The Suns were one missing piece away from a trip to the NBA Finals last season. They reached the Western Conference Finals and pushed the Lakers to six games, but they came up short once again. After the playoff push the Suns appeared to be a contender again this year to unseat the Lakers, but Amare Stoudemire had other plans.
He took off for New York, and suddenly the Suns were missing more than just one piece. While teams like the Heat, Knicks and Bulls beefed up on free agents, the Suns were on the other end of the equation, absorbing a major blow from which the franchise may not soon recover.
This Phoenix team will hardly resemble the Mike D’Antoni teams of the past decade that lit the nets on fire and regularly ranked No. 1 in offense, though also near last in defense. Only Steve Nash remains from the original core of Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa, Boris Diaw and Shawn Marion.
This season should be a major departure from past Phoenix squads, and although it reached the Western Conference Finals last season, it was an unexpected run—maintaining the status quo was not exactly a guarantee for another deep postseason push. A major departure from the run-and-gun style may be a benefit to this team if the new-look group emphasizes defense, something that has oftentimes been optional in the past.
Alvin Gentry enters his second full season with the Suns. He guided Phoenix to a 54-28 season and second place in the Pacific Division after a disappointing 2008-09 campaign when the Suns missed the playoffs.
The postseason run this past spring proved to be a coming out party for Goran Dragic, Robin Lopez and Jared Dudley. The experience from the playoff run will pay dividends in the future, but that trio will need to step up even further to fill the void left by Stoudemire.
The Phoenix Suns' schedule starts on NBA opening night when they travel to Portland on Tuesday, Oct. 26. The Suns play nine of their first 14 games on the road. Phoenix will meet the Lakers in a Western Conference Finals rematch twice in the first three weeks of the season.
Phoenix Suns Predictions: Offseason Moves
The Suns' response to losing Stoudemire was less than adequate. They bring in Hedo Turkoglu, who is coming off a disastrous season in Toronto, Josh Childress from Atlanta and Hakim Warrick from Milwaukee. In the process the Suns shed a 2012 second-round NBA Draft pick and Barbosa and Dwayne Jones.
2010-11 Phoenix Suns NBA Odds
The Suns' odds to advance to a second-consecutive Western Conference Finals are +1000 (eighth best in the conference). Their odds to win the Western Conference are +2500 and to win the NBA Championship are +5000.
2010-11 Phoenix Suns NBA Picks
The sum of Turkoglu, Childress and Warrick does not come close to equaling Stoudemire even with the depth they provide. This will be a different Phoenix team, that is for sure. But you can never quite count out a team with Nash at the helm. However, there will be obvious challenges: playing without much size and playing without Stoudemire. If you thought their run to the Western Conference Finals was improbable last season, a similar run would be nothing short of shocking this season.