Phoenix Suns 2012-13 player capsules


Here at ValleyoftheSuns we annually publish Suns profiles with season outlooks for each player. You can find them by navigating to our Suns roster page and clicking on the players’ names from there.

But to make things easier, below find season outlooks for all 15 Suns players.

Marcin Gortat

If this season’s main storyline is about a team playing without Steve Nash, no player personifies that theme more than Gortat. In just his second full year with the Suns, Gortat will be relied upon to be a big-time scorer, rebounder and most importantly a team leader.

By his own account, the Polish Gazelle is up for the challenge. If he’s not, the Suns’ record will say otherwise. It’s a lot to ask of a guy who has only one full season in the league as a starting center — and who did so with a two-time MVP facilitating most of his opportunities — but the 2012-13 Phoenix Suns will be remembered either as a floundering team without Nash or one of the league’s pleasant surprises with Gortat leading the way.

At 6-foot-11 and with the touch he possesses, the latter is not altogether far-fetched. The Suns’ big man will have to play like it though, night in and night out. The lasting image of Gortat from the 2011-12 season was his two-point performance against Utah in a must-win situation. That can’t happen this year if the Suns are going to make a push for the No. 8 seed. He’s a walking 16 and 10 every game. He needs to play like it, even when shots aren’t falling early.

Gortat has awfully big shoes to fill, but lucky for Suns fans he has some pretty big feet. – Dave Dulberg

Goran Dragic

Goran Dragic enters the 2012-13 season as the Suns’ point guard of the present and future as well as one of the brightest young stars on the team, just as the organization drew it up all along.

Of course, Dragic took a circuitous route back to the role of Suns lead guard and Steve Nash’s successor, but after breaking out last season in Houston the Suns have staked a good portion of their future to The Dragon. It’s for good measure as Dragic showed what he could do as a starter last year by averaging a stellar 18.0 points and 8.4 assists in 28 games in a starting role.

The Suns expect Dragic to continue to push the tempo in Phoenix while providing a solid defensive presence and being a capable shooter and an able passer. Dragic, often timid as a younger player, seems completely at ease and much more confident than he was when he left. To some he looks like a different player altogether.

Dragic receives a $1 million bonus ever year he earns an All-Star trip with the Suns, and while that seems out of reach this season it would be no surprise to see him tear off something like 16 points and eight assists per game while ably carrying the point guard torch that has been passed from KJ to Kidd to Marbury and to Nash before landing in his lap. – Michael Schwartz

Jared Dudley

After apprenticing under Steve Nash and Grant Hill for the last three and half years, Jared Dudley has assumed a major leadership role for the Phoenix Suns. Jared has long been respected around the league for his dedication, work ethic, and persona. During his time in Phoenix, he has worked his way up from second tier to a starting-caliber player. Now that he has proven himself to the league, Jared is earning his teammates’ respect and trust as well.

Although at this point Dudley is still competing with Brown for the starting shooting guard spot, in truth the spot seems to be Jared’s to lose. Early in training camp, Dudley is brimming with confidence. His unique skill set is a real asset for Phoenix. On one hand, he is a great shooter from long range. On the other hand, despite his limited athleticism, he is able to use his big body to rebound well for his position and draw fouls. On the defensive side of the ball, Dudley is tenacious and often outworks players who are faster or more agile. Despite all the new faces in town, Jared might be Phoenix’s most important player this season. – Ryan Weisert

Luis Scola

Scola will bring what he has always been on the basketball court this season as a 32-year-old veteran with a well-defined game. He likes to set up on the low block and create for himself and his teammates. He’s an accomplished low-post player with a wide variety of crafty moves that have turned him into a devastating interior scorer even without elite athleticism.

Jared Dudley referred to Scola as a Boris Diaw-type of player in that the Suns can run the offense through him in the post, even saying he is “like another point guard.” Anybody who watched the Olympics this year knows what Dudley means, as Argentina often let Scola pick a defense apart from the post.

Scola figures to be the team’s starting power forward and should get major time and touches. His stats regressed last season and after playing in the Olympics he didn’t get much of a break this summer, but with a game that relies more on smarts and guile than athleticism he should age gracefully.

Although it’s doubtful that he repeats his career 2010-11 season in which he went for 18.3 and 8.2, Scola will be the kind of player the Suns give the ball to when they really need a bucket, and it would be no surprise if he averages something in the 16-7 range. – Michael Schwartz

Michael Beasley

Michael Beasley’s place with Phoenix will likely be the most malleable piece to the puzzle, especially during the first half of the year. With the Suns open about the small forward’s role being more playmaker than top scorer, the hopes are high. Still, there will be adjustments within the offense and in Beasley’s aggressiveness that must be made for that to happen. The laid-back manner in which Beasley plays will be a work in progress if Phoenix hopes for him to be the player asking for the ball when the Suns are struggling.

He’s yet to put together two strong seasons in the NBA, and last year’s major regression after being a 19-point scorer in 2010-11 was, if not a reason to be worried, then at least a part of Beasley’s past that he must recover from. He has the talent, but he and the team as a whole must be patient in determining if Beasley can become a complete player. The status quo might call for Beasley being a 15 point per game scorer, but the hope is that he’ll blossom as he gets comfortable in the Suns’ system. – Kevin Zimmerman

Shannon Brown

Some fans were unhappy that Phoenix brought Shannon Brown back this season. Indeed his return seemed to be more a product of a bear market for shooting guards this offseason than anything else. That being said, having a player as athletic, aggressive, and driven as Brown on your roster is something most NBA teams would not turn down.

The best word to describe Brown’s play last season is streaky. Early in the year, Shannon was pressing and trying too hard to make something happen on the offensive end. He fell in love with his dribble and his jumper. But that all changed later in the year when Grant Hill was sidelined with injury. Brown stepped into the stating lineup, and made a serious impact on a Suns team that was frantically trying to keep its playoff hopes alive as Brown scored in double figures in 11 straight games down the stretch.

Some might attribute his scoring breakout to his streaky nature; to others the confidence of being a starter played a role. More than likely, it was a bit of both. Although Brown is not expected to start this season, the Suns figure to rely on Brown quite a bit, most likely to provide a lethal scoring threat off the bench. – Ryan Weisert

Markieff Morris

After a solid rookie campaign, Markieff Morris will look to assert himself as a legitimate NBA power forward this year. Last season Morris played with a great deal of confidence, especially for a rookie, and that confidence has only grown after dominating the 2012 Vegas Summer League. If Morris can parlay his momentum into production this season, he will be a force in Phoenix’s frontcourt. Markieff will undoubtedly battle for minutes at the power forward position with current starter Luis Scola.

One advantage Morris has in this battle is his flexibility. He is physically tough enough to bang the boards and score inside, but he can also stretch the defense with his outside shooting. This diverse skill set will allow coach Gentry to deploy him alongside Marcin Gortat or Luis Scola at the center spot. One

thing Markieff will need to improve upon in order to raise his minutes is his defense. Last season, Morris, like most rookies, was prone to defensive lapses. To be a more effective defender, he will need more focus and effort. If his summer and training camp are any indication, he’s got both of those qualities in spades. – Ryan Weisert

Wesley Johnson

Wesley Johnson has not played anywhere near the level that’s expected of a No. 4 overall pick. In two years, he went from a guy with limitless potential to a guy who was essentially traded as an offseason salary dump.

Under Alvin Gentry, he gets a much-needed opportunity to resurrect his career, or better yet prove he even is worthy of having a career in the NBA. It’ll have to be earned though, as Johnson is expected to back up Michael Beasley at small forward and also provide the Suns with versatility at shooting guard if need be.

Although he is only a career 34 percent shooter from three-point range, if Johnson is going right he can be a big asset off the bench a la Jared Dudley during the 2009-10 season. But if Johnson really wants to earn more than 10-15 minutes a night, he needs to make an impact outside of hitting the occasional jump shot. Grab a rebound, force a big turnover, make an assist to a cutting teammate. The kind of things that made him the Big East Player of the Year for 2009-10 season.

Otherwise Tucker will be happy to scoop up the extra minutes. – Dave Dulberg

Sebastian Telfair

Sebastian Telfair played his best season as a pro in 2011-12, according to Suns head coach Alvin Gentry, yet after Steve Nash departed he watched the team draft Kendall Marshall in the lottery and sign free agent Goran Dragic. It was a foregone conclusion Dragic would start once the ink was dry on his deal, but Telfair won the backup job entering the season after a training camp battle against Marshall that Telfair said would be a “war.” Telfair has always been a much better player when he’s competing, so expect him to give Marshall everything he can handle throughout the season regardless of who the primary backup is at a given time.

I’ve always thought that Telfair would win the job to start the season but that the Suns’ rookie would eventually usurp the position. Such is life in the NBA for first-round backups. They will get every opportunity that a career journeyman like Telfair won’t necessarily receive. However, as things stand entering the season the New York native is the primary backup.

Telfair hopes to build on his stellar April and a season in which he proved to be a capable mid-range jump shooter for the first time in his career thanks to becoming more diligent in his film study and working on shots he actually takes in games. Expect the eight-year vet to provide solid backup point guard play while enjoying an even better year in 2012-13. – Michael Schwartz

Jermaine O’Neal

When the Suns went shopping for Marcin Gortat’s backup this summer, they had plenty of younger options on the table. Nonetheless, they chose — not settled, chose — 16-year veteran Jermaine O’Neal.

For the veteran’s minimum, the one-year gamble on how much O’Neal and his achy knees have left in them is not really a big one. In fact, if the popular knee procedure he underwent in Germany earlier this summer has anywhere near the level of success it had on Kobe Bryant, then Phoenix may have gotten a one-year bargain.

Phoenix is O’Neal’s sixth stop in 17 years, and the veteran has said he’s dying to prove he can still be a legitimate contributor in the league after playing in just 49 combined games the last two seasons.

Although O’Neal continues to say he’s in the best shape of his career since 2004-05, with the load Gortat is going to be expected to carry this season, don’t expect to see the 34-year-old for more than five or six minutes at a given time. But if he can give the bench a boost at the defensive end — be it with blocks or a physical presence on the glass — then maybe the six-time All-Star has a place on this team for more than one year.

If his game has failed him though, O’Neal at least has one thing going for him: a veteran presence. He hasn’t exactly had a spotless NBA career, but any words of wisdom he can impart on Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson or even Gortat might be worth as much as what he can offer on the court. – Dave Dulberg

Kendall Marshall

The 13th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft faces an uphill climb simply to earn playing time with the Suns. He’s young — he didn’t play in a complete season as a starter at North Carolina as a freshman and missed out on this postseason because of a wrist injury. And while his passing abilities go well in the Suns’ system, his style doesn’t mold well into a backup point guard spot that Sebastian Telfair appears to have locked down. He has an inconsistent jumper and an apprehensive trigger to go with it that makes him fairly one-dimensional early in his career.

How Phoenix does record-wise could have much to do with Marshall cracking the rotation. If the Suns remain in the playoff hunt and Telfair continues to play as well as he did last season, it’ll be hard for Gentry to disrupt what will be a 10- or 11-man rotation. If they struggle, any form of “tanking” would include the young point guard seeing increased minutes to help him develop. – Kevin Zimmerman

P.J. Tucker

Tucker is at the end of what could become a solid rotation, but it’s quite possible he forces himself into the conversation. The wing position is crowded with the likes of Jared Dudley, Michael Beasley, Shannon Brown and Wesley Johnson taking up the minutes at the shooting guard and small forward slots. Tucker, however, brings something none of the other players possess.

The second stint in the NBA markets Tucker as a Tony Allen-like perimeter defender, an energy-inducing presence whose physicality will affect the game more than anything that appears in the box score. Tucker will be an undersized force on the boards, and he is a capable spot-up shooter who could be playing off others in the second unit to stretch the floor. His role will depend on if Gentry needs something other than scoring from Brown and Johnson. At the very least, Tucker’s daily performances in practice could impact the team’s toughness as a whole. – Kevin Zimmerman

Channing Frye

Frye’s season was over before it began after he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy shortly before the team broke for training camp. It is possible that Frye can return later in the season but not too likely.

Frye will take the season to rest and recover while staying fit with yoga and golf. He plans to stay around the team and attend most home games while also spending more time with his family than the NBA season would usually afford.

Suns team cardiologist Dr. Tim Byrne said Frye has a “better than not” chance of returning to full health, so the hope here is that Frye will be able to resume his NBA career in 2013-14 although it would be a surprise if he returns to the floor this season. If he does come back this year, however, Frye presumably would not play a major role for the Suns. – Michael Schwartz

Luke Zeller

Luke Zeller is expected to use 2012-13 as a developmental year in which he will catch up to the speed of the NBA game, get stronger and spend some time putting what he learns into action in the D-League. Along with fellow rookies Marshall and Garrett, he will be the first major test of the Suns’ new developmental program. The organization traditionally only carries 13 players, but Garrett and Zeller are Nos. 14 and 15 as the team hopes to utilize the extra roster space to develop a potential diamond in the rough.

Zeller is an elite practice shooter who has yet to carry that over into games both as a D-League performer last season and in the preseason. However, according to general manager Lance Blanks, Zeller is “one of the best shooters in the world.” Head coach Alvin Gentry wouldn’t go that far, only saying we should start by calling him one of the best in the county and work our way up, but clearly he possesses Channing Frye-like floor-spacing ability as a big man.

His defense was a major issue in the preseason, and he seems far too raw to make any kind of a contribution to the Suns this season. However, Zeller has a chance with an organization that believes in him and really values the stretch four kind of player, so perhaps he will get his opportunity to produce in Phoenix in a future season. – Michael Schwartz

Diante Garrett

Garrett’s unique style brings an interesting twist to the Suns. While he won’t see any playing time barring major injury troubles, the fourth point guard on Phoenix’s roster should push lottery pick Kendall Marshall with his rangy defense — he has a 6-foot-9 wingspan — and shifty moves on the offensive end.

Although Garrett is on the thin side and probably not able to finish around the bucket, he has the handles and athleticism to penetrate and find opponents on the perimeter. As was the case when he came out of college, Garrett’s jump shot might be his biggest downfall. He never shot above 44 percent at Iowa State, but with the Suns has proven to be confident with his shot, which he is able to get off because of his length and quick release.

There’s a good chance Garrett will move back and fourth between the NBA and the D-League this season. – Kevin Zimmerman

And 1

The Suns cut big men Ike Diogu and Solomon Jones on Wednesday, leaving forward Luke Zeller and point guard Diante Garrett as the only remaining non-roster players.

  • Scott

    If the Suns are going to keep Diante Garrett, does it mean they’re going to cut Telfair? Or are they thinking of playing him at SG?

  • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

    They definitely aren’t going to cut Telfair. I believe it would just be a developmental play since they are so far under the cap anyway. Give him some D-League run, challenge Marshall, let him develop under club control. I doubt he would actually play barring an emergency, like a scout team guy in football.

  • Scott

    Okay, so the Suns are looking ahead and thinking that with some seasoning Diante could be their 3rd PG next season? That just seems … odd.

    If they were going to go deep somewhere, and develop someone cheap but with potential, I’d try SG with David Lighty (except they let him sign in Europe). Lighty has defensive ability and can shoot the 3. He’s a high b-ball IQ player with basic size and wingspan, was a team captain in college, and was the only player in Summer League to shut down Josh Selby.

    Lighty’s stat line in France this season is already looking good: in 3 games, 33 mpg, 19 pts, 70% FG, 64% 3P, 4 rpg, 3 apg, 1 spg, 2 TOs, 3 PF. I know the Suns liked Tucker, but I think they got confused. Lighty seems to me to have been the better choice. Yes, he went undrafted, but so did Raja Bell.

    As for hanging onto Zeller, that doesn’t need any explanation. He’s the lesser of three brothers, so naturally he attracts the Suns. ;)

    • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

      @Scott
      The Suns had a media lunch with Babby and Blanks today, and we learned that the team plans on keeping both Zeller and Garrett. Blanks called Zeller one of the best shooters in the world, and he spoke of how Dragic and Garrett can both be considered 1/2s due to how easily they can play the shooting guard position. I expect Zeller, Garrett and Marshall all will be spending a significant amount of time in the D-League.

  • http://slapdoghoops.blogspot.com Slap Dog Hoops

    I expect both Wesley Johnson and Michael Beasley to have breakout seasons in Phoenix. Johnson had a rather good preseason thus far coming off of the bench and Beasley has shown some bright glimmers of hope. Can’t wait to see Goran Dragic pick up where he left off last season. I guarantee that the suns are going to surprise this season.

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    Very nice review of the Suns!

    This team really has talent. The front line may be one of the best in the NBA.

    I see the Suns making the playoffs, and giving Suns fans some fun this year.

    It looks like a real solid roster throughout–with the only big question being Beasley living up to his enormous talent level.

    The roster is filled with high draft picks with big upsides. They don’t have to over-achieve for the Suns to make the playoffs. They just have to play to their potential.

    With Nash now being older and at the end of his great career, the fans will soon forget him and enjoy Dragic as he should become one of the best all around point guards in the NBA.

  • Scott

    @Michael -

    I’m not against Zeller; in fact, I was hoping the Suns would check him out and see if he had anything to offer. However, what confuses me is – from what little there’s been in the media – I thought the Suns had determined that he DIDN’T have anything to offer, because his main skill was to shoot and his shots weren’t falling.

    Since the Suns are keeping him, I hope we can get a bit more clarity on what Zeller has been doing that won him a spot with the Suns.

    As for Garrett, I’ve been thinking right along he could be a combo guard, but hadn’t seen any confirmation from the Suns of that thinking till now.

    To me, if the Suns are keeping Garrett, that means that their future plans probably don’t include Telfair and Brown, or at least that they’re hedging in that direction. I’d be counting those two as expiring contracts.

    The Suns keeping Zeller indicates they’re exploring the possibility of him stepping in at some point after this season, filling a hole in the front court after either Scola, O’Neal, or Frye leaves.

    I’m happy to see that the Suns are actually setting up a developmental program. I don’t know if any other teams are doing this, but it’s sensible and long overdue, IMO.

    • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

      @Scott You’re right on. Blanks said he likes that the team has a mix of true vets like O’Neal and Scola, young vets like Dragic and Dudley, young guys like Marshall and Morris and now developmental guys in Zeller and Garrett. They liked Zeller over Ike and Jones essentially because they feel he provides something the roster didn’t already have (without Frye at least). He must be a hell of a practice shooter! I’m sure we will learn more about that as the season goes along. I’ve never thought the future plans included Telfair and Brown personally, and Blanks still raved about Marshall’s intelligence, saying anyone that smart will figure it out. Zeller and Garrett are still somewhat lottery tickets, but with this potentially being a transition season (and even if it’s not) no harm in trying to develop them in NBA players.

  • shazam