Each year, the folks at SB Nation preview their teams for the rest of the world to see. This "Cliffs Notes" preview is a snapshot of the team from the Valley of the Sun. We do know that "he who was MVP" is no longer running the show, but we're ready to move on to the next era.
Team Name: Phoenix Suns
Last Year’s Record: 33-33 (10th place in the West)
Key Losses: Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick, Michael Redd, Ronnie Price, Robin Lopez
Key Additions: Luis Scola, Michael Beasley, Goran Dragic, Wesley Johnson, Kendall Marshall, Jermaine O’Neal
1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?
Welcome to the rebuilding era of the Phoenix Suns. The two faces of the franchise, Steve Nash and Grant Hill, have both found new homes in Los Angeles, Nash with the Lakers and Hill with the Clippers. For the first time in eight years, the Suns are without their franchise point guard and two-time MVP. It was a tough pill to swallow.
Childress met the amnesty axe ending his brief and disappointing stint with the Suns. Michael Redd remains floating in the free agency pool and Ronnie Price has found a new home backing up Damian Lillard and Nolan Smith in Portland. Warrick and Lopez have both been shipped off to New Orleans.
Enter: the New Guys. With the 13th overall selection in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Suns chose North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall. Marshall might not start right off the bat because of the return of Goran Dragic and the solid play of Sebastian Telfair last season, but I can see Phoenix handing him the reigns to the team within the next two seasons. Winning the amnesty auction for Scola gives the Suns a pretty decent inside presence with him and double-double machine Marcin Gortat. Phoenix also is taking some risks by signing Michael Beasley and Jermaine O’Neal and hoping Wesley Johnson contributes more than he did in Minnesota.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Outside observers, at first glance, won’t have many good things to say about the new-look Phoenix Suns. They see that Nash is gone and has left thousands of fans with out-of-date No. 13 jerseys. I see something different. I see a Suns team that finally has youth at its foundation and a high ceiling for potential.
Besides Hill and Nash, the Suns lost five role players. With Scola, Beasley and Dragic, they have gained three potential starters. Kendall Marshall has potential to be a franchise point guard. Markieff Morris is coming off a strong rookie campaign. Shannon Brown and Jared Dudley are joined by Wesley Johnson to give Phoenix a young, fast offensive-core that has potential for excitement.
With a team this young, chemistry is vital for youth to either be their strength or their weakness.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
The weakness of the team is that they lack consistency. For eight years, they had one of the best guards that the NBA has ever seen. The Suns knew who was going to be leading them, who was going to deliver night in and night out and who was going to have the ball with the game on the line. That consistency is gone. Nobody knows who is going to take that last shot.
The other weak aspect of the team is that they lack size. Besides Gortat and Scola, Phoenix doesn’t possess another big man who can bring in rebounds and provide stability in the paint. Markieff Morris is inconsistent and Jermaine O’Neal has not been able to prove he can remain healthy. The Suns might have to employ a lot of small-ball lineups that spot Beasley or Johnson at the four. Losing Channing Frye for the season, if not his career, was a blow in this area. I would not be surprised if the Suns go with a big man in the next draft or try to make a move for one during the season.
4. What are the goals for the team?
The main goal for this team should be to remain competitive for a fringe playoff spot. I understand that is a very optimistic goal, but that’s why it is exactly that … a goal. Realistically, Phoenix needs to show that they are a unified team. They need to demonstrate that they can be competitive in their post-Nash era.
The Suns front office has to prove with action that they believe the team has a chance. They have to show that they are willing to spend, build and create a team that will be competitive in the near future. No more treading water.
5. Is there any hope for the Phoenix Suns in the future?
Yes. Although next year’s draft class is considerably weaker than the 2012 class, there are some viable prospects that can fit well with the Suns. Phoenix has a youthful core that has potential, plus a boatload of draft picks and cap space, to give the Suns a bright future and create some excitement on the court. I think that in order for the Suns to be a real threat in the Western Conference, they need to add size and a consistent scoring threat.