Shannon Brown starting to prove the naysayers (like me) wrong
For a second straight season, a slow-starting Suns team would rally furiously following the All-Star break, only to fall short of their goal of reaching the NBA Playoffs.
I mean, after all, the Suns were going to be without their best and most versatile defender for a good chunk of the remainder of the regular season. With ground to make up and teams to overtake, Hill's absence would certainly be the final nail in the Suns' playoff coffin.
I definitely felt that way.
But the rest of the players on the roster apparently didn't get that memo, and that includes Shannon Brown, who has done more than an admirable job in filling in for Hill in the Phoenix starting five.
I'll admit it - I've always found Shannon Brown to be a maddening NBA player dating back to his days with the Los Angeles Lakers. He undoubtedly possesses unbelievable athletic ability. He also lacks a filter that helps him determine what is a good shot and what is not.
Before signing in Phoenix, he was arguably best known for a spectacular missed dunk, which, in a way, summed up his career.
Early in the season, many a Suns fan was shaking their head about some of the on-court decisions made by Brown.
Those moments haven't stopped altogether since Brown stepped into the starting lineup eight games ago, but they've been drastically reduced.
With Brown as a starter, the Suns are 5-3 and find themselves just one game behind Dallas and Denver for the final Western Conference playoff spot with just nine games to play.
Individually, Brown is averaging 17.5 points per game as a starter on 45.3% shooting from the floor. These are not earth-shattering figures, but for a team that readily admits they don't have a go-to scorer, they're significant.
Not only has Brown thrived as the recipient of increased minutes, but the Suns' bench is arguably playing their best basketball of the season as each member has a more clearly-defined role.
The news is good on the Grant Hill front. The veteran co- captain could be back for the stretch run which includes tough games against Oklahoma City, the Clippers, Denver and San Antonio.
When Hill is ready to go, does Alvin Gentry just re-insert him back in the lineup and relegate Brown to the bench? That remains to be seen, as does whether or not the Suns re-sign Brown in the offseason. He has not hurt his stock around the league with his play in the last two weeks, and could be a commodity in this summer's free agent market.
One thing we do know is Hill is coming back and it'll be good to see #33 on the court when he gets back. But if the Suns do end up reaching their goal of making the playoffs, we'd be remiss in not properly crediting how important Shannon Brown has been during this second half run.
Man, I never thought I'd say that.