Coach: Terry Porter
2007-08 Record: 55-27
Pythagorean Record for 07-08: 54-28
Offensive Rating: 113.3 (2nd in the league)
Defensive Rating: 108.1 (16th)
Possessions per 48: 96.7 (4th)
Min%: 80.7 (15th)
|Offensive||55.1 (1st)||.134 (13th)||.224 (29th)||.228 (14th)|
|Defensive||48.8 (8th)||.118 (29th)||.709 (29th)||.191 (2nd)|
Roster (Red indicates new acquisition, Blue indicates rookie)
Farewell Shaquille O’Neal. We’ll always remember you as an amusing character and a dominant big…wait, what’s that? You’re telling me Shaq’s not retired, he just sucks? You mean after jogging around in supremely bad shape and being really unproductive for the last year, he’s not going to just bow out gracefully? Um…well, that’s just unfortunate. In that case, I’ll just go with this: Shaq, he’s not so good anymore.
I’m not sure everybody realizes just how good Amare Stoudemire is offensively. I used to think that most of his success could be attributed to playing with Steve Nash, but I don’t think you can say that anymore. While he undoubtedly benefits from playing with a great point guard, Stoudamire has developed a diverse offensive game that makes him one of the league’s more explosive scorers. He’s devastating at basically any spot within the three-point line. It’s not a surprise that Amare is a great finisher around the rim, with his strength and explosiveness he finished third in the league in FG% on shots around the rim (73.9%). However, what is surprising is that he was in the top 15 in the league in FG% on two-point jumpers (47.2%). Combine that and you have a player who had the league’s fifth-highest FG% despite taking over 50% of his shots outside the paint, now that’s impressive efficiency. That’s not all though. Stoudamire combines that with the league’s second-highest free throw rate. Unlike league leader Dwight Howard, Stoudamire actually hits his free throws. As a one-on-one matchup, he’s nearly unstoppable because he’s so quick and explosive he can beat his man to the rim with one strong dribble, but you can’t give him any space because he’s such a good midrange shooter. Obviously, he’s also a great player in Phoenix’s system too because of his ability to fly down the court and fill lanes, and the fact that he can dunk from basically anywhere he catches on the pick-and-roll. Stoudamire’s big problem is that he’s a terrible defender. With his quickness, strength and leaping ability, he should be a dominant post defender and rebounder. Instead, he’s lazy, foul-prone, a mediocre rebounder, and seems content to just try and block a shot from the weakside every now and then.
I liked the Matt Barnes signing, especially since they signed him for pretty much nothing. He should produce much more efficiently in Phoenix since he’ll only be asked to spot up for threes and be an energy guy, which is certainly within his capabilities. He’s also a solid defender who can rebound (which is something the Suns need). They needed someone to spell Grant Hill, and Barnes can certainly do that. He’s definitely an upgrade on Gordan Giricek
The Suns need to spell Hill more during the regular season, he was noticeably slower during their playoff series, and they need him healthy. He was often called upon to defend point guards, since Nash is a defensive liability, and for that he can’t be dealing with lingering injuries, as he was during the San Antonio series. Offensively, Hill is a great piece for the Suns because of his versatility. He can score from all over the court, he has great floor vision, he can rebound, and he shot better from deep than he has since his Detroit days.
He didn’t play as well last year as he did the year before, but Leandro Barbosa is still one of the elite bench players in the league. However, he’s definitely not a point guard. His assist rates are mediocre for a shooting guard, but just plain bad for a point guard. Really, Barbosa is a one-trick pony. He’s not going to offer much outside of straight up scoring, but oh what a scorer he is. A one man fast break, there may not be anyone in league faster with the ball in their hands than Barbosa. He combines that crazy quickness with an outstanding jumper which he can knock down off the catch and shoot or off the dribble. That speed and shooting ability make him an almost impossible cover in transition, but he’s a fairly effective half-court scorer too. He spaces the floor with his shooting ability, and he’s very good in pick-and-roll situations because he turns the corner so quickly that it’s tough for help defenders to respond.
For a veteran-laden team, Phoenix is depending pretty heavily on some rookies this year. I believe I’ve already mentioned the decline of one “Shaquille O’Neal,” and the only real backup center on the roster is Robin Lopez. Shaq can only play 25 minutes a game at max, which leaves plenty of playing time for the rookie. As rookies go, Lopez is a pretty solid bet for decent production. He’s not going to be an offensive threat, but he’s an energy guy who can have an impact on the glass and on the defensive end, and that could be a huge asset to the Suns if he can play well enough to get 20 minutes a night. The other impact rookie is Goran Dragic, a largely unknown quantity who will be called upon to spell Nash this season. Terry Porter has said that he plans on cutting Nash’s minutes significantly, but that can only reasonably happen if Dragic is able to immediately contribute like Phoenix thinks he can.
After two straight years of rapidly decreasing production, I think it’s time we admit Boris Diaw’s 05-06 season was a fluke, and stop expecting him to produce like a starter. He’s a decent bench option at either forward spot, but he’s too short to guard power forwards, and not quick enough to guard small forwards. He’s an excellent passer, especially from the high post, and he can knock down some shots, but he’s not a prolific offensive player by any means, and he’s a below-average rebounder.
X-Factor: Steve Nash – Possibly more than any player outside of LeBron James, no offense in the league is as dependent on one player as Phoenix is on Nash. He’s an elite point guard, and the engine that runs everything the Suns do. He’s one of the greatest distributors of all time, with fantastic floor vision and the ability to make pinpoint passes with either hand. On top of that, Nash is a scoring weapon who, if anything, may need to take more of a scoring load on himself. He’s the best shooter in the league, coming off a third straight year where he’s shot an absurd 50-40-90 (FG%, 3FG%, FT%). He has a picture-perfect form that is the same every time he shoots the ball, and he has a variety of floaters and scoop shots he uses once he gets into the paint. Though he doesn’t always look spectacular, Nash is truly one of the league’s most dangerous offensive players. The question with Nash is “just how long can he do this?” He’ll be 34 this year, and he’s had chronic back problems. He’s managed to fend off age and injury so far, but how long can that last? One of these days, Nash is going to start tailing off, and I think it’s going to happen pretty suddenly, but there’s no real way to tell when that’s going to happen.
After a long string of regular season success and postseason failure, Phoenix was headed in the same direction again last year. After failing to make a trade for Kevin Garnett in the offseason, the Suns retained basically the same core they’ve had for the past four years. At midseason, Steve Kerr decided that wasn’t going to be enough, and jettisoned the perennially unhappy Shawn Marion for the perennially overweight Shaquille O’Neal. Ostensibly, the deal was made specifically to improve Phoenix’s post defense and give them a better chance against the West’s bigs, San Antonio in particular. Well, that didn’t work out so well, as they met the Spurs and were summarily dismissed in five games. Not such a good start for the new look Suns.
So long Mike D’Antoni. Farewell Shawn Marion. RIP “7 Seconds or Less” offense. With their championship window closing, Phoenix made a series of desperation moves which basically snapped that window shut a whole lot faster. This is a team on the way out, and barring a miraculous trip back in time for the team’s principal players, they’re no longer a title contender. Between Nash, Amare and Shaq, there might not be a worse team in the league at defending the pick-and roll (which is, I may remind you, a rather large part of most NBA offenses). They’ll still be a strong offensive team, but they’ll most likely take a step back in that area as well, with almost all their principle players (Nash, Bell, Shaq, Hill) moving into their mid-to-late 30s. The middle-tier of the West is weak enough that the Suns should have no problem making the playoffs again, but I have a hard time seeing them getting past the first round.
xphoenix87 is a Contributing Writer for BallerBlogger.com. He’s glad the season is finally starting, because he’s not sure he can handle more bad preseason basketball. Let the bad regular season basketball begin! Anyway, he’s writing season previews for all 30 NBA teams. Check back in tomorrow for Sacramento’s preview.