The Phoenix Suns are looking to bounce back after a very frustrating 2010-11 campaign. Players like Steve Nash, Robin Lopez and Markieff Morris will be under scrutiny from media and fans, and all for unique reasons.
Whether the media, once again, will bring up Nash trade rumors or Phoenix fans will yell for management to trade away Lopez, players will always be talked about, some more than others.
Read on for five Suns, including Steve Nash, who will be under the microscope for the entirety of the 2011-12 season.
Steve Nash is the face of the Phoenix Suns franchise, but that doesn't mean he is exempt from being under the microscope. In fact, it puts him even more under scrutiny.
The unique thing about Nash's scrutiny is that it has nothing to do with his performance on the court since he continues to play at a high level. It is centered on the constant talk about whether or not the Suns will trade the two-time former MVP to a contender and allow Nash the best chance to win a title.
Fans and media seem to be torn over whether or not the Suns should legitimately consider trading their best player. Rumors began, once again, when LeBron James tweeted in late October, "Maybe @SteveNash in a Heat uni! So we can help each other get our 1st ring."
This tweet created quite a buzz, and fans everywhere, myself included, briefly considered the Miami Heat winning titles with a big four of Nash, Dwyane Wade, James and Chris Bosh. After a quick shudder at the thought, one can go back to reality and be happy that Nash is in Phoenix and not a member of the Heatles.
Channing Frye burst onto the scene in his first year as a Phoenix Sun in 2009-10 and has continued to be a consistent performer since then. The only problem is Phoenix fans are starting to realize scoring a lot of points doesn't win championships.
Frye stretches the floor like few other big men can, but his defense and rebounding have been problems at times. The biggest issue is that the Suns' division contender is the Los Angeles Lakers, who have twin towers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum starting.
Frye is usually further from the basket than a traditional power forward/center, so when matched up against teams like the above-mentioned Lakers and their twin towers, it really puts Phoenix at a disadvantage on the boards.
That means they have to dominate other aspects of the game like the turnover margin and three-point shooting, and they don't win very often when that happens.
Frye needs to show improvement on the defensive end in order to take his game to the next level. That means increasing his rebounding numbers and showing more physicality on the low blocks.
Robin Lopez was expected to perform at an even higher rate than he did during the Suns' improbable 2009-10 playoff run, but an early back injury derailed his progress, and he never played up to par.
Management went out and traded for Marcin Gortat, and towards the end of the season Lopez lost his starting spot to Gortat. Phoenix fans everywhere began to question if Lopez was the same player who was so solid the previous season.
Lopez never recovered after the back injury and looked out of control when he did come back. There was one game last season where within a minute of entering the game, he had already picked up two silly fouls. This will not be tolerated this season.
Lopez won't be getting his starting job back anytime soon, but that doesn't mean he can't still perform in his minutes. He has the potential to be one of the better backup centers in the league if he can stay healthy and confident.
After the departure of Amar'e Stoudemire, Josh Childress was the big offseason acquisition for the Phoenix Suns. And boy, did the team mess up his contract.
Childress was given a five-year, $34 million deal and ended up playing in only 54 games. That means he earned over $120,370 a game for playing only 16.6 minutes per game on average.
No way in heck should someone making that much money play that little; either Childress needs to play more or he has to go. It's just a financial burden to have that much money sit on the bench.
Childress definitely has the talent to play more in the rotation, but his playing time depends solely on the number of wings in front of him. When you're a wing player on the Suns who's not performing very well, it's tough to play much simply because of the multitude of players that could take your spot.
I expect Childress will either be subject to the new amnesty clause or given a bigger amount of playing time. I have a hunch Suns fans are hoping for the first option, though.
The Suns used their only first-round selection on power forward Markieff Morris from Kansas. Morris is a reliable perimeter shooter who has the ability to bang down low; think of a stronger version of Channing Frye that's not as good at shooting.
Many fans thought Chris Singleton, Kawhi Leonard or Markieff's brother, Marcus Morris, would be the pick when the Suns were slotted to draft. But Markieff gives the Suns exactly what they need—a physical post player with the ability to shoot.
Still, those doubting fans will be all over this rookie if he doesn't play well throughout the season. I expect Markieff to be solid, not spectacular, all year and slide into the backup power forward spot as the season draws on.