Bold? Yes. Stupid? I don't think so. I'm not saying that he is the clear cut favourite or that he will even win it at all, but mark my words: Steve Nash will be in the hunt for his third MVP trophy this season. Impossible has never been a part of this man's vocabulary. So laugh if you will at the notion of this 36 year old Canadian taking home more hardware, but with plenty of uncertainty and doubt due to the changes in the desert this off-season, people will be asking at season's end why the Suns finished near the top of the standings yet again.
The departure of Amare Stoudemire from the Suns couldn't have been more heartbreaking for this franchise and their fans. Last season it seemed like the Suns finally took the next step, knocking off long time foes the San Antonio Spurs in a defining sweep only to eventually lose game six in the Western Conference Finals. While the whole team played well, it was the combination of Nash and Stoudemire that put the Suns above competition. With a blossoming young core surrounding the two, it would have been hard to leave the Suns out of contender talks this season had STAT stayed. Instead, as you are well aware by now, he departed for the bright lights of New York to reunite with former coach Mike D'Antoni and cash in on a big untapped market thanks to LB6. He said he would have stayed in Phoenix if he was offered the maximum contract for five years, but ownership was only willing to offer it to him for three. This move raised questions once again about the willingness of the Suns front office to spend money. Although, many agreed, including myself, that Stoudemire isn't a franchise player. So to hand him a maximum contract just doesn't add up. Long story short, he's gone.
So where does that leave the Suns? Well, their only other noteworthy moves this off-season were acquiring Josh Childress from overseas and lacklustre small forward Hedo Turkoglu from the Raptors, who were more than happy to jettison his lofty contract south of the border. That leaves one big man on their roster worth mentioning, Robin Lopez. This means on a nightly basis the Suns will be playing run and gun small ball with none other than Mr. Steve Nash leading the charge. He is surrounded by an influx of athletic swingmen who can all run the floor well and shoot from long range. Yes his age and durability are becoming concerns, but last season he played 81 games at a respectable 32.8 mpg while posting similar stats to when he won his prior two MVP's (16.5ppg and 11.0apg). In all likelihood he will help resurrect Turkoglu's career while at the same time help newcomers Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress get comfortable in their new setting. This may be stretching it, but their is a chance he may be able to prompt Hedo into the NBA's Most Improved discussion if he is able to shape-shift out of sloth formation.
The departure of Stoudemire from the Suns only increases Nash's chances of winning MVP. For the last few years you could have made the argument that Stoudemire should be given lots of the credit for the Suns success, and I'm not trying to take anything away from the guy but his effect, although significant, is minuscule compared to Nash's. When STAT went out with an eye injury a few years ago all Nash did was win MVP, make players like Boris Diaw look like all-stars, and carry the franchise to a deep playoff run. There is no reason why he can't do the same this season, and when he does, sportswriters will definitely consider putting an X beside his name on their MVP ballots.
Don't be surprised if:
- Hakim Warrick takes over the starting power forward position and averages just under 20ppg
- Hedo Turkoglu gets consideration for either NBA's Most Improved of 6th Man of the Year
- The Suns finish top 3 in the Western Conference standings
- Alvin Gentry's gets consideration for Coach of the Year
- And of course, Steve Nash wins his 3rd MVP