Projected Starting Line-Up:
Goran Dragic – Shannon Brown – Michael Beasley – Luis Scola – Marcin Gortat
Key Rotation Players:
Jared Dudley, Kendall Marshall (R), Wesley Johnson, Markieff Morris, Jermaine O’Neal
Sebastian Telfair, P.J. Tucker, Channing Frye (enlarged heart)
Since 2004 the Phoenix Suns have been tied to guard Steve Nash. After his move to the Los Angeles Lakers, the team is in need of a new face of the franchise and one of the team’s guards may be primed to be the player. After a two and a half year stint with the team beginning in 2008, Goran Dragic has returned to Phoenix to be the player that they wish will help fans forget about Nash (not happening). Behind him at the will be 13th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft Kendall Marshall and veteran guard Sebastian Telfair. In the 28 games he started for the Houston Rockets last season, Dragic averaged a solid 18 points, 3.5 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game. We know what he can bring to the table. During his first stint with Phoenix he was regarded as the “poor-mans Steve Nash”, and though he isn’t that now he may be something different and may be what the Suns’ team needs from here on out. As far as the back up position, it’ll be interesting to see how Marshall plays in the NBA. His college numbers were solid and with the assists he put up (9.8 per game in 2011-12), I wouldn’t be surprised to see he and Dragic play on the court at the same time. With these two young guards handling most of the load, don’t expect to see a lot of Telfair barring injury.
After shooting for a the stars and missing out on New Orleans Hornet shooting guard Eric Gordon, the Suns fell back on re-signing Shannon Brown and traded to get Wesley Johnson from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Last year was Brown’s best seas as a pro averaging 11 points a game while shooting 42 percent from the field. As for Johnson, he suffered the notorious “sophomore slump” and posted a poor PER of 8.08, which is far below the league average of 15. While Shannon Brown will be the starter, it will be interesting to see how the team utilizes Wesley Johnson. At 6’7, he’s athletic enough to guard opposite teams best player, but offensively he’s almost a non-factor based off last season. If the team is going to be a run-and-gun team, then both players should excel in the offense due to their athleticism, but as a 4th overall pick, you have to wonder if Johnson can attempt to live up to his draft position or will he become a bust. Like Telfair for the point guards, P.J. Tucker will likely hold a reserve role as he is making his return to the NBA for the first time since he played for the Toronto Raptors in 2006-07.
There’s a lot of pressure for Michael Beasley at this point in his career. As the former second overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, Beasley is now on his third team after playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Miami Heat. If you look at Beasley’s number from last season, he was a solid sixth man. The problem is why was Beasley a sixth man. Now he’s given another chance to prove he’s worthy of the three-year, $18 million contract he received over the summer. Behind him is the glue guy to the entire team: Jared Dudley. His play can resemble that of Shane Battier for the Memphis Grizzlies back-up in 2011. He’s come along as a good defensive player and shooting 38 percent from behind the arc will keep him plenty into the rotation. With Beasley’s knack of being an inconsistent player, I would not be surprised if Beasley, despite his contract, is moved to the 6th man position and Dudley is moved to the starter. It’ll be interesting to see how things play out between the two.
Last year, the Suns relied on forward Channing Frye to stretch the floor and open things up for other players. Unfortunately Frye is out indefinitely (entire season) with an enlarged heart, so that leaves a void to Phoenix’s depth. On the plus side, Phoenix claimed power forward Luis Scola off waivers from the Houston Rockets after he was amnestied. In a shortened season, Scola had a solid season scoring (15.5 points per game, 49 percent from the field), but his rebounding fell hard (down to 6.5 per game after 8.2 the previous year). When it comes to Scola’s game, it’s pleasing to watch though he abuses the pump fake move. Since he’s entered the league in 2007, Scola has been solid and though he’s known for being a notorious flopper, he should have a decent year in the desert. As for backup forward Markieff Morris, he had a solid rookie year outing. With his ability to spread the floor (34 percent from three last season), expect him to fill the role that Channing Frye has left void. Per-36 minutes Morris averaged 13.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Alongside Jared Dudley and Kendall Marshall, Morris will be apart of the group that represents the bench.
Unclear whether Goran Dragic can keep up his production from last season, center Marcin Gortat enters this season as the best player on the team. He’s one of the more underrated center and players in the league. Last season, Gortat was 6th in field goal percentage (.555), 8th in rebounds per game (10), 16th in blocks per game (1.5) and 19th in Offensive Win Shares (4.9) which is above guard Dwyane Wade and on par with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Dirk Nowitzki. Like the rest of the Suns roster, it’ll be interesting seeing him play without Steve Nash, who, according to Synergy, was the best pick-n-roll passer in the league last season. Behind Gortat is veteran Jermaine O’Neal who is returning to the NBA after being released by the Boston Celtics. No one knows what O’Neal has left in the tank after suffering a knee injury last season, but we all know how the Phoenix Suns training staff works wonder. Ask Grant Hill, Steve Nash, and Shaquille O’Neal.