Phoenix Suns 2012-13 fantasy basketball preview


One of the underappreciated benefits of the Phoenix Suns’ offseason overhaul is the effect it’s had on this very column. Last year, Phoenix had only two players who were “must own” guys, so the fantasy preview was a bit thin. This year, while the Suns may not be stacked like the Thunder or Heat, their fantasy relevance extends much further down the roster. Here’s a breakdown of all the Phoenix players worth a look in your draft.

Marcin Gortat (28th in ESPN’s Fantasy Basketball Player Rater)

The Polish Gazelle (nee Machine) finished last season in the top 10 in rebounds, top 20 in blocks, top 10 in FG% and top five among centers in scoring. He is the best and most reliable fantasy option the Suns have (unless they’re facing Dwight Howard). A lot has changed for the big man, however. Steve Nash is no longer around to feed him easy buckets. So the question is: Will his production drop off with Goran Dragic?

The answer is no. Dragic apprenticed under Nash for two and half years. They have similar styles, and Dragic understands the Phoenix offense very well. Though Goran is not as outstanding as Two Time yet, he will be on the court for at least five more minutes per game than Nash was last year, which should help cover whatever production deficiencies Gortat might have had. Draft Marcin with confidence. He is surefire top 10 among all players who qualify at the center spot.

Goran Dragic (46th in Player Rater)

Dragic spent the first two and half months of last season as Kyle Lowry’s backup in Houston. When Lowry went down in early March with an injury, Goran stepped up huge for the Rockets and almost single-handedly kept them in the playoff hunt until the final weeks of the season (Kevin Martin was also sidelined in April with a case Tanking Fever. It’s so contagious.).

I think it’s a fair bet that Dragic can match the stats he put up over the final two months of last season this year with the Suns. That would give him the following per game averages: 36 min, 18.2 pts, 8.3 ast, 3.5 reb, 1.6 stl, 1.6 3PM, 48% FG, 85% FT. That’s a hands-down top 25 fantasy player no matter how you look at it. Now Dragic hasn’t proven he can produce like that for a full season, so I might temper my expectations to top 30 and push his points per game down to 15-16, but nevertheless, Dragic is a great value.

When was the last time the Phoenix Suns’ point guard wasn’t a top 20 fantasy player? I know that’s an unfair question given the fact that a Hall of Famer held that spot for the last eight years, but there’s still something to it. The Suns, under coach Alvin Gentry, play at a high tempo that produces more possessions and points than the average NBA team. Essentially, there is more opportunity for fantasy production. That’s why Dragic is a great pick for as long as he wears the purple and orange.

Luis Scola (72nd in Player Rater)

You draft a player like Scola for his consistency. He’s a guy whose production doesn’t waver a great deal. He’s not going to go off for 20 and 10 very often, but he’s also not going to hurt you with nine points and three rebounds very often either. In fact, Scola only scored single digit points in seven games last season, which is six fewer than his new frontcourt mate Marcin Gortat (13). In seasons past, Luis was a lock for 16 points, eight boards, and over 50% from the field. The problem with expecting that kind of production now is that he is 32 years old. He posted three-year lows in minutes, FG%, rebounds, and points last season.

There are several factors that may have contributed to his decline. First, as I said before, is Scola’s age. He very well might be slowing down. The evidence against that is his performance at the Olympics. Luis was a scoring machine in London. He was one of Argentina’s two best players, and his squad advanced all the way to the medal round.

Second, Houston was bad last year. That was definitely the worst team Scola had played on in his five-year NBA career. There simply may not have been as many points to score or boards to grab. The good news for Suns fans who may be groaning at the thought of a declining Scola clogging the rotation: Luis’ best month in 2012 was March, the same month that Dragic took over as Houston’s point guard. Luis averaged 18.5 ppg over that 20-day stretch and shot over 54 percent from the field. With all that in mind, I expect Scola to have a return to form this year.

In Phoenix, playing time equals production for any offensive-minded player. Scola is always looking to score, so as long as he holds off Markieff Morris, who we’ll discuss a bit later, and retains the starting power forward spot, Scola should see his scoring numbers kick back up into the 16-17 ppg game range. His FG% should definitely be north of 50 percent once again as well.

The one aspect of Luis’ game I don’t expect to rise is his rebounding. The Suns haven’t typically gotten a ton of rebounding from their 4’s and I expect Scola to spend more time out around 10-15 feet than right under the basket. He’s a great mid-round pick if you’re looking to solidify FG%, points, and rebounds with a very consistent player who also won’t kill you in FT%.

Jared Dudley (78th in Player Rater)

Dudley is great to own in fantasy basketball because he brings a ton of things to the table and doesn’t take anything off of it. He has solid percentages, scores in double figures, rebounds well for somebody who qualifies at SG, and has the potential to occasionally have a big night where he gives you 20+ points or knocks down three to four treys. He’s ranked this highly because he looks to be a much bigger part of Phoenix’s offense this season. I buy that assertion just given the fact that Dudley has become the leader in the Suns’ locker room.

That said, I wouldn’t draft him with the 78th pick. Jared’s ceiling as a player is probably 15 ppg, 1.5 3PM, 5 rpg, 50% FG, and 75% FT. I don’t know if he’ll reach that level this or any other season. What I do know is that I’d rather have a guy with a bit more upside than Jared in the 7th or 8th round. Ultimately, I think he’s a safe pick so whether or not he ends up on your fantasy roster will depend on whether you favor a safe or risky approach.

Michael Beasley (239th in Player Rater)

Speaking of upside, there’s probably no one in Phoenix with the scoring upside of Michael Beasley. Just two years ago, he averaged 19 points a game for the Timberwolves. His low ranking heading into this season is based on his awful production last year. Which Beasley you’ll get if you draft him this year is still up for debate. He has shown signs of life in preseason/training camp, but he’s also shown flashes of his old self, taking ill-advised shots and not truly engaging.

On his best day, Beasley is a versatile scoring forward who can bang down low, penetrate from the wing, and step out to hit a jumper. On his worst day, he can remind you of really bad Josh Smith. The reason Beasley, who was a No. 2 pick in an NBA Draft, is on his third team in five years is because of these swings in consistency. Michael came to the desert, despite what the dry heat will do to his hair, because he wanted a fresh start. If he embraces the faith Phoenix has shown in him, he could be a 16-18 ppg guy who grabs five boards, shoots 80 percent from the free throw line, and knocks down a three every night. If he reverts to his old self and disengages, Gentry won’t hesitate to bury him on the bench in which case his ranking in the 200’s will be more than justified.

Beasley is a fantasy lottery ticket. If he hits, you win big. If he doesn’t I’ll hope you didn’t wager too much on him. There are definitely 100 players more trustworthy.

Markieff Morris (186th in Player Rater)

Markieff is my big-time sleeper this season. I think he has a great shot to have a breakout sophomore season. Whether or not Scola remains the starter for the entire season, I could see Morris playing 30 minutes a night by Thanksgiving.

His versatility will allow him to play with the starters in addition to leading the second unit. He can spell Scola and play alongside Gortat. He can also play with Scola if Gentry wants to go small. Markieff’s ability to stretch the floor with his outside shooting will alleviate the pain of Channing Frye’s absence, and his rebounding will be sorely needed if Scola’s numbers don’t improve. All things considered, I could see Morris averaging 12 points, 6.5 boards, and 1.2 3PM. His percentages will hurt a bit, but as a late-round sleeper he definitely has solid potential.

Wesley Johnson (197th in Player Rater)

Like Beasley, Johnson is another Minnesota refugee looking for a fresh start. But whereas Beasley has questions circulating about his commitment, Johnson has been locked in from the start of training camp. Gentry has been encouraging Wes to shoot the ball in an effort to raise his confidence level. Johnson proved in college that he’s a player who thrives when he’s counted upon. That was not the situation he encountered with the Timberwolves.

In Minnesota, Johnson was a top draft pick who was constantly overshadowed by several things, including: Kevin Love’s meteoric rise, Ricky Rubio’s absence, Ricky Rubio’s arrival, and even Bill Simmons’ constant chastising of David Kahn. He is not going to get lost in the shuffle in Phoenix. His outside shooting and athleticism are going to be huge assets to the Suns, and if his preseason performance is any indication, Johnson might be commanding more playing time very soon.

He has scored 30 points in the first two preseason games, shooting 50 percent from the field and 38 percent from beyond the arc. Along with Morris, Johnson should be a primary scoring option for the second unit, and he may well get time on the floor with the starters, especially if the Suns need to stretch the floor. I can seem him averaging 1.5-2.0 3PM per game to go along with 9-10 ppg and 4 rpg. His percentages won’t be stellar, but at the point in the draft where you might select Johnson, you’re just looking for players who can fill a specific need. Wes is going to hit a lot of treys in Phoenix and that alone is worth a late draft pick and a spot on your bench.

Shannon Brown (172nd in Player Rater)

Brown is the biggest unknown heading into the year. He showed flashes of fantasy relevance last year when Grant Hill was sidelined, but his play was otherwise very inconsistent. Though he is still battling Jared Dudley for the starting shooting guard spot, I don’t think he’ll win out ultimately. If he’s confined to the second unit, he’ll have stats that will only warrant ownership in the deepest of leagues (like the 20-team TrueHoop Network league I very stupidly entered this year.)

If the Suns suffer an injury and Brown’s playing time is the beneficiary, I could see him averaging close to what he did in April. That would give him per game averages of 15 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast, 1 stl, and 2 3PM. But there’s no ways he approaches any of those figures coming off the bench. Rush to the waiver wire if Dudley, Beasley, or Johnson go down, but otherwise, Brown isn’t worth a pick in standard leagues.

Sebastian Telfair and Jermaine O’Neal (216th and 302nd in Player Rater)

These two will get minutes, but I don’t think they’ll be fantasy relevant unless Dragic or Gortat go down. Keep an eye on O’Neal, though. If the Phoenix training staff works its magic on his aged body, he could garner more playing time and be a good pickup for anyone needing help with blocks or rebounds.

Brad Miller (NR)

I know Miller is probably hunting or fishing somewhere in the wilderness right now, but I get a huge kick out of the fact that he’s listed on the Suns’ roster and shows up in all the box scores. I wish the scorekeepers were honest and wrote “DNP – Duck Hunting” next to his name every night. Miller is a very lucky man. I wish somebody would pay me to hunt and fish.

So there you have it. If any of these recommendations ruin your fantasy season, I’m sure you’ll let me know in the comments section. Until then, good luck and happy drafting to all of you.

Tags: Fantasy Basketball Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Analysis

  • http://n/a Keith

    Awesome article. Thank you for posting. I have drafted a few of my real teams so far and done several mocks. In every single one, I picked at least one Phoenix Sun. Almost all of them have had Gortat or Dragic, two guys a lot of people are letting slip too long. Many of the teams have also included Scola or Dudley and I took Beasley a couple times as he is not even being drafted in most. Dudley is also going in the last round or two and not even being drafted sometimes. People concentrate on upside just a bit too much. Of course I always treat my last 1 or 2 guys as waiver wire ammunition anyway.

  • steve

    I think Gortat and Beasley are the best values in the fantasy circles I run in. Even if Gortat’s production slips a little, he’s still going to be a double-double machine who’s going to give decent contributions in some other areas as well. Gortat is a known top 30. A lot of people I know are a little scared of Dragic. Personally, I’m not. I think he’s a lock for 15/8/3 and could even top that. He’s going to slip to the fifth or sixth round in a lot of leagues, and that’s an absolute steal. Beasley is likely someone who could be picked up in the last two rounds, and for a guy who has the potential to give you 20 points a night on decent shooting numbers, you couldn’t hope for any better in those rounds.

  • PennyAnd1

    If ESPN based players value in stats, then it’s a mistake. I’ll tell you right now, Scola’s value is higher than Gortat, and I dare to say Gortat’s production will go down this season just because there are better options than him. Quite frankly, I’m more comfortable with Scola or Beasley for that matter than Gortat with the two man game.

  • http://none Sillmarillion

    @ PennyAnd1: Gortat hater :/

  • PennyAnd1

    I’m just not a fan of his decision-making skills or better yet, IQ level. Even though Scola is new, he’s already accomplished a good rep with the team, even coach sees how good Scola reads the game.

    You could say I’m a Gortat hater, but I ain’t. He’s a good guy who hustles, but he ain’t gonna last long without an IQ of the game.

  • steve

    @Penny – You’re pretty reasonable about most Suns topics, but your opinions on Gortat are like Tony’s on Sarver. You’re just plain wrong.

    I’ll go at this from a few angles, and see if you can find one you like (probably not, since you’ve already made your mind up on the completely subjective and false assumption that Gortat doesn’t have a brain).

    1. Gortat very rarely got opportunities to shine while he was in Orlando, but he had quite a few good efforts throughout his years there when he was given significant minutes. Here are some lines throughout the years (YR/MIN/PTS/REB):

    07-08/27:51/12/11
    08-09/27:36/16/13
    08-09/23:36/13/15
    08-09/18:56/14/7
    08-09/42:56/10/18
    08-09/23:32/10/11
    09-10/15:40/16/6
    09-10/23:07/9/7
    10-11/31:57/14/11
    10-11/24:08/12/7
    10-11/20:31/6/10

    2. His per36 averages year by year reflect the same productivity (with or without Nash) YR/PTS/REB/BLK/FG%

    07-08/15.8/14/0.9/47.1
    08-09/10.8/13/2.4/56.7
    09-10/9.7/11.3/2.3/53.3
    10-11 (ORL)/9.1/10.7/1.9/54.3
    10-11(PHX)/15.8/11.3/1.5/56.3
    11-12/17.3/11.2/1.7/55.5

    As a rookie, when he was shooting the ball at a decent rate (14.9 attempts per 36, which is very similar to his PHX line), he was scoring 14 per game. You will probably make note of the increase in scoring (from around 10 to around 15 per 36) and credit that to Nash, but that’s simply not the truth of the matter. It’s not as if Nash was feeding Gortat a bunch of easier buckets than he was already getting in ORL. His FG% remained consistent throughout. The difference was his role. He was there to fill up the middle on D, run the break, and kick to the shooters. Not to score. In PHX, he has been the best scoring option on the team since the day he arrived, so he was asked to shoot MORE. His scoring went up, but it was only proportional to the amount his attempts increased due to his changed role.

    3. Even if you want to pretend his per 36 numbers in ORL don’t matter when you’re talking about his scoring abilities, it is immensely clear that his rebound rates are incredibly consistent, and that isn’t likely to change.

    Basically, what this boils down to is that, with or without Nash, Gortat is a virtual lock for a double-double average as long as he gets over 30 minutes per game.

    4. Look at his ws48 and PER (which I believe are the two best indicators of “smart” players). If someone excels in either of these two stats, it’s either because they are immensely talented, very smart, or both). PER typically tends to favor offensive prowess. WS48 tends to favor overall play and defensive stats a little more heavily than PER) Gortat’s WS48 and PER by the years YR/PER/WS48:

    07-08/19.8/.158
    08-09/17.0/.202
    09-10/13.9/.151
    10-11 (ORL)/13.7/.158
    10-11 (PHX)/18.8/.151
    11-12/21.2/.172

    As ORL reined Gortat in offensively (22.7 USG rate in his rookie year, 12.4% by the time he was traded), his PER struggled, but he still did the little things just as effectively, keeping his WS48 well above the .150 mark (which is very good).

    I know none of that is likely to matter to you, but any investigation into Gortat’s statistics will lead to the same conclusion. Since his first day in the NBA, he has been REMARKABLY consistent despite his ever-changing circumstances.

    Gortat is for real, and I have yet to be presented an objective reason to believe otherwise.

  • Scott

    I was going to say something similar to Penny, in that I think Gortat’s offensive production will be a bit below where it was last year.

    This is partly because Nash was such a lethal scorer in the pick and roll and a top-rated passer, and partly because the roster has changed a bit, where the ball is perhaps more likely to end up in the hands of the forwards than at center. Now the forwards may also pass to the center, which we did not see last year, but to balance that out, Dragic is not quite as unselfish as Nash.

    If Gortat manages to score the same as last season – or more – I’ll still be perfectly happy. :)

  • PennyAnd1

    @Steve

    I know that Gortat has great stat. I appreciate the facts the you just gave out about Gortat, but like I commented earlier, if ESPN & in this case you will value a player by stats alone, then I think it’s a mistake.

    Sure if I were to look at the stat sheet without knowing any player, i’d pick Gortat as the best player in the Suns. BUT! There’s the tricky part. As much as the stat sheet says that Gortat is the best player in the Suns, when I see him play on TV he just contradicts that stat sheet. I don’t know why, but he just looks more like a rookie playing among men.

    I don’t know why some can’t just see what I see. I guess it’s those years of watching smart players like Penny Hardaway, KJ, Jason Kidd, Doug Christie, Pippen, Steve Nash, etc… Take the 1st half of the Portland game for example. Gortat missed all his shots which should’ve been a made. Nothing on those miss shot except the one he forced was a hard shot at all, especially the one Brown lobbed at him before the final seconds in the 1st quarter. He still doesn’t understand that dunking is more of a sure thing then a lay-up.

    That’s just a small sample, but I can go on and on about his IQ like not able to block out his man, or miss-timing a jump for the rebound, or silly fouls, stupid passes, not helping out on his teammates, don’t know when to cut, don’t know when to pass, don’t know where the ball is…all these things are not listed on the stat sheet. But it’s the most important because it breaks the rhythm and it’s a mental let down for his teammates.

    These are the things that cannot be taught in practice. You either have it or not. Sorry but Gortat’s been in the league long enough, yet he still hasn’t change. He still shakes his head hitting himself saying, “man I mess up.” Not to say everyone is perfect, but I just see these types of mistakes more often from Gortat.

    Just wait til the season goes on, you’ll see more of the ball in Scola or Beasley down low, because they just read plays more better than Gortat, and actually know what to do with it.

  • PennyAnd1

    Steve I do value Gortat as the Suns center playing alongside Scola. I value him because of his defense and dirty work. But I don’t value him as an offensive player at all.

  • steve

    I guess I should qualify my statements a little bit by saying I believe Gortat’s scoring will drop off a little as well. First, no Nash will surely result in less PnR, which was Gortat’s bread and butter. Second, there’s a good chance he won’t be the focal point of the offense this season. Still, I’m expecting a solid 12-14/10 out of Gortat. Those aren’t shabby numbers, and when it comes with high percentages and 1.5-2 blocks per night as well, sign me up.

    My real exception was when Penny claimed Luis Scola has more value than Gortat. Luis freaking Scola. The man who scored 15.5 last year on 49% shooting with 0.4 blocks and 6.5 rebounds. I like Luis. But the chances of him being a better fantasy player than Gortat this year (assuming neither player gets injured) is about as good as the chance of the Suns winning the NBA title.

  • PennyAnd1

    @Steve & Scott

    If Gortat does manage to duplicate his production last season, then it’s definitely a big plus.

    I look at Scola as the Paul Gasol of the PF position. He can pass and is multi-dimensional with his offense. He may not have a great stat but the offense is definitely smooth with him in there. Like coach Gentry stated, Scola can read the game.

    By the way, did you see how Scola harassed Aldridge? The guy is a pest down low.

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