An NBA Draft '08 Perspective: Phoenix Suns
Phoenix has had an up and down past with drafts, coming up with some big names such as Steve Nash (1996), Shawn Marion (1999), Amare Stoudemire (2002), Leandro Barbosa (2003), Alando Tucker (2007).
They also had some good picks that were traded away for what turned out to be not so good, such as Luol Deng (2004, traded to Chicago) and Nate Robinson (2005, traded to New York).
The last couple seasons, the Suns have begun the regular season as an NBA Champion candidate. However, every season they have failed to achieve such a feat.
What could the Suns possibly need? They had a very efficient team with guys like Marion and Boris Diaw, who could each play four different positions, along with Nash, Barbosa, and Stoudemire, all of whom could run the court very well for their respective positions.
Nash, Barbosa, Raja Bell, and even Marion all had good shooting touches. The bench included steady backups like Marcus Banks and Kurt Thomas, veterans like Grant Hill and Jalen Rose, and young gun Alando Tucker.
In the previous two seasons, the Suns fell to the Mavs and Spurs in the conference finals because their "small ball" line up hurt them as their run and gun game began to run out of gas and slow down.
When Amare Stoudemire was injured, the Suns relied on Marion (6'7", 228 lbs.), Diaw (6'8", 225 lbs.), and Thomas (6'9", 235 lbs.) to carry the rebounding load, which simply did not work against a stacked Dallas Mavericks lineup.
Even with Amare, the Suns just did not have the game to get past San Antonio and get back to the finals again.
"We need to get on the boards! That is where they are beating us!" was a typical quote from Mike D'Antoni this past season. I don't think I saw a single Suns game where D'Antoni did not say that in a timeout or in an interview or press conference.
So then Marion, the "do it all" player, wants out of Phoenix. Steve Kerr understands the team's needs and generally went about it the right way. If you are going to lose Marion, you are not going to have as fast of a team because he is the fastest player at his position, so why not stop the bleeding in the rebouning category?
Kerr went ahead and traded Marion for Shaquille O'Neal the big 7'1" 300 pound center and popular marketing figure. Kerr took a lot of heat for this, but it was not a bad move. Obviously, bringing back Marion would have been ideal, but that was not going to happen.
O'Neal brings a big presence to this small team. He is not just a veteran, but a veteran with the experience that the Suns need. O'Neal is aging and has been injury prone for years, but he has proven that he can still win championships, doing so with Miami two years ago.
Imagine having not just a player, but a mentor with all that success and championship experience playing for this young team and helping these young players along. This is what was on Steve Kerr's mind.
One player is not going to make a team slow. As long as Shaq can get up the court in 24 seconds, they will be fine.
However, whenever you have a veteran, you want to have a younger apprentice player that can learn from him and fill in for him more as he ages. The Suns' goal in the 2008 NBA Draft should be to get a big man to back up Shaq, and to get a steady point guard to back up Nash, who is also getting older.
They don't have Marion anymore, they have Shaq, so they cannot just play 8 players in a game. They have some great bench players in Raja Bell, Alando Tucker, DJ Strawberry, and Brian Skinner, but those are all mid-sized players that have the swingman and forward positions backed up.
They need a legitimate center and point guard to serve as backups. Look for Phoenix to consider a taleneted point guard like Mario Chalmers who will bring some much needed defense to a team like the Suns, or a post presence like DeAndre Jordan, in the first round.
Don't look for another 6'6"-6'8" G/F with speed and shooting ability that would end up a third string at best, or a Roy Hibbert, a 7'2" 280 pound center that would not fit into a finesse team like Phoenix.
If a big name player of such a type is available, the Suns may take him as trade bait, as Phoenix has been known to pull some big moves on draft day.
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