Are the Suns the West’s surprise team?
By Bill Ingram, Hoopsworld.com
The Western Conference has been ridiculously tough over the last few seasons, with one or two games meaning the difference between making the playoffs or missing out, as well as having home court advantage or starting the postseason on the road.
It’s been just that close.
Naturally, with rosters all but set, we’ve already been starting to look at who the top teams in the league might be, and on the West side it’s harder than ever to decide which teams are the likely postseason qualifiers. There is one team, however, that seems to be getting the least attention, and it’s a team that could very well be in a bracket when the dust settles on the 2012-13 NBA season.
Losing Steve Nash and Grant Hill are blows to the Phoenix Suns, for sure, though those were also pieces of a past that Phoenix has quickly left behind.
The payroll for the team that made it to the Western Conference finals a couple of seasons ago was more than majority owner Robert Sarver was willing to sustain, and he began moving in a new direction when he traded Amar’e Stoudemire, the frontcourt foundation of that team. When GM Lance Blanks traded Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers this summer it represented the end of that era altogether.
It was an exciting era, to be sure, with edge-of-your-seat postseason series against the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, and Lakers, in particular, but they never captured the ever-elusive NBA championship.
Rest assured, there are equally exciting times ahead for the Suns.
To start with, while Goran Dragic is no Nash, he is also not the same player he was when Suns fans last saw him. He is a much more controlled player, who often exhibits the court vision he learned while mentoring under Nash. A Kyle Lowry injury forced Dragic into a starting role with Houston last season, and during his 28 starts he averaged 18 points and 8.4 assists while shooting 84% from the foul line, 38% from three-point range and 49 percent overall.
As a starter last season, Dragic was more efficient than Chris Paul, to put those … [For more on Are the Suns the West's surprise team?, click here.]