By: James Sargent
Last season was quite a success for the Phoenix Suns as they reached the Western Conference Finals when every NBA source had them making the playoffs as a 6-8 seed and not going further than the first round. Now, I am here to tell you that the Phoenix Suns can exceed last season and possibly knock off the Lakers. The loss of Amare Stoudemire, in my opinion, will be quite a hurdle to overcome, but the players that were added will make the Suns a better team.
Amare Stoudemire is a great player and I loved watching him mature in his tenure with the Suns, but he had a couple of flaws he brought to the team.
One, he has injury issues that have to always be in the back of your mind. I understand he came back successfully from micro-fracture knee surgery and major eye surgery, but at any time he could go down due to the effects from these injuries or new ones that could arise. Major injuries can have lingering effects and pop up at any time when you least except it. Heck, at any point, Steve Nash’s career could be over with one unlucky back injury. Injury-ridden players are always something you have to watch out for.
Two, his rebounding is very questionable. You never know when he is going to show up and grab 12 boards or five boards in a game. His lack of enthusiasm and hustle are also big reasons to when he decides to play his hardest. Last season in the playoffs, he averaged 6.6 rebounds. C’mon, man! You are a 6’10” power forward and one of the most athletic players in the NBA! There is no reason you shouldn’t be pulling down nine or less rebounds a game.
Three, and this is similar to the one above, his defense is very poor. Again, he is athletic enough to be a defensive presence, but he doesn’t always give it his all in every game. Every once in a while he will have a good defensive game and record a couple blocks, but most of the time he is terrible. Maybe New York will bring out the best of Amare.
Now we get to move on to the additions that the Suns made. Several days after LeBron James shocked the basketball world with his decision to join the Miami Heat alongside Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, the Suns made a quiet but interesting move by signing the lanky yet versatile forward Hakim Warrick. Then, a few days after that, the Suns landed Josh Childress and Hedo Turkoglu in separate deals.
The only price the Suns pay for these acquisitions is the loss of guard, Leandro Barbosa, who was sent to Toronto for Turkoglu. I am happy Barbosa is gone. He was starting to lose his off-the-bench heroics and he took way too many shots. He had some great seasons for Phoenix, but after the injury he suffered last year, he just did not come back the same.
Josh Childress is a great pickup for the team. He provides stability in the small forward spot, which is currently occupied by the aging Grant Hill. Childress, who spent his last two seasons playing overseas for the Olympiacos in Greece, will also help tremendously on defense. He can lessen the burdens of Jason Richardson in guarding the tough opposing guards in the league such as the likes of Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen and Dwayne Wade. Childress ultimately will bring to the team what Shawn Marion brought in his days here, just not as frequent. Childress is a poor man’s Shawn Marion and I am going to stick by that comment until I am proven wrong.
Hedo Turkoglu, on the other hand, is set to face enormous amounts of pressure as he takes over the slot vacated by Amare. The Turkish sensation, who had a dismal season with the Toronto Raptors, will give the Suns more firepower and provide clutch plays for the team. He will also lessen the load of Steve Nash because he is a very good ball handler and great court vision. His only downside is his suspect defense. He will have to guard the more powerful and stronger power forwards and this could pose problems.
With this being said, I believe the Suns will be a much more talented team. The starting lineup will include Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Hedo Turkoglu and Robin Lopez. The bench, or “Second Unit”, will feature Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick and Channing Frye. The Suns could even go as deep as playing Earl Clark or rookie Gani Lawal if they make great improvements. Anyways, I am very excited for this team next season, and the loss of Amare could turn out just fine.
The verdict: The Suns will exceed expectations once again and make it to the Western Conference Finals for the second straight year. Can the new look Suns test the Lakers in a seven game series? Next year we will find out.