Phoenix Suns: 30 greatest players of all-time

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images /
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Raja Bell, Phoenix Suns
Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images /

. Shooting Guard. 2005-08. Raja Bell. 24. player. 66

As is the case with many wing defenders, Raja Bell made his way around the league to play for a total of six franchises. Yet to limit Bell as a journeyman player would be to undersell his impact on the court. Few wing defenders, if any, played to the level of Bell — including his time with the Suns.

As an undrafted free agent, Bell began his NBA career with the Philadelphia 76ers, making an impact during their run to the 2001 NBA Finals. He later played for the Dallas Mavericks and the Utah Jazz, breaking double-digit scoring for the first time in 2005. The led to a free agent contract with the Suns, where he would truly blossom.

In 2005-06, Bell played a career-high 37.5 points per game alongside Steve Nash in the Suns backcourt, serving at the lockdown defender alongside the more offensively accomplished player in Nash. He greatly benefited from the shots Nash created for him, hitting 44.2 percent of his 3-pointers on the year.

Bell’s role was to guard the opposing team’s best wing scorer. No one fit that bill better than Kobe Bryant. Bell generated a level of notoriety in the 2006 NBA Playoffs when he effectively clotheslined Bryant in the closing seconds of a game.

Bell intimated it was Bryant who had instigated the moment by hitting Bell in the face. However, Bell was suspended and made public enemy No. 1 for the Lakers and their fans.

Bell continued his strong play as a 3-and-D wing for the next two seasons as well. In 2006-07, Bell led the league in 3-point shooting, hitting 205 triples in the Suns’ fast-paced offense. While his strength was as a defender, his efficient shooting from outside helped him rate out as an excellent offensive player in many metrics.

By the end of his three seasons on the team, Bell totaled 17.9 win shares. This a number that struggles to quantify his impact as a lockdown defender and a low-usage offensive piece. The league understood, however, and Bell made two All-Defense teams while with the Suns.