Season Preview: Phoenix Suns

Team History:

The Phoenix Suns have a history best described as “close, but no cigar”.  The Suns have a grand total of 0 championships in their elongated history. No championships with Kevin Johnson, Charles Barkley, Jason Kidd, Stephon Marbury, or Steve Nash. Despite having often one of the most talented teams in the league, the Suns have never reached the mountaintop.

One of the more memorable moments in Suns history is the 1993 NBA Finals when the Phoenix Suns went against the two-time defending champion Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan. The Suns were an excellent team in 1993; winning over 60 games in the season and having Charles Barkley win the MVP award. Alongside Sir Charles, the Suns sported a lineup with Danny Ainge, Kevin Johnson, and Dan Majerle. Unfortunately for the Suns, Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time and the Bulls defeated the Suns in 6 games with a ridiculous 41 PPG average in the season.

Since then, the Suns have had their ups and downs. The Mike D’Antoni era captivated the nation at large, inspiring adoration and awe with a style of play that hasn’t been associated with the league in quite some time. Steve Nash has gone from a very good player to a multiple MVP award winner. The Suns have most recently missed the playoffs after attempting to slam the brakes on their explosive offense, only to revert back to their old ways with D’Antoni disciple Alvin Gentry assuming the position of head coach after Terry Porter was run from town.

2008-09 Record: 46-36 (missed playoffs), 2nd place in Pacific Division, 9 place in Western Conference. 

Coach: Alvin Gentry

Projected Lineup:

  • PG: Steve Nash – I like Steve Nash, a lot. Sure, he is aging and might not be able to produce like he used to. To be fair, he used to produce MVP stats worthy of possible hall of fame induction. Despite his age, he is still more than capable of operating the fast break, often better than many of his younger peers.
  • SG: Jason Richardson – I’m still puzzled why GM Steve Kerr made the move to dump Boris Diaw and Raja Bell for Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley. Even if the ultimate purpose was to move to a half-court offense, how is Jason Richardson a better fit than Bell? In fact, Richardson is probably better suited for the run-and-gun offense given his capacity to finish above the rim.
  • SF: Grant Hill – Talk about a raw deal. At one point in time, Grant Hill was a phenomenal young player who had MVP and championship aspirations. Then the injury bug bit him. Hard. It is similar to the Ken Griffey Jr. saga, only Hill has recaptured some of the magic he once had. Given that, I root for Hill, and because he seems like a stand up guy who seems to have all his affairs in order.
  • PF: Amar’e Stoudemire – I feel like I’m saying this too much, but I like Amar’e. The way he plays the game is fun to watch, like Dwight Howard but on offense. He is oft injured and that is what has kept him from truly dominating the league, as his potential would indicate he could. This being his contract season, Amar’e has even more motivation (if he needs it) to stay healthy and truly show how good he is.
  • C: Channing Frye – So maybe he isn’t a true center, but odds are he and Amar’e will likely switch positions with one another throughout the course of a game. Judging from the Suns’ preseason game against the Warriors, Frye looks like he will have a breakout season. His extended shooting range and ability to run the floor is a perfect fit for the rediscovered Suns’ offense.

Key Gains:

  • Earl Clark – A talented youngster from Louisville, Clark is an athletic forward who looks to give Amar’e the occasional breather. 

Key Losses:

  • Shaquille O’Neal – The big cactus didn’t quite work out for Phoenix, acting more like an anchor than a propeller for the Suns the past two seasons. With the move, the Suns are admitting their mistake and starting over with a D’Antoni like system.

 

Season Preview:

I am a fan of the Suns. Now, that is similar to saying that I am a fan of food or breathing. What basketball fan wouldn’t enjoy watching a fun style of basketball where the purpose seems to be having fun?

Regardless, that means I am rooting for the Suns. That can be attributed to many different things, one of which is the fact that the Suns have been seemingly robbed by destiny multiple times on their march to glory. Another is the fact that the team is comprised more and more with aging players who have already seen their best playing days. 

Despite the fact that the Suns are moving towards a retirement community and away from being championship contenders, they still have a punchers chance in the West. Are they the favorites? Absolutely not, that distinction belongs to the Lakers and/or the Spurs. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Suns slipped deep into the playoffs, perhaps surprising the Lakers or Spurs.

I would predict a better finish for the Suns this year than last year, given that they will be starting with an offense that they are comfortable with instead of a new and standard one. But what does that mean? Given what they were able to do last year in the limited time under Gentry (more prolific than at any time with D’Antoni), I foresee a season with over 50 wins. Where does that put them in the heavily contested Western Conference? They are certainly behind the Lakers, the Spurs. Perhaps they are behind the revamped Mavericks, Denver, and Portland. That puts them anywhere from 4 to 7 in the West, slightly ahead of the Hornets and the Rockets (that depends entirely on the status of T-Mac). I hope the Suns have a little left in the tank, one more run left before they truly become too old to contend.

 

Quote this:

“Our team is different. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we know Steve Nash singed and we’re very happy about that … Plus, we have Amare Stoudemire returning. They’re both good. I think we’ll do well.”

– Leandro Barbosa

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