The NBA season is upon us, and my beloved Phoenix Suns have started the season in an expected manner—they are third in scoring, play no interior defense and are at the bottom of the league in rebounding.
Their record puts them in the middle of the pack at 3-3, but they have stayed competitive in all their games thus far (up until yesterday’s Atlanta Hawks game). In fact, this team could very easily be 5-1—they had San Antonio on the ropes until the last two minutes of the game, and also had a chance against the LA Lakers last week.
Being a passionate Suns fan, I go through more than my fair share of ecstasy and heartbreak a million times during each of their games. Hence, a natural corollary was to pen a few of my takes on the team on a weekly basis.
So without further ado, here is what I have seen as the top 10 trends in Week 1 of the 2010-11 Phoenix Suns season.
Steve Nash is adjusting on the fly with his new teammates in regards to spacing, floor strength and inclination to shoot versus pass.
This is the primary cause for his mediocre assist total to start the season. I am not concerned about this at all, as No. 13 will take no more than 10 to 12 more games to get into a rhythm with Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick, Josh Childress and the gang.
Speaking of newcomers, Warrick has been a pleasant surprise and is giving us reason to believe that he will be able to provide at least 40 to 50 percent of the pick and roll productivity that Amar'e Stoudemire offered.
And I mean productivity, not scoring—to clarify, I am confident that the Nash-to-Warrick (or Goran Dragic-to-Warrick) pick and roll will yield a score at least 40 to 60 percent of the time it did when Amar'e and Nash used to run it in the last few years.
Jared Dudley, the energy boost off the bench, has improved his game in a couple new aspects—his ball-handling skills and dribble-once-and-shoot from 18 to 20 feet.
He is everything you need from a bench-stud. His contract extension last week was thoroughly justified.
Hedo is a concern currently, as he is unsure when to dribble, when to shoot, when to penetrate and when to take a long-distance shot.
Again, it is a matter of time and I am sure it will happen. My take is that Hedo is an asset as a secondary ball-handler and creator, and it might be best to bring him off the bench.
Jason Richardson needs to be fed (in basketball terms) as much as possible, as he is in the best shooting touch of his life.
His jumper is pure, and he is getting timely rebounds and putbacks as well. Most importantly, he is comfortable in his role as the Suns’ primary scorer, and I think we might see him as an All-Star this season.
Another positive trend is the continued emergence of Dragic as more than just a capable backup to Nash. Goran is creating chaos with his speed and ball-handling crispness, and despite some misses, his outside shot looks to be in rhythm technically.
Head coach Alvin Gentry needs to play him more; unfortunately, how to make that happen is a riddle —Dragic’s minutes will comes at Nash’s expense, and that might lead to a few lost games. I think it is a gamble worth taking.
Robin Lopez looks lost, and that is my gravest concern right now.
He looks totally uncomfortable, he's late reacting to Nash’s inside passes and he's just not finishing his forays to the basket. On top of that, I have not seen the brooding and gritty defensive presence from last year, yet.
I feel sorry for Josh Childress. He lends positive impact every second he is on the floor and offers hustle, energy and creativity.
Problem is that he is stuck in a positional quagmire with Hill, Dudley and J-Rich, and might be the odd one out most nights in terms of playing time.
The Suns are 3-3 after the toughest six-game stretch in the NBA this season.
I am looking at this record from an optimistic glass-is-half-full angle, and, in particular, because they stayed competitive in all their first six games.
They will most definitely learn how to win the close ones with better cohesion and understanding later on in the season.
After Week 1, my prediction is for the Suns to win 50 games and land as the fifth or sixth seed in the playoffs.