10 Things We Learned About the Phoenix Suns After the Early Slate of Games
The Phoenix Suns are 2-3 after a week of regular season play. There have been some good moments, not doubt about it.
However, I think most would agree that there is a lot of work to do with this new roster. The Suns are in full rebuilding mode, but this is not a team that is simply throwing the year away.
Phoenix has a chance to compete, but there are a lot of errors that need to be fixed, and some inconsistencies need to be straightened out.
Let's break down what this first week has told us about the Suns.
Shannon Brown Needs to Start
In five games, Shannon Brown has outplayed Jared Dudley while having less playing time. He is averaging 14 points to Dudley's seven and shooting ten percent better from the field.
Brown has been more efficient and has proven he deserves the starting role. Jared Dudley has been a very solid bench player for the Suns in the past, and he can go back to that role this year.
He has not been a major contributor on either end of the floor, and I don't see a reason why he is still starting over Brown.
Dudley's offense has been terrible, and his defense has not impressed either. In less minutes, he might be able to make a stronger impact, but he needs to be taken out of the starting lineup.
Alvin Gentry Has Little Faith in Kendall Marshall
I could just as easily make the statement that Alvin Gentry has no faith in Kendall Marshall. While he missed the Charlotte game with an ankle injury, he only played a total of eight minutes before that.
Marshall was the Suns' lottery pick in the 2012 Draft, but at this rate, he could be in the D-League very soon. There is work to do with Marshall, but his basketball IQ and vision were thought to be good enough to earn him playing time.
It can't be expected that Marshall will even get many opportunities during "garbage time" because it's unlikely the Suns will have too many blowouts going in their favor.
I can't be the only fan who is at least curious about how Marshall would look out there with a few more minutes. I understand that the Suns are trying to win, but Marshall could play better than expected.
Overall, I am disappointed in how Gentry has utilized the rookie, and I hope to see that change.
Marcin Gortat Is One of the Top Centers in the League
This shouldn't really be a surprise to anyone in Phoenix, but many fans outside the area easily dismissed Gortat's great year as a product of Steve Nash.
Now, a year after a Nash's departure, Gortat is having the best season of his career. He is averaging 15 points and 12 rebounds while shooting just under 60 percent from the field.
He has been a dominant force on defense, and is currently averaging over four blocks a game. Gortat is a very physical player who uses toughness and smarts to make his impact.
The fact that he is able to move on from such a drastic change at point guard and continue to put up numbers shows he is not flash is a pan.
It was easy to dismiss him last season, but no one should be overlooking him this year. No doubt the brightest spot for the Suns this year.
Michael Beasley Will Need More Time to Adjust
Beasley has had good performances this season, including 22 points against Orlando, and a near triple double against the Bobcats.
He was signed on to be the go-to-scorer, and has yet to fully adjust to the role. His shooting percentage is at 36 percent right now, something that needs to go up ASAP.
His defensive play has been better than expected, but it's his offensive game that needs work. There is definitely promise here, and hopefully he can get more consistent.
The Suns are not in a bad spot right now, which makes you wonder how good they can be when Beasley starts turning it up.
Luis Scola Was a Great Pick Up
This was predictable, but the signing of Scola has really been great for the Suns. The combination of him and Gortat down low has worked very well, and that should continue.
Scola is averaging 15 points and shooting 50 percent from the field, while playing solid defense and giving Gortat some breathing room. His mix of finesse and toughness is really welcomed on the Suns.
While the other new additions are still settling in, Scola looks like he has played in Phoenix for years. This is another huge bright spot for the Suns.
The front court seems to be the key for the Suns this season. Should Scola and Gortat continue their high level of play, this could end up being a very nice year for Phoenix.
Goran Dragic Is as Good as Advertised
Phoenix fans were forced to put all their faith into a young point guard who has been a career bench player up until last season.
So far, it looks as though they will not be regretting it. Dragic is currently averaging 15 points and nine assists per game. While the shooting percentage is still low at 41 percent, look for it to climb as the year goes on.
Dragic is playing with confidence, and is not the shy guard who was traded to Houston in 2011. He has matured, and is now a very solid starting point guard.
While I was somewhat skeptical before the season started, I now know that if the Suns perform poorly, it won't be because of Dragic.
Markieff Morris Has Taken a Step Back This Season
Last season, I believed that Markieff Morris' biggest weakness was his consistency. This season, he has not managed one solid performance and seems to have regressed.
There were flashes of potential last year, but I haven't seen any of that this season. He has not made a single three pointer on the season and is shooting just 36 percent from the field.
His numbers across the board have fallen while he gets nearly identical playing time. Could he turn it around? Absolutely, but I am losing faith.
It's not just because of the last five games, but because of last season as well. Morris was an inconsistent contributor, who seems to have now become consistently bad.
Unfortunately, his minutes will likely stay the same as the Suns don't have any other options at the position.
Wesley Johnson Needs a Chance
I am not the biggest fan of Wesley Johnson, but he deserves more than just seven minutes a game. His defense alone should be giving him more than 10 minutes per contest.
His offense has been a problem in the past, as he had failed to shoot 40 percent or above as a starter in Minnesota. However, his defensive play was never under question.
The Suns currently have the ability to put him on the floor and not lose much in terms of offense due to their great front court. The fact that Gentry hasn't even tried to play Johnson is baffling.
Clearly, there is work to be done, and maybe, just maybe, Johnson could help the team improve with his energy and defensive effort.
Defense Is Still a Huge Issue
The Suns currently rank next to last in points allowed, and can only claim to be a better defensive team than the Bobcats. If this type of play continues, instead of discussing playoff seeds, we will be discussing lottery spots.
I am not expecting the Suns to come in and play Celtic style defense, but they need to be a lot better than what they are.
There is an eight point differential between the Suns and opposing teams, and it needs to start moving in the opposite direction. Gortat and Scola are doing their parts, the rest of the team isn't.
Gortat has been seeing a ton of shots in the paint and is doing a good job of trying to step up for his teammate's weaknesses.
As of now, everyone is to blame to some degree, but there is one person in particular I want to focus on...
Alvin Gentry Is Not the Right Coach to Lead the Suns
This is not a statement I want to make, but it's the hard truth. With the Steve Nash era done, and not a single championship banner hanging in the US Airways Center, changes need to be made.
Bringing in new players is definitely important, but bringing good players into a broken system will not work. A lot of the points I made in this article come down right on Gentry.
His rotation has been questionable, and his refusal to give some young players chances will end up hurting the Suns.
Phoenix needs to go in a new direction, and as long as Alvin Gentry is the coach, the Suns will never reach their goals. Bottom line is, Gentry is not a very good coach.
Defense is the biggest criticism I have of Gentry, and since "defense wins championships" I tend to think it's more important than just cracking 100 on the scoreboard.
If the Suns are to do a total change, it has to involve their head coach. This is especially true if he continues to not play this new roster correctly, and the Suns continue to get blown out.
With Steve Nash leading the way, it was easy to forget about Gentry's shortcomings in Detroit and L.A., but now is a good time to start remembering them.
Again, I am sure that I am currently in the minority on this among Suns fans and I look forward to debating with you guys in the comments!
Thank you for reading and please leave a comment sharing your thoughts!