Who's on the Phoenix Suns' hot seat?

Earl Clark has yet to blossom into the player the Suns hoped for, and it's getting closer to now or never mode.

PHOENIX — There’s no hiding that there are a ton of questions surrounding the 2010-11 Phoenix Suns, but depth is not one of them.

Head coach Alvin Gentry has 12 players that could play on any given night, which every NBA coach yearns for.

But now comes the tough part for Gentry: figuring out who to play where and for how long.

“It’s going to be a challenge in the preseason, figuring out how all of these guys are going to fit together,” Gentry said during media day. “I think that’s going to be a huge factor.”

“We will experiment a lot in the preseason from the standpoint of rotations, certain guys together on the floor and certain guys playing different positions,” he added.

The preseason, which begins Tuesday, certainly isn’t going to define the season for anyone outside of players fighting for a roster spot, but there are a few guys that are on the “hot seat” so to speak.

These are players that, if they don’t prove that they are capable of what the Suns need them to do, won’t play.

Because there are so many players to choose from, it’s easy to fall out of the rotation, especially at the forward position where the Suns are deepest. With that said, here are three guys who are on the hot seat in terms of minutes:

Earl Clark

Earl Clark is a no-brainer (in terms of being on this list and on the court). He’s being asked to play strictly power forward this season, but figures to be the 11th man in the rotation.

Although Gentry said at the end of last season that he would be “disappointed” if Clark isn’t in the rotation this season, there’s a very good chance the second-year player gets buried on the bench once again. But because of the lack of defense amongst the Suns front line, Clark has a chance to play his way into a backup power forward role.

The tools have always been there, he just needs to put it together mentally and show he can play the four during the preseason, while becoming the “lockdown defender” Gentry is hoping he’ll be. If he doesn’t, Clark will sit.

Hakim Warrick

When the Suns initially signed Hakim Warrick, it looked like he’d be playing 30-plus minutes a game while serving as Phoenix’s dirt-cheap Amare replacement. But he quickly became the forgotten free agent signing after Hedo Turkoglu and Josh Childress came aboard, and if he doesn’t impress in the preseason and early on, Warrick could become lost on the bench.

The Suns need him to be a pick-and-roll threat and the prototypical power forward the roster lacks. But Warrick is a porous defender and gets pushed around a lot at only 219 pounds. His style of game should fit well in Phoenix, but there wasn’t much buzz around him during camp, which makes me think he may not have been as impressive as the Suns anticipated.

Turkoglu will start at the four, although he’ll probably only play 20 or so minutes at the actual position. That leaves about 28 minutes to Warrick, Clark and even rookie Gani Lawal, who probably won’t play much. Despite five years of NBA experience, this is his first year in Phoenix, and Warrick has to prove his worth or he could easily slide closer to the Gatorade cups.

Jared Dudley

Jared Dudley is the least likely player on this list to fall victim to the ramped up competition for minutes. He’s one of the team’s hardest workers, is in the best shape of his life and broke out last season.

But because Grant Hill and Childress, who exploded during camp, are ahead of him on the depth chart, Dudley needs to prove he deserves to be out on the floor as often as possible. Turkoglu will also be playing the three almost as much as the four, leaving even less minutes for Dudley.

Dudley supposedly added some new elements to his game, and if that expansion is apparent and he remains a sharpshooter and hustle maniac, he will find the floor. But the fact of the matter is, there are only so many minutes to go around.

Tags: Earl Clark Hakim Warrick Jared Dudley

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