We know Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe made the Suns who they were this season. And we realize P.J. Tucker deserves an big chunk of credit for helping build a winning culture since the beginning of summer league. (Side note: Tucker was one of the Suns to attend Dragic’s MIP award presentation, and Dragic went out of his way to single out Tucker during his time at the podium.)
After that trio, who were the most important players that helped the Phoenix Suns find success in 2013-14? I asked the Valley of the Suns staff in Part 3 of our postseason wrap-up 5-on-5 series.
Excluding Dragic and Bledsoe, give me the next two most important players on this year’s team (two, because I feel like everyone will choose P.J. Tucker).
Michael Schwartz: First of all P.J. Tucker is important for the will he gives this team. He’s a big reason the Suns never gave up, and his defensive intensity rubs off on the whole team. But Channing Frye is my third-most important player because of how much his spacing helps the offense. The Suns’ offense was about 8 points better per 100 possessions with Frye on the court with a 110.4 offensive rating that bettered the Clippers’ league-leading rating, per NBA Stats. Frye also ranked 14th in offensive RPM behind a slew of stars and ahead of Carmelo, Love and Parker.
Ryan Weisert: I’ve got to go with Tucker and Gerald Green. Tucker was not only this team’s heart and fire, but also its chin and fist on occasion. For all of the Suns’ resilience, they are still a relatively soft team. Tucker was the backbone that made everyone else tougher. But for me, Mr. Green is the third most important player on this team. Not every player can handle their role vacillating between starter and reserve so fluidly, but Green handled it with aplomb and made this his best season in the NBA. Without his outside shooting, highlight-reel dunks, and immense amount of swagger, the Suns would have been eliminated from the playoffs in February instead of the second-to-last game of the year.
Jeff Sanders: Yes, I am choosing P.J. Tucker as one of those guys. Tucker’s defense and the intangibles he brings are a must for any winning team. My other guy is Gerald Green. Every winning team also needs a Mr. Irrational Confidence that isn’t afraid to shoot the ball when a big shot is needed. There are 5-10 wins where you can say the Suns don’t get without Green’s offense and that is not including the 32-game stretch he started in place of Bledsoe, helping the team stay afloat. Green and Tucker were the heart and soul of the team this season and definitely the two most “other” important players.
Dave Dulberg The obvious choice as mentioned above is Tucker. In my opinion, a great offensive player will more often not get the best of a great defensive player, given how the NBA’s rules work. However, night in and night out he made it tough on some of the league’s premiere scorers, while also improving his percentage on corner threes. Gerald Green would have to get my other nod. Considered an afterthought of sorts in the trade with Indiana last July, he blossomed into one of the elite bench scorers in the league this season. On top of that, he helped keep the Suns afloat during Eric Bledsoe’s 33-game absence.
Kevin Zimmerman: This is just to have the conversation (and also because I read everyone else’s answers and wanted to attack it differently). While Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are the schematic identity and P.J. Tucker is the emotional one, the Suns wouldn’t have found 48 wins as easily without the next important player being Markieff Morris. He was a slashing and three-point shooting team’s only true low-post threat, and was second on the team behind Dragic’s 10.3 win shares through 82 games this season and second in win shares per 48 minutes, according to Basketball-Reference. It’s telling he’s more valuable than Bledsoe there, though it of course is one statistic to be taken with a grain of salt. Markieff was also third on the team in PER.