Phoenix Suns 2009-10 Theme: Watch

Matt Petersen@@TheMattPetersenCorrespondent IOctober 9, 2009

PHOENIX - APRIL 25:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns is defended by Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs during Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2008 at NBA Playoffs at the at U.S. Airways Center on April 25, 2008.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Go on. Write the Phoenix Suns off as contenders (if you haven't done so already).

The Suns haven't made any big additions to convince doubters of an impending turnaround. Rather, they made Shaquille O'Neal the Big Subtraction in a trade that returned nothing more than salary relief.

Steve Nash and Grant Hill are a year further into their thirties. Put another way, they're a year closer to their forties.

Amare Stoudemire is coming back from a partially torn retina, an injury supposedly more career-threatening than microfracture surgery.

Despite all this, this writer is going out on a limb: the Phoenix Suns will make the Western Conference Finals.

The reason? Phoenix will run. Just watch.

For the first time, Steve Nash seemed old last season. It's not hard to see why. He wasn't having fun.

For Nash, and the rest of the Suns, run=fun. They play looser, less selfishly. It helps that their roster is perfectly suited for the running game, perhaps more so than the 2005 and 2006 squads.

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Free agent pickup Channing Frye is ideal for Phoenix's system. He's a long, athletic big man who can run and shoot from the outside. This is both good for him and for Stoudemire, who will now have the paint largely to himself.

Jason Richardson looked awkward as a Sun last year, but that's because the team's makeup and direction was was awkward. Richardson now understands his role is to run and score, which will no doubt return his production to his glory-day standards from Golden State.

Defensively, the Suns look to be much improved from their running predecessors. Jared Dudley and Lou Amundson will provide defensive rebounding and positioning, both of which were lamented absences in years past. Head coach Alvin Gentry will make sure those qualities extend to the rest of the team.

Amundson and Dudley form another aspect past Suns rosters have lacked: depth. With the two aforementioned forwards, rookie Earl Clark, and guards Goran Dragic and Leandro Barbosa, the Suns can afford to rest elder statesmen Nash and Hill. Indeed, Gentry's edge over his own predecessors is his willingness to use his bench, something to which Mike D'Antoni and Terry Porter seemed allergic.

All of this, plus the fact that before the 2004-05 and 2005-06 campaigns the Suns' expectations were humble (as they are this year), lends a great opportunity to surprise a lot of teams.

So again, watch. Watch as the Suns run away with fans' hearts and conference rivals' chances at postseason advancement. Watch as they exceed expectations.

The Phoenix Suns will make it to at least the Western Conference Finals. Watch.

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