What a hell of a season the Phoenix Suns had last year, didn’t
they?! After missing the playoffs for the first time in 4 years in the
previous season, the expectations weren’t that high for the Suns. The
oddsmakers gave them a 41/42 total wins line for the season, so the
expectations were for the Suns to be a .500 team with marginal chances
to go to the playoffs.
They have started strong the season by winning 14 of their first 17
games, but then they cooled off in December and January, when they
compiled a 14-18 record. Despite some trade speculation around Amare
Stoudemire, the Suns didn’t make any trades before the trade deadline
and then suddenly they start to play great basketball by finishing the
regular season 26-7 in the last 3 months of the competition.
We all knew that the Suns would be a terrific offensive team because
Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire were there. But the Suns really took a
step further and were unquestionably the best offensive team last
season. No team shot better from the field than the Suns last season
with 49.2% FG and they also shot an outstanding 41.2 percent from
three-point territory last season - the highest shooting percentage in a
season since the 96′-97′ NBA season!
However, it was not only their offense who was the main culprit of
such fantastic season. The Suns improved on the defensive end from
“terrible to bad”, which provided some relief to their offense and they
were actually a good rebounding team – 14th best in the league with
+0.68 rebounds margin per game.
Also their second unit was one of the best units in the league and a
really game changer unit, when they were on the court. Do you remember
the game 3 of the playoffs against San Antonio, in which the Suns took
over the game in the final quarter with all the starters out and
Dragic single-handed the Spurs?
In the Western Conference Finals, the Suns used an efficient zone
defense that gave some problems to the Lakers and if it wasn’t for Ron
Artest’s buzzer beat lay up, the Lakers would have been pushed to the
limit in that series.
2009/10 Advanced Stats:
Pace 4th 98.5
Offense 1st 112.0
Defense 21st 107.2
Rebounds 14th +0.68
Projected Depth Chart:
PG: Steve Nash, Goran Dragic
SG: Jason Richardson, Josh Childress, Matt Janning
SF: Grant Hill, Jared Dudley
PF: Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick, Earl Clark, Gani Lawal
C: Robin Lopez, Channing Frye
Do you remember those Phoenix Suns’ teams of the mid 2000’s, when
they were the most entertaining team to watch in the league and gave
another dimension to a competition dominated by the hard nosed teams
like the Spurs and the Pistons?
Well, from those teams there’s only one player left in the roster:
Steve Nash! The truth must be told, he is the only indispensable piece
of the Suns high tempo puzzle and the reason why every single player
look better than he really is while playing for the Phoenix Suns. It is
way too easy to score points when you have a clean and free look to
the basket and that is what Steve Nash has been providing for a long
If you think about it, Steve Nash is a freak of nature at 36-years
old! How many players in the history of the league are able to shot
above 50% from the field, above 40% behind the line and hitting above
90% from the free throw line? Steve Nash is having these kind of
numbers in the last 5(!) seasons! Last season, he had the best True
Shooting Percentage of any player in the game. Of course Amare
Stoudemire is now in New York and the Suns will have to find other
options, this will be a bigger challenge for him, however I remember
that Amare played only 3 games in 05-06 season and still the Suns went
to the Western Conference Finals!
Without Amare Stoudemire, the Suns signed Hakim Warrick and traded
for Hedo Turkoglu, who can play in multiple positions and the Suns want
him to play major minutes at Power Forward, but I have some doubts
about his abilities at this position, especially on the defensive end
against the powerful PF’s of this game.
Last year, he had a subpar season in Toronto mainly because he was
forced to play the role of traditional wing and not as a point forward
like when he played in Orlando. As a point forward, Turkoglu can use
his unique combination of size and playmaking skills to punish
defenders, but without the ball, he is merely a role player. However,
how will you have the ball in your hands when you are playing with
Steve Nash at the same time? That’s the biggest challenge for the team
in my opinion! Probably Turkoglu will be the playmaker when Steve Nash
is resting in the bench, but this combination will be pivotal for the
Suns’ this year.
At least the Suns are now playing with a traditional center in Robin
Lopez. When the Suns were in trouble midway the season last year,
coach Gentry promoted Lopez to the starter role and since then, the
Suns got better. With Turkoglu playing at PF, Lopez will have to
dominate in the paint and grab every possible rebound or else the Suns
will be in trouble. Last season, as a starter, he averaged 6.2 boards
per game while playing almost 25 minutes per game – he needs to improve
On the wings, the Suns have great versatility and variety on the roster.
Jason Richardson enjoyed a truly great season with the Suns by
posting 15.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 47.4 FG% and 39.3 3pts%. In the playoffs, he
raised his level and was terrific down the stretch. Probably he won’t
average 20 points per game no more in his career, but he is very
efficient on the court and as long Steve Nash delivers the ball to him,
we can expect him to shoot almost 50% from the field.
Grant Hill is the 3rd oldest player in the league at the age of 38,
but he was still able to play all but one game in the last 2 years,
which is fantastic considering his past record in terms of injuries.
Like Jason Richardson, Grant Hill had great percentage numbers by
shooting 47.8% FG & 43.8% 3pts, while playing 30 minutes per game.
Eventually the Suns will have to monitor his minutes, but this won’t be
a problem for them because they have some nice depth in the wings.
Jared Dudley was a nice surprise for the Suns, as he was their best
wing defender and an energetic player coming off the bench. He doesn’t
have the same offensive repertoire than his position teammates but his
energy is really contaminating and one of the biggest contributors for
the terrific 2009/10 season of the team. The Suns algo signed Josh
Childress, who returns to the NBA after playing overseas in Europe.
Childress is a perfect fit for the Suns because his athleticism and
speed will make strides by playing along with Steve Nash.
To complete the backcourt, the Suns have Goran Dragic and Dragic has
a bright future in the NBA, but for now he is coming off the bench
giving some rest to Nash. The lack of confidence in him has been his
biggest enemy so far, but when he is confident, he can make some impact
in the game, the San Antonio Spurs know that better than anyone!
For the frontcourt the Suns have also Channing Frye and Hakim
Warrick. Frye is coming from a fresh five-year, $30 million contract
with the Suns and his outside range is a perfect compliment for the
Suns’ style of play, although his defense is questionable at best. On
the other side, Warrick has been a productive role player during his
career, even though he is undersized for his position.
Without Stoudemire and with a 36-years old player leading the team,
everyone is expecting the Suns to fall and entering into a rebuilding
process. However, as long as Steve Nash keeps playing, we should never
discount the Suns because Nash has the rare ability to make any player
surrounding him a better overall player.