With the Suns in "retool" mode, the 2012 offseason has been very interesting to say the least. The dreaded day we all knew was coming for years finally happened. We lost the heart and soul of this team, the motor that kept this vehicle running. A sense of fear always lingered over the thought of what would life be like without the golden child. Well folks that time has arrived. The time of transition and rebuild is here. This Summer has proved to be a changing of the guards in a sense and a radical incoming youth movement. Adding Dragic and Beasley through free agency while drafting Marshall put the Suns in just the position they wanted to be in besides the fact that New Orleans matched the offer on Eric Gordon. So what can we expect from our fresh faces and also our current roster left over from last year? Hit the jump to find out.
Goran Dragic- Let me start off by saying the Dragon Returns! Dragic comes back to Phoenix a different breed. Goran leaves Houston at the top of his game holding starter averages of 19 points, 8 assists, and 2 steals per game (what a difference confidence makes and Goran is bursting with it now). Goran seems like a new man, one confident in his game and holding the desire to be the best he can be. We must look back at the surrounding cast around Dragic during his tenure in Houston. His best players around him were our very own Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, and Courtney Lee. With that roster makeup it is no wonder Dragic averaged almost 19 a game as a starter. He practically had to. Often times he was the best offensive player on the court and had to put the offense on his back. Compare this to the current Phoenix starting 5 and Dragic can sit back and hone in on his pure point skills. In a starting lineup consisting of Dudely, Beasley, Scola, and Gortat, Dragic will have a plethora of weapons at his disposal. Wide open kick outs to Dudley on the wing, bounce passes to cutting Beasley, dump offs to Scola on the block, and pick and roll passes to Gortat are all legit options for the Dragon. Add to the fact that Dragic has also become a very nice shooter our offense could hum when the chemistry foundation becomes solid. So I think Dragic's points per game could drop some maybe to around 14-15 a game, I also could see his assists rising to around the 10 range. With so many scoring options Goran will simply be able to sit back and pick apart the defense.
Michael Beasley- Beasley is the other newest member of the Suns as well as the most intriguing. Being arguably one of the best mismatches in the game, the 6'10 Beasley holds career averages of 15 points and 5.6 rebounds per game including the 10/11 season where he averaged a career high of 19 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Michael has always been able to score the ball and has had the potential to be a star in this league. The mental aspect of the game and off court troubles have always stood in the way. According to Beasley and our front office, both parties are ready to put all that in the past and focus on the future. Let's hope so for the team and for Beasley himself. Beasley is an athletic small forward with the body of a power forward. He has a nice jump shot and can even knock down the three ball at a nice clip. This will be very important for his game here in Phoenix as floor spacing and the three point shot is a crucial part of the offensive system. Beasley should be able to thrive in transition slashing or spotting up. Dragic is a very nice point guard at pushing the fast break so Beasley will have plenty of opportunity to score in transition. Beasley has always underperformed as a rebounder but if we plan on playing him at the 3 spot then 6 boards a game isn't horrible. He needs to work on his defense but according to recent interviews this is an area he wants to improve in. I really feel Beasley and the Suns front office know this could be a great opportunity for both parties. If Beasley stays grounded and keeps his head on straight he could be a star. I could see Beasley putting up close to his 2010 season at about 19-20 points per game. I think he will be that go to scorer we have desperately missed. The important thing is he is playing with capable guys so he should not face many double teams. Already containing the height mismatch over most NBA small forwards, Beasley should be able to get his jumper off whenever he wants. We know he can score, he just needs to do it effectively. I expect a big season from Beasley this year.
Jared Dudley- Jared Dudley is the definition of the gift that keeps on giving. Every off season Dudley adds another aspect to his game to go along with his already savvy defense. Last Summer he worked hard on the 1-2 pull up and at times he used it effectively during the game after selling a head fake. Dudley may not be the most athletic player on the team but he more than makes up for it in his basketball IQ. He has shown that he is capable starter and a team leader. Over the last couple seasons Dudley has been asked to increase his offensive production which is a good and bad thing. Dudley is not someone you want being your 2nd or 3rd scoring option which he was unfortunately the last 2 seasons. Now surrounded by 4 players who have all proven to contain the capability do score 15 points per game with starter minutes, Dudley can go back to his role of a 3 point sniper and occasional slasher. He will still have his midrange jumper as well to compliment his other scoring threats. Dudley has always been a great team player and consistently makes the right play whether that be pass or shot. Wish Nash and Hill gone I expect Dudley to take over as one of the few vets and team leaders. He will be a great piece to our starting 5.
Luis Scola- Another new face on the team this season will be the shaggy haired Luis Scola. Scola is a very nice acquisition for the Suns even in their rebuilding mode. Last season Scola put up 15.5 points a game to go along with 6.5 rebounds. The 32 year old Argentinian will be a stable force in the post for us and finally give us some sort of shot creation on the low block. Scola is known for his hard play and unique style under the rim. He often finishes with nice up and unders and scoop shots that define his finesse game around the rim. Along with his nice on court stats, Scola will also be a great locker room guy and a fan favorite as he was during his time in Houston. The mentoring aspect will also be huge for Markieff's game as well. Scola will help Keef work on his post D and O if by nothing else just facing off in practice. Scola is the ultimate professional and team guy which is exactly what we need these younger guys seeing. With a double double front-court mate in Gortat, I could easily see Scola replicating last years averages of 15 and 6.5. I expect Morris to push Scola for minutes but Luis should still be able to have plenty of opportunity to score. There is also the fact that he started a good chunk of games with Dragic so hopefully that chemistry will carry over. It will be interesting to see what kind of plays Gentry can draw up to use Scola in the post seeing as how we haven't had that option in sometime. Scola will have a very nice year this year.
Marcin Gortat- Oh the Steve Nash effect. I don't think any one player has been more ridiculed for his inability to play effectively without Nash spoon feeding him. While his production is likely to take a hit, we must look at other forces that will effect his game this season. Marcin was the best pick and roll option we have had with Nash since STAT was here. That is his bread and butter. He will now have to prove that he can score without being assisted bu a beautiful, vintage Nash bounce pass. We need not be so negative on our predictions for the big guy this season. The problem last year was Gortat led our team in points per game last year at 15. He was really one of the only scoring threats we had on that team. I keep having flashbacks to that late season Jazz game where he was blocked like 5 times in the first half. The Utah front court was focusing in on Gortat and meeting him at the top every time especially with the help of a double team. This may not be the case this season. We enter this year with very capable scorers in Dragic, Scola, and Beasley. Gortat can no longer be the sole focus of the defense. With the ability of Scola in the low post, Gortat should have plenty of opportunity to hit the 15-18 foot jump shot which he feels comfortable doing. He and Scola should compliment each other very well. Rebounding is another area where Gortat will also still remain effective at. So I could see his scoring coming down a bit maybe to the 12 point per game range but his rebounding should remain at around 10 or a little better a game.
So with this predicted starting 5, I think we have a very solid core for the future outside of Scola though he will be a very important piece of the process. The main question mark surrounding this group will be chemistry. Can this team come together during preseason and training camp to learn how to play effectively together? I think that they can. It's gonna take time to gel. I have the upmost confidence in Dragic running this team and I think he is gonna get these guys to play well together. This team should certainly be fun to watch.