2010-11 record: 40-42 (2nd place Pacific Division, 10th place Western Conference – no playoffs)
Guards: Steve Nash, Jared Dudley
Forwards: Josh Childress, Channing Frye, Mikael Pietrus, Hakim Warrick
Centers: Marcin Gortat, Robin Lopez
Grant Hill free agent – likely to be signed
Markieff Morris draft pick – will be signed
Vince Carter Likely to be waived – contract allows buyout
Zabian Dowdell, Garrett Siler, Gani Lawal – Team options
The Phoenix Suns once again this year will find themselves firmly stuck between a rock and a hard place, a spot that they were placed in during the summer of 2010 when owner Robert Sarver put on his G.M. costume and offered the offensively gifted Amare’ Stoudemire a non-guaranteed, incentive laden deal, knowing that the Knicks had a full max guaranteed contract on the table. This left the Suns with the dilemma of having an older team with no go to scorer, and very little young talent to build around, a position in which they find themselves going into this year.
The most important question facing the Suns this year will be if and when to trade Steve Nash and fully commit to rebuilding. With the re-signing of Grant Hill all but guaranteed, the Suns are the only NBA team with their top two rotation players in their late thirties. This is a testament not only to the Suns’ training and medical staff, but also to the ineptitude of their ownership, who in recent years has signed the likes of Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick, and Channing Frye to high dollar, multi- year contracts – moves that have handcuffed the organization from upgrading the talent level of the team. (Note – Childress may be waived under the amnesty clause of the new CBA).
Assuming the Suns re-sign Grant Hill, and Nash sticks around (which is likely because the shortsighted Robert Sarver would rather have a player to market around now than rebuild and have a chance at success in the near future), the Suns have three players that would start on most NBA teams. Nash can still run an offense efficiently and set up players for offensive success. Grant Hill is effective on both sides of the ball, and has been one of the Suns’ most durable players over the past three seasons. Marcin Gortat is developing into a solid center. He is an effective rebounder and can score in the pick & roll.
The Suns are overloaded with role players who only do one or two things well. Jared Dudley is a good shooter and a decent defender. Hakim Warrick can be effective offensively around the basket, Channing Frye has shown a knack to knock down the three-ball. Robin Lopez is tall. What the Suns lack is a go-to scorer, and other than an aging Grant Hill, any player who can play lock down defense. The Suns also have very little depth at PG. With Aaron Brooks locked into a contract in China, the Suns may go with journeyman Zabian Dowdell to backup Nash. With 66 games being compacted into just three months, the backup PG spot will be more important than ever for the Suns, and adding a veteran would be wise.
Power Forward continues to be a problem for the Suns. The Suns went with a committee of the worthless Hidayet Turkoglu, Channing Frye, and Hakim Warrick to man the 4 spot last year. They drafted Markieff Morris to attempt to plug the hole, but Morris doesn’t appear to have much upside and most likely won’t produce more than 8-10 ppg and 6-8 rpg.
Without much cap space to add quality talent at PF and SG, as well as a backup PG, the Suns do not appear to be a contender for a playoff spot this year. An amnesty move may free up some cap space, but need more help than they would be able to get in the free agent market. The Suns franchise has lots of issues, and they all come from the top. With an owner who has gone through two team presidents, four general managers, three head coaches, and two heads of basketball operations in the seven years that he has owned the team, it’s clear that until there is a change in ownership (or they convice Chris Wallace to trade Zach Randolph for Robin Lopez), the Suns fortune looks bleak and the team will continue to hover around the .500 mark.