Phoenix Suns enter a new era
So, this is the last time you’ll hear from me about the Suns until the season starts. I promise. Though if something insane happens (like the suns trade for Dwight Howard or something, I reserve the right to rescind that.)The free agency period is a strange time in the NBA year. I find it odd that I’ve heard more talk about the Suns in this off-season than I think I have during the past two seasons combined. There’s always that sense of the unknown that comes with off-season moves, and also a sense of hope. (Cubs fans know what I mean: “Just wait til next year!”) I’m not immune to this by any means, as I have a lot of hope for the coming seasons.
Rebuilding in the NBA seems to be an enigma. Could you go the route of the Lakers and just never rebuild? That only seems to work in LA and maybe in Boston (Strange…the two teams with the most history…). Could you maybe go the route of Oklahoma City, playing poorly for years and stockpiling draft picks and cap space while drafting well. How about the route of Miami? Getting 3 stars to come play there and rebuild the team in 1 year. Oklahoma City got extremely lucky by having the #2 draft pick in a loaded draft where Greg Oden was the #1 pick. Without Durant, none of it even happens. Miami was just the perfect storm that they’re trying to recreate in Brooklyn right now, but encountering heavy resistance. Really, there’s no right way to go about it. Any strategy could backfire in your face at any moment if one wrong move is made, or one player you targeted changes his mind. I mean, imagine if LeBron’s “Decision” would have kept him in Cleveland? Where would Miami be now?
So the Suns have tried to go about it the best way they can following the Nash era. They have taken on low risk contracts with young players who have a lot of potential. In no way do I think that the Suns will be a title contender this year, but with the nucleus they are building, as long as they stay smart on their contract signings, I could see them contending in a few years. Here’s what the position breakdown looks like right now.
Goron Dragic/Kendall Marshall/Sebastian Telfair – I loved the Dragic signing. How many times in sports do you get a chance to see a front office basically say, “Yup! We screwed up! We should have never traded him and now we’re happy to have him back!” Dragic (along with a first round draft pick) was traded to Houston for Aaron Brooks, who played 25 games with the Suns before the lockout and then went to the abyss that is Chinese Basketball. Ironically enough, Houston is looking to sign Brooks to a deal, while the Suns already have Dragic. So we basically paid a developmental fee of a draft pick so Dragic could play more. Sweet. Kendall Marshall was a good draft pick for the Suns, and I still maintain that. I like that we don’t have to throw the rookie out there as our starting point guard immediately. He can take his time, learn the game and see what happens from there. Dragic can also play at the off guard spot at times, meaning we could run Marshall and Dragic at the same time. Telfair…well he played well in stretches, but he is clearly the teams #3 option.
???/Jared Dudley? Eric Gordon (Pretty Please?) – This is our most confusing position. The Eric Gordon situation in Phoenix appears to be over, but nothing is official as of Wednesday morning, which sucks because he would have been perfect for this team. As of right now, the Suns are looking to re-sign Shannon Brown possibly (who actually played well off of the bench last year) or go after OJ Mayo in free agency. As was mentioned earlier, I don’t want to have huge risk contracts on the team and to me, signing OJ to a 4 year deal like has been hinted at in the media could be too much of a risk. In my opinion, I’d like to see the Suns re-sign Shannon Brown to a 2 year deal (with the second year being a team option) and see what happens next year in free agency. Dudley is here for sure, and can play the “2 guard” but is much more suited to be a small forward. Best case scenario is we get Gordon somehow, someway. Since that has about a 1% chance of happening, I hope that they don’t go crazy on signing OJ Mayo.
Michael Beasley/Dudley/Josh Childress – Beasley is probably much more suited to play the power forward spot, but due to lack of bodies at the moment he might have to slide there in at the “3.” If Dudley doesn’t start at SG, then this is his spot. Dudley has proven to be the ultimate character guy, always having fun and forming solid relationships. He may very well turn into the leader on this team. I really liked him a lot more when he was coming off the bench in 2010, but where we are now, he’s best suited to start for us at either SG or SF.
Beasley though, is a bit of an enigma. He was the highest rated player coming out of high school in 2007 and went to Kansas State, where he dominated. Then he was drafted #2 overall by the Miami Heat, who couldn’t get rid of him fast enough to clear cap space for their big 3 that just won the title. He kind of floundered in Minnesota, but still averaged 19 points in his first season with the Timberwolves. His numbers dropped off this year, and I have a feeling the lockout might have had something to do with that. Beasley is an immensely talented player, and needs someone to help get his head on straight. The culture of the Phoenix Suns might just do that for him. He’s not a lost cause like Vince Carter, he’s still young (only 23), and he might have had a problem with some marijuana in his past…but I think that he’s about to overcome those issues from the past. The Suns always seem to do well with keeping guys in line and having “good guys” on the team. Telfair was a head case for many years on other teams, and he came here for one year and you never heard an issue from him, for example. I’m hoping that the Suns can make a good home for Beasley, and he turns back into the form that made him the #2 pick. Josh Childress is ok as a bench player, but really might need to just be the bench player waving the towel on the sidelines.
Markeef Morris/Channing Frye/Beasley/Hakeem Warrick – This position just…worries me. As mentioned earlier, having a solid 2 guard would be the best, so we can put Dudley at 3 and Beasley here at 4, and haveMorris and Frye be the backups. However it’s not looking that way, so we have to decide whether we want Morris or Frye starting. Both have a lot of similar qualities in the fact that they can stretch the floor and shoot threes. I give the nod here to Morris because of his toughness and rebounding. Morris isn’t as good of a shooter as Frye is, but he’s also a lot less streaky. Too many times over the years I’ve seen Frye miss shots, and then just stop being effective as a basketball player. Frye’s game is almost completely reliant on his ability to shoot threes, which makes him perfect to come off of the bench. If he’s hitting, let him stay in, if he’s not, get him out of there. Hakeem Warrick was tabbed as “Amare lite” coming in a couple of years ago, but aside from a couple of highlight dunks, he hasn’t done anything well. So he’ll sit on the bench with Childress waving that towel.
(Side note, look at our signings from 2010: Warrick, Childress, and Hedo Turkoglu. Ouch. That was a horrific off season. See why I’m much more excited in this one?)
Marcin Gortat/Robin Lopez/Frye – Ahhh, along with point guard, this is the one position that’s totally set. Gortat nearly played his way into an all star last year with a great year, and Lopez can be a serviceable backup. Now…the Suns haven’t officially signed Lopez yet, and this may cause some problems down the road if we can’t keep him. But I’m running with this as though we are keeping him. The only real question here is how much will Gortat’s productivity drop because of Nash Leaving? (Ugh, I thought I could get through this without mentioning him!) Gortat basically just rantowards the basket last year and had Nash feed him for dunks and layups over and over. While he does have a good skill set around the basket, he’s really going to have to work on some more aspects of his game since he can’t be spoon-fed dunks anymore.