This year is one of the bigger question marks for the Phoenix Suns in recent memory. While we lost some very important pieces in Grant Hill and Steve Nash, the Suns front office did an admirable job of closing the gaps quickly and intelligently without breaking the bank.
First off lets give Lon Babby and Lance Blanks a hand for putting this much talent on one team while still saving room for an almost max deal next free agency! Good job my fine gentlemen, and with James Harden being unrestricted next season, the Suns may very well be the best suited team to offer him what he wants.
The second thing I can say I was impressed with was managing to bring back Goran Dragic, a dynamite young player that many Suns fans were devastated to see go. As many of you know I have always been a huge proponent of how undervalued he has been and have often mentioned his effectiveness when playing extended minutes. However, even I couldn’t have predicted him averaging 18 point and over 8 assists when he took over a largely dismantled Houston Rockets team. The kid has talent we all know that, but what he managed to do in 26 games (and with remarkable consistency I might add) was nothing short of amazing.
Then with the added talent of Michael Beasley who is set up to post a career year and the cheap acquisition of both Luis Scola and resigning of Shannon Brown our starting line-up rivals many elite teams in terms of raw potential.
Now here is where I am going to make a wild prediction and lose half of the readers...This years starting line up will be worthy of a deep run in the playoffs. With their lack of offensive weaknesses and versatility to play 3 positions with almost every starter, the Suns will have no problem when Goran Dragic and the rest of the starting 5 are on the floor. And after they get over the early chemistry jitters the line up will be one of the most efficient and frightening ones in the league.
Okay, still with me? Well if you are thanks for hanging in...Here is where the Suns will either struggle or succeed. This year will be all about the bench.
This bunch of young players has a very similar makeup to the starters, a lot of talent from 1 to 5 whether it be a rookie point guard who dished assists like there weren’t any defenders against him, a small forward drafted 4th overall with incredible athletic ability, a power-forward who showed glimpses of brilliance last season and in the Summer League. We even have a center who strokes it from distance better then most 2 guards.
This all looks good on paper, but when you look closer you see a mismatch of inexperience and unproven talent.
While we have a potentially stellar point guard for the future in Kendall Marshall, he is still young and un-athletic with a game that will translate poorly at first. Playing much in the same vein as Andre Miller teams will be able to stay home on their defenders leaving him to wander with no one to dish to. His goal this season will be to have a go to offensive move to keep his defender honest so that when he penetrates he can command double teams and find the open man.
Wesley Johnson is the other huge question mark on this team, undoubtedly talented, he has been unable to translate that to the league, with uninspired shooting percentages and a terrible command of the ball, he is relegated to the corner shooter and an unimpressive one at that. Unless he can find a way to create his own shot, we will see very little of him and much more of Dudley, who can at least hold his own.
At power forward we have one of the biggest steals in the draft in the past few years, after a decent showing during the regular season last year it was apparent he had some growing to do. While he proved that he can rebound the ball at a high rate and lock up many undersized 4’s throughout the league, he had a hard time getting a handle on the larger more powerful ones fouling far too often and settling for the outside shot to much on offense.
However, luckily, he listened and in the Summer League he dominated, not just because he was surrounded by young untalented players, but because he had fleshed out his game. He looked stronger, quicker and had managed to add a few new moves to his repertoire mainly featuring his post game. While he still was inefficient his rebound prowess is very prominent and he is definitely the best player off the bench this year. As long as he continues his development expect him to be a very productive player.
At the 5 we have good old Channing Frye, who has managed to improve his game from previous years. When he first got to the team he became known as a knock down 3 point shooter, but when teams figured that out he was forced to add new elements to his game. While they have taken a while to see, last year he showed an improved touch around the rim and with that came a boost in overall rebounding numbers. Also his defense is much improved from the previous years, only having trouble with the truly elite centers now. Look for him to add a few more moves this season, but with him...patience is the key.
Breaking Down the Averages
While there are a number of unknowns at work predicting this season is pretty much a like taking a shot in the dark and hoping it hits a needle in a haystack on Mars, or something like that... Nevertheless, predicting is a very important part in preparing for the season so here is my expectations for the starting line up and bench for this season, best and worst scenarios.
best case scenario: 16pts 4.5rbs 10ast
worst case scenario: 13pts 2.5rbs 6.7ast
Either way I think Goran will play a key role regardless of the numbers he can produce, look for something between the best and worst case when everything levels out this season.
best case scenario: 16pts 4rbs 2.5ast
worst case scenario: 10pts 3rbs 1ast
Shannon Brown is the real unknown for the starters (including whether he will even start) he has the ability to be a 3rd option on offense behind Beasley and Goran or the 7th best and rarely contribute as more then a role player. Hope for the prior.
best case scenario: 21pts 7rbs 4ast
worst case scenario: 13pts 5rbs 2ast
Michael Beasley will undoubtedly bounce back from a smaller role on the Timberwolves with the added freedom he could easily expand upon his 2010 campaign where he put up 19 points a game. He has unlimited potential, and has yet to prove himself fully.
best case scenario: 15pts 7.5rbs 3ast
worst case scenario: 12pts 5rbs 2ast
With Luis Scola it’s often times not what you see on the scoreboard that he contributes, he is a hard worker and an excellent shooter, Suns fans should be delighted every time he is on the court, with a ton of olympic experience he should be the age that these youngsters need to ground them during big games.
best case scenario: 16pts 12rbs 2.5ast
worst case scenario: 12pts 11rbs 1.8ast
We all know what we are getting with Marcin Gortat, an excellent center with great defensive instincts as well as a nose for the ball when rebounding. He should improve on last years output even with the decline in easy buckets, I see him becoming a top 5 center next season.
Starting 5 Output
best case scenario: 84pts 35rbs 22ast
worst case scenario: 60pts 26.5rbs 13.5ast
Now these are season averages and this will change game to game dependent on match ups, whether the team is defensive minded. Think of these numbers as potential season averages if we were playing a team like last years Knicks, no defense.
best case scenario: 6pts 2rbs 6ast
worst case scenario: 4pts 1rbs 3ast
A great passer will still pass well, but his shooting will not be good overnight...again he is Andre Miller.
best case scenario: 9pts 4.5rbs 2ast
worst case scenario: 5pts 3.5rbs 1ast
best case scenario: 12pts 5rbs 4ast
worst case scenario: 10pts 4rbs 2ast
Jared Dudley plays good wherever he is...expect that again.
best case scenario: 14pts 8rbs 3ast
worst case scenario: 9pts 5rbs 2ast
Fans will see a much improved Markieff his efficiency will continue to be a minor problem as he develops, but expect him to break out this season. Luis could even become a reserve if he puts up best case scenario numbers
best case scenario: 11pts 7rbs 3ast
worst case scenario: 9pts 5.5rbs 1.5ast
He will be relegated to a more reserve role since we are pretty stacked at the 4 and 5, but he will still be Channing and stroke it well from distance. Here is to hoping that he doesn’t forget those post moves.
best case scenario: 52pts 26.5rbs 18ast
worst case scenario: 37pts 19.5rbs 9.5ast
What will we see from the Suns? A better scoring team, a slightly more athletic defense, and an all around solid starting line up. So there is hope for this team, but a lot of it is riding on the bench playing up to potential.