A trade seems almost destined to occur before the deadline.
What if the unimaginable happens ... no trade goes down?
What could the Suns do to salvage the season and make a run for a championship ... with the players they already have?
What if we look at the current Suns, strictly from a basketball point-of-view? Let's put aside the financial considerations for the moment, and the positioning for the future.
What could the Suns change with the existing team to improve the remainder of the season and give them a chance to make a deep run into the play-offs?
In my opinion, they should set up the following rotation (or one like it):
12-8 minutes left: Nash, JRich, Hill, Stat, and Shaq (Team All-Star)
8-4 minutes left: Barbosa, JRich, Hill, Amundson, Shaq (Team Shaq)
4-0 minutes left: Nash, Barbosa, Barnes, Stat, Dudley/Lopez (Team Nash)
12-8 minutes left: Dragic/Tucker, JRich, Hill, Amundson, Shaq (Team Shaq P2)
8-4 minutes left: Nash, Barbosa, Barnes, Stat, Dudley/Lopez (Team Nash)
4-0 minutes left: Nash?, Barbosa/JRich?, Hill/Barnes?, Stat?, Amundson / Dudley / Shaq (Team ?)
With this plan the players would get the following amount of minutes: Nash and Stat (32 min), JRich / Barbosa / Hill / Shaq (24-32 min), Barnes / Dudley / Amundson (or Lopez) (16-24 min), and Dragic / Tucker (8 min).
The advantages with this rotation plan are:
- You recognize the former All-Stars by starting them at the beginning of each half. They get that recognition that seems so important to players.
- You give the former MVP's there own "team" to run when the other is not on the floor.
- Shaq will bring his team, Team Shaq, (adapted to his style of play) earlier in the quarter. This way Shaq will know he will get his "looks" early in the quarter and can batter the other team in the paint and hopefully help his team get to the penalty situation. His team will differ between the 1st/3rd and 2nd/4th to allow Barbosa to play more minutes. Shaq's team's offense will be run through him, but he does have the ball handling and decision making of Hill to help in open court situations.
- Nash will bring his team, Team Nash, (adapted to his and Stat's more up and down pace) later in the quarter when fatigue / substitutes and foul shooting may make them even more effective.
- Finally, the final 4 minutes of the 2nd and 4th quarter are for the coach to adjust as needed to the game situation and provide a bonus to players who are playing well (i.e. keep the hot players on the court).
- The 4 minute rotation period should keep the Suns players fresh but not cold, and help them know when they will be entering the game. It also keeps any one player from playing more than 8 minutes consecutively.
- This should allow Suns to spread their talent throughout the whole game, and hopefully satisfy all of the scorers they have. Having happy players should result in better performances on both sides of the ball ... and ultimately happy fans.
- It also allows the bench to develop with consistent minutes and consistent roles.
As I mentioned in my previous post, it is my opinion that Shaq and Nash, and Shaq and Stat do not play well together. Shaq takes up room that Nash and Stat are use to working in. They also seem to thrive at a different game pace. This split team approach insures that each has at least 16 minutes a game geared to their style of play when they can perhaps be the most effective.
Some of the Suns players are more interchangeable than others in my opinion. For example, Barbosa and JRich, Hill and Barnes, as well as Amundson and Dudley could be switched and may yield "teams" with better chemistry.
The Sun's Achilles heel this season has been turnovers and rebounding. They have been very efficient offensively, more so than their opponents but they have given their opponents too many extra possessions to score to make up or even exceed the difference. They have shown that they have the players to rebound well (at least they did last season after Shaq joined the team). I think that playing role players (like Amundson and Dudley) who can focus on rebounding more will help them in this category as well. Reducing turnovers will hopefully come when they settle on a consistent style of play and what players will be playing together.
The coaches need to understand that they do not have a team full of excellent defenders. Trying to make them something they are not will only cause frustration, which I think we have already seen. Instead, they need to recognize that they have a team full of offense talent that can score at a high percentage. Given an equal number of possessions they will beat any team in the league on an average night.
I believe that the Suns have the talent to make a deep run into the playoffs. It seems to be a matter of figuring out how to get the most out of what they have.
They have been struggling with that question all season and it will remain (and probably get harder) even with a trade.