Phoenix Suns: Full Stat Projections for the Suns' Starting Lineup

Sam CooperCorrespondent IIIDecember 22, 2011

Phoenix Suns: Full Stat Projections for the Suns' Starting Lineup

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    Last season the Phoenix Suns played well enough to earn a 40-42 record, good for 10th in the West and six games out of the playoff picture.

    This season, the Suns, led by head coach Alvin Gentry, appear to be making one last playoff push. They have made no attempt at rebuilding, as they have re-signed 39-year-old small forward Grant Hill and have no intentions of trading Steve Nash.

    Although they have kept their main pieces, they have made some moves over the offseason. They declined Vince Carter's huge option and saw Aaron Brooks leave for China during the NBA lockout. They also made some notable additions to the team, such as shooting guard Shannon Brown, point guard Sebastian Telfair and rookie power forward Markieff Morris.

    Although none of those players will start, they may certainly have an influence on the performance of the starting five. Some players may start to wear down from age, while others may break out.

    The key question to ask: How will each of these players, specifically those in the starting rotation, fare based on the offseason moves and the shortened 66-game season?

    The answer can be found 66 regular-season games from now, but for now all we can do is predict each player's performance and watch as the season kicks off a few days from now.

    Here are full stat projections for every Phoenix Sun in the starting rotation.

Steve Nash

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    At 37 years of age, Nash is on the downside of his career, but that doesn't mean he can't still be an elite point guard, nor does it mean that he will run out of gas this season.

    In his 15th season, Nash posted 14.7 points, 11.4 assists and 1.1 three-pointers per game while providing his typical brilliant percentages—49.2 percent from the floor and 91.2 percent from the line. He won't provide many steals, but his dominant assists and percentages make up for his lack of steals at the point guard position.

    If the Suns still had Aaron Brooks, then we would probably see a large decrease in Nash's minutes. However, even if the only backup point guards are Telfair and Ronnie Price, I would still expect a decrease in minutes. With a 66-game schedule, especially on back-to-back-to-back nights, management will give older guys like Hill and Nash fewer minutes and likely a game off. 

    Although I expect a decrease in Nash's production, it is solely from fewer minutes rather than because of his increasing age. While I think that his time to retire will come within the next few seasons, the future Hall of Famer posted stats last year that were similar to his two consecutive MVP seasons.

    Nash was able to turn a team with very little talent into a team that just failed to reach the playoffs. I think it's just a shame that the Suns don't have another star to accompany him in his last few seasons as an NBA player.

    2010-2011 Stats

    G         MPG        PPG        RPG        APG         STL          BLK          FG%          3P%

    75        33.3          14.7        3.5           11.4        0.6          0.1              .492            .395

    2011-2012 Projections

    G         MPG        PPG        RPG        APG         STL          BLK          FG%          3P%

    60        30.9         13.6         3.2           11.0         0.5           0.1           .496            .402 

Jared Dudley

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    Shannon Brown will be coming off the bench this year, as Jared Dudley will take over at shooting guard.

    Taking advantage of Vince Carter's rapid decline, Dudley secured himself a starting spot in the second half of the best season of his five-year career. The Suns love Dudley's tough defense and three-point shooting, which should ensure that he remains a big part of their future plans.

    Thanks to averaging 16.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.7 three-pointers per game in 15 starts, Dudley was one of the most valuable Suns players at the end of the 2010-11 season. He's penciled in as the starting shooting guard to begin the season, and I believe that he will secure himself a starting spot for the entire year.

    This is the season Dudley will finally break out and show the basketball world what he is capable of. On another roster Dudley would be stuck on the bench, but in this Suns environment where the team is desperately searching for a go-to scorer, Dudley may step up and be that guy. He can thrive in a situation like this, as he will get a huge number of touches and great passes from one of the best point guards in the league.

    I expect him to have the sort of breakout season that Dorell Wright had for the Warriors last year.

    2010-2011 Stats

    G         MPG        PPG        RPG        APG         STL          BLK          FG%          3P%

    82        26.1         10.6         3.9            1.3           1.1           0.2            .477         .415

    2011-2012 Projections

    G         MPG        PPG        RPG        APG        STL         BLK         FG%         3P%

    64        31.4         15.2         5.8          1.6           1.5          0.3           .475           .431

Grant Hill

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    Steve Nash may still have something in the tank, but I'm not so sure about 39-year-old small forward Grant Hill.

    That is why I'm still scratching my head about doubling Hill's salary at the age of 39. Then again, I've been scratching my head at almost every decision the Suns front office has made in the past several years.

    Although Hill is a great lockdown defender, he just may be on his last pair of legs. I don't think he will be as effective on defense and especially not on offense; I don't know if this guy can contribute at both ends of the floor anymore. Holding LeBron James or Kevin Durant to 15 points is only a great achievement if you can score 10 or 15 points yourself to make it an even battle, and I'm not sure how well Hill can do that anymore.

    Hill was a nice percentage stabilizer who provided modest production in points (13.2) and rebounds (4.3) last season. Injuries will always be a concern for the 39-year-old, but Hill has missed just three games in the past three seasons for the Suns. He may still have one good year left in him, but his good luck on the injury front might not last forever given his age and mileage.

    Plus, expect him to get fewer minutes just like Nash. At this stage in his career, the Suns will be very cautious with Hill, and he may get a few days off as well as a significant decrease in minutes.

    2010-2011 Stats

    G         MPG        PPG        RPG        APG         STL          BLK          FG%          3P%

    80         30.1        13.2         4.2           2.5            0.8          0.4            .484           .395

    2011-2012 Projections

    G         MPG        PPG        RPG        APG        STL         BLK         FG%         3P%

    60        26.8         10.9         4.1           2.2           0.7           0.4          .464         .385 

Channing Frye

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    Though he is incredibly streaky on a night-to-night basis, Frye is a unique talent who can provide a rare combination of blocks and three-pointers. He is a very rare type of power forward, and he thrives in the run-and-gun system that the Suns have.

    Inconsistency aside, Frye finished the season with a productive 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 2.2 three-pointers in 33 minutes per game for the Suns. He has times where he goes through amazing hot streaks and can hit a couple game-winners in less than a week. But other times you'll see him extremely frustrated, desperately trying to find his shot in a game.

    He'll start at power forward, where he'll earn 30 to 33 minutes per game, and should have a fine season for his scoring, blocks and three-pointers. I expect a small dip in minutes due to the arrival of Markieff Morris, but Frye was a great scoring option for the Suns last year, and I don't expect that to change.

    2010-2011 Stats

    G         MPG        PPG        RPG        APG         STL          BLK          FG%          3P%

    77        33.0          12.7        6.7           1.2           0.6           1.0            .432           .390

    2011-2012 Projections

    G         MPG        PPG        RPG        APG        STL         BLK         FG%         3P%

    64        30.8         12.3         6.5           1.1           0.5           1.0          .438          .403

Marcin Gortat

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    Marcin Gortat had always displayed tough defense and rebounding behind Dwight Howard, and he finally got a chance to prove that his fantastic per-minute numbers could be sustained in extended minutes with Phoenix last season.

    After a trade sent him to Phoenix, Gortat was one of the best big men in the West with 15.3 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game after the All-Star break.

    It's always risky to predict a breakout based on half of a season, but when looking at his per-minute numbers from Orlando, everything he did leading up to this point suggested that he had this type of potential once he earned a starting gig.

    I personally can't wait to see what he can do in a 66-game season. As a starter, doing great pick-and-rolls with Steve Nash, Gortat will enjoy being one of the biggest scoring options on the Suns. If Andrew Bynum is injured, I think it is likely that Gortat will take an All-Star spot and truly show the world what he is capable of and how he was underrated.

    Now that he has clearly separated himself as the center of the future in Phoenix, we can expect big things from the 27-year-old going forward.

    2010-2011 Stats

    G         MPG        PPG        RPG        APG         STL          BLK          FG%          3P%

    80        25.4         10.2         7.9           0.9           0.5           1.1            .561           .250

    2011-2012 Projections

    G         MPG        PPG        RPG        APG        STL         BLK         FG%         3P%

    65        33.1         14.0         10.4         1.0           0.6          1.7            .563         .200