Elliot Perry: The Last Good Backup Point Guard of the Phoenix Suns

Matt Petersen@@TheMattPetersenCorrespondent ISeptember 12, 2009

15 Nov 1996:  Elliot Perry of the Milwaukee Bucks looks on during a game against the Sacramento Kings at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, California.  The Kings won the game 103-99. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule  /Allsport

Some teams are defined not so much by the players, but the kinds of players they feature. NBA clubs are stereotyped in each era.

In the '90s, the Knicks were a low-post, grind-it-out team. The word "showtime" evokes images the Lakers in the their '80s glory days. And the Clippers are widely known and accepted as hapless.

Teams are also noted (and exploited) by what they don't have. Bulls' critics have lamented their lack of a low-post scorer for the past several seasons. Houston will forever be the contender that couldn't, thanks to its health (or lack thereof).

And the Phoenix Suns? One of their constant weaknesses is the lack of a capable backup point guard behind the lead man.

Goran Dragic? Jury's out. Leandro Barbosa? Unnatural and awkward as a point guard.

The list gets longer the further back in Suns' history you go. Marcus Banks (expensively hyped failure). Randy Brown (old and done). Randy Livingston (barely on the roster, never on the floor).

There are periods over that last decade's worth of history (yes, the aforementioned names were the only ones even worth mentioning) where there wasn't anyone who could be considered an option as a backup point guard.

The 1996-1998 era is muggy, because Jason Kidd, Kevin Johnson and Steve Nash were all in the mix. Kidd and KJ were both starters, but Nash wasn't confident even as a backup.

You'd have to go all the way back to the mid-'90s to find the last legitimate backup point suited up for the Phoenix Suns - Elliot Perry

"Socks," as he was called thanks to his knee-high game stockings, was a solid and contributing factor off the bench as a point guard. The guy was averaged a solid 9ppg and 4.5 apg during the Suns' contending years during the Johnson/Barkley era.

Due to Johnson's iffy health, Perry was a dependable insurance Suns fans would have killed for over the last decade. The need for a reliable backup point guard is even greater now, with a declining Steve Nash at the helm.

Perry was skinny, quick, and fit his role to perfection. His production came in just 20 minutes-per-game; he always made the most of his time, something many role players coming off the pine today have issues doing in conservative minutes.

He was completely comfortable running the offense of the team without disrupting its flow with his own presence. He passed to the scorers, and hit the open shot or created one if the need arose.

Perhaps it's psychological. It's no easy thing stepping in for the string of great Suns' point guards that have donned purple and orange, including Johnson, Kidd, Stephon Marbury, and Nash. That's 15 solid years of all-star caliber play at the point guard position.

That kind of tradition has had the recent tendency to intimidate Suns' backup point guards. Banks, Barbosa, and Dragic all felt/feel pressured to perform just as well as the all-star they replace.

Truth be told, Nash might never have flourished into a two-time MVP had he not been shipped to Dallas, away from Kidd and Johnson's considerable shadow.

Whatever the case, the lack of a backup point guard may have been the Suns' greatest downfall during their surprise run of the 2005-06 season. Sans Amare Stoudemire, the Suns ran all the way to the western finals, where they met with Nash's former Dallas Mavericks.

Fatigue played an unavoidable factor, however, and Nash ran out of gas in the second half of game six. The Suns lost an 18-point lead and a chance for their first trip to the Finals since 1993 - all of which could have been averted had a guy the caliber of Elliot Perry been on the roster.

To NBA players looking for a niche, to aspiring ballers seeking an opportunity in their promised land of the NBA, you don't have to be like Kobe or LeBron. You just have to be like Elliot Perry.

If you are, chances are the Suns would want you.

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