Last season, the Phoenix Suns made headlines by trading away All-Star forward Shawn Marion and point guard Marcus Banks for superstar center Shaquille O'Neal. This season, the effect of that trade will take place early on.
- Terry Porter
Just by looking at the starting five, it is clear that the Suns still have the talent to go deep into the season and get to the playoffs. However, they have a lot of major issues that they must get by first in order to go far this year.
It starts with Shaquille O'Neal, who came to Phoenix last season in the trade that sent Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to the Miami Heat. The move let Amare Stoudemire move to power forward, where I believe he will play better than center. There is no doubt that Shaq is aging and that he is not the player of the three-peat Los Angeles Lakers. Still, Shaq is a large inside force who can force teams to shoot farther away from the basket, away from where O'Neal resides. His offensive game is faltering as the seasons go by. The once dominant scorer is losing his offensive touch, it seems. Yet he will find a way to score ten-fifteen points with his ability to make defenders move out of the way voluntarily.
I like Steve Nash. His defense is atrocious no doubt, but he has the best offensive game among any point guard in the league. He can hit any shot, including the three. His leadership is amazing. He controls the pace of the game, and the other four Suns on the court seem like they're following his orders. His passing is also spectacular. I'm starting to believe that there is no pass he can't make. There are better point guards out there in the NBA, but not many.
Grant Hill worries me. I'm not sure how he will step in and take over a spot that Shawn Marion occupied for so long. Also, Hill is aging and he is on the decline, along with Shaq. Sure he can put up ten-fifteen points per game and grab a couple of boards, but other than that his game is very much lower than Shawn Marion's. Hill may prove me wrong... there is no doubt he is a tough guy, but even he knows that his game is faltering.
Robin Lopez was a good draft choice, and here's why: he's playing behind Shaq, who can mentor him and turn him into the center that he (Shaq) was. Now Lopez is no Shaq, but with Shaq showing him the ropes, I have no concerns that Robin will disappoint this season. He has a strong defensive game, and if he can polish his offensive game, he can have some success in this league.
Amare Stoudemire amazes me every time I see him on the court. His offensive game is just simply amazing. His defense needs to improve, but if he can improve it (which I think he will), he will be a top 5 player in this league. He's too dominant, even for opposing big men.
In the end, I think the Suns will struggle more this season than last. Shawn Marion was worth more to this franchise than a declining Shaquille O'Neal. I still think the Suns have the ability to make the playoffs, and there is no game that they cannot win with Stoudemire and Nash leading the team. However, there are too many question marks for the Suns that will cause them to falter this season, with the Western Conference being as talented as it is. Terry Porter has an interesting map in front of him, and it will be fun to watch which way this franchise goes.