1st Quarter Report Card Grades for Each Member of the Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns were not supposed to start the season at 7-15.
Sure, with Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola all coming into the starting rotation, fans knew it was going to be an experimental year—not this bad though.
Before the season, the Suns were a team I believed could compete for one of the lower seeds in the Western Conference. Now, I am more focused on the lottery and which prospects fit the best.
What caused this turnaround? Well, the players usually tend to be the most responsible for a team's performance, but who specifically is at fault?
Let's find out. I will grade the players based on preseason expectations, overall level of play and how well they have played in their current role.
Note: All stats are accurate as of December 12th, 2012.
PG: Goran Dragic
2012 Season Stats: 15.1 PPG, 6.4 APG, 3 RPG
Dragic came in to replace Nash and has done about as well as you could expect. He has proven to be a solid all-around guard for the Suns.
Clearly, Phoenix is struggling, but I can't blame it on Dragic. He has played solid the whole season and has adapted well to his new surroundings.
His defense has been his weakest area, but it is by no means terrible. It is also not the reason the Suns are ranked 28th on that end of the floor.
On the other hand, his offense has been very well-rounded. His shooting is solid (37 percent from deep), and his slashing abilities have taken another step forward.
As Dragic develops more chemistry with his teammates, I expect his numbers to rise a little bit. If he doesn't regress and other players step up, the Suns could save face by not completely tanking.
I don't really know how much more should be expected of Dragic, and I hope he continues growing and developing his game.
SG: Shannon Brown
2012 Season Stats: 12.4 PPG, 2.1 APG, 2.3 RPG
With just from a quick glance at the stats above you can guess what Shannon Brown's job is—he is a scorer.
With that said, his efficiency needs to improve, as he is only converting on 41 percent of his shots. Brown settles for some questionable shots far too often, and he has cost Phoenix some games.
There are also positives about Brown's game. He is a very confident offensive player, not afraid to take a shot when needed. Yes, that has also been a problem, but the Suns need confidence on the offensive end.
Defense is where Brown will get the biggest criticism. When someone plays poor defense it's one thing, but it's a whole different story when a player's effort is in question.
I legitimately question how hard Shannon Brown plays on the defensive end. I don't know whether that's due to coaching or him, but there is a problem.
Since the coach is not the one on the floor, I will put all the blame on Brown. His offense hasn't been impressive, although needed, and his defense has been terrible. Tough grade on Brown.
SF: Michael Beasley
2012 Season Stats: 11.4 PPG, 2.5 APG, 3.8 RPG
The first word that comes to mind here is "disappointing". As I have stated previously, I expected a lot more out of Michael Beasley.
Was I hoping for too much? That's a strong possibility, but regardless of expectations, Beasley has underperformed tremendously.
Eleven points a game are bad enough, but the 38 percent shooting really hurts. It's not that he is not taking shots, it's that he is not taking smart shots.
His decision making on the offensive end has been very inconsistent. Considering his combination of size and quickness, I think attacking the rim would be a good idea.
If anything, it will help him open some mid-range shots and really get going on offense. As far as fans were concerned, he was brought in to be the guy on offense.
Right now, he is the guy causing problems on offense. There is also a new, really unsurprising report that Beasley has been toxic in the locker room.
A locker room problem is not something any player wants to be labeled. Well, Beasley is carrying that label now.
Let's add the fact that his defense has been nothing short of atrocious, and I feel like I am almost forced to give him this grade.
PF: Markieff Morris
2012 Season Stats: 9.4 PPG, 1.4 APG, 5.1 RPG
This was a pretty surprising move made by Gentry. He decided to insert the young Markieff Morris into the starting lineup over the veteran Luis Scola.
So far, I have seen no major problems with this decision. I do think it's very important to consistently put the same lineup on the floor, just to build chemistry and get everyone used to their roles.
Morris has played very solid on both ends (more so on offense), and I think the move could help him grow as a player. He is still inconsistent, but there is improvement.
His field goal percentage is climbing and is currently sitting at 42 percent. He shot 40 percent his rookie year, but even the smallest improvement is positive.
Should he keep shooting at the pace he currently is (46 percent in the last 10 games), and his percentage will go even higher.
Morris has played good ball recently and is only improving. I can't hate too much on that.
C: Marcin Gortat
2012 Season Stats: 11 PPG, 1.2 APG, 7.8 RPG
Marcin Gortat is by far the hardest player to grade on the Suns. His two blocks and nearly eight rebounds a game have been very helpful, but it's hard to ignore his offensive problems.
He is shooting 53 percent from the field, so shot selection isn't a problem. The issue here is positioning. Gortat doesn't get the ball enough, simply because he is not in a position to score.
The Suns don't really have time to give him the ball and let him work with it. They need him to be able to put himself in easy scoring opportunities.
I will get a little bit nostalgic here when comparing this version of Gortat to last year's version. Last year, his averages were 15 and 10, and he also had a higher field goal percentage.
What changed? Well, it's pretty obvious that Steve Nash played a huge role in Gortat's success. Before the season, I gave Gortat the benefit of the doubt, and I thought he would be able to succeed without Nash.
Gortat needs someone like Nash to help him out. Dragic isn't another Nash, and Gortat's numbers illustrate that beautifully.
Should the Suns decide to shake things up, I would expect Gortat to be wearing another jersey before the season ends.
2012 Season Stats: 9.2 PPG, 1.9 APG, 2.3 RPG
I have mixed feelings about Jared Dudley's performance this season. The biggest issue is just how much he has regressed from the previous years.
Dudley was always a solid player for the Suns, someone they could really count on the last few years. Well, after a rough start, Dudley is finally playing the way we fans expect.
He is efficient on both ends, and he is the consistent force who's leading this team. The main reason I have mixed feelings is due to that very poor start (just eight points a game in November).
Dudley's defense also looked surprisingly poor to start the season, again, something he has corrected. If you click back, you will see that I gave Morris a break because of his improvement.
However, Morris is a sophomore player, and someone I expect to have some struggles so early in his career. Dudley is the longest-tenured Suns player, and someone who needs to be solid every game.
The lineup has also been shaken up due to Dudley's play. He has been on the bench and in the starting lineup as a guard and as a starting forward.
This has led to inconsistency from the Suns as a whole. I will give him a small break here because of his recent return to form, and I hope he won't fall back again.
2012 Season Stats: 12.9 PPG, 1.6 APG, 6.9 RPG
I stated earlier that I didn't really have a problem with Morris in the starting lineup, but that doesn't mean I think it was the right decision
From where I am sitting, Scola has not done anything to earn a demotion to the bench. His points and rebounds are there, and he has not been a huge issue on defense.
Not to mention, I think he complements Gortat better than Morris can. Scola on the bench could be a good way to add a certain spark to the second unit, but Scola is not that type of player.
He is someone who works best with the starting lineup around him, not a group of backups. Scola is also a proven veteran who is a whole lot more reliable than Morris.
With that said, I understand that Morris is someone the Suns like and someone they hope grows to be a bigger part of the team.
Nonetheless, I do find it troubling that the Suns would put someone who would greatly elevate their level of play on the sideline. I can't tell if it will last or not, but if the Suns want to win, it shouldn't.
Regardless of playing time, Scola has played good ball, and there is no denying that. It will be interesting to see what happens with him, but there are not too many problems here.
2012 Season Stats: 7.6 PPG, .3 APG, 4.8 RPG
O'Neal is a player who is playing right up to his expectations, with only 18 minutes of playing time and 1.5 blocks a game. He is someone who is a force on the glass and assertive under the basket.
Health problems haven't been a huge issue, and let's hope it stays that way. He has missed a few games here and there, but nothing to be concerned about.
Playing behind the struggling Gortat, Jermaine O'Neal has made himself at home and is a huge force off the bench for Phoenix.
2012 Season Stats: 5.9 PPG, 2.8 APG, 1.9 RPG
I have never been a huge fan of seeing Sebastian Telfair playing for the Suns. I don't think he is a bad player, just not someone I think should be playing more than a lottery pick.
I just don't think Telfair brings enough to the table to keep him a consistent part of the rotation. I'm not impressed by 37 percent shooting and less than three assists coming from the backup PG.
His defense seems to be the reason he is still playing, but it has not been anywhere near great. Is he a better PG than Kendall Marshall? Yes, but Marshall deserves his playing time.
Improvement only happens if the player is allowed to actually participate. It is not Telfair's fault he is starting over Marshall.
If I was to ignore the player behind him, I would say Telfair is a below-average backup. He is not great on either end, and he is a problem on the offensive end.
2012 Season Stats: 4.6 PPG, 1.1 APG, 3.6 RPG
Mr. Clutch—when it comes to preseason expectations, I can safely say that Tucker absolutely came out of nowhere.
Now you mean to tell me he is a key contributor to the Suns? Tucker has played very well for someone who wasn't expected to be on the court that much.
If anything, he was just going to be a spectator. Even with those expectations, he has played very hard to earn his playing time and has not disappointed..
I have nothing but really good things to say about Tucker.
The Other Guys
Let's take a look at Wesley Johnson, Luke Zeller, Diante Garrett and Kendall Marshall.
I'm not surprised Zeller and Garrett haven't been seen, but Marshall and Johnson should be on the court.
Johnson could definitely improve the Suns defensively, while Marshall can give glimpse into the future. Marshall wasn't a lottery pick to watch Sebastian Telfair play.
It really is a huge mistake on the part of the Suns, and I have wanted to see Marshall play since the beginning of the year—the same goes for Johnson.
Maybe when a similar slideshow is done later in the year, both players will have enough games under their belt in order to be judged.
Thank you for reading and please share your thoughts in the comments below!