It's going to take more than a hammerto fix the Suns' problems this year.ESPN.com
published a huge NBA Season Preview on Friday. Some of you may (or may not ) have noticed that Basketbawful was asked -- via Henry Abbot at TrueHoop
-- to say a few words
on the Phoenix Suns.
Since my contribution was limited to 100 words, I'm going to expand on my thoughts here. It's no secret that I really dig the Suns and want them to win an NBA title, partly because they're a great team, and partly to stick it in the face of the naysayers who take shots at Steve Nash and claim that fastbreak teams can't win championships (uh, Showtime Lakers, anyone?).
The good news is that the Suns are one of the three, maybe four teams that have a legitimate shot at winning it all this year. Of course, the same thing was true the last three seasons as well, but it didn't happen for a variety of legitimate reasons: Injuries (to Joe Johnson during the '05 playoffs, to Amare Stoudemire and Tim Thomas in '06), departures (of Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson in '06), and of course The Suspensions.
Unfortunately, these near misses have established a disastrous mindset in The Valley, as evidenced by the Suns' offseason strategy, which can be best described as "hold steady." They gave away Kurt Thomas and two future first-round draft picks for a second-round pick and some cash relief. Not only did that move potentially handicap them in the future, it also hurt them in the present: They no longer have an interior defender to guard anybody, let alone Tim Duncan. They ostensibly addressed their depth issues by picking up Grant Hill on the cheap, but considering Hill's age and history of injuries, it's hard to imagine him playing a fulll season, much less becoming the "missing piece" that pushes the Suns over the top.
I'd feel better if the Suns had dealt for Kevin Garnett, or if they'd converted one or more of their tradable assets into an influx of young talent. I understand money was an issue. Robert Sarver wants to stay under the salary cap, and he hired GM Steve Kerr to make sure that happened. But the team didn't improve at all. In a best-case scenario, they're "as good" as last year; they might also be worse.
Here's one seemingly incontrovertable truth of the NBA: If a team wasn't good enough to win a championship one year, it won't be good enough to win one the next year without making one or significant offseason moves. Looking back in my lifetime, I can see many
examples of this. The Lakers added Magic Johnson in '80. The Celtics added Robert Parish and Kevin McHale in '81. The 76ers added Moses Malone in '83. The Celtics added Dennis Johnson in '84 and Bill Walton in '86. The Lakers added Mychal Thompson in '87. The Pistons added James Edwards in '88 (although he didn't pay off until '89). The Rockets added Clyde Drexler in '05. The Bulls added Dennis Rodman in '96. The Pistons added Rasheed Wallace in '04. The Heat overhauled their roster in '06. And the Spurs have made a variety of little tweeks during their championship runs.
The Suns are going to win around 60 games this season. They're going to make noise in the playoffs. But they have to address so many questions: How long will Steve Nash's body hold up? How about Amare's knees? Hill's everything? Can Shawn Marion keep his chin up? Will Boris Diaw step up his game? How much will all of these guys have left in the tank in May?
I'd love it if the Suns could answer these questions and win a title. I just don't think they can.
Labels: Amare Stoudemire, championships, ESPN, NBA season preview, Phoenix Suns, Shawn Marion, Steve Nash, TrueHoop