Thursday, October 14, 2010

Phoenix Suns - Better or Worse

Following a very good regular season in which they earned the number three seed in the Western Conference, the Suns had an excellent postseason, beating the Blazers in six games then sweeping the Spurs before falling to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals in six.  But the offseason brought a lot of change to Phoenix with Amare Stoudamire signing with the Knicks and the Suns then orchestrating some free agent signings and trades.  Will all the summer moves result in winter success?  Let's take a look.

(Note: The rankings you see referenced below are fully explained in my initial NBA point guard rankings post)

Photo source: kevindooley

Point Guard
2009 - Steve Nash (#7 PG, Level 2), Goran Dragic (#36 PG, Level 7)
2010 - Steve Nash (#7 PG, Level 2), Goran Dragic (#36 PG, Level 7)

Nash was spectacular as usual last season.  The only reason he didn't rank among the top three point guards in my rankings is because his Defensive Rating was 62nd.  Dragic was a solid backup in his second year in the NBA.  I think Nash will start to slide this season resulting in the loss of two wins while the development of Dragic will get one of those wins back.  Net losses - 1.

Shooting Guard
2009 - Jason Richardson (#11 SG, Level 3), Leandro Barbosa (#34 SG, Level 7)
2010 - Jason Richardson (#11 SG, Level 3), Josh Childress (Played in Europe)

Richardson was good in the '09-'10 campaign but suffered a little bit of a drop off.  Childress is coming back to the NBA after a two year run in Europe.  He was a very productive role player for the Hawks before going overseas.  I project that Richardson will slide back slightly more leading to one loss while Childress will not be as productive as Barbosa was last season resulting in another loss.  Net losses - 2.

Small Forward
2009 - Grant Hill (#19 SF, Level 5), Jared Dudley (#15 SF, Level 5)
2010 - Grant Hill (#19 SF, Level 5), Jared Dudley (#15 SF, Level 5)

The Suns got consistently excellent production from the small forward position last season.  One of the keys was three-point shooting, which is always important in a Steve Nash-run offense.  Hill shot 44% from behind the arc while Dudley shot 46%.  I've got Phoenix losing two games due to a drop off in Hill's play while staying even with Dudley.  I just think he reached his ceiling last year.  Net losses - 2.

Power Forward
2009 - Amare Stoudamire (#10 PF, Level 3)
2010 - Hedo Turkoglu (#32 SF, Level 7), Hakim Warrick (#42 PF, Level 7)

Stoudamire was very good for most of last season and even better in the playoffs.  Replacing him will be a very tough task.  The Suns are likely to use a mix of players at the four.  Turkoglu, who completely flamed out in Toronto, could get the bulk of the minutes if he shows he can guard other power forwards.  Regardless, Phoenix will not be able to match the production they got from Stoudamire last season.  Net losses - 4.

2009 - Channing Frye (#24 C, Level 5), Robin Lopez (#20 C, Level 5)
2010 - Robin Lopez (#20 C, Level 5), Channing Frye (#24 C, Level 5)

Both Frye and Lopez put in good minutes for the Suns in the '09-'10 campaign.  Technically Frye started more games than Lopez.  They are both back in 2010 with Lopez the clear starter and Frye offering versatility off the pine.  Development from both players will lead to an improvement in production at the five.  Net wins - 3.

From the beginning of the season the Suns will be trying to make up for the loss of Stoudamire and fighting the effects of age.  They led the NBA in field-goal percentage and three-point field-goal percentage last season.  They will have to shoot just as efficiently this season if they hope to come close to matching last year's record, which was 54-28.  Looking at the season ahead, as highlighted above I've got them adding three wins at the center position, but losing four at power forward, two at small forward, two at shooting guard and one at point guard.

In the final verdict the Suns are WORSE.  As they are currently constructed I project that they will finish the season with a 48-34 record.

Let me know why you think I'm wrong or right by posting a comment below.


  1. Clearly the big problem for Phoenix this season is going to be size, strength, and rebounding with the loss of Amare. Warrick has some strength, but neither he nor Turkoglu are good rebounders, but they do both hustle and scrap. But this team just seems like they will be overpowered. A lot.

    However: Childress was a much more productive player than Barbosa OR Richarson when he was at the ATL. I'm calling a net +3 here. But they have to figure out how to use him. Childress led ATL in Wins Produced for three years in a row at a star level of 10-11.3. That's better than Vince Carter, Brandon Roy, and Ray Allen, but he got his numbers in a different way than those shoot-first players.

    Phoenix could try playing with three small forwards and a C alongside Nash. Turkoglu, Grant Hill, and Childress could give the team an overall good size and rebounding without having a PF. They'll have trouble defending big teams like the Lakes no matter what lineup they use.

    There are ways that this team will be effective and Phoenix will remain a PITA for other teams to guard. Some pundits have them dropping down to 42-44 wins, but I'm with you at 48 because I think that Childress is a valuable addition. They'll play smart, fast, and kill the sub .500 teams that are still trying to figure out how to play, and they'll beat the best teams when they don't bring their 'A' game.

  2. Thanks for the excellent comment J. Glanton. I love the stats that you are bringing. With Childress I just wonder how long it will take him to get readjusted to the NBA game. Phoenix is one of the most intriguing teams to me as we head into the season. Partly because of all the turnover on the roster, but also because of the mix of parts that they have. Will they get the Childress that left Atlanta? Will Turkoglu be the guy that carried the Magic to the Finals? Will their system turn Warrick into a high level producer? (I hope so, I'm a Syracuse guy.) Will they get crushed on the boards every night? Does Nash lose a step or two this year?

  3. All good questions that need to be answered. My experience is that when you have that many questions, you tend to end up dissappointed. But a healthy Nash will keep this team performing at a high level.

    Warrick was pretty good in his last year with Memphis. An above average player. He should do at least that well with the Suns.