2008-09 NBA Preview: Phoenix Suns

“Phoenix Suns2007-08 Record: 55-27Cool 2007 Stat: The best shooting season ever? Steve Nash became the first player ever to shoot 50% from the field, 47% from three and 90% from the foul line.Anticipated Starting Five PG- Steve NashSG- Raja BellSF- Grant HillPF- Amare StoudemireC- Shaquille O’NealKey Reserves: Leandro Barbosa, Matt Barnes, Boris Diaw, Robin LopezBiggest Strength – Inside/Outside ScoringPhoenix presents one of the best inside-outside offensive games in the NBA. Their starting front-court (Shaq and Amare) is big and shot a combined 59.3% from the field last season, and I don’t see that changing much this year either. Shaq can still score and shoot a high percentage when he gets touches in the post. If new coach Terry Porter regulates his minutes, he could still be dominant (scoring or passing out of double teams) for short bursts during games. Amare brings a more versatile game offensively and is even more efficient when you factor in his 80% free throw shooting. Combine those two beasts down low with the 47% (Nash), 40% (Bell) and 39% (Barbosa) three-point shooters on the perimeter, and that makes for very some difficult match-ups and defensive decisions for opposing teams.Biggest Weakness – AgeSpecifically, age at the two most important positions in basketball: point guard and center. Steve Nash is 34-years-old and will be 35 next February. He hasn’t shown much sign of slowing down on the offensive end (evidenced by his 2007 cool stat above), but that isn’t my concern with him or this team. Will he be able to hold his own against the guys he’ll likely face in the post-season (Parker, Williams, Paul)? We saw how Paul attacked and destroyed an elderly Jason Kidd last playoffs. Kidd, at least, was once known for his defense; Nash has never been, and he is reaching retirement age.Shaq is 36-years-old, turning 37 next March. Can he play the games necessary (at least 70) to get this team in the playoffs with a decent seed? He hasn’t played more than 61 games in 4 years. Phoenix’s training staff has shown they can do wonders, but I doubt they turn back the clock on the 36-year-old, 7? 1?, 320+ pound “Big Daddy.” What’s worse: teams will force Phoenix’s big, slow, aging center and their weak defensive, elderly point guard into countless pick-and-roll situations. Not looking good for the Suns.Key Player in ’08 – Amare StoudemireCan Steve Nash adjust to a new system? Can Shaq actually get in shape, stay healthy and contribute? These are the first 2 questions that popped into my mind when thinking of the Suns, but then I realized I was pretty sure of the answers. Yes, Nash can. No, Shaq won’t. The Key player, i.e., the player that can make the Suns a legit contender and not a barely-out-of-the-lottery squad is Amare. As with many straight from H.S. players, we forget how young they still are. Amare is only 25, and was 3rd in the NBA in PER last year, behind only LeBron and Chris Paul. With Mike D’Antoni’s run-and-gun system now in NYC, this is the year that this should become Amare’s team, not Steve Nash’s. Whether or not Amare can take that responsibility will play a big role in the Suns’ success this year.Their Thaddeus (exciting player 22 or under) – Goran Dragic, 22Yes, the Goran Dragic. If you are a Suns’ fan, you know that they don’t really like rookies (or more accurately, paying them) as shown by them passing up Andre Iguodala and Rajon Rondo in recent drafts in exchange for cash. That leaves Dragic and the recently acquired Sean Singletary as the only two players who fit into this category. Dragic (6?4″, PG) was a 2008 2nd round draft pick and averaged 9.7 pts, 3.1 apg, 2.9 rpg and 1.2 spg for Slovenia in Eurobasket 2007. Some think he’ll have to impress to gain some minutes; others think he’ll be Nash’s primary back-up.”Check out the rest of the article, including team outlook and predicted finish, as well as other NBA team previews from ReclinerGM

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