3-on-3: Midseason edition

The Phoenix Suns finished the first half of the season with a 14-20 record in 13th place in the West, leaving the squad well outside the current West playoff picture. In this midseason edition of 3-on-3 we debate which Sun must step up for the team to make a run as well as potential trades before updating our preseason predictions.

Which Suns player must step up in the second half?

Michael Schwartz: Channing Frye. The Suns are a different team when Frye is stroking treys and spacing the defense. It opens up the floor for Nash and Gortat on the pick-and-roll and makes the Suns’ offense potent once again. Like most of the team, Frye has struggled badly with consistency on his shot, but if the Suns want to make a second-half run they will need the former Wildcat to sustain a hot streak from the land of three.

Mike Schmitz: The Suns need more from Channing Frye. Outside of Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat, Channing may be Phoenix’s most important player. In wins this season he’s averaging 11.3 points per game on 44.2 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from three compared to a 8.6-37.8%-27.3% line in losses. The Suns are 6-2 in games when he knocks down three or more threes, further proving how integral he is to their success. Frye needs to find himself offensively because when he gets it going, the Suns are a different team.

Kevin Zimmerman: Without returning to the issue of finding a third scorer behind Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat, the bench as a whole needs to step up. While some flashes of an aggressive defensive unit have appeared, overall, the poor bench play has forced Alvin Gentry into overplaying his starters and flip-flopping the rotations. The pressure the bench has put on the starters also has led to poor second and fourth quarters, and that’s not to mention the holes they’ve dug.

Should the Suns make a trade before the deadline?

Michael Schwartz: It’s hard to say without knowing what’s on the table, but there’s no question they should be evaluating what their trade chips can bring back. If the Suns get a fair offer for Nash (some combination of a quality young player, expirings and a pick) they should seriously consider beginning the rebuilding process. Even if a Nash trade does not materialize it would make sense to shop Robin Lopez if they aren’t planning on bringing him back next year so as not to lose him for nothing.

Mike Schmitz: It’s not a question of if the Suns should make a trade, but rather how many. This team won’t make the playoffs this season and if the Suns can dump salary and stockpile draft picks, they should waste no time doing it. There will be swirling rumors about a Nash trade but if the Suns were to make one deal it should include Robin Lopez. They’re probably going to lose the 7-footer to free agency anyway, and it’s hard to believe Phoenix couldn’t get a pick in return for the Stanford product. Mobile 7-footers are rare and the Suns should get someone to bite and take the underperforming center off of their hands.

Kevin Zimmerman: Yes, if not many. Whether or not Nash returns has nothing to do with the fact that the Suns must rebuild. There are two things to do before the trade deadline: Look into acquiring young talent to develop down the road, and find ways to clear cap space to make a large free agent haul this offseason. If management doesn’t do either before the trade deadline — or at least, if we don’t hear about them trying — even more questions will arise about their competency.

How will the Suns finish?

Michael Schwartz: I have a confession. I forgot to analyze the remaining schedule before sticking with my original prediction of 29-37 on our latest edition of ValleyoftheSuns Live. The Suns would have to go 15-17 the rest of the way to make that happen, and I just don’t see any way they do with only four (yes, four!) games remaining against teams below them in the standings. Phoenix will pull its share of upsets as it has all season, but I don’t see the Suns doing any better than 12-20 the rest of the way for an overall 26-40 mark.

Mike Schmitz: Unless they make a big splash before the trade deadline the Suns will go 15-17 in the second half to finish at 29-37. This team is too restricted by its minimal talent and so many things have to go right for Phoenix to win, which leads to constant inconsistency. The Suns will shock some good teams, lose to a host of bad teams and remain mired in mediocrity as the Nash era comes to a close.

Kevin Zimmerman: At the end of the day, there’s not enough talent for this team to make a huge leap from the first half of the year to the second. At four games under .500, I honestly think Phoenix will slightly improve and go .500 the rest of the way, and sticking with my guns of my preseason prediction, that leaves Phoenix with a 31-35 record by year’s end. With more average teams in the league than very good and very bad ones, that’s going to place them around 11th or 12th in the Western Conference, well out of the playoff hunt.

  • Scott

    I have my usual recommendations:

    1) Get a new backup PG, someone who is better than Telfair.

    (Telfair may be a nice and talented young man, but he’s not able to get the job done for this team. Preferably his replacement would be bigger, stronger, have better court vision, better passing, have a higher basketball IQ, and be a better scorer.)

    2) Move Frye and Dudley to the 2nd unit, and make them captains of the 2nd unit.

    (Frye and Dudley are intelligent and skilled, and have been with the team long enough to know where players are supposed to be. They have the ability to hold players accountable. The 2nd unit really needs this.)

    3) Move Redd and Morris to the starting unit.

    (Redd is a starter, and Nash can get more out of Redd than a backup PG can. Morris is a rookie, yes, but he can help Gortat get the rebounds and he can spread the floor as well as Frye can. Morris also takes coaching well, so the veterans in the starting unit should have little problem getting him to his proper places on plays.)

    4) The Suns’ 2nd unit can be composed of PG, Dudley, Childress, Warrick, and Frye, or PG, Dudley, Childress, Frye and Lopez, depending upon whether more scoring is needed or more defense.

    If there truly is nothing better out there (no trades, nothing), then I would advocate signing Armon Johnson to a 10-day to see if he can do better at PG. While I don’t hold out much hope for him, I think at best he could run the team like Barbosa.

  • Tony


    Morris himself asked Gentry not to start so I don’t think putting him back in that position at this point is a very smart idea. He is a rookie and the worst thing Gentry could do to him would be to hurt his confidence. Clearly, he did not play well as a starter and if that were to continue, it could hurt his progress down the line.

    I agree with you completely that one of the main things killing the Suns is lack of a good backup pg but I don’t think at this point, unless it’s someone extremely talented, would be of much help because of the time to get adjusted to a new team and figuring out how to run the Suns offense. It just amazes me that Lance Blanks, one of the Three Stooges, had any confidence in either Telfair or Price and yet none in Dragic. Dragic is better than those two combined.

    As far as a trade goes, the Suns FO put Lopez on the block last season and didn’t even get a 1st round pick offer from any team in what was considered a very weak draft pool. This year’s draft is supposed to be great, so if no teams were willing to give up their pick last season in a mediocre draft, why would they do so now in such a loaded draft?

    If the Suns are truly going to be in “rebuild” mode, which is just a nicer way of saying they are going to suck for a long time while the front office promises each year that things will get better soon, but if they are serious about it, Gortat should be on the trade bloc as well as Nash. Gortat is the Suns best trade asset and if not for his age, he would be someone the Suns could potentially build around as a number one option until they land a true franchise player.

    Gortat is a very good player but his age should be a concern for the Suns FO. He’s already 28 and in his prime now, so it doesn’t make sense to hold onto him while the team is horrible and then down the line in four or five years, when the team might be playoff caliber again, he’ll already be in his 30s and already past his prime.
    Even though bigs can usually last longer in the NBA, Gortat is unusual in that one of his biggest strengths is his athleticism, which is one of the first things to go as you age.