It's far from clear what the 2009-10 Phoenix Suns will be. It's far from clear *who* they will be. In the mean time, there's intrigue, and still quite a bit of firepower.
Earl Clark (F drafted #14 overall)
Channing Frye (PF/C signed as a FA)
Sasha Pavlović (G/F) Contract Bought Out Ben Wallace (C) Contract Bought Out
Shaquille O'Neal (C, traded for two guys who aren't on the roster)
A Clear Plan (lost to time, trades and the ravishing axe of the bottom line, fighting desperately to avoid huge luxury tax penalties.)
This is no longer the up-up tempo team from a few years ago that could honestly contend for a title. It isn't even the team from a year ago that stayed in playoff contention up until the bitter end of the season. Shaq is gone, in a move largely designed to avoid the luxury tax. Everyone else is older. The present state-of-the-Suns is best described as "in flux", which is a euphemism for "this can't possibly be a plan for a winner; we don't really expect this to last; anyone and everyone could be traded".
Indeed Doc Brown's marvelous time travel engine might be welcome in the Valley of the Sun, to go back to a time when the Suns were a serious threat to win it all, a time when Steve Nash directed the most effective offense in the game, when the Matrix defied opposing forwards to figure out his game, when Stoudemire was fiece on the boards and D'antoni outdid Nellie with fast paced, uptempo play that wore most opponents into the dirt.
But while this is not a contender, and conventional wisdom suggests that anytime between when this article finds life with the "submit" button and the trading deadline more or less everyone on the roster is fair game for trade, the Suns still remain a reasonable potent team. Trade candidate #1, Amar'e Stoudemire should be recovered from a pair of unlikely eye injuries. When healthy, he is one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the league. He is equally effective finishing off the ever-common Nash assists and bull-rushing the basket, frequently getting to the line where he's an uncharacteristically good shooter for a man his size. Stoudemire is already the subject of trade rumors, including a draft day doozy that had him ever so close towards sporting a Bay Area local address. As a potential free agent should he opt out of the last year of his present contract, Stoudemire is an intriguing commodity, though any team interested will almost certainly want to work out a contract extension first.
With Shaq gone, Stoudemire will shoulder most of the interior scoring load while Coach Gentry waits for his "youth movement" of Channing Frye, Earl Clark, or perhaps 2nd year C Robin Lopez to provide any sort of complement. Perhaps being closer to his alma mater will push some new life into Frye, but at present, he's a jump-shooting big forward who more often than not sees his jumper miss the mark. He's a substandard rebounder. While more regular playing time -- and this is all too probable the case -- his performance will likely rise, he will not help build a winner. Clark is a versatile, athletic forward, long on "potential" though his college performance does not suggest that he will be an immediate answer as an NBA forward.
Trade candidate #2, top assist-man Nash is not the same player who won back-to-back MVPs, but he's still one of the elite shooting guards in the league and among the top passers in the game. Phoenix recently signed Nash to a 2 year extension. While this may mean they intend to keep him around as a bridge of stability, a team on the verge of a championship may still be willing to part with some value to gamble on Nash's last legs.
Having been dealt twice in as many years, shooting guard Jason Richardson (trade candidate #3) would also seem to be potential trade bait. Golden State fans know that he's a more than capable scorer, though with a shrinking cap and 2 more high dollar years left on his contract, the potential suitors are once again limited to those willing to pay big for immediate rewards.
Stoudemire, Nash and Richardson are joined by speedster guard Leandro Barbosa and forward Grant Hill (back for another season at age 36), all able scorers, all efficient in this effort. Together, the Suns should still be able to shoot their way into games. The problem will come when they try to stop the opposition. Hill is the only Sun who was ever known as a superior defender, though at 36, he is no longer the stopper he once was. Nash, Richardson, Barbosa and Stoudemire have never been known for their defense. If Amar'e can regain his rebounding form, he could be an asset in that regard, but someone else will have to force the opposition into missing some shots, something that the current cast hasn't shown themselves able to do. This is not a club build for defense.
Prediction: Who knows? If no one is traded, this team could still challenge for a playoff slot. But if anyone (or everyone) is sent elsewhere for picks and "potential" all bets are off. Rumors will certainly fly. Will the Suns?
For more on the Suns, check out our SBNation colleagues at: Bright Side Of The Sun
2009-2010 Around the Association
- Atlanta Hawks: Sorry, Mrs. Jackson. The Hawks are for real.
- Boston Celtics: Sheed in Green + Another Answer
- Charlotte Bobcats: They Do Exist
- Chicago Bulls: Ring Around the Rose-y
- Cleveland Cavaliers: Now or Never
- Dallas Mavericks: The Curse of the Dampier
- Denver Nuggets: If it ain't broke...
- Detroit Pistons: The Return of the Bay Boys
- Houston Rockets: Yao-ch!, that's gotta hurt
- Indiana Pacers: A One Man Show
- Los Angeles Clippers: Warriors South No More
- Los Angeles Lakers: Big Brother, Little Brother
- Memphis Grizzlies: Going Back to Vancouver
- Miami Heat: Need to get the point
- Milwaukee Bucks: Saving a few buck$
- Minnesota Timberwolves: Donde esta Senor Rubio?
- New Jersey Nets: The Year of the Yi
- New Orleans Hornets: Two first names, one great point guard
- New York Knicks: Is it summatime yet?
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Orlando Magic: Are they Vinsane? You be the judge
- Philadelphia 76ers: Are they (Elton) Brand New?
- Phoenix Suns
- Portland TrailBlazers
- Sacramento Kings
- San Antonio Spurs
- Toronto Raptors
- Utah Jazz
- Washington Wizards