Editor’s Note: This is ValleyoftheSuns’ contribution to the fifth annual “NBA Blog Previews” put on by CelticsBlog.
Team Name: Phoenix Suns
Last Year’s Record: 54-28
Key Losses: Amare Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa, Louis Amundson
Key Additions: Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick, Gani Lawal
1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?
It may have been the Summer of LeBron in the NBA, but it was the Summer of Amare in Phoenix. Amare Stoudemire’s impending free agency has been the biggest long-term story line for this franchise the past two years. Things finally came to a head this summer when STAT opted out, and despite Robert Sarver making a competitive offer, Stoudemire of course is now a New York Knick.
From there, the Suns were forced to revamp the feel of their team. This no longer is a pick-and-roll squad headlined by Nash and Amare, but the Suns are now even more versatile after adding Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick. These moves make the Suns deeper overall, but they lost the star power Amare provided.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Depth. No NBA team will be deeper than Phoenix. The Suns possess a plethora of interchangeable parts, particularly at the three where they have a whole army of small forwards. Alvin Gentry will be free to ride the hot hand and go either big or small as he sees fit. The Suns’ starting unit will certainly create matchup problems offensively, but more importantly few teams will be able to handle the waves of firepower coming off the bench.
The other major strength — surprise, surprise — is offense. You can pencil any Steve Nash-led offense in among the league leaders, and this one will be no exception. The Suns can score up and down the lineup, and with Nash leading the charge it would be a surprise if this isn’t once again the league’s most efficient offense.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
And then there’s that other end of the court, which once again won’t be a major Suns strength. But the biggest weakness will likely be rebounding. This was a major issue going into last season, yet thanks to the emergence of Robin Lopez the Suns actually posted a positive rebounding differential for the season, a major reason they managed to secure the West’s No. 3 seed. After switching out Amare for Hedo at the four, it would be a surprise if the Suns post another positive rebounding differential.
Interior defense will be an issue as well. The Suns possess a dearth of quality of interior defenders (and rebounders) aside from Lopez. Phoenix likely will be starting Turkoglu at the four, which could be a matchup nightmare for opponents when the Suns are on offense but is sure to cause problems for the Suns defensively as well.
4. What are the goals for this team?
A year ago the Suns surpassed any goals they might have set for themselves by bolting into the Western Conference Finals. On paper they appear to have taken a step back; at least that’s the national perspective, as many pundits expect the Suns to finish around the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture ….. just as they were expected to last season. But not so fast.
Every team with the kind of talent the Suns possess will say their goal is to win a championship. Realistically? Probably a return trip to the West Finals. It would be hard to predict the Suns beating the Lakers, so the best-case scenario appears to be another West Finals appearance.
5. Will the Hedo Turkoglu experiment work?
This is the most important question in my mind when it comes to 2010-11 Phoenix Suns projections, and also the most difficult to answer. If Hedo is the clutch 20-5-5 Hedo from Orlando lore, the Suns are as good as any West team outside the Lakers. If he’s the overweight, out of shape chump who played for Toronto last season, the Suns will struggle to make the playoffs without a deal for a real power forward.
Hedo could be the crunch-time scorer and second facillitator to Nash that the Suns have craved for years. Or he might be a miscast small forward jacking up too many threes, unable to guard fours and whining about not having the ball in his hands enough.
The Suns have such a strong culture with so many good guys I don’t expect him to be the head case he was in Toronto, and I’m actually guardedly optimistic about how Turkoglu will perform this season. I’m not expecting greatness, but he should be a good fit in this system.
Predicted Record: 48-34