Phoenix Suns Season Preview Series, Part 3.1: Players

Have you ever been playing a video game with a friend and just as you’re about to win…3…2…1…"RESET!" Don’t you hate that? Somebody can’t admit their faults so they just pretend they never happened? Before you answer, think about your Suns for a minute. D’Antoni and Nash team up to form one of the greatest companionships known to professional basketball but before its ever allowed to reach its full potential D’Antoni is in NY and we’re left with Nash and a 300 pound wall that Nash has no idea what to do with. The experiment ultimately fails and Steve Kerr does what? He hits his magic reset button.

In part 3 of our 5 part 2009-2010 Season Preview series we'll take a look at the Suns roster after Kerr's "reset" back to the run n’ gun to help us better gauge where this team is at and what it is capable of. Personally, I'm all in. I've officially talked myself into this team but more on that later.

Due to the length of this post, I'll have to break this up into 2 parts. In part 3. 1 I'll be covering Point Guards and in part 3.2 I'll cover Wings and Bigs. 

 

Now, you may be thinking that this is a strange way to look at the Suns roster, maybe even asking why I'm not using the traditional PG, SG, SF, PF, C format and the truth is, this is not a traditional team. The run n' gun system is based more on PG play, spreading the floor and moving to the open spots than your traditional X's and O's offense. I mean, when your projected starting "Center" says that he's going to be putting up a lot of 3's that has to say something, right? Anyway, let's get to it.

 

1. Point Guards - In the run n' gun offense PG is the most important position. Having one of the best in the game run point makes it easy, but there's a reason that the Suns have struggled to maintain leads when Nash leaves the game.

 

Steve Nash

Season

Team

G

GS

MPG

FG%

3p%

FT%

OFF

DEF

RPG

APG

SPG

BPG

TO

PF

PPG

08-09

PHX

74

74

33.6

0.503

0.439

0.933

0.3

2.8

3.0

9.7

0.7

0.1

3.35

1.50

15.7

 

Expect Steve Nash to return to form playing the uptempo style for an entire season and in the meantime he should average at or above 10 assists/game again. The big key with Steve this season is health and fortunately he has the best training staff in the L. Hopefully we can figure out a solution at the backup that will allow him to play less minutes during the course of the season.

 

Steve Nash's offseason consisted of soccer, China and film making - pretty standard for him.

 

Leandro Barbosa

Season

Team

G

GS

MPG

FG%

3p%

FT%

OFF

DEF

RPG

APG

SPG

BPG

TO

PF

PPG

08-09

PHX

70

11

24.4

0.482

0.375

0.881

0.5

2.1

2.6

2.3

1.2

0.1

1.33

1.60

14.2

 

Yes, I'm putting Leandro Barbosa in the PG section even though he will spend time at both guard spots. LB has consistently improved at the PG position each season and it all came together last season during the LA game where he led the Suns to a victory over the eventual NBA Champions. I expect LB to continue his improvement and spend significant time backing up Nash this season. Barbosa will be a major key in the success of the Suns this season continuing his role as the 6th man bringing energy off of the bench and playing important minutes in the second halves of games. Expect him to spend time alongside of Nash as well when Richardson is getting a breather.

 

Leandro went from an extremely difficult offseason last year (with the passing of his mother) to an extremely joyous one this season (with the birth of his child). He also led Brazil this summer in impressive fashion at the PG spot as Brazil took gold in the FIBA Americas Tournament.

 

Goran Dragic

Season

Team

G

GS

MPG

FG%

3p%

FT%

OFF

DEF

RPG

APG

SPG

BPG

TO

PF

PPG

08-09

PHX

55

1

13.2

0.393

0.370

0.769

0.6

1.3

1.9

2.0

0.5

0.1

1.33

1.60

4.5

 

Goran Dragic gets another chance to prove himself worthy this season. After an up and down rookie season (mostly down) he looks to come back a little more comfortable and hopefully a lot more confident this year. The Suns gave him the 3-year (with an option on the 4th - unheard of for a rookie contract but because he was taken in the 2nd rounds standard rules don't apply) worth approximately $2 million per year so yeah, he'll get his chances. The big question is whether or not his improved comfort level will translate to improved play. Regardless of opinions, Dragic will get a lot of run early in the season but if he doesn't perform and Barbosa continues to improve as a PG he may be sent to the end of the bench or a little further East of that to Iowa. You may also see him spend time at the SG position, too.

This offseason, like LB, Goran played for his national team in Europe. While his team performed very well in the tournament (taking 4th), Dragic's play was (as we've seen) consistently inconsistent. Some games he shined and others he bombed (same with his play in the Las Vegas Summer League) - not the best sign given that the talent level he was going up against in both were inferior to that of the NBA. Dragic also played the wing almost exclusively for the Slovenian National Team. Again, not the best sign for a player that is supposed to be a PG in the NBA (Slovenia did have a veteran PG running the show, but last I checked Goran was in the L and the 31 year old Jaka Lakovic is not).  Feelings are mixed about the young PG but like I said, he'll get his chance to prove himself this season.

 

2. Wings – Wing play is always made easier when playing with Steve Nash. All that is asked is that they space the floor, 3-point shooters shoot when they get the ball and slashers go to the basket…that’s about it! Getting good production from our wings behind the arc and otherwise will be key in allowing Nash and Amare the room to operate successfully.

 

Jason Richardson

Season

Team

G

GS

MPG

FG%

3p%

FT%

OFF

DEF

RPG

APG

SPG

BPG

TO

PF

PPG

08-09

PHX

58

57

33.1

0.488

0.383

0.778

1.1

3.4

4.5

1.9

1.1

0.4

1.22

1.80

16.4

 

Jason Richardson has half of a season under his belt and should be much more comfortable in the Suns system this season. JRich is a very good career 3-point shooter and should be ready to step up as a scorer as he and Nash develop more chemistry this season. Look for Richardson to step up and play a major role this season if the Suns are to be successful.

Richardson’s offseason was a big mystery basketball wise. This I do know, JRich learned to DJ and even played (DJ’d?) some gigs. What effect this will have on his game is yet to be seen.

 

Grant Hill

Season

Team

G

GS

MPG

FG%

3p%

FT%

OFF

DEF

RPG

APG

SPG

BPG

TO

PF

PPG

08-09

PHX

82

68

29.8

0.523

0.316

0.808

0.8

4.2

4.9

2.3

1.1

0.7

1.54

2.20

12.0

 

Grant Hill is looking to continue to build on the great season he had last year. Last season marked the first time that he has played in all 82 regular season games…ever! The question is, how much longer can the Suns training staff keep him going? There are basically two schools of thought:

  1. Grant Hill turns 37 today and can in no way recreate the season he had last year.

  2. Because of injury Grant Hill doesn’t have the same mileage on his legs that others his age do. This might just be enough to allow him to keep playing at a high level.

Personally, I hope for the second but fear the first. Again, only time will tell. The Suns will need Hill to be a leader and continue his solid play this season. Hopefully he can teach young Earl Clark a thing or two while he’s at it.

This offseason Hill took time to relax and take in some Mercury action. Seriously though, at this stage of his career Hill needs to worry more about keeping his body healthy than anything else. 

 

Earl Clark

Season

Team

G

GS

MPG

FG%

3p%

FT%

OFF

DEF

RPG

APG

SPG

BPG

TO

PF

PPG

08-09

Louisville

37

37

34.3

0.457

0.326

0.647

2.8

5.9

8.7

3.2

1.0

1.4

3.2

1.9

14.2

 

Earl Clark had a very successful season playing for one of the best teams in college basketball. He led the Louisville Cardinals to the number one overall seed in the college tournament but ultimately they fell short. Clark was touted as a top 5 talent in this year’s draft but fell to the Suns at 14. Personally, I wanted the Suns to take one of the PGs available but I have officially talked myself into the Earl Clark era. Clark has lots of talent but how much heart he has is still unknown. The hope is that Grant Hill and Steve Nash will rub off on Earl and he will develop the same work ethic and drive that has driven them to greatness. I think Clark will get minutes at the beginning of the season and if he performs he could work himself into more playing time and maybe even a starting role for games when the Suns go small due to favorable matchups.

Clark has had a pretty typical summer getting ready for life in the NBA. He showed flashes at the Vegas Summer League and brought joy to Phoenix fans far and wide when he showed that he could actually play defense – even if it was against other players getting their first run in summer league.

Part 3.2

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