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How The Suns Might Deal Without Barbosa

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Leandro Barbosa has had a rough start to the season with a nagging wrist injury and now a sprained ankle. How will the Suns adjust in his absence? (Photo by Max Simbron)
Leandro Barbosa has had a rough start to the season with a nagging wrist injury and now a sprained ankle. How will the Suns adjust in his absence? (Photo by Max Simbron)

[Note by Phoenix Stan, 11/30/09 3:30 PM MST ]

Update: We just learned that Leandro is out "2-4 weeks" according to Sports 620 KTAR

 

Leandro Barbosa has had a rough start to the season. After starting the first two games in place of the suspended Jason Richardson (he averaged 20.5 pts) Leandro re-injured his wrist in the third game against the Timberwolves and has struggled since. And by "struggled" I mean 11.2 points on 47.5% shooting and 41.7% from three.

I can think of a few teams that could use that kind of "struggle" off their bench.

Still, his minutes have been down and his impact has been noticeably reduced. That has been partly due to the improved benchmates he's now playing with but his wrist is still sore and bothering his ability to catch the ball and feel comfortable on the dribble.

In Sunday's game against the Raptors he looked as good as he had all season coming off the bench and providing key offensive punch to the tune of 17 points in 15 minutes before going down with a rolled ankle.

Paul Coro has the details but it looks like he will be out at least two games but Leandro is saying two weeks and that would have him missing the next seven. If his ankle swelled that much, that fast I am leaning towards his estimate over the official team report.

Where does that leave the Suns to make up for his 17 minutes of crucial bench scoring?

The first obvious move will be to activate Alando Tucker to fill the open spot while Leandro recovers. Tucker in theory could pick up some of Barbosa's minutes and he might in certain match-ups but I suspect we will see Alvin Gentry go in a different direction.

Tucker is not the future of this team and the extra time in this case might very well go to Earl Clark. To replace a speedy shooting guard with a combo small/power forward doesn't make direct sense but it works if you slide Hill over to play the SG with the second unit.

What the Suns have been doing is bringing in Barbosa early in the 1st and 3rd quarters so Richardson can get his rest and then play with the 2nd unit. Instead of doing this the Suns can bring in Dudley sooner and put Hill on the floor with Dragic and have Clark pick up the extra minutes at the small forward.

The Suns have also been bringing in either Amundson or now Lopez to send either Frye or Amare to the bench early so one of them is on the floor with the reserves as well.

This would give you a lot of time with Nash, Amare/Frye/Amundson/Lopez, Dudley and Richardson and then Dragic, Hill, Clark, Amundson/Lopez and Frye/Amare.

As we've seen, Gentry isn't going to play five bench guys at once (until garbage time) so it is tough to predict exactly how the rotations will play out. He's said that he makes these decisions on the fly based on what he's seeing in the game so if he doesn't have a specific plan we can't be expected to either!

The point is that Clark and not Tucker could be the beneficiary of the increased minutes with Hill picking up some time at the two.

Dragic might also see an increased role. Lately, the Suns have been going to Barbosa more in order to get him going. Goran will have now have an opportunity to run the offense without sharing the ball with LB.

You don't "replace" a guy like Leandro but the Suns depth should be able to weather the storm. Injuries are when the bench really has a chance to prove itself.