I was going to subtitle this, “Apres Nash, le deluge,” but two French subtitles in a row just wouldn’t fly. I understand that. Anyway, the meaning doesn’t fit, unless the deluge just means missing the playoffs for a couple of years. That’s serious stuff to the Phoenix Faithful. From 1989 through 2010 they missed going to the playoffs exactly once (2002). No NBA team– not the Lakers or the Celtics or the Bulls–had more playoff appearances during that 24-year period. Okay, NBA titles have come less frequently. In round numbers, none. And if they couldn’t win one with Steve Nash, especially in the years that he won back-to-back MVPs, then…well, you see the problem. In fact they have only won two Western Conference championships—the first in 1976 and the last in 1993. Yes, twenty seasons ago.
So while we’re applauding the consistency of this franchise, therein may lay the problem: The Suns are too happy to be just good enough.
Last year they finished 33-33, the 10th best record in the West. They’ve turned their roster inside out and are better this year, but so are most of the teams ahead of them. If Utah or Dallas falters (they are the only teams that might drop out of the top eight), the Suns, T-Wolves and Warriors stand the best chance of moving up.
The Suns are good enough to surprise everyone and have a very good season. They are solid everywhere and deep. Where they need to be better is at the small forward position. After losing his job with the T-Wolves, Wes Johnson could have a new outlook in Phoenix. Hard to say. Ditto P.J. Tucker, who has played in Europe during most of his six-year career. The quick fix is to make Michael Beasley the starting small forward and be done with it. He plays like a small forward even though he’s always called a power forward. The Suns best player is PF Luis Scola, signed after being amnestied by the Rockets. So let the 6’10” Beasley loose. How many small forwards could guard Beasley? A front line of Scola, Beasley and C Marcin Gortat, the “Polish Hammer,” would be formidable.
Goren Dragic, once Nash’s backup, has returned from the Rockets and will be backed up by Sebastian Telfair and rookie PG Kendall Marshall (the 13th pick). That’s a solid trio. The off-guard spot is in good hands with Jared Dudley, Shannon Brown and Michael Redd. Dudley is a good swing guy who will come in handy at small forward.
The bigs are backed up by C Jermaine O’Neal (don ‘t laugh; all they want from him is ten minutes a night) and PF Markieff Morris, and that’s not big enough, especially with Channing Frye out indefinitely with a heart ailment. They have to get bigger rather quickly, and are auditioning people as we speak. Ike Diogu is supposedly close to signing. I like Ike but the Suns need another 7-footer or two.
As good as they are, the Suns will have their hands full with the T-Wolves and Warriors. The games those teams play against each other loom large. There might be only one open playoff spot for one of those teams to fill. Or there may be no open playoff spot. Hey, it’s the West.