Phoenix Suns: 5 Players Who Must Step Up in 2013-14
Which Phoenix Suns Players Need to Step Up?
The Phoenix Suns started training camp earlier this week, and they'll be looking to create a new identity during the 2013-14 season. Phoenix had a very busy offseason, replacing many of the older veterans on their roster with a new influx of talent. Though they brought in plenty of players who have the potential to be legitimate contributors, including rookies Alex Len and Archie Goodwin and second-year player Miles Plumlee, no one really stood out as a franchise player. So this group will need at least a few players to step forward and make an impact.
The first player that comes to mind in this situation is 23-year-old guard Eric Bledsoe, who was acquired in July from the Los Angeles Clippers. Bledsoe is capable of playing both guard positions, but he was blocked by players such as Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups during most of his tenure in LA. This will be the first time he's gotten a long-term starting opportunity, and the Suns will be relying on him to provide a spark to their offense this year.
No one is expecting the Suns to turn things around right away and immediately return to their status as a perennial playoff power. That being said, it would be great for the Suns organization to at least be competitive and show that they're going in the right direction.
Phoenix undoubtedly would like every player on their roster to play better than expected, but here are five guys in particular who need to step up in order for the Suns to have a shot at competing.
5. Kendall Marshall
Due to their depth at the guard position, the Suns can probably survive without Marshall. But if he lived up to his billing as last year's 13th overall pick, it would surely help. The 6-foot-4, 195-pounder is a pure point guard, with ball distribution being the best aspect of his game. He was very inconsistent at times during his rookie year, though, and he particularly struggled during this year's summer league schedule. Marshall will have to be exceptional to take any time away from Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, the leaders of the offense, but if he can make himself a regular part of the rotation it will be a success.
4. Channing Frye
Frye returned to the Suns this week after sitting out all of last season with a heart condition. It's unknown what his level of conditioning is at this point. If he can come back and be close to the same player he was, it will significantly help the Suns. He provides a unique element to the team as an offensively-focused big man, and he's averaged over 10 points a game in his three previous healthy seasons. If he is recovered enough, he could even end up pushing Markieff Morris at the starting power forward position.
3. P.J. Tucker
P.J. Tucker is not a guy who many consider to be a starter-quality player, so if he is indeed given the opportunity to be the Suns' starting small forward, it would greatly behoove him to take advantage of it. The 28-year-old didn't really make much of an offensive impact last year in his first full NBA season, but he was fantastic defensively, so much that the team felt comfortable getting rid of defensive specialist Jared Dudley this offseason. If Tucker can at least be a mediocre offensive player and keep up his defensive prowess, he should be able to have success.
2. Markieff Morris
At least until first-rounder Alex Len is ready to assume a full workload, Morris seems to have a very firm grip on a starting spot. He broke through late last season and finished up the year with 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Morris followed up on his success with a great summer league showing. This year, as a starter, he needs to break through all the way and provide the Suns with a powerful presence both offensively and defensively.
1. Eric Bledsoe
Bledsoe is the biggest key to the Suns' success this year. The 23-year-old needs to prove that he is a legitimate scoring threat, and he will also be relied upon to distribute the ball. Bledsoe's emergence as a legitimate 2-guard would really help the Suns out, seeing as the team has not had a player of that type since Joe Johnson left in 2005.