NBA / Sep 15, 2008 / 12:46 pm

Highs and Lows: Phoenix Suns

Amare StoudemireAmare Stoudemire (photo. Mannion)

NBA training camps start up in a few weeks. In the meantime, we’re going team-by-team, from 1 to 30, exploring what each team’s ceiling is for the upcoming season and where their basement is. In other words, what are the realistic best-case and worst-case scenarios for each squad?

Additions: PG Goran Dragic, SF Matt Barnes, C/PF Robin Lopez, PG Sean Singletary.

Losses: SG Gordan Giricek, C Brian Skinner.

Ceiling: Western Conference finals
The Phoenix Suns you once knew are gone, and it’s not by accident. The exit strategy began the day Shawn Marion was traded for Shaquille O’Neal, and continued throughout the summer when Terry Porter replaced Mike D’Antoni on the bench and the Suns spent draft picks on defensive-minded big man Robin Lopez and point guard Goran Dragic. So does a renewed commitment defense and producing buckets in the half-court offense — basically trying to play more postseason-style basketball — also mean that Phoenix’s championship window for the Steve Nash era has closed? Not yet. Say what you will about Shaq’s decline, but he’s still a force that opponents have to deal with and his presence allowed Amare Stoudemire to play some of the best basketball of his career in the second half of last season. With a whole season plus training camp ahead of them, Nash is good enough to figure out how to make this new-look offense work. Plus, if Dragic is as good as advertised, he and fellow rookie Sean Singletary should finally give Nash a chance to pace himself during the regular season and keep some gas in the tank for the playoffs. And the underrated factor in the Dragic/Singletary acquisitions is that Leandro Barbosa can play his natural scoring game and not have to worry about running the point. Matt Barnes and an improved Alando Tucker should also gives Porter a chance to limit Grant Hill‘s minutes throughout the season. The championship window is closing, but the Suns have at least one more realistic shot.

Basement: 8th seed in the West
There are some ingredients in place for a down season in Phoenix — adjusting to a new style, a deeper Western Conference, plus injury risks with Nash, Shaq, Hill, even Amare to some extent — but this team is still too good not to make the playoffs.

’08-09 NBA preview archives
9/12 — Milwaukee Bucks
9/11 — L.A. Clippers
9/10 — Orlando Magic

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  • George W Kush Sr

    Indeed.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-490-Chicago-Bulls-Examiner C4

    I don’t know how well those players who have played in D’Antonis system fro so long will adjust to now having to learn defense. Raja is a good defender, Boris Diaw has the tools to be one, Barbosa has the speed and Amare is too good to not be, so maybe it will help them.

    Keeping Nash, Hill and Shaq paced through the season will be key for them.

  • English Off The Glass

    This team is literally newer than the thunder. So i think it is difficult to ceiling them. Anyone who is gonna take the ‘if it aint broke don’t fix it’ angle on the Suns has to remember, The Suns have had there chance at a ring, and failed. So it is broken that sense, they needed fixing, it was obvious there run and gun style of play would not fly against TD and co’s solid (and in my humble opinion, boring) fundamental strength.

    You could say that the Suns have a more rounded and fundamentaly solid team now. and then you can watch Diesel brick a free throw and eat your words.

    this is going to be either a good season for the Suns or a very, very bad season for Mr Kerr, but either way, very intersting to watch.

  • http://myspace.com/40sand9s loc

    THe Raps are my team,

    but Im 100% behind the Suns in the west, Nash, Shaq, Amarea, Hill, would LOVE to see them make it to the finals.

    A chip would get Nash is long awaited ring and secure Shaqs place as the greatest big man of all time. Plus Grant deserves a title too, he’ll go down as one of the greatest players to never be. Amare is the key to this team, he’s gotta take and be allowed to play teh alpha dog because hes got the talent and the legs to take the Suns all the way.

  • it aint easy being green

    keep the old timers healthy and turn defense into transition offense. could come out of the west a 2 seed. we’ll see.

  • http://www.dimemag.com A-Slam

    Great Article I completely Agree with everything said in it

  • Tha Boddy

    Delayed Kobe reply to Shaq in one year lol…
    A yo Shaq how you like watching me on T.V.?
    Yo ass retired now all you can do is watch me
    Yo Shaq you got a lowered fan base NOW TELL ME HOW MY ASS SHAKES (NO HOMO)

  • GarethChantler

    Amare is the big key during the regular season. He is the one piece that can be better than last year by a big margin, unless they start using Boris properly and start him to keep him ego healthy (with Hill coming off the bench). I doubt they’ll do that though, so Boris will probably have another lackluster season, when he could have another 17/6/6 season. Shaq has to come into training camp in some sort of shape obviously.

    The big key during the playoffs however, is Barbosa. He has choked every year and if he chokes again the suns can’t continue to have to make up 10-15 ppg every game through the rest of the team, its just too much to ask.

    Though the Suns have been a great regular season team, with the addition of Terry Porter, and the adjustment phase that will entail I think a #4 or #5 seed is likely. 51-52 wins.

  • Kobeef

    This team is done.
    Shaq’s off-season issues(stalking charges) signal that he is not focused on basketball and that he is close to coming unraveled.

    They should have traded Nash 2 years ago and built around Amare. Nash to Dallis for Devin Harris + Josh Howard would have been the best thing both PHX and Dallas could have done. Now both teams are doomed to pull a Kevin McHale on their superstar’s career.

  • king ralf

    I think Nash deserves a ring just for producing some of the most entertaining offensive ball game these days.
    but there´s also a bunch of other dudes i really grant a ring.

  • Ian

    conference finals
    thats assuming they avoid the spurs right dime?

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    Right.

  • http://www.ballerblogger.com Brandon Hoffman

    Very sensible leanings.

    It’s all about matchups with Phoenix. The Lakers and Spurs have their number. But I could see them sneaking up on Portland or New Orleans.

  • Coop

    OH NO THEY LOST GIRICEK THE HUMAN BLACK HOLE!!!

    ball goes in, never comes out.

    DEVASTATION MUST SURELY FOLLOW!

  • Prof. TX

    They also lost DJ Strawberry, who brought.. um.. potential?
    Oh, and his girlfriend’s huge rack, don’t forget that.

  • yoda

    its funny how suns have two of some of the best players from 90′s in shaq and hill and both are on decline (hill way less then shaq). but i must agree that shaq is still force in nba, especially if he menages to avoid stupid injuries. plus, as everyone keeps saying that shaq is done and washed up, that can be fuel for him to get back to 70-80% of old shaq. and 70% of old shaq is still better then 90% of todays centers in L.

  • Ansonious

    The roof should be winning the finals they have so much potential and if they can play good d games won’t even be close. The basement I can agree with, injuries could plague this half young, half veteran team to the point that come playoffs shit could go sour, and I guess that’s how it goes. So I’m already going to assume the roof for the spurs is going to be another ring right, it wouldn’t surprise me much, but nice article Burton your not the hater I considered you to be(the spurs will lose to the suns come playoffs.) I’m out like Grant Hill playing more than 50 games peace!