2011-12 Record: 33-33, third place in Pacific Division, 10th in Western Conference
2012 NBA Draft: PG Kendall Marshall (North Carolina, 13th overall)
Offseason Additions: G Goran Dragic (4 years, $30 million), G Wes Johnson (acquired from Minnesota Timberwolves), F Michael Beasley (3 years, $18 million), F P.J Tucker (2 years), F Luis Scola (amnesty claim), C Jermaine O’Neal (1 year)
Offseason Losses: G Steve Nash (sign-and-trade with Los Angeles Lakers), G Jerome Dyson (waived), G Aaron Brooks (signed with Sacramento Kings), F Josh Childress (amnestied, signed with Brooklyn Nets), F Grant Hill (signed with Los Angeles Clippers), F Hakim Warrick (traded to New Orleans Hornets), C Robin Lopez (sign-and-trade with New Orleans Hornets), C Brad Miller (waived),
Re-signed: G Shannon Brown (2 years, $6 million)
Projected Starting Line-up: PG Goran Dragic, SG Jared Dudley, SF Michael Beasley, PF Luis Scola, C Marcin Gortat
OFFSEASON GRADE: B
There is a dawning of a new era on the horizon for this Phoenix Suns franchise.
Excuse me for all of the “Sun” analogies, but it’s absolutely true.
For the first time in what seems like an eternity (actually, it’s just been 8 years), 2x MVP Steve Nash will not be a member of the Suns roster opening night. He is now the starting point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers after a sign-and-trade that had the famous Canadian packing his bags for Hollywood back in July.
To replace Nash, Phoenix signed former Rockets point guard Goran Dragic to a 4-year, $30 million dollar deal. Dragic actually began his career as a Sun in 2008 before being traded prior to the deadline in a deal for Aaron Brooks on February 24, 2011.
Goran had his best year in the NBA last season for Houston, averaging 11.7 points, 5.3 assists and 1.3 steals a game. He also filled in quite admirably for Kyle Lowry when he was out with a bacterial infection at the end of the season. Dragic started the final 2 months of the year for the Rockets and was named the NBA’s Player of the Week for April 2 – April 8. In the entire month of April, Dragic averaged 18.9 points, 7.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.
While I do think the price tag of $8.5 million a year was a tad hefty, I do believe that Dragic showed enough last season in Houston to warrant a full-time starting position in the NBA. His overall potential is huge and playing in a up-tempo style offense in Phoenix (even though Nash is gone) could be what takes Goran’s game to the next level and beyond.
The Suns also shored up the point guard position in the NBA Draft by selecting Kendall Marshall out of North Carolina 13th overall. Marshall won the 2012 Bob Cousy award as the top point guard in College Basketball in his sophomore year. He also broke the ACC record for most assists in a season with 311 (9.8 a game). Kendall is as pure a point guard as they come, looking to distribute the basketball to a teammate more so than finding his own shot. He’s got a great mind for the game and should have an immediate impact for this Suns team. With the money Dragic is being paid, Marshall will find himself on the bench to start his career, being Goran’s primary backup.
In one of the more unheralded moves of the 2012 NBA offseason, the Phoenix Suns managed to land Luis Scola after the Houston Rockets amnestied him in hopes of securing more cap room for Dwight Howard. In order to secure the services of Scola, the Suns had to submit a bid of at least $3.3 million a year, and commit $10 million over the next 3 seasons.
Scola is the truest back to the basket power forward the Suns have had since the Amare Stoudemire days. In 66 games last year for Houston, Luis averaged 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. Getting Scola for that kind of money is an absolute steal, as he could easily be considered one of the 10 best power forwards in the game today, in my opinion at least. His toughness and rebounding in the paint will be of great value to a team that finished 20th in the league in that department last season (41.7 rebounds a game).
Michael Beasley, the former #2 overall pick back in 2008, will also find himself donning the Phoenix Suns colours next season after signing a 3-year, $18 million dollar deal.
Playing for his third team in 5 years, Michael has been very much inconsistent in his career and has yet to find a steady permanent home with one organization. After averaging 19.2 points and 5.6 rebounds for the Minnesota Timberwolves back in 2011, Beasley saw his numbers dip to 11.5 points and 4.4 rebounds a game this past year, all be it in less time. The potential to be a huge NBA star is there, but Beasley will need to show more willingness to improve his game on the court in practices and games, rather than letting his off-the-court shenanigans get the best of him. Regardless of that, at just $6 million a year for 3 years, you can’t go wrong.
The Suns also signed 17 year veteran Jermaine O’Neal to a 1 year deal to add depth to the center position behind Marcin Gortat. Over the past 2 seasons, O’Neal has played a total of 49 games due to injury. Fortunately for him, the Suns training staff has an excellent track record with injured stars, including names like Grant Hill, Michael Redd and Shaquille O’Neal. His numbers will be closely monitored over the course of the season to help avoid further injuries down the road.
If Phoenix fans can learn to accept the fact that Steve Nash isn’t walking through their front door anymore, they will be pleasantly surprised to see a Suns team that is fully ready to compete in the Western Conference for a bottom-seeded playoff spot.
Neither Dragic nor Marshall will ever come close to replicating the huge success of their MVP predecessor, but collectively they will do enough to keep this team afloat in the Pacific Division.
Obviously losing Nash is a tough pill to swallow, but you can’t argue really with the moves GM Lance Blanks made to help this team move forward into the post-Nash era.
OTHER OFFSEASON RECAPS: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports