Over the last 35 years, the Phoenix Suns have had some fantastic teams and some unbelievable players putting in incredible seasons, so what is the best pick-up starting five from that time?
I’ve been part of a dialog with some friends of mine on Facebook – yes, the old people’s platform – talking about the best 5-man team we can create from each NBA team since 1985. The rules are simple, only performance from 1985 on counts – sorry Dr. J – and each player can only be picked once, so LeBron is a Cavalier and that is that. With that in mind, what is the best five for the Phoenix Suns, given who is ultimately available?
Who is Not Available for the Suns
Based on the way these teams are formed, some folks who might seem obvious, just aren’t in the player pool for Phoenix. Charles Barkley, well he is banging next Joel Embid in Philadelphia in our hypothetical league. Then we have Jason Kidd, who is dishing the ball for the Nets in Brooklyn instead of the Suns in the desert. Whether it was they weren’t in Phoenix long enough or did more somewhere else, Shaq, Vince Carter, Grant Hill, and Goran Dragic are all unavailable, but the Suns still have a lot to choose from.
Suns Since 1985 Backcourt
It isn’t exactly Backcourt 2000 but running Kevin Johnson at the two playing off the orchestration of Steve Nash provides the Suns with some serious playmakers. Add in Devin Booker coming in off the bench as the sixth man and you have some serious backcourt firepower and playmaking ability.
While Johnson doesn’t have the 3-point shot acumen of many of today’s guards, the unbelievable accuracy of both Booker and Nash make up for Johnson’s more mid-range and to the bucket approach. Further, KJ averaged more than 20 points five times with the Suns and more than 10 assists four times. While Nash had more seasons with 10+ assists at seven, he never once had a 20 ppg season like KJ. With both the ball is moving, the shooting is good, and the Suns are ready to run.
Some good guards get left out in this scenario. While Kidd and Penny weren’t available, Stephon Marbury, Joe Johnson, Jeff Hornacek, and Raja Bell don’t make the cut as Nash, Johnson and Booker all offer more. Booker is coming off his first All-Star season and has averaged more than 20 points in three straight seasons while doubling his assist average during that time.
While I’ll concede Nash and Booker aren’t the staunchest defenders, Johnson was a ball hawk and the length and ability of the Suns’ frontcourt make up for those deficiencies. Many good guards have put on a Los Suns jersey since 1985, but Nash, Johnson, and Booker are the best, with scoring, playmaking, and leadership to manage the squad against other all-time greats.
Suns Frontcourt Since 1985
With Charles Barkley in Philadelphia and Shaq doing a lot more in several other stops, two obvious big names are out of the running, but that doesn’t leave the cabinets bare. This fast break Suns team begins with the defensive catalyst and human pogo-stick Shawn Marion at the three. Despite winning a title in Dallas, the Matrix had his best years in Phoenix and hopefully will one day go in the Hall of Fame as a Sun.
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While one might think on a team with both Nash and KJ, Shawn Marion would be having a dunk fest. The reality is he’d have to share those opportunities with two of the best finishers to ever lace-up sneakers in Tom Chambers and Amar’e Stoudemire. Sure, Chambers had some good seasons in Seattle, but he had both his highest-scoring 27 points per game in 89-90 and highest rebounding, 8.4 per game, in 88-89 with the Suns. Not to mention THE DUNK and about 24 and 8 across 26 playoff games in the 89-90 runs.
Finally, the Suns go relatively small with Amar’e at Center. While he may have a hard time banging with Shaq, Alonzo Morning, and Dikembe Mutombo, those guys will also have one heck of a time keeping up with Stoudemire in his prime. While Amar’e only averaged 10+ rebounds in two of the Suns playoff runs, the only season he averaged less than eight was 2005-06 when he only played three games and had microfracture surgery.
But let’s be real, we didn’t bring Amar’e into this team to rebound, that is what Matrix and Chambers are for. Amar’e is there to run, dunk, and score. Stoudemire averaged a career-best 26 points per game in 2004-05 and upped his scoring to 29.0 across some 15 playoff games that season.
With Marion, Chambers and Stoudemire, some solid players are out of the team, Thunder Dan, Kurt Thomas, and Boris Diaw all had some good times for the Suns, but just don’t provide the same kind of impact.
With the ball in KJ and Nash’s hands anyway, the finishing, fury, and finesse of Chambers, Amar’e, and the Matrix, as well as instant offense in Booker off the bench and this is a formidable Suns team. What do you think?