The TrueHoop Network has compiled a compelling season preview eBook, complete with front-of-the-book features and team-by-team previews.
For a sneak peak at what we’ve got in store for you, here’s my entry previewing the 2009-10 Suns:
The consensus prediction of the TrueHoop Network bloggers … and the best hopes of ValleyoftheSuns.
Last Year’s Record: 46-36
Crowd Says: 46-36
ValleyoftheSuns Says: 48-34
Yes We Can!
The sun is out. The seas have parted. The basketball gods are shining upon us!
Two years ago the Suns were chic championship picks.
Last year, the Suns were (accurately) thought to be a fringe playoff team.
This year there are almost no expectations outside of their locker room, with many national pundits expecting the Suns to hover around .500.
And that is just where any talented team hoping to play the Rodney Dangerfield card wants to be.
Sure, the Suns’ defense won’t exactly resemble that of the Celtics or Spurs, but that doesn’t mean a team featuring Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Jason Richardson and Grant Hill won’t score a ton of points, win a bunch of games and scare the bejeezus out of somebody in the playoffs (and maybe even win a series).
2008-09 was a mess on a number of counts, chief among them being that the Suns never figured out what they were. They never developed an identity because that identity changed every few months, starting with Terry Porter’s failed stab at making the Suns play defense and finishing with Alvin Gentry’s “just go out and run and worry about defense later” philosophy.
Even at the end of the season when they were definitively a fast, offensive team, they had to deal with the complication of Shaquille O’Neal in such a system.
The end result after the All-Star break under Gentry was a team that beat nearly all the bad teams but lost to just about all the good ones.
Absent Amare Stoudemire for all but two games in the second half, the Suns still averaged better than 120 points per 100 possessions, making them one of the best offensive teams in NBA history when extrapolated out to a whole year.
Although they lost Shaq in a salary dump, the Suns replaced him with a center in Channing Frye who is a better stylistic fit offensively — although not on the boards and in terms of post defense. They also added a rookie in Earl Clark who brings versatility at both ends of the floor, which should make him successful right away in Gentry’s system.
Clark joins a bench featuring Leandro Barbosa, Goran Dragic, Robin Lopez, Jared Dudley and Lou Amundson that should be deeper than Phoenix’s second units under Mike D’Antoni.
In all there will be no mistaking what the Suns are this season: a lightning-speed team that will score points in bunches and likely give them up almost as quickly while struggling badly on the boards.
But they will once again be the most exciting team in basketball, and if the starters stay healthy, the Suns will make the playoffs and maybe even be the team nobody wants to face.
No You Won’t
A rousing dissent from a rival blogger.
“For Steve Kerr’s next trick, he’s going to somehow undo the Louisiana Purchase.” – Matt Moore/Hardwood Paroxysm
A 140-character insight into the soul of the team.
Courtesy of Suns head coach @AlvinGentry – “any one would enjoy coaching this group of guys. it what a team should be. young players learning for the veterans. vets that work hard” – March 24, 2009, the day after a big win over Denver that momentarily kept the Suns in the playoff hunt.
On the Record
Single best quote concerning the team during the last 12 months.
“I think right now I’d be happy just to be part of a really positive and optimistic atmosphere, be a part of a team that really is on the same page, plays together, plays hard every night and makes the season exciting for one another and for the fans. I think that undoubtedly we’d be successful with that type of atmosphere regardless of how much talent we’d have” – Steve Nash after the season finale of a disappointing 2008-09 Suns season, possibly foreshadowing what’s to come in 2009-10.
The 2009-09 Almanac
Some key stats from last season.
Team Factor Strengths: Shooting (1st), Free Throws (8th)
Team Factor Weaknesses: Turnovers (26th), Shooting Allowed (23rd), Defensive Rebounding (22nd)
Down a single point with 9.2 seconds to play in a must-win game. What’s the play?
The easy answer would be a Nash-Amare pick-and-roll, but let’s get creative here with a play the Suns successfully ran a few times last year in endgame situations. After Hill inbounds it to Amare at the top of the key, Nash sets a pick on Hill’s guy. Hill darts to the cup with Nash’s guy hesitant to switch, and Amare hits him with a perfect pass for an easy layup with the opposing big guy defending Amare on the perimeter. Just hope you don’t leave enough time for Roger Mason Jr. to beat you at the buzzer.
The People’s Choice
The fan favorite the crowd will be chanting for to see some action.
On Draft Day Suns GM Steve Kerr said he doesn’t see how Earl Clark will beat out Jared Dudley or Lou Amundson for time. Yeah, right. I see that quote as a motivational ploy directed at Clark, but if that comes to fruition then Suns fans will be chanting for the versatile, skilled rookie out of Louisville.
If You’re Watching the Bottom Line, You’re Watching This
The single biggest spreadsheet issue hanging over the team.
Just like in Cleveland, Miami and Toronto, a potential key member of the much-ballyhooed Class of 2010 free agency class resides in Phoenix. The end result of the Amare Stoudemire Situation will go a long way toward determining the future direction of this franchise. Phoenix does not want to negotiate with Amare before seeing how he returns from a very serious eye injury, and even completely healthy the Suns may be hesitant to give max money to a player who is inconsistent defensively and on the boards at times. After asking for that max extension, Amare sees only a 50-50 chance of returning to Phoenix. The answer to this conundrum will determine whether the Suns build around their 26-year-old, potentially franchise big man or if they will have a few dollars to throw around next offseason to chart a new path.
A tidbit on the Phoenix Suns’ social media presence.
@The_Real_Shaq has been shipped off to Cleveland, but the Suns’ social media presence will still be stronger than ever in 2009-10.
About half the players tweet (Nash, Amare, J-Rich, Dudley, Lopez, and Taylor Griffin) as well as head coach Alvin Gentry and about 15-20 Suns employees.
As an organization, the Suns do a great job reaching out to their fan base through social media by holding events such as tweetups.
This year the team plans to become even more interactive by streaming live tweets a couple times a game at the bottom of the TV screen and on the big screen and 360-degree LED rings at US Airways Center.
“It would be really cool if we can have fans at home tweeting about the game and fans in the building itself tweeting about the game and those tweets kind of merging together to be on display,” said Suns executive Jeramie McPeek.