Without Amare, Is the Sun Setting in Phoenix?

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Steve Nash Suns

The opening tip of the NBA season is now two days away.  The Sports Bank‘s NBA season previews makes a stop in the desert where the Phoenix Suns are almost certainly going to take a step back now that Amare Stoudemire is playing for the Knicks.

By: David Kay

Phoenix Suns (54-28 in 2009-2010)

2010-11 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Robin Lopez/Channing Frye/Garrett Siler
PF: Hedo Turkoglu/Hakim Warrick/Gani Lawal
SF: Grant Hill/Jared Dudley/Earl Clark
SG: Jason Richardson/Josh Childress/Matt Janning
PG: Steve Nash/Goran Dragic
Head Coach: Alvin Gentry (3rd season)

2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $61.3 million

Offseason Moves:
Suns sign SG Matt Janning
Suns waive F Taylor Griffin
Suns acquire G/F Josh Childress from Hawks for 2012 2nd round pick
Suns acquire F Hedo Turkoglu from Raptors for SG Leando Barbosa
Suns re-sign F/C Channing Frye to 5-year, $30 million deal
Suns sign F Hakim Warrick to 4-year, $18 million deal
Suns F Grant Hill chooses not to exercise player option and remains on team
Suns PF Amar’e Stoudemire opts out of contract

Off-Season Grade: B-
The Suns went with a quantity over quality approach when replacing Amare Stoudemire this summer clearly targeted long, athletic, versatile players who would excel in an up-tempo offense.

Their immediate reaction was re-signing Channing Frye and adding an athletic Hakim Warrick for reasonable contracts.  Phoenix also dealt Leandro Barbosa to Toronto for an unhappy Hedo Turkoglu in hopes that a new destination would light a fire under Turkoglu.  To replace Barbosa on the wing, the Suns acquired Josh Childress via a sign-and-trade with the Hawks that just only cost Phoenix a second-round pick.

2010-2011 Outlook:
Just months after making a run to the Western Conference Finals that included a second round sweep of San Antonio, Phoenix underwent a bit of a facelift with Amare Stoudemire bolting the desert for the Big Apple.  The question now becomes can Steve Nash and a litter of complimentary players remain in the upper echelon out west?

Nash is obviously the fuel that fires Phoenix and their up-tempo offense.  Whether it has been Amare or Dirk, Nash has always had a star to run alongside.  It will be interesting to see how he handles the responsibility of leading a team of role players that does not have a clear cut number one scorer.  Plus, he turns 37 in February so durability could start to become an issue.

Jason Richardson SunsIf there is going to be a wingman for Nash this season, Jason Richardson seems most likely to fill that role.  He has played with Nash for the past two years and can score in a variety of ways.  If Turkoglu can regain his form from his Orlando days, he could be a dangerous weapon alongside Nash as well.

Outside of those two there is a deep roster of role players who will play a certain part but should not be counted on to do too much.  You know what you are going to get from Grant Hill assuming he is healthy.  Channing Frye is a perimeter based big man who is not very physical.  Robin Lopez provides energy inside.  Childress and Warrick are long, athletic, and can run the open floor.

As has been the case the past few years, defense is pretty much non-existent on this roster.  The Suns will once again rely on trying to outscore their opponents which will be a more difficult task minus Amare.  Phoenix should still be a playoff team out West, but I would not be surprised one bit if they missed out on the post-season.

Looking Ahead to Next Summer:
Starters Jason Richardson and Grant Hill become unrestricted free agents next summer which will cut almost $18 million off the Suns’ salary cap.  Plus, Jared Dudley is in the final year of his rookie contract and becomes a restricted free agent.  Even if J-Rich and Hill walk, the Suns would only have about seven million available in cap space so they will probably try to re-sign Richardson during the year or possibly even trade him.

Looking at the bigger picture, Steve Nash will be entering the final year of his contract next summer.  Phoenix will either need to be active in reaching an extension with the face of their franchise, or if the Suns struggle this season and decide it is time to re-build a bit, could choose to shop Nash to other teams.

NBA Power Ranking: 15th

Other NBA Season Previews:
#16 Charlotte Bobcats
#17 New Orleans Hornets
#18 Memphis Grizzlies
#19 Philadelphia 76ers
#20 New York Knicks
#21 Los Angeles Clippers
#22 Indiana Pacers
#23 Golden State Warriors
#24 Washington Wizards
#25 Detroit Pistons
#26 New Jersey Nets
#27 Sacramento Kings
#28 Cleveland Cavaliers
#29 Toronto Raptors
#30 Minnesota Timberwolves

Check out David’s Fantasy Basketball Rankings

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