The recent playoff run provided by the Phoenix Suns was one of the most memorable in the team's 42 year history. One of the main reasons for their playoff success rested in the hands of the 6'6", 29-year-old shooting guard, Jason Richardson.
Known for most of his career as one of the best dunkers in the NBA, JRich has started to transition himself into an all-around shooting guard.
When traded to the Phoenix Suns in December of 2008, the team didn't know if they were getting the player who took the Warriors to their memorable playoff run or if the chance they took would haunt them for many years to come. So far, there has been mixed feelings.
There were many fans ready to move JRich at last season's All-Star break, for he wasn't playing with the consistency he could have played with. The only thing holding the team back was his large contract, and if wanting to, the team will find it hard to do the same this upcoming season.
The only solution? Wait and re-sign him at half the price.
While Steve Nash finishes out his current contract, it is only fair to continue to surround him with the best conditioned athletes possible. Seeing there is no other shooting guard during the 2010-11 off-season with the potential of Richardson, it makes complete sense to keep him in the Valley of the Sun.
Just before the playoffs started, fans saw Richardson in the best condition he has been as a Sun, and he only got better. That is the difference between the Suns' athletic trainers and the rest of the leagues; Suns players usually start the season in the best shape and finish in even better shape.
Although he had minor back spasms at the end of the season, he was able to play better than most shooting guards around the league. Of course, with the exception of Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant.
With another season where everyone is counting the Suns out, Richardson is hungrier than ever to prove doubters wrong.
He proved to be a nightmare for competitors in the playoffs, and with a bank shot with seconds left in the game he came very close to helping the Suns possibly defeat the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. If he takes the same attitude to the beginning of next season, we could see the best year of his career.
With Amar'e gone and 20 plus points off the scoreboard, there is no better time than now for JRich to take the team on his back and make some noise.
Although not always consistent, JRich has one of the best games from behind the arc. He is also a great rebounder for his size. Add his leaping ability and all he needs to do is work on is his defensive toughness to become a top five shooting guard in the league.
With career averages of 18.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game, Jason Richardson is a great play-maker to put besides Steve Nash, and in the future next to Goran Dragić.
Unfortunately for him, he will need to take a large pay cut to stay on the Suns, or any other team for that matter. With the Suns having cap space freed up next season, he could easily sign a 2 year, $15 million contract or even a 4 year, $30 million contract. This could leave the team with some space to possibly go after a true power forward to allow Turkoglu to move to the small forward position once Grant Hill finishes up his contract.
The pressure is on Jason Richardson to take on the team's main scoring duties, but for some reason, it seems he wouldn't want it any other way. Suns fans should expect one of the best years in his career. If he proves that, there should be no reason the Suns will not throw the contract out he wants to stay on the team.
Possibly, even finish his career as a member of the Phoenix Suns.