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.

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