The last time we saw the Phoenix Suns in 2012, the scene was an emotional one at US Airways Center. The Suns had been eliminated from playoff contention the day before, losing in Utah to the Jazz, and Steve Nash was playing in the waning moments of his career with the club. Fans chanted, he acknowledged them, and when the final buzzer sounded, it launched what can only be described as a summer of change in the Valley of the Sun.
Since there hasn’t been much coverage of the club here on Rant Sports, it seems like a good idea to give you a primer on some of the new faces that you’ll be seeing roaming the court in Alvin Gentry’s system come the 2012-13 season, as well as the whereabouts of the guys who have moved on from Phoenix:
Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers
The aforementioned Nash ended up leaving the place he had called home for eight seasons, requesting a sign-and-trade to the Pacific Divisional rival Lakers. Suns management agreed to his request, and they received two first round draft picks and $3 million for Nash, who signed a three year deal with LA.
The move is truly the end of an era for the team, and has left the Suns without a bona fide superstar.
Grant Hill, Los Angeles Clippers
The other cagey veteran on the Suns, Hill was thought to be leaning towards either joining Nash with the Lakers or retiring, but he surprised everyone when he signed a one-year deal with the Clippers.
Hill leaves a gaping defensive hole on this club, as he was the catalyst behind the team’s recent run of improved play on that end of the floor. Without him there to slow down guys like Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade, the Suns are going to have to rely a lot more on their run and gun tactics of old if they are going to stay competitive in the West.
Josh Childress, Amnesty
Thanks to the amnesty clause in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, a team has the ability to cut a player loose from their roster and get rid of their salary cap hit. The Suns used that opportunity to shed the contract of Childress, who had three years left on a 5-year, $30 million deal.
Childress cleared waivers, unsurprisingly, and is currently a free agent.
Aaron Brooks, Sacramento Kings
Brooks was going to be the team’s back-up point guard last season, but due to an agreement with FIBA made during the NBA lockout, he was stuck in China, so he didn’t end up playing for the Suns.
Now free from his Chinese contract, Brooks signed a deal with Sacramento, and the Suns will move forward with a rookie as the back-up point guard, who we will meet later on.
Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick, New Orleans Hornets
The back-up center and power forward, respectively, for the 2011-12 Suns will be donning more purple uniforms this season, but they will be doing so on the Bayou instead of in the Valley. The pair was part of a sign-and-trade deal that sent Lopez to New Orleans on a new three year contract, and delivered to the Suns young stud Wesley Johnson, as well as a lottery-protected first round pick.
This deal leaves the Suns with a bit of a hole at their center position, with the question of who will back-up Marcin Gortat being first and foremost on everyone’s minds.
Goran Dragic, Point Guard
Dragic was originally the back-up point guard to Nash in Phoenix, but he was dealt to the Houston Rockets back in 2011 in exchange for Aaron Brooks. After a decent season where he averaged 12 points and 5 assists per game despite only starting about a third of the Rockets’ contests, he is returning to take down the starting point guard spot for the Suns this year.
We know that he is capable of operating a high tempo offense, and it will be interesting to see how many of the Suns’ 82 games he starts out this year.
Kendall Marshall, Point Guard
With the #13 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, the Suns took Marshall, presumably to be a back-up point guard with the club. His speed and defensive ability have both been called into question, but getting some time to get his feet wet at a leisurely pace behind Dragic should do wonders for his maturation in the game.
Michael Beasley, Small Forward
Signing a three-year, $18 million deal is a pretty good indication that a team is serious about a player, but with Jared Dudley still in the fold, and Johnson angling for a spot as well, Beasley is going to have to fight for a starting spot at small forward, but he seems to be relishing the challenge.
Eager to prove that he is worthy of the contract the Suns signed him to, Beasley took to the airwaves of Phoenix to express that he feels that he will be an All-Star this season, and talked about how all he wants to do is win.
Who wouldn’t want a guy like that on the floor?
Wesley Johnson, Shooting Guard
Johnson is going to be the wild card of this team next season. He has started the vast majority of the games he has played in for his career, but he doesn’t have a ready made spot in this lineup. He could supplant Dudley and Beasley at the small forward position, or he could slide into the shooting guard spot and move Shannon Brown either to the bench or to the starting point guard position.
He is young, freakishly athletic, and ready to make an impact in a new city, and he could develop into a very good player in a system that favors offensive prowess like Gentry’s will.
Luis Scola, Power Forward
Amnesty taketh, but amnesty giveth away. The Rockets cut ties with Scola in pursuit of Jeremy Lin and Dwight Howard, and the Suns ended up winning the bidding for the versatile power forward. He can fill in at center in a pinch, and averages 14.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in his career. He could stand to benefit from running pick and rolls with Brown and Dragic on a regular basis, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see him limit Channing Frye’s minutes early in the season.