The Phoenix Suns had an off year last season, finishing 40-42 and missing the playoffs. The team is full of seasoned vets and most people think they need to completely rebuild their roster, starting with the trade of two-time MVP Steve Nash.
Trading Nash would be a huge mistake, unless the return haul was so overwhelming that the team would be better in the present and future.
The team still has the talent to win now and should try to do so before Nash retires or is traded. Read on for position-by-position predictions for the 2011-12 Phoenix Suns.
Starter: Steve Nash
Backup: Aaron Brooks
Since Nash arrived, the starting point guard role has been a position of strength; until Nash is traded or retires, it will continue to be a position of strength.
The question mark has always been the backup spot. The team has tried several different players, but they have yet to find a long-term backup for Nash. Goran Dragic was supposed to be the heir apparent, but was too inconsistent; management decided to trade him for Aaron Brooks at the trade deadline last year.
Brooks is a speedy, scoring point guard who struggled in his first month or so as a Phoenix Sun and really could use a training camp to fully grasp the offense. That being said, he is still a very good player and will be Nash's backup this season.
Brooks is currently a restricted free agent, but has said he wants to stay and the team certainly wants him back. Look for management to get a multi-year deal done with Brooks and keep him in the desert for a while.
Starter: J.R. Smith
Backup: Jared Dudley
Bench: Mickael Pietrus
Vince Carter was acquired in the deal that sent Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson to the Orlando Magic and was supposed to have a career revival as a Sun, but that didn't happen. Carter ended up being highly disappointing, lost his starting role and ensured he wouldn't be a Phoenix Sun for the upcoming season. Carter is either going to be bought out for $4 million or traded, so the team needs a new starter.
Enter J.R. Smith.
Smith, an unrestricted free agent, is a dynamic scorer and would fit right in to the Suns system. Smith could either start or come off the bench and would give the Suns good versatility at the position. Jared Dudley and Mickael Pietrus give the Suns two options off the bench who can shoot and defend, and give the team a nice change of pace from Smith.
Starter: Grant Hill
Backup: Josh Childress
Grant Hill has had a career turnaround as a member of the Phoenix Suns, is an unrestricted free agent and should be in demand this offseason.
Hill has said he wants to stay in Phoenix and the Suns aren't prepared to let him leave yet. He gives the team very wise veteran leadership, is one of the better defenders in the league and is a reliable mid-range shooter. Look for Hill to get a one- or two-year deal and be back in the desert.
Childress is in a much more complicated situation and may or may not be the backup at small forward for this upcoming season. He was stuck at the end of the bench last season and is scheduled to make $6 million this season. There's no way he should be paid that much to sit on the bench—he either needs to be traded or actually get playing time.
I'm predicting Childress will get a shot to be the backup and show he belongs on the team.
Starter: Channing Frye
Backup: Markieff Morris
Bench: Hakim Warrick
Since the Suns lost Amar'e Stoudemire, the offense hasn't been as effective and the team has since signed Hakim Warrick and drafted Markieff Morris.
Starter Channing Frye is a perfect fit for the Suns offense and will continue to flourish in his role as a shooting big man. Warrick and Morris are going to be fighting for playing time and it's looking like Morris will be getting the majority of the backup minutes.The team just selected Morris in the first round and have much more invested in him.
Look for Warrick to get more minutes in the first half of the season, as he gets accustomed to the NBA style of play, and for Morris to get more minutes in the second half, as he gets more familiar with the NBA.
Starter: Marcin Gortat
Backup: Robin Lopez
Marcin Gortat was acquired in the deal that sent Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson to the Orlando Magic and has given the team the center they have been lacking for the better part of a decade.
Gortat has the ability to score down low, defend out to the 15- to 20-foot range and be a strong shot-blocking presence on a team that could really use all of the above mentioned attributes. Last year, he took the starting role from Robin Lopez and hasn't looked back since.
Robin Lopez is, like Josh Childress, an enigma. One game he will play up to his potential and the next game will be the exact opposite. He has shown he can be a reliable defensive center with the ability to hit open shots, but hasn't done so consistently since he injured his back in the early part of last season. He simply hasn't been the same player since then and has lost his role as the starting center.
Lopez needs to figure things out quickly—or else his spot on the team could be in jeopardy too.