The Phoenix Suns have started out the season 4-4 and have begun to establish a rhythm as of late. Even though the season is only two weeks old, it's apparent some players have stepped up more than others.
Players like Hakim Warrick and Markieff Morris have proven huge for the team, while Josh Childress and Channing Frye have been disappointing. Read on for report cards for all the team's key players and how each could improve upon their performances so far.
Apart from an early season stretch, Hakim Warrick was mainly ineffective last season and many gave up on him. He was seen as too weak down low and too inconsistent, but Warrick worked in the offseason and has developed his game more. His play through the first eight games has been promising.
Warrick is averaging 11.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and is shooting 48 percent from the field, which might not seem like a lot but his contributions off the bench are crucial. When looking at the bright spots on this Suns roster (no pun intended), Warrick's name has to be included.
Marcin Gortat was acquired last season in a trade with the Orlando Magic and instantly became the premier center in the desert. His consistent play led to increased expectations coming in to this season and, apart from a couple big games, he has been inconsistent.
Through the first eight games, Gortat is averaging 12.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and is shooting 63.3 percent from field. While these aren't terrible numbers by any stretch, they are disappointing considering Gortat was consistently averaging double-doubles by the end of last season.
One major factor in his decreased stats is his dislocated right thumb. Gortat has had to wear a splint on the thumb and he's had trouble catching passes. As the injury heals itself more expect Gortat to pick his numbers up, he's too talented to not do so.
When the Phoenix Suns drafted Markieff Morris with the 13th overall draft pick in the 2011 NBA draft, many fans reacted with anger and put down the selection. Well, Morris sure has impressed everyone and his play has warranted more playing time.
Morris is averaging 9.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, .8 blocks, 57 percent shooting from three-point territory and 51.7 percent shooting from the field. Pretty solid numbers for a rookie.
What's even more impressive about Morris than his stats are the little things that don't show up on the box score.
Whether it be being physical on defense with LaMarcus Aldridge, boxing out Serge Ibaka or contesting a layup attempt by Monta Ellis, Morris is doing all the little things that help the team win games and his playing time will only go up if this keeps up.
Steve Nash is the unquestioned leader of the Phoenix Suns and his play has only backed that up further. Nash has provided the pulse for the team and looks to keep up his solid play as the season drags on.
Nash is averaging 12 points, 9.8 assists, 1.8 rebounds, 36 percent shooting from deep, 100 percent shooting from the charity stripe and 50 percent shooting from the field. Even at the ripe age of 37 years old, Nash just keeps putting up stats for the team.
Expect Nash to increase his stats as his teammates get acclimated to the pace of the season.
Grant Hill hasn't put up eye-popping numbers so far this season but his contribution on the defensive end have been phenomenal. He's already guarded Dirk Nowitzki, Gerald Wallace, Kevin Durant, Monta Ellis and Eric Gordon.
Hill is averaging 9.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 38 percent shooting from the field and 100 percent shooting from the free-throw line. His per game averages are not really that important considering the majority of his worth comes from his veteran presence and defensive prowess.
Look for Grant's scoring to go up to around 12 or 13 points per game and his defensive skills to persist throughout the season.
So far this season, Channing Frye has been a tale of two sides of the ball. Offensively, he has been putrid and was shooting 4-of-23 from three-point land before his solid play in yesterday's game. Defensively, Frye has really worked on rebounding the ball and is much more committed to playing solid defense.
Frye is averaging 6.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 89 percent shooting from the free-throw line, 30 percent shooting from deep and 35 percent shooting from the field. There's no question that Channing is struggling shooting the ball and the only way to solve those problems is to keep on shooting.
Frye took a huge step in the right direction with his game last night, in which he hit four three pointers and scored 16 points. The next step in adding consistency to his stroke, not just catching lightning in a bottle every couple games. The Suns are a completely different team when he's hitting his shots.
Jared Dudley was slated to take over the starting shooting guard role that was vacated by the release of Vince Carter, and he has taken the job in stride. Dudley seems to have embraced his role as a shooter and defensive pest.
Dudley is averaging 11.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals, 29 percent shooting from three-point territory, 75 percent shooting from the charity stripe and 44 percent shooting from the field.
One thing that has plagued Dudley is his shooting from three-point land. Dudley is a much better shooter than what he is showing this year.
Dudley needs to work on taking his time on every shot and then his scoring average will spike.
The transition from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Phoenix Suns has been tough on Shannon Brown through the first eight games of the season, but his recent play indicates that could be about to change for the better.
Brown is averaging 8.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 33 percent shooting from the field, 83 percent shooting from the free-throw line and 27 percent shooting from deep. Brown has really stepped up in the last two games and is looking to build on his success.
Brown is a perfect fit for this Suns team and I can't see him struggling for much longer. He has the shooting stroke and quick hands on defense to make a big difference on the team.
Robin Lopez is finally healthy after being hampered all last season by a bad back, and his performance on the court has been the best it's been since the 2009-10 playoffs. His energy off the bench has helped solidify the Suns' depth and has given Marcin Gortat valuable rest so far this season.
Lopez is averaging 6.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 47 percent shooting from the field and 77 percent shooting from the free-throw stripe. Lopez looks much healthier and finally able to bang down low with the big boys. His 21-point opening game shows his ability to break out if needed.
Lopez is no longer needed to play large amounts of minutes at a time and can afford to play hard, which wasn't the case before the team acquired Gortat. While it may seem bad for him, it really benefits him in that he can be extremely instrumental to the team if he continues to play well.