2011-2012 Phoenix Suns Season Preview
After going 40-42 last season the Phoenix Suns have brought back a similar team with hopes of getting one more year out star point guard Steve Nash and a return to the playoffs.
Nash is in the final season of his contract, and while it’s certainly possible he re-signs and retires a Sun, this could be the last of an era.
Gone is Vince Carter and Aaron Brooks (still a restricted free agent playing overseas in China) but the team is hopeful that the additions of Shannon Brown and Markieff Morris, along with the return of Grant Hill, will help the Suns rebound from a year in the lottery.
HOOPSWORLD takes a look at the 2011-2012 Phoenix Suns:
|Five Guys Think…|
There’s no mystery over what you are going to see from the Suns this year. It’s going to be the same exact thing we’ve seen in years past, only without the same caliber of players that they had when they were championship contenders. Steve Nash, the catalyst of their up-tempo attack, is 37 years old now and a candidate to be traded at the deadline since he has an expiring contract. While this team will once again be explosive and exciting to watch offensively, their defense is going to leave a lot to be desired and that’s why they’ll be a middle-of-the-pack team in the top heavy Pacific Division.
4th Place, Pacific Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
The Suns are a team in transition, with Steve Nash and Grant Hill standings as the sole reminders of a better time in the franchise’s history. That history is getting ever-smaller in the rear view mirror of time, and the present is a huge question mark for Phoenix. Aaron Brooks is expected to be a big part of that present, but he will need to finish his business in China first. Shannon Brown was a great addition, and there is a solid core group in Phoenix. The question is, can they compete in the deep and talented West?
4th Place – Pacific Division
- Bill Ingram
In all likelihood, Steve Nash will retire a Phoenix Sun, and there’s something to be said about a guy faithful enough to the team that drafted him that he wants to retire there. It just seems like a shame he wouldn’t want to end up with a contender as he plays out his last few seasons in the league. Regardless, the Suns are lucky to still have him because any success they have this season will come as a direct result of Nash having made his average teammates look better than they are. Marcin Gortat is for real, and Shannon Brown was an excellent signing, but the rest of the roster just doesn’t inspire much excitement. Long live Nash, but the Suns are starting to flame out.
4th Place, Pacific Division
- Joel Brigham
As long as future Hall of Famer and two-time league MVP Steve Nash is on the roster the Suns will be in the playoff hunt. The Suns’ frontcourt is deceptively solid. On the inside center Marcin Gortat is primed for his breakout season and Channing Frye remains a threat on the perimeter. The wing position is crowded but has talent with Grant Hill, Jared Dudley, Hakim Warrick, Josh Childress and Mickael Pietrus all vying for minutes. The team will be fun to watch but is no longer amongst the Western Conference’s elite.
4th Place, Pacific Division
- Lang Greene
The Phoenix Suns were determined to add some young talent to their roster this offseason and they did just that, bringing in Markieff Morris, Shannon Brown, Sebastian Telfair and Ronnie Price. While those moves will help them down the road, the Suns will have a tough time competing this season. With Steve Nash approaching free agency and Phoenix rebuilding, don’t be surprised if trade rumors surface in the coming months. Last season, the Suns won 40 games and finished with the second-best record in the Pacific Division. Now, the division seems to be a two-team race between the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers.
3rd Place, Pacific Division
- Alex Kennedy
|Top Of The List|
Top Offensive Player: The Suns revolve around Nash’s offensive creativity. He’s the engine that drives the machine, with his unique ability to drive the paint while retaining his dribble, creating multiple opportunities for his team on the same possession. Nash is also one of the game’s best shooters, from almost anywhere (the line, behind the arc, in the paint, etc.). Even at 37-years old, Nash is still one of the top point guards in a league with athletes like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and a long list of upstarts.
Top Defensive Player: The Suns have not been thought of as a defensive team for most of the Nash era. Individually, Marvin Gortat provides some muscle and shot-blocking inside. Although he’s attempting to try and play through a thumb fracture, Gortat still gives the Suns at least something to work with inside when going against some of the more formidable power teams. Additionally both Grant Hill and Jared Dudley are solid perimeter defenders.
Top Playmaker: Steve Nash by many miles. There’s no one close. With Brooks unavailable, the team has signed Sebastian Telfair who does a solid job of getting the ball to the right players in the right spots but is not nearly as affective as Nash. Telfair isn’t much of a shooter and isn’t capable doing much defensively either.
Top Clutch Player: Nash again. If he’s not going to make the shot to break a team’s neck, the odds are he made the pass to the guy who does it.
The Unheralded Player: Theirs isn’t a team in the league who couldn’t use a Jared Dudley-type. Dudley is happy coming off the bench but capable of starting. If he gets the opportunity to score, he can put up numbers. If he’s asked to guard the opposing players top scoring option, he’ll put up a good fight. Jared gets better each year and is locked into a long-term contract with the club at a reasonable dollar. He may not get as much appreciation as some of the star players around the league but the Suns are fully aware of what he brings to the table.
Best New Addition: Rookie forward Markieff Morris (13th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft) has the potential to be a steady rotation player for the Suns. He has an interesting combination of offensive skill and toughness. At 6’10”, 245 pounds, Morris has good NBA size. It will be interesting to see how well he fits into the high-speed Phoenix offense but the Suns took the less-offensive minded of the Morris twins (with brother Marcus going 14th to the Houston Rockets).
- Eric Pincus
|Who We Like|
1. Steve Nash – He’s shot the higher percentages in his career at 35 or older. Nash gives the Suns a chance to win in almost any situation.
2. Grant Hill – He’s still one of the classiest players in the league. Instead of chasing a championship with a team on the verge (like the Miami HEAT), Grant stayed loyal to the Suns. At 39, he’s one of the oldest players in the league but Hill is still a high percentage shooter, strong defender and bright locker room presence.
3. Jared Dudley – Every championship-level team needs a player like Dudley. The Suns don’t appear close to contention but Jared is going to be why the team wins a number of key games.
4. Coach Alvin Gentry – Gentry provides the team with an honest, sensible voice. He acknowledges their flaws while pushing his team to be better. Despite roster fluctuation and injuries, Gentry almost always has his team playing hard. It’s just a matter of having the pieces and, on paper, the Suns still may be a little bit short.
5. Channing Frye – He’s not the ideal big man given he’s primarily a three-point shooter but with Nash, playing the game the Suns play, Channing is one of the best stretch fours in the league. Frye can block shots but isn’t much of a defender one-on-one. If Frye and Gortat, along with Morris, Hakim Warrick and Robin Lopez, can provide the Suns with some level of an inside/out game, Phoenix may surprise this season.
- Eric Pincus
The Suns can score. With Nash, they’re always a threat to win ballgames. While defense is an issue, Phoenix has the offensive capability to beat any team on a given night.
Nash, Hill, Dudley, Frye and others are all positive, thoughtful players. Steve and Grant, in particular, are great role models/teachers for the team’s younger, developing prospects. The hard part is translating that into enough wins to make the playoffs, but the Suns have a lot of the right pieces in place . . . even if it’s just for the short-term given Nash and Hills’ ages.
– Eric Pincus.
If Nash isn’t healthy, the Suns are in trouble. If he’s in foul trouble, can Telfair step in for a significant duration? Does Gortat stay healthy and solidify himself as a regular defensive presence on a team desperate for some true toughness?
Shannon Brown is a tremendous athlete and finisher but is he a good enough shooter or playmaker to fit into the offense?
Josh Childress is another player who has a lot to prove after an anemic first season with the Suns.
Phoenix doesn’t have a ton of depth, at least not with impactful players. If everyone comes together and stays healthy, the Suns have some true potential.
Given the short season with multiple back-to-backs and an abbreviated training camp, the older players on the team may have trouble keeping up.
If that means Nash, it’s a problem.
– Eric Pincus
|The Coach’s Chair By Anthony Macri|
Not a soul is talking about us as a playoff contender this year. But we definitely should be. Our roster has great depth, and if we can get production off the bench enough to keep Steve and Grant healthy and fresh, we can hurt some people in the playoffs this year. But it really depends on how well our bench produces. Having depth without production will mean nothing for us. The goal for us has to be to shore up a little defensively, just enough to that we can allow our offense to shine. We must be more consistent, and that comes from production off the bench. The more we can get out of our guard rotation, the better. In the end, guys, we can challenge for a playoff spot and give someone fits in the postseason, but only if every one of us does our job.
- Anthony Macri
|The Burning Question|
Should the Suns struggle and fall out of the playoff race, does the team look to move Nash for value?
Even at his age, Steve has the potential to dramatically impact a contender.
Would a team like the New York Knicks give up some of their younger prospects for the chance of putting Nash with Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler?
What other suitors would step forward? Is Nash’s age and expiring contract a deterrent or a positive?
The Suns will have some options to blow it up early, but Nash may be willing to stay beyond his current deal, even on a team that may not be near a championship.
Expect the Suns to struggle with the schedule, but with an evolving Western Conference, they’ll be close enough to the bubble to stand by their aging franchise player instead of cashing Nash out early for prospects . . .
- Eric Pincus
How do you see the Suns this season, leave your comments below…