Things are about to get interesting on Planet Orange, and Wesley Johnson could be a big part of that.
The Phoenix Suns' roster has undergone a massive overhaul during this off-season. Gone are the veterans that served as the faces of the franchise for the last several years. Steve Nash and Grant Hill have both relocated to Los Angeles. Michael Redd, another veteran, probably will not return. Even role players Robin Lopez, Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick have moved on.
The departure of Nash marked the end of an era in Phoenix. However, the front office has expressed its distaste with scrapping the team and starting over through the draft. This team will not bottom out. It will not perform a complete rebuild.
That being said, it is clear when looking at the moves made this summer that the team was looking to get younger. Goran Dragic, Nash's replacement at point guard, is 13 years younger than his former teacher. Michael Beasley, the early favorite to start at small forward, is 16 years younger than Grant Hill. Overall, the Suns have managed to shave over two years off the average age of the team.
Many here are excited for the new direction. Some grew bored with the Nash-led teams and feel this new team will, if nothing else, at least be entertaining. All I have to say to that is be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.Getting younger is probably the right call for the team at this point in time. However, doing so usually entails taking a step (or two, or three) back in the short term.
When I think about the 2012-13 Phoenix Suns and try to predict what I'm going to see on the court, the ancient Chinese curse "may you live in interesting times," comes to mind. This team is going to be very interesting, and that isn't necessarily a good thing.
The truth is, this season has the potential to be very frustrating for the fans who watch the games. The Suns may have acquired some younger players, but included in that haul are two former top-five draft picks who have been major disappointments thus far in their careers. The Suns also return a couple of players who are not exactly known for their decision-making and level-headed play.
I wrote about what to expect from Beasley in-depth before, but it bears repeating that he is on his third team in five years for a reason. He will likely be playing on the wing for the Suns, which only increases the potential for frustration. Plenty of ball-stopping, long jump shots and turnovers on offense and frequent mental lapses on defense are to be expected with SuperCoolBeas on the wing.
Wesley Johnson will probably be backing up Beasley at the three, and the frustration factor shouldn't have much of a drop-off, if at all, when Beasley takes a seat. 7footer has already talked about Johnson's struggles. He's the guy that looks the part ... until you see him play. He's a long and athletic 6-foot-7 wing with a pretty-looking jump shot and a big smile, but he isn't actually very good at basketball things and his passiveness and inability to handle the ball specifically can be maddening.
Suns fans are all too familiar with Shannon Brown's game. Brown is master of the dribble-the-clock-down-and-jack-up-a-twenty-footer move and his shot selection is absolutely terrible at times. Brown seemed to figure it out a little bit towards the end of the season once he became a starter alongside Steve Nash, but a starting spot is not guaranteed and Nash is gone. Will we see the same improved Shannon Brown, or will there be a relapse?
Sebastian Telfair was one of the worst players in the NBA for most of last season before going on a tremendous run to close out the year. Can Telfair sustain his high level of play? If not, we're either going to be having an incompetent veteran or a rookie in Kendall Marshall who has a long way to go backing up Goran Dragic (who has yet to prove consistency in Phoenix himself) at the point.
Only six players return from last year's rotation. The team has a lot of new players to incorporate and likely a new offense to learn (trying to run a Steve Nash offense without Steve Nash is a bad idea). A slow start as the team comes together and builds some chemistry is more than likely.
This season is a rebuilding year of sorts. The team brought in some young prospects who have yet to prove themselves and are hoping a fresh start does them some good. This season is about developing the young players on the rosters and keeping the team's flexibility moving forward. As long as we understand this and see this season for what it is, things should be fine.
Watch for the little things, and a lot of good can come from this season. Pay more attention to improvement in the younger players than wins and losses. Watch to see if Beasley and Johnson can turn their careers around. Look for Goran Dragic to continue his development and become a leader.
But if you start expecting too much from this team, you're probably going to be in for plenty of disappointment and frustration.
Things are about to get interesting on Planet Orange.