Rebuilding is never easy, and after the Phoenix Suns traded Steve Nash, they were expected to tank in 2013.
Well, things have changed, as the Suns picked up some very solid players in free agency, and are now playoff contenders.
While they don't boast the All-Star lineup of the Los Angeles Lakers, they are one of the deeper teams in the league. Every position has a solid backup, with some positions being three players deep.
Let's break down the starting and the bench unit of the Suns.
The most talked about acquisition for the Suns this year is point guard Goran Dragic.
Twenty-six-year-old Dragic started his career in Phoenix in 2009, and after spending almost two years in Houston, is returning to his original team. Dragic is a well-rounded point guard who performed very well as the starter in Houston.
He averaged 18 points and eight assists a game and that could be very similar to his output in Phoenix. The only setback he might have is the presence of Kendall Marshall.
The first round pick is considered the best passer coming out of the draft, and once he gets used to the speed of the NBA, as once he develops a scoring touch, he could be a special player.
The biggest problem with this combo is that they both lack experience. Dragic has not played a full season as a starter and Marshall has yet to play in a single NBA game.
In terms of potential, the Suns have a great combo here but there are still a lot of question marks.
Shannon Brown and Wesley Johnson are both players who need to do a lot of work on their game.
Brown is the better all-around player, but struggles with consistency, and can be a liability of the defensive end. Johnson, on the other hand, is good on defense but has been terrible on offense.
After two seasons, Johnson is averaging 7.7 points per game and shooting just 40 percent from the field. That's not terrible, but he has also averaged a little less than 25 minutes per contest.
With that said, through two preseason games, Johnson has put up 12 points in a loss and then 18 points in a win. Preseason shouldn't be analyzed too deeply but he has shown improvement.
Brown has only played in one preseason game so it would be unfair to judge his performance in comparison, although he did match Johnson's 12 in the loss.
No one can question Brown's scoring ability but he lacks consistency and can often be accused of not giving 100 percent on game day.
Overall, this isn't the strength of the Suns team but it's not a huge weakness either. I wouldn't expect too much out of these guys this year.
The Suns finally have a scorer in their lineup capable of averaging 20 points a game.
Michael Beasley is hoping to return to his 2011 form (19.2 points per game), and hopefully help lead the Suns to the postseason. He can stretch the floor with a jump shot, but is also very effective at driving to the basket.
At 6'10", Beasley is bigger than most small forwards but he is quick and athletic enough to stay with the shorter guys. Jared Dudley, on the other hand, is the guy the fans are most familiar with.
This will be Dudley's fifth season on the Suns and he has always been a great presence off the bench for them. Last year, he assumed a starting role but I expect him to play most of the season as backup.
Being a backup does not mean I see Dudley's minutes taking a nosedive but he will be spending a lot of his time at the shooting guard position, as it is a weakness.
Dudley brings hustle, defense and great touch from long range to hopefully add some wins to the Suns' total.
Assuming there is no major injury, the forward position will be a bright spot for the Suns. The only downfall I see is Beasley's defensive effort, as well as lack of hustle.
Another strong position for the Suns but, unlike the other spots, there is a proven veteran starting.
Luis Scola is one of the most underrated power forwards in the league and that is probably due to his fundamental approach.
You won't see Scola throw down a windmill, or jump over a car, but he has one of the best post games in the league. His spins, fakes and touch make him one of the more durable players in the league as well.
He is a tough player and a tough defender as well and should benefit from the partnership with Marcin Gortat.
Markieff Morris is the second year player who showed promise last year but never could find consistency. If he plays consistent, he gets minutes. It is as simple as that.
Gentry loves his shooting touch and hustle but Morris must prove to be more dependable.
This is definitely a strong point for the Suns. The current roster is not built for defense, making the contributions from Gortat and Jermaine O'Neal much more important.
Gortat averaged a double-double last season, and O'Neal had just under two blocks a game while playing 22 minutes. Now, Gortat will have help from Scola down low and from Beasley all around, giving him better looks.
Gortat's defensive contributions will also be key, as he averaged 1.5 blocks and almost one steal for the Suns last year. If he takes another stride this season, we could be looking at one of the top centers in the league.
O'Neal is not going to have an All-Star year but he will continue his defense of the basket and should fill the paint on offense well enough.
Thank you for reading and please leave a comment sharing your thoughts!