In 2009-2010, the Phoenix Suns (54-28) were second in the Pacific Division and third in the Western Conference. In the postseason, the Suns beat Portland in round one four games to two and then San Antonio in round two four games to none. They met the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals where they we dispatched in six games. Now it’s a whole new season.
After being a backup player for two years, center Robin Lopez (.588 FG%, .000 3PT%, .704 FT%, 4.9 RPG, 0.1 APG, 8.4 PPG) looks to get the start. He’s a fine shooter in the paint and from the post. Additionally, Lopez proved to be a decent shot blocker. The big problem is his ability to share the ball. Lopez can’t seem to or simply doesn’t want to make assists. He’ll be asked to fill the big shoes of the departed Amire Stoudemire.
Power forward Channing Frye (.451 FG%, .439 3PT%, .810 FT%, 5.3 RPG, 1.4 APG, 11.2 PPG) is back for his second season with the Suns. Now in his sixth NBA season, Frye is an all-around excellent shot and can nail bombs from beyond the arc. Last season, he had trouble hitting twos and he has never been a very good defender.
At small forward, Grant Hill (.478 FG%, .438 3PT%, .817 FT%, 5.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 11.3 PPG) will play his 16th NBA season. For his second straight season Hill played in 80-plus games and averaged 30 minutes per game. That’s not bad for an aging vet. He brings a lot to the court, including an ability to find the open guy with a pass, an excellent two-point and foul shot and great rebounding skills. Additionally, he’s a solid ball handler and bothersome defender. There’s a lot to like here.
Steve Nash (.507 FG%, .426 3PT%, .938 FT%, 3.3 RPG, 11.0 APG, 16.5 PPG) is one of the finest point guards in the NBA. He can shoot and hit from anywhere on the court, and Nash can find the open man with a bounce pass or quick release line drive seemingly at will. Nash, who is now in his 15th season, is quick, smart and durable. He is a one-of-a-kind, truly gifted, smart and durable player.
Now in his 10th season, shooting guard Jason Richardson (.474 FG%, .393 3PT%, .739 FT%, 5.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 15.7 PPG) elevates well and shoots effectively off the catch. A decent rebound man and inside player, he’s equally effective at the small forward spot. His defensive tools are lacking.
What the Suns do best is offense. With a Pace Factor of 97.9 (4th) and an Offensive Efficiency of 112.7 (1st), this is a team that can score. Nash had the best PER (21.67) on the team. Phoenix had a Defensive Efficiency of 106.9, which was 19th in the NBA. This year, they will be weaker on “D” and that means fewer wins.
There’s a new team in the front office as Lon Babby, a player agent, takes over as club president and former Cleveland executive Lance Blanks comes onboard as the GM. Thus far, they have not been impressive as they have let several players, including Stoudemire, go who they probably could have retained. What is most disturbing about their hiring is owner Robert Sarver had a good team in place and let them go when he could not agree to terms with them.
Head coach Alvin Gentry (249-267) is back for his third season with the Suns. This is his 10th year as an NBA head coach. Note, he has been with four teams total and has never spent more than three years with any one club. If the Suns tank, that could be the end of Gentry at Phoenix.
For years, the Suns have put a competitive team of premium players on the court. Now they’ve got a mixture of guys with a range of skills and talents and are minus Stoudemire and his impressive frontcourt presence. They will put an excellent offense on the floor and Nash will, as usual, expertly run it. But they have very little on defense and in the high scoring Western Conference the inability to stop teams means this club is in trouble. Finally, with an owner who doesn’t like to spend cash there will be little room for improvement. The Suns will most likely take second place in the Pacific Division but they will be out of the playoffs as they place 9th or 10th in the Western Conference.
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