The Suns finished middle of the pack the last two seasons, being on the bubble for the final playoff spot but ultimately missed it by a couple of wins and wound up with a low lottery pick. After trading Steve Nash but at the same time hauling in a truck load of new players, are the Suns a better team than they were last season? Looking at the big picture the Suns pretty much got a downgrade at the point guard spot, improved at the small forward spot, improved at the power forward spot, and improved their bench. So here’s the breakdown:
Steve Nash – Goran Dragic: Okay Dragic isn’t that much of a downgrade, as good as Nash was he doesn’t have as big of an impact on that game that he had say, three or four seasons ago. Dragic is also a different kind of point guard, he’s an attacking point guard who will focus more on getting buckets for himself rather than setting up his teammates. According to John Hollinger of ESPN’s player statistics during the 2011-2012 season, Nash’s EWA(Estimated Wins Added) was a solid 9.1 and Dragic’s EWA was 6.1. Bottom line, don’t expect Dragic to be Steve Nash but expect Dragic to be an impact player that will make a difference when he’s on the court.
Grant Hill – Michael Beasley: Too bad Grant Hill wasn’t healthy during the final run at the playoffs last season perhaps he would’ve been the difference. Hill’s offense was never his money maker the past three seasons as he’s never averaged more than 14 points per game; however his lock down defense on opposing superstars from point guard to small forward was as good as any. Well the Suns don’t have that lock down defender anymore, not in the assumed starting line-up anyway. As good as Grant’s defense was his offense wasn’t dependable on a night to night basis, whereas Michael Beasley offense will be. Beasley had the worse season of his career last season in Minnesota; he was even coming off the bench at one point. Don’t get it wrong though, Michael Beasley’s struggled was not a result of his lack of talent but rather his lack of motivation, dedication, and maturity. Beasley is talented as anyone in league and at this point the Suns ultimately did up grade at the small forward spot with Beasley whom of which can become a star at any moment if he’s readying to put aside the non-sense and focus on basketball. Hill and Beasley’s EWA was pretty much even last season but that’s obviously not going to be the case this year, Beasley will and should have a breakout season.
Channing Frye – Luis Scola: This was the Suns biggest upgrade this off-season. The Suns will no longer have a Kyle Korver playing power forward for them. Again I hate getting on Frye because he’s such an upstanding citizen during his time with the Suns but during the games when his 3-pointers are just not going in, he’s pretty much going to be a non-factor that game. With Scola the Suns get a legitimate big-man who’s a threat to score the in post and also a player with a tough mentality. Shockingly though Frye did have a decent EWA of 3.6 vs. Scola’s 4.1 but it should be fully expected that Scola will have a much stronger impact night in and night out than what Frye has offered the past two seasons.
The Bench: Some people are a little bit skeptical on Kendall Marshall based on some of the comments I’ve read online and think that Telfair should be Dragic’s back up and not Marshall, well those people couldn’t be more wrong. Marshall’s skill as an NBA point guard is already beyond that of Telfair’s with his passing ability and basketball IQ. So the Suns pretty much did upgrade at the back-up point guard spot. Markieff Morris is another guy, Morris had a decent rookie year but expect more production from this season, by watching him during the summer league games he’s clearly improved and it should show on the court this season. The Suns also added Wesley Johnson who’s an athletic high flyer who much like Beasley has struggled in the NBA but he’s had success as a defender he just needs some time to find his offensive game. The Suns also will have Shannon Brown coming off the bench, although I expect Brown to start the season as a starter and Beasley will be off the bench but I think Brown will ultimately be a bench player. The Suns lost Robin Lopez and got Jermaine O’Neal who’s not an improvement but not much of a downgrade either; however it’s expected that Channing Frye will be replacing Lopez as the center off the bench, similar to his role when the Suns had their playoff run during the 2010 playoffs.
ESPN had the Suns pegged as one of the worst teams in the league next season, but when I look at the Suns roster I just don’t see how this team got worse, in fact I think they got better because of all the depth they added. But then I look again at the other team’s rosters and I’m thinking yeah they’re kind of better than us. For example the Hornets who were awful last season, they added Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers, and will have a healthy Eric Gordon next season on paper they certainly seem better than the Suns mainly because if Davis or Gordon was on the Suns roster they’d be the best player. Another team would be the Timberwolves who’s going to have Ricky Rubio back; they also added Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger, and an improving rookie in Derrick Williams. It’s going to be a strange season no doubt, with all the shake ups every team has made but if the Suns indeed are one of the worst teams in the league next season it wouldn’t be the worst thing if there’s a team out there not named the Bobcats that need a top 5 draft pick, it’s the Suns.