Ever since I've been a fan of the Phoenix Suns, the starting point guard has been the one constant on the team. From Seven Seconds or Less, to Seven Seconds or Shaq, to the Old Man Pick-and-Roll, Steve Nash has been the driving force behind the Suns from the point guard position. Now, that constant is gone, as Dave chronicled in his season preview, an the Suns will rise and set with their new point guard.
Goran Dragic has returned to the Valley of the Sun after a slight detour to retake his rightful place as Steve Nash's successor. With the Dragon at the helm, the Suns will continue to be a point guard-driven team.But don't expect to see the same old offense. Dragic is a very different player than Nash is and is going to have the freedom to play to his strengths. 2012 is the Year of the Dragon according to the Chinese Zodiac, so you can expect big things from No. 1.
Dragic is the undisputed starting point guard and will be the leader of the offense this season. Coming off a fantastic final two months in Houston, big things are expected of Dragic.
I already wrote extensively about the kind of player Dragic has become a while back. Check it out if you missed it the first time, or if you want to remind yourself of his awesomeness, or if you just want to waste some time at school or work. For those who don't have the time or attention span to read the entire thing, here's a brief summary.
Dragic started the last two months of the Season for Houston after Kyle Lowry went down with an injury and put up All-Star caliber numbers. As a starter, Dragic put up 18 points, 8.4 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 36.5 minutes per game, and with great shooting percentages to boot.
Dragic is a very good pick-and-roll point guard who usually uses screens to set up his own drives rather than looking for the big man rolling to the basket. He also loves to get out in the open court and is very effective on the fast break. Dragic is a pretty decent defender who likes to put on the pressure and force turnovers.
As Seth mentioned, Alvin Gentry is implementing parts of a new kind of offense this year, one that will allow Dragic to showcase more of his athleticism and versatility rather than asking him to create everything off the dribble, and that should only make Dragic that much more effective.
If the Suns want to stay out of the cellar in the Western Conference, they are going to need a huge year from Goran Dragic. As I said before, 16-18 points and 6-8 assists per game seems like a realistic projection for Dragic. If he's on the low end of the spectrum, that puts him on par with the likes of Denver's Ty Lawson. If he's closer to the high end, that would put him in the same area as San Antonio's Tony Parker. Either way, that is pretty good company.
Telfair is back and will likely begin the year as Dragic's primary back-up. The question is, which Bassy will we get?
The Telfair that we saw in the first couple of months last season was one of the worst players in the NBA. He couldn't even win the job straight-up with Ronnie Price as his primary competition, and when he was out there the offense was completely dysfunctional.
But Bassy turned it around and started to play better in March, then blew up in a good way in April and was actually one of the Suns' better players. His jumper started to fall, and the confidence from that infected his all-around game.
Telfair is a guy who can push the pace and score in transition, get buckets in the pick-and-roll and provide some hard-nosed defense and hustle.
Bassy should begin the year as the number two point guard. How long he retains that title is up to him. If we see the April Bassy, rookie Kendall Marshall could be in for a redshirt season of sorts. If Telfair reverts to the guy who can't do anything right, then we might see the rook sooner rather than later.
Kendall Marshall is the Suns' 2012 lottery pick, but don't expect him to have much of an impact in his rookie year. Marshall shows exceptional court vision and passing skills, but he has a lot of work to do in the other areas of his game.
As I wrote after watching him play in the Las Vegas Summer League, Marshall has a long way to go and a lot of work to do before he's a viable NBA point guard. His jump shot needs some work, but even more importantly his mindset needs to change. He has to learn how to be more aggressive and actually make plays for himself as well as his teammates instead of sitting back and spreading the ball around.
Marshall should start out the year as the third-string point guard. If Telfair stumbles, his name could be called upon much sooner than anticipated. Or if he makes the necessary adjustments and learns how to play at the NBA level, he could press Bassy an ultimately take his job. It's a perfect situation for Marshall. With Telfair on the roster, the SUns can bring Marshall along slowly and let him develop at his own pace. But if things click for Marshall sooner than expected, he'll have the chance to compete for playing time.
Putting it all Together
Overall, the Suns have a pretty good situation going on at point guard, both now an moving forward. Dragic gives them near All-Star play, Telfair provides a solid back-up now and Marshall offers potential for the future.