PHOENIX — Wherever you stand on the Steve Nash debate, there’s no debating the Phoenix Suns flat out weren’t good enough this season.
With a 40-42 record that featured bouts of inconsistency throughout the year the Suns can point to many areas in which they need to improve, from the need for a go-to scorer to the necessity of defensive improvement.
Below many key figures in the organization pinpoint where improvement must be made, all working under the assumption that Nash will be back and full-on rebuilding will be postponed:
Head Coach Alvin Gentry: “Obviously we need to make some changes and add some pieces. Obviously we like some of the pieces that we added, and we also need to add some additional pieces. We’ve obviously got to get a little bit better from the standpoint of being able to have a go-to guy where we don’t count on Steve to create every play at the end of the game and to make every shot in situations like that, so that’s something that we have to look at.
“I think we have to get better overall size-wise. If we add size it has to be good players. We just can’t add size to be adding size, so that’s one of the areas that I think we need to get a little better in, and then we have to continue to get better defensively. I was a little bit disappointed this year because I thought we took a step back from where we were last year defensively, and we’ve just got to get better in this area.”
President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby: “I think they are somewhat obvious. We need a complement to Channing up front. I think he had a wonderful year, I think he made great progress. We need probably more scoring on the wings, a go-to player, someone we can throw the ball to whether that’s on the post or a wing player who can get us a basket down the stretch. But I would say first and foremost if you ask me what the top priority as we evaluate our team this season, we have to get better defensively.”
Point Guard Steve Nash: “Obviously we weren’t good enough this year so there’s probably going to have to be some changes made. … I like our starting lineup, but you have to have a bench, and you have to have a formidable bench in the West. We need more depth, and whether those guys start or come off the bench it’s not important, it’s just a matter of if we have two good units.”
Guard Jared Dudley: “You always need bigs. Bigs win in this league with size, shot blocking, for defensive purposes and rebounding, so that’s probably something they’ll probably look into. … If you look at every playoff team the one thing in common is the bigs. It’s always key, you can never have too many bigs. Obviously whatever they do I’m always 100 percent behind it, but I think personally everybody’s got to take it upon themselves to get better, come back with an improved game.”
Center Marcin Gortat: “Next year we’re going to go through the training camp we’ll be a better team. I also believe we have to become a more physical team. We have to be more physical, we have to be in a greater shape if we’re really thinking about making playoffs.”
As for my evaluation, first off the Suns need to decide what direction they are taking regarding Nash.
If Nash leaves, your only definites are Gortat as the starting center and Dudley and Channing Frye playing some sort of role on the team.
This scenario is tough to project because the Suns would have so many needs in the immediate aftermath, some of which would be filled by the assets acquired in such a trade, and then the likely smart move would be to play for a 2012 makeover when Babby will have time to find loopholes in the new CBA, cap space could be plentiful in Phoenix and the draft will be much stronger than it is this season.
If Nash stays the immediate need would be for a go-to scorer at either the shooting guard or power forward position and perhaps a defensive standout role player. Gentry voiced the need to acquire an impact scorer as well as better defensive players, and that will be tough with not many players fitting both bills, especially among players who would be available to Phoenix.
Perhaps the only good news concerning missing the playoffs is the fact the Suns will have lots of time now to ponder such scenarios that will lead to improvement.
Grant Hill finished seventh in Defensive Player of the Year voting, receiving one first-place vote, seven seconds and four thirds. As Paul Coro writes, this bodes well for his chances of making an All-Defensive Team since he got the second-most votes of all forwards and most for a small forward, just edging out Andre Iguodala and LeBron James.