Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
Tonight it begins. After weeks of scrutinizing every last aspect of the Golden State Warriors' roster, tonight we finally get to see how things play out in a real game. To get us ready for playing a game that counts (7 p.m. PST), I had an exchange with Dave King of SB Nation's Phoenix Suns' blog Bright Side of the Sun for a Q&A about the composition of their roster, his expectations for their season, and his response to the James Harden trade. You can check out my responses to Dave over at Bright Side of the Sun.
1. Was the Ike Diogu Experience as exciting for your fan base as it was for ours?
Dave King: People around here love Ike. He went to ASU and was their best player during that time. Plus we all love an underdog, which Ike definitely is. There was a lot of rooting for him to make the team, and I certainly thought he should have made it over Luke Zeller, but our franchise has a thing with sibling NBA players (and always taking the lesser one). Markieff Morris (possibly the better one!), Robin Lopez, Jarron Collins, Taylor Griffin and now Luke Zeller. And it's not just one FO that's doing this. Former GM/President Steve Kerr was responsible for Collins/Griffin/Lopez, while Lance Blanks has chosen Morris and now Zeller. Not sure why this is such a fascination, but it is.
2. The competition for third place in the Pacific Division will probably be between the Suns and Warriors. Yet most of us at GSoM just assume that the Warriors will finish the season ahead of the Suns after losing their big name players. On the other hand, I also know some Suns fans feel that they can compete for the playoffs this season. What is about this unit right now that might lead you to believe they can get to the playoffs?
DK: Of course you think the Warriors will finish ahead of the Suns, just as Suns fans think the Suns will finish ahead of the Warriors. The main reason for optimism around these here parts is the solid, healthy starting lineup and the deep(ish) bench. Dragic is clearly playing like the guy who got 18 and 8 over 2months of starting last spring. Jared Dudley, Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat are solid and steady. The offense will be fine, despite Beasley taking a lot of the shots. He is quite a good scorer after tall. Yet, I'm not sure either of our teams makes the playoffs this season. I predicted a 46-win season, but that was partially just to be the contrarian of the group. For the Suns to make the playoffs, Michael Beasley and Goran Dragic would have to be playing like All-Stars.
3. With all the changes the Suns have made this offseason, there's obviously a lot of uncertainty. What is the thing you're most worried about for the team or the team's biggest weakness?
DK: The biggest question mark has to be the play of the wings - Jared Dudley, Shannon Brown, PJ Tucker, Wesley Johnson and Michael Beasley. The only guy in the group with All-Star talent is Beasley and he's the least likely to play to his skill level. Wesley Johnson would surprise all of us if he contributed anything. Tucker is a journeyman without a jump shot, and Dudley and Brown are who they are - a passable pair of shooting guards whose points can vary wildly on any given night. One night they will combine for 40, the next for 15. Their defense is also a point of concern - if they are matadors, the Suns will struggle to win any games.
4. While a lot of the focus for Suns fans seems to be on the new acquisitions, Marcin Gortat is coming off a pretty strong year (what some might consider an All-Star caliber year). Do you think his game will suffer without Steve Nash or did he show you enough to prove that he can pick up where he left off or close to it?
Marcin Gortat is the same player he was last season, but the Suns now have a lot more offensive options now. Steve Nash went through weeks at a time suffering from one mid-body injury or another. During those times he did whatever he could do to avoid taking a shot. Without any other great options, Marcin Gortat was the primary offensive weapon because he was talented at being the roll man.
This year is different. Michael Beasley, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic can create their own shots, and will use Gortat as a backup option when they are covered. He will probably only get about 10-12 points per game this season on garbage work near the rim.
Aside from that, Gortat will do great this season. He will play nearly every game, get 10-11 rebounds a night and 1-2 blocks and strong defense. I love Marcin, though many Suns fans take him for granted these days.
5. Preseason games are generally considered meaningless, but when you have a lot of new players coming together they can be useful to give you a sense of what you've got. What do you think are the most significant takeaways for Suns fans after the preseason?
#1 - The Suns can still score without TwoTime. They will be a top-half offense.
#2 - Dragic, Beasley and Scola are as good or better than advertised. The Suns will need them.
#3 - Defense will be a work in progress, as always.
6. To bring this thing full circle, we'll end with another ASU product: James Harden. Obviously most people were surprised at news of the trade, but Royce Young described the Suns as one of the losers in that deal because folks were hoping they'd be able to sign him as a free agent. How big a setback does that feel like right now after spending time stockpiling assets?
Sure James Harden would have been a great catch, but the price was steep. The Suns would have had to give up nearly all their "assets" to beat the Houston offer. We still have to wait to see what happens with the new CBA and teams needing to shed salary. The Suns can still make hay in the coming months if they play their cards right. Good players will become available.
For far more thoughts on the season from a Sun's perspective, check out Bright Side's staff preview where they go in-depth about the season.