PHOENIX -- After a season of injuries and indecision, the Phoenix Suns hope they have tweaked their young roster correctly as they open the 2016-17 season against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.
Two years ago, the Suns' best three guards (Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas) all played the same position. But the logjam at point guard quickly went from unworkable to untenable, beginning a spiral that forced a reboot to the Suns' rebuilding plans.
Now the Suns kick off the 2016-17 season with three guards with defined positions and roles.
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Bledsoe is the survivor of the purge and the undisputed point guard, hoping to rebound from injuries that forced him to watch most of last season's 23-59 disaster from the sideline.
Devin Booker, who rose from the ashes of a terrible season, is now the starting shooting guard and face of the franchise a few days shy of his 20th birthday. He became the fourth-youngest player in league history (behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant) to score 1,000 points in a season.
Brandon Knight, plagued by injuries and inconsistency but an undeniable offensive force, will come off the bench as a sixth man who will see major playing time in coach Earl Watson's rotation that now includes former Suns Leandro Barbosa and Jared Dudley and a host of promising but unproven talent.
With Bledsoe, Booker, Knight and Barbosa heading up the guard rotation, the Suns waived Archie Goodwin on Monday and opted to keep John Jenkins and Tyler Ulis at the end of the bench. Goodwin had several highlight-reel moments during his three seasons with the Suns but never enough to warrant serious playing time.
Suns general manager Ryan McDonough told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM that Goodwin had requested a change of scenery.
"We felt like we got down to 16 really good, quality NBA players. Archie and his agents for the last few months asked us to accommodate a trade request," McDonough said. "With that in mind, we told Archie and his agent we'd try to help him move to a team where he'd have an opportunity and play. Unfortunately, we weren't able to work out a deal. This time of a year, it's hard."
Forward P.J. Tucker, who underwent back surgery in September, was cleared to play on Tuesday and will come off the bench. T.J. Warren, coming off season-ending foot surgery himself, will start at forward with Dudley and Tyson Chandler at center.
While the Suns have missed the playoffs for six consecutive seasons, the Kings are trying to break a 10-year postseason drought. Despite an explosive season from center DeMarcus Cousins, who ranked fourth in the NBA in scoring at 26.9 points per game, the Kings won only 33 games -- the most in Cousins' six season in Sacramento.
The Kings won three out of four meetings with the Suns last season, and Cousins was a big reason.
Sacramento will start the season without starting point guard Darren Collison, who will begin an eight-game suspension due to a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery. Ty Lawson will start at the point for the Kings, looking to rebound after two poor seasons and two DUI arrests in 2015.
The Kings will open the season with 11 games in the first 17 days. Most of those games will be with Lawson as the only true point guard on the roster.
"It's going to be a rough stretch," Lawson told the Sacramento Bee. "If things go bad, we've just got to stick together. We can't pull apart. Things are going to happen, but I feel like if we stay positive and stick together, we'll be able to get through it."
Former Sun and new King Matt Barnes will miss his first game with the Kings due to rib and knee problems.