Steve Nash's departure from Phoenix had long been something of an inevitability. While some maintained that re-signing with the Suns was at least an option on the table for Nash in his long-awaited free agency, it seemed all but certain that the league's preeminent 38-year-old point guard would move on to a more promising alternative.
That he did, and the Suns played a part in his escape by consenting to a sign-and-trade arrangement that jetted Nash to Los Angeles.
The Suns were poised for a sharp decline on the occasion that they ever lost Nash, but replacing the source of the team's creative energy with a merely solid successor in Goran Dragic should emphatically point out just how rare of a talent Nash is.
Dragic is a fine player in many regards, and getting better by the season. But Nash buoyed an otherwise limited Suns team into the top tier of NBA offenses year after year, until the weaknesses of the roster finally overwhelmed his incredible orchestration.
To put things in perspective: last season was the rock bottom of Nash's tenure in Phoenix, and the Suns still managed to post a top-10 offense for the season. Nash is that good, and without him elevating the entire Suns roster, they'll be left to find a much more precarious balance should they hope for anything more than offensive misery.
Dragic will be a big part of that plan, but it's important that he isn't too big a part; though the Suns may hope Dragic matures into a star playmaker, he's far better suited to work in conjunction with an offensive system that allows him to share the ball without over-dribbling it, and work off the ball alongside another shot creator.
Merely plugging Dragic in for Nash would overextend him while limiting a wider application, in the process doing a disservice to Phoenix's prized free agent acquisition.
Operating through Luis Scola—a running mate of Dragic's in Houston—with some frequency could help to manage that temptation. Scola doesn't entirely look himself these days, and his overall numbers point to a slight regression in his game. But he's more than qualified to initiate play action from the high post, and still clever enough down low to create quality shot attempts and get to the free throw line.
He isn't equipped to be a team's primary shot creator at this juncture, but like Dragic, he's best utilized when appropriately sharing the load.
Maybe that's where Michael Beasley comes in...or at least the Suns are hoping that's where Michael Beasley comes in. Phoenix is the third team to take a crack at unlocking Beasley's potential, and at the moment there's no reason to think they'll be any more successful than the Minnesota Timberwolves or Miami Heat.
There's an optimal role out there for Beasley somewhere—just as there is for all shot creators with a renegade streak—but the thought that he can grow to function as a part of a coordinated offense could be a pipe dream.
Still, if the Suns Gorilla were to ever smack Beasley over the head with a cartoonish hammer, he could theoretically be an asset to a team looking to establish a codependent order.
Beasley has the talent to make the most out of the gray area that mires all positional tweeners, and if he could establish a good working relationship with Dragic and some of the other Suns regulars, his raw scoring ability could pay dividends.
Beyond those three, where is the hope of shot creation? Jared Dudley is a tremendous supporting part, but one who needs a fair bit of help in generating offense. Marcin Gortat is relatively green when it comes to manufacturing shot attempts. Shannon Brown was effective when playing with Nash last season, but struggled mightily otherwise. Channing Frye is strictly a spot-up and pop shooter at this point, and figures to get fewer opportunities playing off of Dragic rather than Nash.
There isn't much creative help to be had outside of Dragic, Scola and Beasley, and that thought alone should put the Suns in a fairly dark place.
And lest we forget: even if everything does somehow fall into place for Phoenix's offense, the ceiling of their production is still relatively low and the Suns defense should be nothing short of a disaster. This is a team with plenty of useful talent that just isn't positioned particularly well for immediate success.
The fortunes of the franchise could change dramatically over the next few seasons, but Nash's departure has left a void that can't even be filled by committee.
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