Much has been made of the depth of this Phoenix Suns team.
They already have 10 guys who WILL play, given good health. Nash/Dragic, JRich/Childress, Hill/Dudley, Turkoglu/Warrick and Lopez/Frye.
Their only weakness is at starting-caliber Power Forward. Yet, wth 10 guys in the rotation, SOMEONE will play the 4 for 48 minutes a night. These guys will make it work somehow via mixing and matching and change-of-pace that no other NBA offers, perfect for a successful regular season.
On top of that, the Suns have PF talent on the bench that could blossom with enough minutes, in 22 yr old Earl Clark (who is having a very good camp, apparently) and 21-yr old rookie Gani Lawal.
How do we get all these guys minutes? And, since the rotation is so long, is anyone irreplaceable in case of catastrophy?
Let's take a look at the starting lineup.
Steve Nash: For the first time since Nash returned to the Valley in 2004, he has an effective backup at PG. In fact, going into the 2010-2011 season, the Suns have 2 different playmaking options that can play off each other in the same lineup and/or take turns running the team. No one in the league can replace Nash entirely, and the Suns will not be as good if Nash misses any significant time, but in terms of "holding the fort", there are options. Real options.
I can see Hedo and Dragic clashing for playmaking opps when Nash is getting the majority of plays, but if Nash were to miss some time I can see these two thriving together. Dragic can make spot-up 3s as well as slash to the basket for a quick finish off a good entry pass from Hedo. Plus, they could each take a wing and attack whatever mismatch the defense offers, given that both can run the offense effectively.
Viable Backup(s): Goran Dragic, Hedo Turkoglu; "Oh crap, what now?" Backups: Grant Hill, Jared Dudley
Situation: Surprisingly Solid, but only for short stretches and not the best way to win a ring
Jason Richardson: This SG's main skills are on the offensive side of the ball. He was a knock-down shooter on open 3s last season - a trait sorely missed since Raja Bell was traded to Charlotte. It seems elementary to make a side-open shot, but in fact that skill is a rarity to consistently make key open 3-ptrs on a defensive breakdown. In addition, Jason can post up smaller players, get out in transition (two-handed dunks, man!), and rebound pretty well (4-5 a game). But he's not a good on-ball defender or help defender, and he's inconsistent making his own plays.
While JRich is the most talented SG on the roster, the list of viable backups are seemingly endless, each one bringing some part of J-Rich's game, and even something different too: Duds (on-ball defense, help defense, open shot-making), Childress (on-ball defense, help defense, efficient offense), Hedo (shot-making, passing, mismatches).
Viable Backup(s): Josh Childress, Jared Dudley; "Oh crap, what now?" Backups: Grant Hill, Hedo Turkoglu
Situation: Very Solid.
Grant Hill: The Suns' starting SF makes a difference on the collective whole, rather than in the box score. His numbers are fairly pedestrian for a guy playing his minutes, so statistically the Suns have a lot of guys in reserve who can "fill his shoes". Where the Suns would miss Grant is in the area of leadership. Hopefully, if Grant misses time he will transition into a pseudo assistant coach, leaving the Suns only missing his clutch plays and calming on-floor influence. Duds makes a huge difference of his own, as will Turkoglu and Childress.
Viable backup(s): Jared Dudley, Josh Childress, Hedo Turkoglu; OCWN Backups: Clark, JRich, Warrick
Situation: Very Solid.
Hedo Turkoglu: The Suns' starting PF is not really a PF. So, in context of "how to replace Hedo at PF", there are a lot of options that, on the surface, can't be any worse. Lots of guys on the roster could produce if given the PF minutes, in the event that Hedo misses time.
The only problem with those other options is that the Suns would have no idea what to expect on any given night. With Hedo, you KNOW what you're going to get (shot-making, playmaking, mismatches, poor post defense, poor rebounding) and where you need to fill in your gaps when he's at PF (rebounding, help defense, at-the-basket scoring, p-n-r roll man). Whereas, with any other option it's a total crapshoot. If you start Warrick, do you really know what will happen each night? Or Lawal? Either of these guys could drop 16 and 8 one night, then 2 and 1 the next. Hedo has the experience and moxie to produce consistently. That's why he's the starter.
Viable backup(s): Hakim Warrick, kinda; OCWN Backups: Most everyone else on roster
Situation: Tenuous, scary, yet interesting in a I-would-lose-sleep-over-this kinda way
Robin Lopez: The Suns' starting C provides size, defense, "presence" and a blossoming pick-n-roll finishing option. In Robin, the Suns could have their first real all-star Center in team history. And I mean REAL. He's 7 feet tall and a true C. Not a PF masquerading for mismatches (Amare or Alvan Adams). When Robin went dow last year, Gentry started Jarron Collins in his place. Why? Because the rotation was smokin, and everyone had their place. Frye did not belong in the starting lineup next to Amare because he couldn't mask Amare's weaknesses with help defense whenever Amare got burned. Hedo at PF will be the same. I seriously doubt the Suns could play Frye and Hedo together for more than 3-4 chageup minutes at a time. So, when I list Robin's backups, I keep that in mind.
Viable backup(s): None; OCWN Backups: Jones/Siler, Frye
Situation: Scary bad
Remember, I'm looking at this from the "can X replace Y's specific contributions if Y misses time?" point of view.
Of course, if someone gets hurt then Gentry will make a new rotation work. Last year, the Suns didn't have a viable backup for Robin's skills, yet made the Conference Finals without him.
This is not a doomsday scenario. And this is not breaking new ground either.
Just trying to start another "what's the rotation going to look like?" discussion...