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Suns to begin what could be a season to forget
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Suns to begin what could be a season to forget

Tipoff 2011 is upon us, and as of now there isn’t much
optimism surrounding the Phoenix Suns.

Just 40-42 last season, the team, with an eye towards 2012’s free agent class,
did not make any significant changes in the offseason.
Instead they are hoping for improved health of Steve Nash
and Robin Lopez to combine with Marcin Gortat, Jared
Dudley and Channing Frye all stepping up their games. Add
in Grant Hill’s savvy and solid role players like Josh
Childress and Hakim Warrick, and the Suns could have
something here.

Or, of course, Nash could have trouble making it through
the 66-game schedule, Lopez may not be very good to begin
with and Gortat, Dudley and Frye may have all peaked at
decent-but-nothing-special.

Most outsiders aren’t too high on the Suns, with ESPN’s John Hollinger pegging them
for 24 wins
and SI.com’s Zach
Lowe putting the Suns in the
“Lottery-Bound,
Frustrating Division” of his NBA season preview. It’s
pretty much a game where you can pick the writer and read
a depressing prediction.

Well, sorry, but here comes another one.

It’s not that the Suns are completely devoid of talent.
Nash
is still Nash (when healthy), Hill can still D up with the
best of ‘em and Dudley, Frye and Gortat would all play
significant roles on any other team in the league.
Markieff Morris has flashed some potential, and if Lopez
can round back into his 2009-10 form, Phoenix could be the
home of one of the game’s best duos at center. As far as
talent goes, there are teams in the NBA with less.

However, it’s what the Suns don’t have that will
ultimately cost them games.

The Suns don’t have enough rebounding; Gortat, Lopez and
Frye just won’t get the job done on the glass.

The Suns don’t have elite defenders; other than Hill, is
there anyone the Suns can rely on to “shut down” an
opponent?

The Suns don’t have a backup point guard; I’m sorry, but
Ronnie Price and Sebastian Telfair are no better than
Goran Dragic and Leandro Barbosa, and the Suns (and fans)
couldn’t wait to run those guys out of town.

And, finally, the Suns don’t have a go-to scorer, an issue
that cost them down the stretch in games last season and
is likely to do so once again.

The Suns can no longer count on being able to simply
outscore their opponents. Phoenix is no longer the model
of offensive efficiency and team all others aspired to be.
No Joe Johnson, no Amare Stoudemire, no Jason Richardson
and no Vince Carter – OK, maybe not Carter – but not
having a top-flight scorer like that means the Suns have
exactly zero players outside of Nash who an opposing
defense must fear.

Now could Frye, Dudley or someone else get hot from three?
Sure, but those nights will be rare, and if the Suns
aren’t scoring their defense sure as hell won’t be good
enough to pick up the slack, even if new assistant Elston
Turner can coax some improvement out of the group.

Simply put, as a franchise, the Suns are a lot closer to
“really bad” than they are to “elite”

With what should be a loaded 2012 draft class, being bad
could prove to be good, as the Suns may be just months
away from acquiring the player they can begin to build
around. Until then, though, the Suns will be just a shell
of what they used to be, an old version of “run-and-gun”
that has been surpassed by the very teams they used to
abuse on a nightly basis.

Turnabout is fair play, and at this point it’s pretty much
expected. While the Suns won’t embarrass themselves,
chances are good the truncated 2011-12 campaign will be
one to forget.