The Phoenix Suns. Where do I start? Perennial underdogs, apparent overachievers, offensive juggernaut, defensive sieve - these are all ways I've seen the Suns described. With the team still struggling in the wake of The Apostrophe's departure, the team can't truly be considered underdogs. When considering the defensive roster upgrades since STAT's departure, they're not quite a defensive sieve anymore. However, with the everlasting presence of Steve Nash, an offensive juggernaut and overachievers they shall remain.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the West is wide open for the taking, so it's entirely possible that the Suns are fighting for a pretty damned good playoff seed come April (albeit unlikely). For that to happen, the Suns need two things to happen: Nash needs to eke every last drop of productivity from the unit he's a part of, and the units that he's not a part of need to be respectable at worst. Look for the Suns to be a top 5 offensive team (as they have been with Nash on the court every year of his second stint in the desert) and a middle of the pack defensive team and we have a lot of regular season wins. However, in this best case scenario, Phoenix's lack of a go-to scorer sees them struggling to get any further than the second round.
More likely is that the suns finish in the 7-10 range, with the team struggling with Nash off the court. The age of Nash and Grant Hill (Phoenix's undisputed leaders) will mean that Alvin Gentry is likely to rest the duo for at least one of the team's two back-to-back-to-backs and a number of the many remaining back-to-backs, and will likely look to limit their playing time to around 30mpg, meaning more playing time for the enigmatic bench - their success in making or finishing just outside the playoffs will depend on the success of players such as Sebastian Telfair, Ronnie Price, Shannon Brown, Josh Childress and Robin Lopez. While fighting to make the playoffs is not quite as glorious as a playoff run, the development and reemergence of Phoenix's numerous role players is a positive in this scenario, as well as a draft pick most likely in the 10-15 range in a stacked draft could very well make the desert an attractive 2012 destination for FAs - a worthy sacrifice for the Suns in what could be Nash and Hill's last season in the purple and orange.
The worst case scenario would see Nash and Hill miss a number of games, the bench fail to meet the required standard and the Suns competing at the wrong end of the ladder, fighting for the most ping pong balls in the lottery rather than a fairy tale playoff run. A scenario like this may prompt the Suns to finally bite the bullet and trade the former MVP for whatever they can get - by that stage, likely nothing more than cap relief and a late first round pick. The Suns core of role players would remain intact for the following season, presumably wiser, if not improved from the additional playing time ready to welcome the rookie in 2012 that fans and staff alike hope can be the future of the franchise, picked anywhere from 1st to 6th - meaning a player the likes of Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger or even Andre Drummond. The Suns also look good in terms of cap space for 2012 - something that, along with the draft pick, figures to be the lone bright spots for the Suns should they play to their worst case scenario.
In all, there are positives to be taken from each possible scenario for the Suns. Persisting with Nash is a low-risk, high-reward affair when taking Phoenix's cap space and the loaded draft into account. While a title is all but out of the question, there still remains a reason to smile as a fan of the Suns, and for that, I'm grateful.
Only 8 days til tip off!