So much uncertainty surround the 2012-13 Phoenix Suns with a revamped roster, the face of the franchise gone and a group of players still looking to prove their worth in the NBA. Could be a combination of things that could bring some unexpected success or great frustration.
Despite the fact the Suns play both of their games against Lebron James and the defending champion Miami Heat in the first month of the season, the Suns have a schedule make-up that could get them off to a fast start. Nine of the month’s 17 games are on the road but there are also nine games against teams that did not make the playoffs last season. One of those nine I included are the Orlando Magic who did make the playoffs, but will have a much different look without Dwight Howard.
So if the Suns can start fast and beat teams that could struggle this season as well as beat some teams that they are not expected to beat, you are looking at a month well above .500 which could create confidence in a young team. If that does end up being the case, can the Suns maintain it long enough to inch into the playoffs?
For those who have unplugged from the Suns since last season came to an end, the following is a breakdown of each position with what can be expected:
It is going to be very weird for everyone watching the Suns this season seeing the leader in the back court being run by someone other than Steve Nash. But the guy stepping in is somone people who follow the Suns are familiar with. That’s Goran Dragic. Dragic will tell you himself that his time is now and this is a pivotal point in his career. The team will rely on him heavily to facilitate, create for others and take care of some occasional scoring.
Backing up Dragic will be Sebastian Telfair who is back for his second season with the team. Alvin Gentry was able to get the best out of Telfair in the second half of last season and there was no coincidence that the Suns won more games and were in the playoff picture once Telfair was made the back-up over Ronnie Price.
Kendall Marshall was the Suns first round selection over the off-season. Based on how things went in the pre-season, Marshall will have to earn his time. Suns GM Lance Blanks said after drafting Marshall that he embodies everything the Suns organization wants in a player.
Two guys that will be relied upon heavily for scoring both in the starting spot and off the bench. The expected starter in this spot expects to be Jared Dudley who is now the longest tenured Sun besides Channing Frye who will miss the season. Dudley improved on his stats from a year prior last season averaging 12 points and four rebounds. But will need to improve once again for the team to be successful.
Shannon Brown went from not playing in games in December and January to one of the team’s top scorers down the stretch of last season. Brown will be the scoring threat and spark needed off the bench. And rookie Diante Garrett out of Iowa State most likely wont see a lot of time off the bench. Garrett is a guy that can score and distribute when in the game.
Three new guys. All players that haven’t lived up to expectations coming out of college and are looking to turn around their careers in a new environment. Michael Beasley has the ability to be the leading scorer on this roster. Beasley mentioned in years past that coaches told him to play a little more unselfish and pass up shots at times. The Suns don’t want him to do that. They want him to score and want him to be aggressive.
Wes Johnson is another former lottery pick that has not lived up to the expectation as of yet. But like Beasley, the Suns want Johnson to shoot when he has the ball. He has great range and could thrive from the perimeter in Alvin Gentry’s system.
P.J. Tucker was signed to his team after his impressive play on the summer league squad. Tucker is a guy that will bring extra defense and rebounding to this team and add some extra toughness that this young team will need off the bench against some of the best teams around the league.
The most consistent and reliable player on this roster, at least going into the season, is Luis Scola. The Suns landed the 6th year player out of Argentina via the amnesty auction from the Rockets. Scola brings so many things to the table with his scoring, rebounding, passing and defense. He averaged 15 points and six rebounds last year and will be at his best when the Suns place him with the ball in the high post. In that spot Scola has proven he can spot up, post up and distribute.
The Suns expect a lot of growth from second year player Markieff Morris off the bench. The organization has raved about the growth of Morris in the off-season. He has put on muscle and is up to 245 which Morris said is his target weight. Morris is another guy the team will need to step up on defense and on rebounding. The scoring will be an added bonus.
Channing Fyre is expected to miss the entire season with a heart condition. Based on how he progresses, he is expected to be re-evaluated in December.
Marcin Gortat is coming off his most productive season as a pro and will be out in 2012-13 to prove that Steve Nash was the reason for last year’s success. Gortat averaged a double-double a season ago and was the most consistent scorer and rebounder for the team. Gortat was the first to mention that he started to fatigue as last season came to a close. That was seen in the game that knocked the Suns out of the playoffs officially in a loss to the Jazz. The Suns will need Gortat to maintain that consistency over the entire 82 game season.
Jermaine O’Neal is at a point in his career where he would like to win, but it is more important to him that he enjoy playing the game at the same time. The happier O’Neal is, the more he should bring to the team in his 17th year. As mentioned, Gortat staying fresh is important to the team’s success and productive minutes off the bench from O’Neal could play dividends.
Luke Zeller, out of Notre Dame, could see more minutes than people think. O’Neal has a track record of sustaining injuries in the past and Zeller would be the guy to step in as back-up Center if that is the case. He played more than 20 minutes in two pre-season games for that exact reason. Zeller is not a guy who will put up numbers when he is in but a big 6’11 frame that could carry the load while Gortat comes out of games.
Suns kick-off the 2012 season with two home games. The first against the Warriors on Halloween night and the second against the Detroit Pistons on Friday night before hitting the road for a three game east coast road trip.