32 pick of the 2017 NBA draft is a talented two-way prospect who could eventually settle into a three-and-D role off the bench, so he’ll presumably spend quite a bit of his rehabilitation time watching film and learning how to play professional defense against pick-and-rolls and every other type of set.

So long as the shooting stroke that helped him knock down 39.7 percent of his deep attempts as a senior at Miami sticks when he returns, he’ll be just fine in the competition for an end-of-bench role.

17. Elijah Millsap: 1.50

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 30
  • Position: SG
  • 2016-17 Stats: 1.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 0.5 assists, minus-6.35 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 2 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 1 (multiple voters)

Elijah Millsap won’t add anything on the offensive end. Three years into his NBA career, he’s slashing 32.7/27.9/67.9, and those percentages are so unfortunately low that he can’t be trusted to stand out on the perimeter and avoid having the Suns play four-on-five. He doesn’t add much as a passer either, with an identical number of assists and turnovers throughout his tenure in the Association, which has spanned runs with Phoenix and the Utah Jazz.

But the shooting guard gets minutes because of his defense. A pesky presence who understands that’s how he makes his money, this Millsap brother can guard multiple positions with his 6’6″ frame, dynamic athleticism and strong instincts. He’s rarely overmatched physically, and attacking him in the pick-and-roll has consistently proved to be a terrible idea.

16. Alec Peters: 1.56

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 22
  • Position: PF
  • 2016-17 Stats: 23.0 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.4 blocks, 115.92 TPA (for Valparaiso Crusaders)
  • Highest Grade: 3 (Michael Brock)
  • Lowest Grade: 1 (multiple voters)

Alec Peters isn’t a particularly athletic prospect and frequently struggles scoring the ball around the basket. He’s not much of a defender, lacking the foot speed necessary to keep up with smaller forwards or the explosion and strength to stick with bigger ones.

And he was still selected at No. 54 in the 2017 NBA draft, even as concerns about a stress fracture in his right foot weighed on him and prevented him from working out for teams. What gives?

Well, Peters is a 6’9″ forward who can step out to the perimeter and drain jumpers. During his final season at Valparaiso, he took 5.5 attempts per game from beyond the arc and connected on 36.3 percent of them—actually the lowest mark of his four-year collegiate career, which saw him finish with a lifetime average of 5.2 attempts and a 41.6 percent conversion rate. Connecting the dots isn’t particularly tough.

15. Mike James: 1.81

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 27
  • Position: PG
  • 2016-17 Stats: 12.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.1 blocks (for Panathinaikos)
  • Highest Grade: 4 (Nick Birdsong)
  • Lowest Grade: 1 (multiple voters)

No, we’re not talking about the Mike James who’s now 42 years old and spent 12 years in the NBA. This Mike James is a 27-year-old preparing to begin his rookie season after spending time with Zagreb, Hapoel Gilboa Galil, Paffoni Omegna, Kolossos Rodou, Laboral Kutxa Baskonia and Panathinaikos.

James isn’t much of a shooter, but he proved himself in Europe. Few defenders could contain his lightning-quick first step, which allowed him to explode by them and complete plays at the rim with thunderous jams and athletic, contested finishes. He may be only 6’1″, but you wouldn’t realize that when watching him fly through the air.

Los Crossover’s Austin Green, as he told Ridiculous Upside’s Dakota Schmidt, is a believer: “After another really strong EuroLeague season, he has more than earned this deal with the Suns. Due to that success, you’d think he’d be over-qualified for a two-way deal as comparable point guards are getting multi-million-dollar offers throughout Europe and China. Milos Teodosic got $6 million per year from the Clippers and I think there’s a chance that James is a better fit for the NBA.”

14. Derrick Jones Jr.: 2.19

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 20
  • Position: SF
  • 2016-17 Stats: 5.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.4 blocks, minus-11.38 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 3 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 1 (multiple voters)

“Whoever the best player is that’s who I want to guard,” Derrick Jones Jr. said about his mentality going into the season, per ArizonaSports.com’s Kellan Olson. “I don’t want to be out on the floor and not be able to say that I’m not guarding the best player. I want to guard the best player and I want to be that impact that I want to stop the best player on the court and that’s something that I’m gonna take pride in this year.”

Jones is one of the NBA’s best athletes, capable of defying gravity as he bursts toward the rim and refuses to fall to the floor. Most players conform to 9.8 meters per second squared, but Jones has somehow convinced the universe to subtract one or two from that number, depending on the night.

If he can develop some three-point touch or learn the nuances of defense that allow him to maximize his athleticism, he could make the five voters who viewed him as a depth piece look rather prescient.

13. Troy Daniels: 2.63

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 26
  • Position: SG
  • 2016-17 Stats: 8.2 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.1 blocks, minus-72.8 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 4 (Tim Stubbs)
  • Lowest Grade: 1 (Brian Sampson)

Talk about a specialist.

Troy Daniels is an atrocious defender who requires constant supervision from the other four men on the floor. He’s only generated two more assists than turnovers throughout his entire NBA career. He doesn’t offer much on the boards. He’s hit only 33.6 percent of his two-point attempts since joining the Memphis Grizzlies for the 2016-17 campaign.

And yet, he’s a fairly valuable presence because of his devastating work from outside the rainbow. Daniels hit 38.9 percent of his treys while taking 5.3 per game last year, and he’s given no reason to expect any sort of regression going forward.

12. Dragan Bender: 2.81

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 19
  • Position: PF/C
  • 2016-17 Stats: 3.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.5 blocks, minus-51.58 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 4 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 2 (multiple voters)

Don’t put too much stock in Dragan Bender’s rookie season. Not only was he one of the NBA’s youngest players and operating without enough meat on his bones, but an ankle injury prevented him from establishing much rhythm during his first go-round at the sport’s highest level. Of course he struggled.

Bender’s role shouldn’t be so limited as a sophomore. Though he was used primarily in spot-up situations during that initial go-round, he has the skills necessary to create his own looks off the bounce while also seeking out teammates. His feeds already hit his running mates in their shooting pockets, and it’s exciting to see a 7’1″ center dribble into his jumper before swishing it through the nylon.

Is Bender guaranteed to break out as a 19-year-old? Definitely not. But the flashes of excellence should last longer and come more frequently.

11. Tyler Ulis: 2.94

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 21
  • Position: PG
  • 2016-17 Stats: 7.3 points, 1.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.1 blocks, minus-93.87 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 4 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 1 (Brian Sampson)

Once Eric Bledsoe was shut down for the season, this diminutive scorer took over at the point. Tyler Ulis then used that 15-game sample to average 16.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.1 blocks, proving he was capable of running an NBA offense and putting up big numbers. He just…wasn’t particularly efficient while doing so.

The next steps for Ulis involve learning how to take the right shots, working to shore up his perimeter jumper and finding creative ways to finish plays around the basket. Though the counting numbers were great in that end-of-season stretch, they came while he shot 41.7 percent from the field, 25.0 percent on his triples and 72.5 percent at the stripe. At least he kept his turnovers in check.

The 5’9″ floor general exemplifies that positional moniker. He has great vision and never hesitates to share the rock. Coupling that with a more proficient stroke would go a long way, maybe even convincing at least one of our 16 panelists that he can play like a low-level starter.

10. Alex Len: 2.94

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 24
  • Position: C
  • 2016-17 Stats: 8.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.3 blocks, minus-58.67 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 5 (Adam Spinella)
  • Lowest Grade: 2 (multiple voters)

Though we might be selling Alex Len short, the Suns aren’t helping. That might change now that the big man is operating on a one-year deal and waiting to hit unrestricted free agency, though, as he can escape to a system more conducive to his talents.

Len has struggled up to this point in his professional career, failing to exhibit much at all on the offensive end. Gone are the dazzling post skills and smooth touch around the basket that once made him a threat to be taken No. 1 overall in the 2013 NBA draft. Injuries are partially to blame, but so too are the bodies blocking him from getting more run and establishing a rhythm, as well as a scheme that doesn’t exactly cater to a traditional big man.

Let Len slow down the pace and go to work from the blocks—admittedly an antiquated style in today’s NBA—and he can put up numbers. We’ve still seen him average 12.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per 36 minutes throughout his four-year career. But Phoenix isn’t going to do that anytime soon, thereby hindering this 24-year-old’s potential value.

9. Brandon Knight: 3.25

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 25
  • Position: PG
  • 2016-17 Stats: 11.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.1 blocks, minus-107.19 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 5 (Ryan Jarvis)
  • Lowest Grade: 1 (Dan Favale)

Just when it appeared Brandon Knight might be poised to bounce back and re-assert himself as a dynamic offensive threat off the bench, he tore his ACL in a pro-am game over the summer. He’ll miss the entirety of the 2017-18 campaign, which forces him to wait one more year for his redemption efforts.

We won’t spend much time here, but do note that our grades assume he’s recovered fully from that devastating injury. In other words, this is the level at which you should expect him to play once he’s eventually back on the court, no matter how far into the future that may be.

8. Jared Dudley: 3.38

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 32
  • Position: SF/PF
  • 2016-17 Stats: 6.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.3 blocks, minus-5.7 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 4 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 2 (Nick Birdsong)

Jared Dudley might not be ready for the start of 2017-18 as he recovers from offseason surgery to fix a ligament in one of his left toes, but that’s fine. As he told ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski  on “The Woj Pod,” his primary value stems from his veteran leadership for the Suns’ youngsters (h/t ArizonaSports.com’s Kellan Olson for the transcription):

Sometimes, your worth as an athlete isn’t about you making shots or your stats. Like, where my contract and me coming back to Phoenix (is at), is to be a mentor. Is to show these young guys the professionalism. Habits. Because in 2-3 years when Phoenix is good — like how it started when I was in Milwaukee when they were the worst team in the league and how I was on Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and Jabari (Parker) and telling them their practice habits and to see them now getting ready to be one of the top teams in the East — It’s the same thing I’m doing here now in Phoenix. So my $30 million, it’s not about Jared averaging 10-11 points – no one cares about that. It’s about, hey, how can I make Devin Booker a better player? How do I get Tyler Ulis and Marquese Chriss mentally ready so in two, three years when it’s their time, that the foundation is already laid in the habits.

Dudley is a capable three-point shooter who can play multiple positions in a pinch. He’s also an adequate defender out of the frontcourt who can body up against plenty of forwards. But his willingness to put aside his pride and help his teammates develop might be more valuable than anything else he does for this rebuilding organization.

7. Alan Williams: 3.44

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 24
  • Position: PF/C
  • 2016-17 Stats: 7.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.7 blocks, minsu-25.15 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 5 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 2 (multiple voters)

The Suns’ injury woes continue with Alan Williams, who went under the knife to repair his meniscus in late September and could miss up to six months. He might not play at all in 2017-18 if management decides it would rather be careful with his recovery during a lottery-bound season, preserving him for the remaining campaigns of his three-year, $17 million pact.

But if Williams does recover quickly and get on the floor, he’ll continue demonstrating the three skills that allowed him to sign a new deal in the desert: efficient finishing around the hoop, strong interior defense and tremendous rebounding. The last part makes him most special, as he’s now coming off a year in which he recorded 14.8 boards per 36 minutes and demonstrated proficiency on both ends.

Offensive and defensive rebounding require vastly different skill sets, which makes it even more impressive that Williams could capably clean both types of glass. Along with Andre Drummond, Dwight Howard and Boban Marjanovic,  he was one of only four players last year to haul in at least 14 percent of the available offensive boards and no fewer than 30 percent of the defensive chances.

6. Marquese Chriss: 3.63

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 20
  • Position: PF/C
  • 2016-17 Stats: 9.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.9 blocks, minus-58.27 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 5 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 2 (Tim Stubbs)

For all of Marquese Chriss’ excellence in transition and when diving to the basket, where he could display his athleticism and touch, his defense was ultimately more concerning as a rookie. Not only did he foul excessively, but he functioned like a turnstile against pick-and-roll action. Still, we should be patient and recognize there was more at play here, as Adam Spinella explained in his breakdown of Chriss’ game for NBA Math:

It’s too early to give up on Chriss’ defense, though. Not only is he just 20, but he found himself in a situation where he logged heavy minutes likely before he was ready—baptism by fire that begets growing pains. Many of his wrinkles will be ironed out with experience, and it helps that he currently plays beside two veterans who are ideal mentors for his skill set: a premier rim-protector and PnR defender in Tyson Chandler, and a modern stretch-4 in Jared Dudley.

For all the inconsistencies, all the frustrations and all the pot-of-gold athleticism he possesses, Chriss needs one thing above all else before we start making sweeping judgments about the trajectory of his career: more time.

The skills are there. Is the system?

If it is, Chriss will justify those three voters who viewed him as a low-end starter during his sophomore season. But stagnation is also possible, especially as this big man competes for minutes with plenty of other youngsters and a certain veteran presence at the 5.

5. Tyson Chandler: 4.25

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 35
  • Position: C
  • 2016-17 Stats: 8.4 points, 11.5 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.5 blocks, minus-10.85 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 5 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 3 (multiple voters)

Even at 35 years of age, Tyson Chandler can effectively fill three different roles. He’s a dominant rebounder who cleans the glass nearly as well as anyone, a tremendous finisher in the pick-and-roll and a strong interior defender who can not just prevent shots from finding their targets, but deter them entirely.

Except…the numbers from 2016-17 don’t back all of that up. Health limited Chandler to only 47 games, and he seemed more limited even when he was on the floor. The rebounding remained praiseworthy (11.5 per game and 14.9 per 36 minutes) while he finished in the 95th percentile as a roll man, scoring a gaudy 1.37 points per possessions. But the defense wasn’t there.

Not only did Chandler post the worst defensive box plus/minus of his career and sink to No. 18 among centers in ESPN.com’s defensive real plus/minus, but he struggled when stationed at the hoop. In that situation, he allowed opponents to shoot 53 percent on their field-goal attempts, which simply won’t cut it as he tries to preserve his two-way value and stave off Father Time.

4. T.J. Warren: 4.56

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 24
  • Position: SF
  • 2016-17 Stats: 14.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks, minus-12.84 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 6 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 3 (multiple voters)

Even if T.J. Warren never develops a convincing three-point stroke (it’s now clear his 40.0 percent clip in 2015-16 was a bit of an aberration) and struggles to play even league-average defense against opposing wings, he’ll retain plenty of value. He’s a creative scorer who can get up looks from all over the half-court set and finish plays in a variety of ways, often creating his own looks with deliberate dribbles and expert body control.

What’s most impressive? Warren’s ability to finish everything (read: 74.6 percent of his looks) from within three feet? The touch shots that let him shoot 45.6 percent from between three and 10 feet? His 39.9 percent clip from 10 to 16 feet? His 39.7 percent conversion rate on even longer twos? If Warren is getting up attempts, he’s going to score efficiently, especially now that he’s earning more whistles and getting free points at the stripe.

Plus, we can’t entirely rule out development in his weakest areas. Warren is just 24 years old, after all.

3. Josh Jackson: 4.69

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 20
  • Position: SF
  • 2016-17 Stats: 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.1 blocks, 207.91 TPA (for Kansas Jayhawks)
  • Highest Grade: 6 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 3 (Tim Stubbs)

If you’re looking for offense, Josh Jackson might not be your favorite rookie. Though he can initiate some plays on the scoring end, showing off his more-than-capable ball-handling and passing skills, the hitch in his jumper doesn’t bode well for immediate success as an NBA-level producer of points. He got by in college with his overwhelming athleticism, but he’s likely to take a backseat role to the other Phoenix scorers until he can fix his shooting stroke and make it quick enough to overcome contests by the world’s best defenders.

Instead, defense is where he’ll thrive.

At 6’8″, in possession of quick-twitch hops and bevies of lateral mobility, Jackson should immediately thrive as a versatile defender who can switch on screens to suffocate opposing shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards. He doesn’t have the wingspan to play small-ball 4 for lengthy durations, but his strength and overall physical gifts will surely let him cover such players for smaller doses.

Jackson might not post gaudy offensive numbers like some of this class’ other top rookies, but his two-way prowess should allow him to at least come closing to matching the overall impact of every other first-year player.

2. Devin Booker: 5.94

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 20
  • Position: SG
  • 2016-17 Stats: 22.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.3 blocks, minus-131.2 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 8 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 4 (Jordan McGillis)

This requires a leap of faith, because Devin Booker wasn’t too statistically impressive during his sophomore season.

Even with a 70-point game to his credit (undeniably impressive, though overhyped because it came in a loss that saw Phoenix force-feeding him the ball and fouling to create extra possessions in pursuit of an ultimately meaningless point total), his middling efficiency levels and defensive porosity prevented him from having a celestial impact. Slashing 42.3/36.3/83.2 with nearly as many turnovers as assists while playing some of the league’s worst defense simply won’t cut it for a modern-day star.

Woah. Hold on. Pump the brakes.

Booker’s numbers might not have been that stellar, true. He’s still a 20-year-old shooting guard who averaged an eye-popping 22.1 points per game while playing for a rebuilding squad that allowed most defensive attention to focus squarely on him. He displayed plenty of shot-making tools from all over the court, even if the consistency wasn’t quite there. Filling such a role deserves plenty of credit, no matter what flaws might have been exposed. How can he not be at least close to achieving stardom?

As it turns out, he is. Booker’s junior season should come with an efficiency explosion, and the majority of our panelists (10 of 16) viewed him as nothing less than a solid starter in Year 3. Two apiece pegged him as an All-Star candidate or high-end starter. Considering he’s coming off a No. 476 finish in NBA Math’s TPA (out of 486 players) and No. 241 placement in ESPN.com’s real plus/minus (not technically a ranking, though that’s the same score earned by Ben Bentil, J.R. Smith, Caris LeVert and David Nwaba), that should already be viewed as giving him plenty of credit and applying the necessary context to his middling—or worse—advanced metrics.

1. Eric Bledsoe: 6.81

  • Age at start of 2017-18: 27
  • Position: PG
  • 2016-17 Stats: 21.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.5 blocks, 150.05 TPA
  • Highest Grade: 8 (multiple voters)
  • Lowest Grade: 6 (multiple voters)

Don’t be fooled by Eric Bledsoe’s checkered injury history and the fact he’s coming off a season in which he played just 66 games. He was shut down at the end of the year for a—wink, wink—knee injury and was otherwise healthy throughout the rest of the campaign. During that time, he just continued asserting himself as a two-way force who plays like one of the Association’s most underrated guards.

Bledsoe has his flaws, sure. He’s no longer as physically capable in off-ball defensive situations against athletic floor generals and still has an unfortunate habit of over-attacking on his own drives, which leaves him picking himself up off the hardwood while the ball rolls off the rim and finds itself in the hands of an opposing player for a man-up transition attempt. His jumper is inconsistent, as well.

But this 27-year-old remains a ferocious on-ball defender with the physicality necessary to body up against bigger 2-guards in cross-matching scenarios. He’s even better on the offensive end, where his quick first step and passing vision allow him to create plenty of offense for the Suns. Though he might not get as much hype as a certain backcourt mate these days, he still remains the organization’s top contributor with room to spare.

Who’s rated too high? Who are we selling short? Join the conversation using #CrystalBasketball on Twitter.

Follow NBA Math on Twitter @NBA_Math and on Facebook.

Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are from NBA Math or NBA.com.

Many thanks to our entire panel of voters: Andrew BaileyArjun BaradwajNick BirdsongMichael BrockTony EastDan FavaleAdam FromalRyan JarvisJordan McGillisTom RendeBrian SampsonAdam SpinellaEric SpyropolousTim StubbsFrank UrbinaLouis Vicchiollo

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