Coaching: Alvin Gentry heads into his third season as the Suns head coach and after making a surprise run to the Western Conference finals in 2009, the Suns fell well short of making the postseason in the 2010-11 season. Gentry's style is similar to former head coach Mike D'Antoni in the way he wants the Suns to push the ball. Gentry will need to improve a defense that was second to last in points allowed last season if he wants this team to compete. Grade: B-
Frontcourt: Without a doubt, the Suns are one of the most athletic teams in the NBA. Phoenix boasts one of the high-flying players in the league in Hakim Warrick. The Suns will rely on Marcin Gortat to hold down the paint and be a force. Robin Lopez will add a defensive presence when healthy and Channing Frye gives them a big man who can stretch the defense with his shooting ability. It will be interesting to see how first-round draft pick Markieff Morris develops this year. Phoenix has been pleased with the growth of forward Jared Dudley, who averaged 14 PPG last season. Grade: C+
Backcourt: The Suns strength is in the backcourt and with future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash. Although aging, Nash led the NBA last season with nearly 12 assists per game and he captains an offense that ranked fourth in the NBA in PPG. The Suns head into the season hoping that free-agent signings Shannon Brown and Sebastian Telfair can help Nash keep the Suns' high-octane offense rolling. Grade: B
Looming Questions: Will Phoenix deal Nash? I believe not, but if this team struggles early, teams contending that need a point guard could call Phoenix asking if Nash is available. This is the last year of Nash’s contract, so Suns fans should savor one more year with Nash in the valley of the sun.
Prediction: The best-case scenario for this team is another season around .500. Dudley and Gortat should continue to grow, but a lack of firepower and too many questions surrounding the backcourt will result in this team finishing 30-36, the 10th seed in the West and missing out on the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
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