Losing a point guard like Nash can be devastating to any team, especially when that team narrowly missed the playoffs last season, finishing 33-33. But I am sure the Suns are happy to let Nash go because they were able to make moves to enhance their roster and build it for years to come.
First, they brought back point guard Goran Dragic after he played two and a half seasons for the Suns before being traded to the Houston Rockets. He had a fantastic last two months of the season for the Rockets, averaging 16.9 points and 7.5 assists per game. Phoenix is happy to have him back and I am sure the No. 13 overall pick, Kendall Marshall, is happy to be able to learn from Dragic.
The Suns also picked up Luis Scola, who was amnestied by the Rockets, for a cheap price of $4.1 million. Scola is tough player who can hit mid-range jumpshots and rebound the ball. They acquired two former Minnesota T’wolves, Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson. They signed Beasley for three years and $18 million, and got Johnson in a trade. If Beasley is able to get his head on straight, he could be a huge plus, offensively, for the Suns. I don’t think the Suns will expect much out of Johnson, who disappointed T’wolves fans in his two years with the franchise.
All in all, I think this team has some solid pieces, but I think it could be a rough year in the ‘Valley of the Sun.’
Point guard(s) – Goran Dragic: Dragic will be a nice transition from Nash. He has more of a scorer’s mentality than Nash did his last few years. He will look to push the tempo, just like Nash, but he will also look for his own shot more than Nash did. I think he will do good things for the Suns.
Rookie Kendall Marshall and Sebastian Telfair will compete for the remaining minutes.
Position Grade: B-
Shooting guard(s) – Shannon Brown: I like Brown’s game. Even though his numbers were awesome last season, keep in mind that he played 24 minutes per game. His numbers would be better if he played more, but the Suns played a lot of guys last season. I think he will see his minutes increase this season, resulting in better numbers.
Wesley Johnson will back up Brown.
Position Grade: C+
Small forward(s) – Michael Beasley: I have said that Beasley has all the talent in the world many times before. It’s clear that he can be a dominant scorer when his head is in the game. Keeping Beasley satisfied will be head coach Alvin Gentry‘s hardest job this season. Beasley can become the face of this franchise if he really wants to.
Jared Dudley will back up Beasley.
Position Grade: B
Power forward(s) – Luis Scola: Scola will be a solid player for the Suns. He is gritty and plays hard. He can space the floor and knock down jumpers from 15-19 ft with regularity. I think the Suns got a steal when they signed him. As the saying goes, “One man’s loss is another man’s gain.”
Channing Frye and Markieff Morris will compete for back up minutes.
Position Grade: C+
Center(s) – Marcin Gortat: The ‘Polish Hammer’ had a great season last season when he averaged 15.4 points and 10 rebounds per game. Even without Nash, I think Gortat will put up similar numbers, also with a high field-goal percentage. He is also a solid low-post defender. I think he could be even better this year than last.
Channing Frye and Jermaine O’Neal will compete for the remaining minutes.
Position Grade: B-
Projected Starting Lineup
G: Goran Dragic
G: Shannon Brown
F: Michael Beasley
F: Luis Scola
C: Marcin Gortat
Starting Lineup Grade: B-
G: Kendall Marshall
G: Jared Dudley
F: Markieff Morris
F: Channing Frye
Bench Grade: C
Coaching Grade: B- (Alvin Gentry)
I think the Suns will struggle this season. I am predicting a last-place finish in the Pacific Division.