My all-time Phoenix Suns starting lineup

ESPN is currently running a fun interactive graphic in which fans can pick their all-time starting lineup from every franchise in the NBA.

With a team as successful as the Suns have been (fourth-highest winning percentage of all NBA teams), there are many ways to go. According to Sports Nation, the all-time Suns lineup is Steve Nash at the point (duh!), Paul Westphal at the two, Shawn Marion at the three, Charles Barkley at the four and Alvan Adams starting in the middle.

In coming up with my all-time Suns lineup, the first thing you have to keep in mind is that I’m 24. I became a basketball fan while Charles Barkley was leading the Suns teams of the mid-90s to greatness and I have witnessed every second of the Seven Seconds or Less and the subsequent Nash Era, but I know Westphal only as a coach and Adams and Neal Walk only from the history books.

This is one of the reasons Bill Simmons wrote The Book of Basketball. As years pass, we forget about the greatness of long ago players, so only particular indelible moments (like Gar Heard’s shot in 1976) and ridiculous achievements (like what Russell’s Celtics did in the ’60s) stay with us.

For my lineup I’m going to go outside of the box a little bit and eschew positions, which I think is fitting because that’s what the Suns have been about for almost as long as I’ve watched them. Small ball has been a staple of this franchise, from the four-guard lineup of Kidd-KJ-Chapman-Person to the recent vintage of small ball played by Mike D’Antoni’s team.

I also am going to go with one more Book of Basketball twist and specify the particular vintage of a player I want. This is most relevant for a guy like Amare, as I can choose from the explosive athlete he was during his first couple years or the more refined talent he was last season.

So without further ado, here’s my all-time Phoenix Suns starting lineup:

C — Amare Stoudemire (2004-05) — This is the guy who decimated a prime Tim Duncan in the playoffs. Having yet to undergo a knee surgery, he’s a ridiculously explosive athlete who will beat all the other fives down the floor.

PF — Charles Barkley (1992-93) — Barkley’s 1992-93 might be the greatest single season in franchise history, as it was a year in which he averaged a 25.6 and 12.2 on his way to MVP honors and a Suns Finals appearance. He will be this team’s crunch-time scorer and emotional leader.

SF — Shawn Marion (2005-06) — This was the year Marion peaked with Amare out for the year. I envision him being this squad’s do-everything guy, picking up some garbage buckets while making a big impact on the boards and doing all the little things defensively.

SG — Dan Majerle (1991-92) — Majerle was both a lights-out three-point shooter and a lockdown defender, and I love the toughness he will bring to this squad. Majerle was still at his athletic peak during this year and will be a perfect fit for this team.

PG — Steve Nash (2006-07) — Although he won MVPs during the two years prior, Nash shot higher from the field and three and averaged more assists and just as many points as he did in his MVP years during this season. The Suns have had some fantastic point guards, but he’s still the obvious choice to lead this offense.

Yes, this is a roster of players I have seen play extensively and some of the old-timers like an Alvan Adams (who starts at center if I have to stick with the positions specified by ESPN) get screwed a little bit.

But what I like most about this team is that it epitomizes what Phoenix Suns basketball has been all about for years.

First off, it’s a dynamic scoring unit. Nash and Amare have been played on the best offenses in NBA history, and this team has a little bit of everything on that end.

All of the players can shoot jumpers, and the guards are proficient from long range (Marion can hit some threes as well). Then you have quality slashers in Majerle and Marion and a dynamic post duo in Barkley and Amare, who can both thrive in the pick-and-roll game with Nash. This is a true pick-your-poison offense that Nash will exploit to the fullest.

It’s also not as bad of a defensive team as you might think as either Marion or Majerle could defend an elite point guard to mask Nash’s deficiencies and the other could guard the best wing. It’s a team built to run and then you have a go-to guy in Barkley to throw it down to when things slow down. Barkley and Marion will also help this team do OK on the boards despite being a bit undersized.

In summary, this team would score loads of points and be incredibly fun to watch, but it would be a bit of a liability when it comes to interior defense.

Yep, that sounds like an all-time Phoenix Suns starting lineup to me.

Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire Charles Barkley Dan Majerle Shawn Marion Steve Nash

  • Andrew

    Looks pretty good and yes Amar'e should be the starting center. What about Rex Chapman or Michael Finley at the 2? Or what if Kevin Johnson joined Nash in the backcourt? Any thoughts?

  • Mike L

    Yep, I love this line-up for sure. I was tempted to go with KJ because I was a HUGE fan of his during his playing years. And he's the kind of PG who would probably be even BETTER in today's no-hand-check league. He was almost impossible to guard off the dribble and had a decent low post move, too, that was a boatload of fun to watch. He'd take it down low and have the defense guessing … he's either hit a fadeaway jumper, kick it to Barkley, Majerle or Ainge for the 3 and sometimes he'd go baseline. Can you IMAGINE the kind of player KJ would be in the current era?

  • Mike L

    An additional thought on KJ. I firmly believe that if he was playing at his peak right now that people would refer to Chris Paul as a "Poor Man's KJ." I know I'm a Suns homer, but just go pull up a few highlights on YouTube and you'll see what I mean.

  • Tony Padegimas

    You guys are all so young…

    To appreciate how good Nash is, you have to realize that the Suns have had six Hall of Fame PG’s go through their roster:
    Gail Goodrich (though not for anything he did as a Sun); Paul Westphal (though he was really an undersized SG); Dennis Johnson; Kevin Johnson; Jason Kidd; Steve Nash. Nash has better overall numbers than any of them, plus the MVP’s, plus the demonstrable Nash Bump that improved the players around him every year regardless of the system.

    I like Dan Majerle too, but I’m not sure I’d take him over Joe Johnson or even Paul Westphal. But I don’t have to make that choice. Walter Davis 79-80 is your starting two guard. He was the franchise in the late 70′s – eraly 80′s.

    Connie Hawkins in his first year with the Suns (when he had something to prove and paid attention every game) starts over Matrix.

    If you can’t list Amar’e at C then you still have to start Barkley at PF. Better rebounder, better shooter, and, when he gave a crap, better defender.

    Alvin Adams and Shaq are the only two Suns to ever play center in an all star game. If Nash is your point guard, you have to take Adams – because it will be all about running the floor.

  • suns68

    A game I'd like to see (all in Suns prime):

    KJ, Majerle, Barkley, Chambers and West (sixth man Eddie Johnson)


    Nash, Joe Johnson, Marion, Amare and Lopez (sixth man Barbosa)

  • suns68

    This is a great lineup from 1990-forward.
    It’s too bad there isn’t room for KJ and Chambers, who resurrected this team after the drug scandal and kept us off the road to Clipperville.
    I also feel bad you didn’t get to see Westphal or Gail Goodrich play. They were truly awesome shooting guards.
    And I count myself lucky to have seen Connie Hawkins play.

  • Steve

    My starting five for the Suns

    1- Kevin Johnson. I love Nash, but Johnson was a better defender, a better finisher, a better rebounder, and an equally amazing distributor. Nash is the better shooter, but that's all he has on Johnson, in my opinion.

    2- Walter Davis. How can you not pick the all time leading scorer of the franchise? Don't forget Charlie Scott, either. The two is the position where it is most crucial to have an elite, world-class player to win a championship, in my opinion, and the Suns have really never had one. I'd say Davis was closest, but he didn't have the cast around him to make the Suns contenders in those years.

    3- Connie Hawkins. One of the greatest bastketball players of all time, in my opinion. He missed a lot of his prime due to being suspected of a point-shaving debacle, otherwise we might be mentioning him alongside the likes of Dr. J as being a pioneer of the above-the-rim game.

    4- Barkley. Easy. I love TC, but no one could beat Barkley for this spot. He might be one of the top 10 players of all time (definitely top 20, imo)

    5- Alvan Adams. One of the best passing bigs of all time, and the closest thing the Suns have had to a great center.


    PG- Steve Nash

    SG- Majerle (for the 3-ball and the grittiness)

    SF- Marion

    PF- TC

    C- Shaq

    11- Jason Kidd

    12- Amar'e Stoudemire

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  • King Fahd

    No complaints about this line-up, Mike. We think alike!

  • Greg Dennis

    There’s no way Dan Marjerle should be on here before Walter Davis.

  • joekiddluischama

    First, I’ll commend you for a thought-provoking piece. Second, while your lineup would be tremendous offensively and Barkley and Marion would clean the glass, the defense would be pretty poor. Yes, Marion and Majerle ranked among the better swingman defenders in the NBA at different points in their respective careers, but the other three (Nash, Stoudemire, and Barkley) proved sub-par defensively. And while Majerle marked a fine athlete in his first few years, he was not quick enough to defend quick point guards on a consistent basis. Marion could fill that role, but then the Suns would be vulnerable defensively against shooting guards or small forwards. Worst of all, the interior defense would be terrible with Stoudemire and Barkley together and I don’t think that those two would jell offensively, either. Both are ball-stoppers, Stoudemire is an ineffective passer, and he needs to be involved constantly in order to remain active. When Barkley would have been holding the ball in the post, Stoudemire may have become disinterested and lethargic.

    I understand your desire to seek a style that epitomizes the Suns’ historical aesthetic, but that aesthetic hasn’t always proved oblivious to defense. Indeed, here’s a lineup that might meld together more smoothly, could be just as potent offensively, and would provide superior defense.

    PG Kevin Johnson

    Efficient and explosive, K.J. could keep his teammates involved while scoring at will. He created better shots for his teammates than any point guard of his generation aside from Magic Johnson and he arguably controlled the court and handled physical pressure better than any point guard in history except for Magic. He constituted a precise passer who protected the ball down the stretch of games, his superior quickness granted him more time and space in a congested lane than Nash, and he could do more with less time and space than Nash. K.J.’s passing was better in tight spaces, as perhaps suggested by his career assists-to-turnover ratio (2.972:1.000) being a hair better than Nash’s (2.970:1.000) even though Johnson played at a time when perimeter defenders could use their hands and forearms for checking and when interior defenders could camp-out in the lane due to the lack of a defensive three seconds rule (instituted in 2001).

    Nash is the superior shooter, although K.J. constituted one of the NBA’s most fluent off-the-dribble shooters in his own right. Yet regardless of whom one prefers offensively, there can be no doubt about who proves superior defensively. Nash is adept at drawing charges, but even mediocre offensive point guards such as Derek Fisher and Anthony Johnson light-up when they see Nash. The current Suns’ point guard lacks physical strength by NBA standards, leaving him vulnerable to point guards who feel that they can go through him (let alone by him), bump-him off, and generate high-percentage shots in the process.

    K.J., conversely, proved physically strong and extremely quick laterally, in addition to his superior leaping ability and quicker hands. He could pressure the ball, steal the ball, contain penetration, and challenge shots better than Nash and the Suns sometimes looked to K.J. as a defensive stopper or ace. For instance, in the 1993 playoffs, K.J. helped ice the Lakers’ leading scorer, explosive point guard Sedale Threatt, and then he guarded Michael Jordan for half of the games in the 1993 NBA Finals, during which the Suns went 2-1 (losing only by one point in Game Six). K.J. couldn’t stop Jordan, of course (no one could), but he at least bothered and pressured Jordan more than Dan Majerle had and rendered Jordan’s drives more infrequent.

    Conversely, could one imagine Steve Nash helping the Suns defensively in the NBA Finals by defending a thirty-year old Michael Jordan?

    SG: Walter Davis

    When a player sports the nickname “The Man with the Velvet Touch” along with the moniker “The Greyhound,” chances are that he represents a special athlete. Davis marked one of the purest jump-shooters of his generation while also possessing exceptional speed and quickness, allowing him to thrive in an open-court game. And of course, his velvety shooting touch rendered him effective in the half-court, too. Davis twice shot over 56.0% from the field and finished with a career field goal percentage of .511 and a career free throw percentage of .851.

    SF: Shawn Marion

    In addition to his obvious athletic abilities, Marion marks a keen fit for this type of team because he doesn’t need to touch the basketball for very long in order to prove prolific. He avoids turnovers and mistakes, moves the ball, moves without the ball, and twice averaged over 21.0 points per game as if by osmosis. He rebounds and defends relentlessly and a transition game with him, Walter Davis, and Kevin Johnson running together could have proved dizzying.

    PF: Charles Barkley

    Barkley constituted one of the greatest low-post scorers, rebounders, and passers ever among power forwards. By a wide margin, he represents the best post-up player in Phoenix history.

    C: Alvan Adams

    Adams makes sense because he constituted a deft passing and shooting center. His outside shooting ability could have drawn the opposing center away from the basket, thus granting Barkley more room to operate on the low block, and his unselfishness as a passer would have allowed him to complement the lineup’s more prodigious scorers.

    Honorable mentions: Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Dennis Johnson, Paul Westphal, Jeff Hornacek, Charlie Scott, Dan Majerle, Dick Van Arsdale, Larry Nance, Truck Robinson, Tom Chambers, Amar’e Stoudemire, Mark West.

  • joekiddluischama

    I should have added Connie Hawkins to the list of Honorable Mentions.

    And to an earlier poster, Nash’s overall numbers are not better than Kevin Johnson’s (unless you’re referring to career totals). Nash’s overall shooting percentages (especially on threes and to a lesser extent free throws) are superior, but K.J.’s scoring averages are better and his field goal percentages proved similar. Their assists and rebounding averages are about the same; K.J. provided more steals. On December 9, 1993, K.J. tallied 10 steals in one game (part of a triple-double with steals, along with 17 points and 13 assists), whereas Nash failed to record his tenth steal last season until the second half of December.

    I know that steals aren’t everything and K.J. could be more physical in that era, but …

  • joekiddluischama

    As for the “Nash bump,” I agree abotu his effect on his teammates, but it was true of K.J. as well. Tom Chambers, for instance, saw his numbers go through the roof when he joined K.J. in Phoenix. Also, Nash has basically played in the same system throughout his tenure as a Sun since returning in 2004. Indeed, the one exception constituted the aborted Terry Porter experiment where Nash proved less effective.

    Furthermore, MVP Awards are only relevant to their point in time; I doubt that Nash would have been garnering MVPs at a time when Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan owned the award, which also happened to be when K.J. posted his peak numbers.

    Yet I consider K.J. and Nash the two best guards in Phoenix history, although Paul Westphal also deserves publicity. Only three players in NBA history have averaged at least 18.0 points, 10.0 assists, and a .500 field goal percentage in the same season multiple times: Magic Johnson (1985-1987, 1989), Kevin Johnson (1989, 1991), and Steve Nash (2006, 2007). K.J. missed a third consecutive season of that stripe by .001 on his field goal percentage in 1990.

  • joekiddluischama

    … should have been “about” in the previous post.

  • tomtrikilis

    Barkley nor Marion couldn’t shine the hawks shoes!!! They couldn’t dunk, pass or handle like connie PERIOD!!! This guy was the ultimate showman!!

  • tomtrikilis

    Its obvious these people never saw the HAWK play!!!!

  • tomtrikilis

    There was nobody like the HAWK period. He was one greatest passing forwards ever! And the most spectacular. He floated before he dunked! Could handle like a little guy. The HAWKS hands were like weapons!! He could fake you out every way possible, he loved to play KEEP AWAY. He was the greatest entertainer i ever saw! What a thrill it was to watch him! Man what a show!!!