NBA: Phoenix Suns Preview
The Phoenix Suns, both as a team and as an organization, will be in change-over mode this year. They will have new players, coaches and even a new General Manager.
Jeff Hornacek, who takes over as the new Suns head coach, spent the first half of his career as a player with the Suns during the late 1980′s. He was an assistant coach for the Utah Jazz the past two years. Now he is back in Phoenix and accepted the challenge of leading this franchise out of the cellar of the Pacific Division and what is considered a major rebuilding project.
Ryan McDonough was hired by the Suns in May to replace Lance Blanks as the team’s General Manager. McDonough had previously worked for the Boston Celtics. He was a scout and an assistant general manager until the Suns hired him away. He has stepped in quickly and made some potentially promising trades.
As for an outlook on the season, Goran Dragic will still be the starting point guard, but with the addition of Eric Bledsoe, the Suns might have an intriguing young backcourt. Bledsoe will give the Suns fans the opportunity to watch him progress and he has the potential to be an All-Star very soon. Dragic was definitely what the Suns wanted when they brought him back. He averaged 14.7 points, 7.4 assists, and 3.1 rebounds last year. He will continue to develop from a leadership standpoint, and the Suns are hoping his skills can eventually lead to more wins.
After being the 13th pick in the 2012 draft by the former General Manager, Kendall Marshall knows there is a new coaching staff and they have plenty of guards. There is no doubt that he can pass and run a team; but there are still concerns about his ability to shoot and his overall athleticism. He did put in a lot of time this offseason practicing his shooting. Hornacek will be looking for consistency from him to provide Dragic or Bledsoe rest during games.
After sitting out the entire 2012-13 season because he was diagnosed with an enlarged heart, forward/center and Phoenix native Channing Frye has received the medical clearance necessary to make a return to the court for the 2013-14 season. If he can play, he will be counted on for his veteran leadership. The versatile big man is known best for his willingness to launch from deep and his career 39 percent three-point shooting will be needed throughout the season. It may take him sometime to get back in game shape but look for him to come off the bench to add quick scoring.
Center Alex Len the 5th overall selection in last year’s draft will be counted on immediately. Len had surgery in the offseason on his ankles and was cleared to participate in training camp. He does have the speed to go along with his size, at 7-foot. He will always be around the rim and has a good jump shot. He will need to get use to the speed of the NBA game and will have trouble with other veteran big men. Let’s hope his shot-blocking skills are available to alter shots and anchor the defense.
Marcin Gortat will still be counted on as a presence in the middle. He gives the Suns a guy who not only can, but looks forward to, manning the middle. His rebounding numbers are impressive and that will need to continue for this season. His pick-and-roll with Goran Dragic should continue to improve, as it was one of the high-lights the Suns had last year. Gortat most likely will be traded during the year as he is in the last year of his deal. But expect him to do everything he can to help the Suns win games.
Marcus Morris will play both forward spots this year and has the ability to score if he uses his quickness, but needs to improve on his 41% field goal shooting. Defensively he brings a strong work ethic with high intensity that should help make up for physical limitations in terms of height and length.
Shannon Brown will be counted on to come off the bench and provide his contagious energy, especially in the open floor. His combination of strength and quickness on both ends of the floor should only help out the Suns in a positive way this year.
One other player to watch this year is guard Archie Goodwin. The Suns acquired him on draft day from Golden State by way of a trade with Oklahoma City. He is raw and only 19, but has quickness, athleticism and excellent ball handling skills for a shooting guard. He certainly will not suffer from lack of confidence; letting teams know they made a mistake by not drafting him.
We know the Suns are stockpiling draft picks; they could have as many as three first-round picks in the 2014 NBA Draft and several second-round picks if they trade a few veterans. The future looks bright in Phoenix, but don’t expect much this year. They will use this season to develop their young core of players. Look for the Suns to battle the Sacramento Kings to avoid finishing last in the Pacific Division; they might win between 25-32 games.
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