Suns coach Alvin Gentry has said all offseason how the Suns will be going back to the fun-and-gun offense of the Mike D'Antoni years.
Are the Suns better off without Shaq?
Yes. As funny and entertaining as Shaq can be, he is also a cancer in the locker room.
For as much as he says about wanting to make Amare better and win LeBron a ring, Shaq will always look out for Shaq. He likes it his way and if it is not his way he wants out.
Look at the way he left L.A. and Miami. They were not on good terms when Shaq forced his way out of both places.
Now as far as how he fit the team, Shaq was not a runner and was only slowing down the Suns. It was nice to have a dominant big man but he could not keep up with the Suns style of play and he would take plays off by walking up court.
The roster now is thin on the front line. Robin Lopez is out for at least two months. Channing Frye is the starting center with Lou Amundson and Earl Clark coming off the bench.
Amare thrived when he played with smaller guys though, but lacks defense. Minus Amundson, the Suns lack a player who takes defense seriously. Being able to stop opponents will be huge to whether or not the Suns will win games.
How effective can the bench be?
This bench is going to surprise some people.
The Suns finally have the role players that past teams were always looking for. The players aren't looking to put up a ton of points or get the praise after the game but to put in the work when they are on the court.
Amundson quickly became a fan favorite for his hustle and defense. Jared Dudley can defend three positions and will surprise people with his perimeter game. Frye is there to compliment Amare in the low post and help with defense and rebounding. And well, every Suns fan knows what Leandro Barbosa does when he is in the game.
The only uncertainty is still at backup point guard, where Goran Dragic has still yet to prove himself on a nightly basis, but looked more comfortable once Gentry took over.
Grant Hill will still be the primary ball handler when Nash is out of the game.
The bench is much deeper than in years past and is not filled with a bunch of people looking to pad their stats but with players looking to help the team win.
Will Amare be back after this season?
That's what I think. Amare has been playing this cat and mouse game with the Suns for three years now.
I love Phoenix. I love what D'Antoni is doing in New York.
He is trying to position to make huge waves in the offseason and break the bank. I don't think that Suns GM Steve Kerr will sign Amare to a max deal.
He has not proven himself to be a player who can lead a team. Sure, he can score all the points in the world but he has proven to be a player who is more concerned about the team than his own stats.
If the Suns are making a playoff run they will keep him and see what happens in the offseason. If the trading deadline comes around and the Suns don't look like they are making the playoffs, I would not be surprised to see Amare shipped off like he almost was this summer.
Will the Suns make the playoffs?
They won't be a high seed or a middle seed. They will be a seventh or eighth seed in the Western Conference.
The Suns will always have a chance when they have Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. The bench is looking solid and the team seems to be back in their comfort zone with Gentry as coach.
The team's defense is not going to blow anyone away, but as long as they stick to their forte of scoring points, the Suns will get enough wins to make the playoffs.
Suns lose in the first round of the playoffs to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games.