Feb. 20, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns gorilla mascot during game against the Washington Wizards at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Wizards 104-88. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Good guy Kris Habbas spent the week breaking down the Suns' most important faces for the 2012-13 season. The list was fair game to include anyone related to the Suns. He asked all the BSotS writers to submit their own ideas for the top-25, then asked us each to rank the final list.
What came out of that process was interesting in many ways. The Suns' front office ranks poorly, the players are middling and the "other" list dominated the standings.
Hit the jump for details...
P.J. Tucker comes in as the Mr. Irrelevant - #25 on the list of the 25 Most Important Faces of the Suns franchise. But don't feel too bad for Tucker. By virtue of his ability to put on a uniform ranks him ahead of such luminaries as defensive guru Elston Turner, personnel boss John Treloar, color analyst Tom Chambers, new play-by-play guy Mr. Whatshisname, PR diva Julie Fie, stats guy Vince Kozar, and beat reporter Paul Coro. So there's that. More on these folks later in the story.
HOW THE SUNS FRONT OFFICE RANKED
In one word: poorly. These guys make all the personnel decisions that shape the franchise. They pay the bills, attract free agents and scout the world for the next big thing. Yet since they've taken over for still-minority-owner Steve Kerr, the Suns have dropped from Western Conference Finalist to rebuilding also-rans.
19. President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby - Uncle Lon ranks above his brethren simply because he's the one willing to take the heat on camera for each decision by the Suns' front office. He also took the heat for the inevitable turnover from geriatric Suns Steve Nash and Grant Hill. No matter what the next guy does after Lon's contract is up, the hardest part is done.
22. Managing Partner Robert Sarver - I personally ranked Sarver higher on the list of 25. He attends all the games, bumped up his contract offers in the past to keep Steve Nash (extension in 2010), Grant Hill (2010 and 2011) and Jared Dudley (5th year on 2010 extension) off the open market. When he finally caved and let two of them go this summer, he stepped up to approve the Nash trade for at least some assets, got commitment from Goran Dragic to return and claimed Scola off waivers. At least that's the off-the-record scuttlebutt. He doesn't want to tank.
24. General Manager Lance Blanks - Lance's top priority this summer was Michael Beasley - a low risk, high reward signing that will look good if it pans out, and can't possibly look worse than the Childress/Warrick signings of 2010. So he's got small shoes to fill on that front. But he drops almost to the bottom of this top-25 (I had him 25th, personally) because his top offseason target was Michael Beasley and in every press conference Lance attended this summer, he made some allusion to the good side of "lower expectations".
HOW THE SUNS COACHES RANKED
There's not a coaching genius in the bunch, but at least Suns fans appreciate the work put in by the coaches.
9. Head Coach Alvin Gentry - Fans generally give Gentry a passing grade for two main reasons: he is likeable and his teams play better in the second half than the first half, despite the declining second-half play of Steve Nash in each of those seasons. His teams always stayed together, never getting too high or too low. This season, we find out if that was Nash/Hill more than Gentry who kept the morale up so high.
10. Assistant Coach Dan Majerle - While Majerle is in the coaching list, he better belongs in the "faces" list along with Eddie Johnson. His primary role on the coaching staff is to develop young players, yet I haven't seen much development. But people love him, and his contributions to the Suns franchise since the dreamy run of 1988 have him cemented in the top-10 all-time.
HOW THE SUNS PLAYERS RANKED
5. Starting Point Guard Goran Dragic - In a ranking of the Suns' most important faces of the 2012-13 season, the highest ranking active player was at #5 overall? Yikes. At least the order is right. Goran belongs at the top because (a) people love him, (b) great memories of waxing the Spurs and (c) he's the most talented guy on the roster. Goran has high-level abilities at passing, shooting, driving, finishing and defense. He's big for his position and is humble. Plus, he proved he can lead a playoff contender in Houston. What more can we ask for?
6. Starting Center Marcin Gortat - As with last year, the Polish Machine is the second-best player on the Suns. On a contender, he would only be - at best - the 4th or 5th best player. Can he still score without Nash feeding him the ball? Yes! Can he hold up over the grind of an 82-game season banging under the basket with bigger guys? That's the biggest question.
8. Swingman Jared Dudley - Mr. Twitter as the 3rd most important player on the team? Yes. Mr. Social Media as the 3rd BEST player on the team? Ouch. Not a good sign. Dudley is hugely important to any team and is on a great contract, but he definitely should not be your third best player on the court.
11. Power Forward Markieff Morris - As I wrote the other day, the Suns need "Summer Morris" to show up this season. The alpha dog who can score in a multitude of ways and more than anything asserts his will on the game when he takes the court. On a team with only two "sure things" in the starting lineup, Morris has an opportunity to shine. The fact that six different guys - five from BSotS and Habbas from SB Nation AZ - ultimately ranked Morris as #4 on the player list tells you how much we all think of his potential (as well as the rest of the team).
12. Down and Out Channing Frye - sad panda. Frye had developed himself into a solid defensive rebounder and post defender despite being a total mess on offense the last couple of years. Yet Gentry relied on Channing in his starting lineup because he is smart, reliable and predictable. And, he created needed space for the Gortat/Nash pick-and-roll.
13. Power Forward Luis Scola - the Argentinian is different than any PF the Suns have had. He scores on a variety of creative post moves, all without leaving the comfort of solid ground. He can get into opponents' heads by making hustle plays and generally getting under their skin (ask Kevin Love, for example). Teammates LOVE Scola and opponents hate him. We haven't had that since Raja Bell.
14. Uber-talented Enigmatic Michael Beasley - If SuperCool can step up his game, he can help the Suns make the playoffs. Without Frye in the lineup, expect Beasley to play some small-ball PF where he's most suited. But he won't play that a lot if Morris steps up and Scola stays healthy.
15. Shooter Shannon Brown - last year's most athletic Sun is now just another athlete on a team of athletes who have not maxed out their potential. Just add Brown to the list of Beasley, Morris, Johnson and Dragic as the most athletic Suns. Brown must play well and do all the right things on the court to earn his playing time.
17. Backup Point Guard Sebastian Telfair - by no means should "starter" and "Telfair" be in the same sentence. He simply doesn't run the offense or provide enough of a scoring threat to lead a team for 30 minutes a night. But he's a great change-of-pace hustler for 10-15 minutes, as long as his shot is falling. When he's missing his jump shots though, the Suns go through killer stretches of 3 points in 6 minutes...
18. Rookie Backup Point Guard Kendall Marshall - it's good that there's no pressure on Marshall to perform this year. He can't shoot the basketball and may not be able to defend at NBA level. Yet he can pass and run an offense like nobody's business. Give this kid a year to watch and learn (a jumpshot and/or floater) and we'll see him rocket up this chart.
20. Backup veteran center Jermaine O'Neal - now that Frye is out, O'Neal is the Suns primary backup C. Let's hope #1 ranked Aaron Nelson has some more magic up his...uh...sleeve to keep O'Neal on the court. When healthy, he can make a jump shot, defend and block shots.
23. Swingman Wesley Johnson - he's got a prototype body and athletic ability for a wing player, picture-perfect jumpshot form, and a humble personality. He just hasn't learned to play basketball.
25. Mr. Irrelevant P.J. Tucker - with Frye out, Tucker's chance to shine just got brighter. We just don't know what that means.
OTHER "FACES" OF THE FRANCHISE, or THE CREAM OF THE CROP
Forget the players, coaches and front office personnel. The OTHER folks dominated the rankings of most important faces of the franchise. A trainer, a voice, a guy in a monkey suit (who's job is open right now) and a gaggle of girls rank above all the Suns players and decision-makers.
That they easily took the top 4 spots, and 5 of the top 7, is all you need to know about the Suns franchise at this time. Ugh.
1. Head Trainer Aaron Nelson
2. Play by Play Voice Al McCoy
3. The Gorilla
4. Dancers/Hip Hop Squad
7. Color Analyst Eddie Johnson
16. New Color Analyst Ann Meyers-Drysdale
21. Ousted play-by-play guy Tom Leander
With #12 overall Channing Frye out of the picture, we have an opening. Vote in the poll on who YOU would add to the top 25.
Who should take Channing Frye's place in the top 25?
Elston Turner (50 votes)
Tom Chambers (34 votes)
John Treloar (3 votes)
Other (name the person in your comments) (6 votes)
93 total votes