STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The Steve Nash era of running and gunning is officially over for the Phoenix Suns after a second consecutive season of missing the playoffs. Nash continued to put up remarkable numbers, including 10.7 assists per game, and was helped by Marcin Gortat, who has developed into one of the more underrated big men in the league. The rest of Nash's supporting cast was comprised of Channing Frye, Jared Dudley, Shannon Brown and Grant Hill. They are all solid players in their own right, and above average efficiency players who would have a solid role on most teams, but the Suns asked them to do more than they were capable of, and the team struggled as a result. Now Nash and Hill are gone, and their minutes will be replaced by a combination of Goran Dragic, Kendall Marshall, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola. Dragic is the most exciting player of the four, and thrived in a high usage role to end last season with the Rockets. Marshall is a highly touted rookie point guard from UNC, and Beasley and Scola are both veterans coming from teams who had tired of their inconsistencies. The Suns also received Wesley Johnson in a three-team trade, but despite a highly successful college career and elite athletic abilities, Johnson's NBA career has been sporadic at best. Rounding out the widespread and eclectic bunch of additions is Jermaine O'Neal. O'Neal is long removed from his All-Star caliber days with the Pacers, and at this point it should be considered a victory if he can stay on the court for more than half of the season.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Dragic will see the lion's share of time at point guard, with Marshall and Sebastian Telfair battling for the backup minutes. Dragic is big enough that he can play some shooting guard, so there's a good chance that the Suns play a two point guard lineup on occasion. Dudley and Brown seem set to have a close to even split at the shooting guard spot. Dudley is the more consistent player, but Brown has an explosive gear that Dudley simply doesn't, and is a weapon off the bench. Beasley will likely man the small forward spot to start the season, with Johnson backing him up, forming one of the more athletic but disappointing duos in the NBA. The Suns have a glut of big men at the moment, with Gortat and Scola likely taking the starting roles, but with second year big Markieff Morris, Channing Frye and even Jermaine O'Neal nipping on their heels for minutes. It's hard to see any of the group getting more than 25-28 minutes per game to begin next season.
Marcin Gortat: Gortat's rise from backup to Dwight Howard to top ten starting center in the NBA has been one of the more remarkable and overlooked ones in the NBA. The Polish Hammer, as he's aptly called, was the main beneficiary of Steve Nash's impeccable pick and roll game, and his scoring numbers may dip off with Nash gone. That being said, Dragic is a very capable point guard, and Gortat should still manage to bring in 12+ ppg, 10+ rpg and 1.5+ bpg for whoever drafts him.
Jermaine O'Neal: O'Neal is 33, but it is an old 33. JO has gone through numerous ailments over the years, and after coming to the NBA straight out of High School, O'Neal's legs are not like the average 33 year olds legs. He has value as a defensive player for a team when healthy, but will not provide anything offensively, and should not be drafted in fantasy leagues this year.
Luis Scola: Scola could be in line for a strong fantasy season. He is coming off an impressive Olympic tournament, and it looks like he should be a featured offensive piece with the Suns. Scola already has a rapport with new addition Goran Dragic as they were both on the Rockets last year. He won't help you with blocks, steals or threes, but expect about 16 and 7 this year from Scola.
Channing Frye: Frye has had a resurgence as a fantasy player as a big who can shoot while not hurting you too badly from a rebounding and blocked shot perspective. The question is how much was his value dependent on Steve Nash providing him with open looks on offense, and will Dragic be able to get him the same looks? Either way, his value will take a hit as Scola will likely take his starting role.
Markieff Morris: Morris seems to have a skillet that can help most NBA teams. He can shoot, defend and rebound at a high level. For whatever reason he did not get much playing time this year, and with the addition of Scola, it's likely that he just got bumped from bench player to bench warmer.
Michael Beasley: Beasley has never been able to transfer his immense physical talents into a productive NBA career. There are questions about maturity and work ethic, and despite featured roles with both the Heat and Timberwolves, Beasley has never really impressed. Despite that the Suns gave him a 3 year, 18 million dollar deal, which presumably isn't to keep him on the bench. Beasley will get the first crack as starting small forward, and could get enough minutes to have a fantasy role next season. He's a strong rebounder and scorer, albeit an inefficient one.
Wesley Johnson: Talking about inefficient scorers, Wesley Johnson didn't crack 40% shooting last year and shot just over 30% from three. He's an explosive leaper, but it just doesn't seem like he has the talent to have a featured role in the NBA. Leave him on the waiver wire.
Jared Dudley: Dudley is one of the more consistent and under assuming NBA players out there. He lacks any above average physical attribute for the position, but he is a good enough shooter, defender, passer and rebounder that he manages to make a contribution in most fantasy categories without hurting in any of them. He should start for the Suns next season, and put up another season of about 12 points, four rebounds, a steal, and great shooting percentages.
Shannon Brown: Brown is a sparkplug combo guard who is equally capable of putting up highlight dunks and making his coaches pull their hair out. He is at his best when he's coming off the bench, where he can use his top-notch athletic abilities to wreck havoc on other team's backup guards by applying intense defensive pressure and relentlessly attacking offensively. Fantasy wise he won't contribute a lot, but should be good for about 10 points per game and a steal if you're in a pinch.
P.J. Tucker: Tucker is back in the NBA after five seasons playing internationally with stops in Puerto Rico, Greece, Israel, and Germany. If Tucker ends up playing a significant role for the Suns this year there's a good chance things have gone disastrously wrong in Phoenix.
Goran Dragic: Dragic has teased fantasy owners numerous times in his four year NBA career, and could finally have the permanent role to put together a fantasy relevant 82 game season. The most recent reason to get excited about Dragic is due to his fantastic April, in which he averaged 18.9 points, 7.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds, on .464 and .329 shooting in 14 games as a starter. In the previous month, he put up 15, 7.4, 3.4 and even better percentages. In his previous stint with Phoenix, Dragic learned under Steve Nash, and he'll finally have a chance to work as a starter in a similar system that made Nash a two time MVP.
Kendall Marshall: Marshall came on late during his freshman season at the University of North Carolina, and followed that up with an impressive sophomore season that ended with him being selected 11th by the Suns. While Marshall isn't much of a scorer or defender, he was peerless at the college level in terms of court vision and understanding of the game. Should something happen to Dragic, Marshall should be a hot waiver wire pickup.
Sebastian Telfair:"Bassy" has had a tumultuous NBA career after being a highly touted prep-to-pro player from New York's storied Lincoln High School. Telfair did a decent job as Steve Nash's backup last season, but, unless Marshall shows that he isn't ready for the speed of the NBA, expect minutes for Telfair to be few and far between in the upcoming season.
Goran Dragic: While Jeremy Lin got all of the headlines for his breakout performance, Goran Dragic actually put up better numbers than Lin did almost across the board. It isn't outrageous to think that Dragic could average 17, 8 and 4 over the season, which would be among the elite point guards in the league. He's adjusting to a new team, and the team itself is making pretty drastic changes across the board, but assuming Dragic can adapt and get everyone to fall in line, he could end up being a serious steal in many fantasy drafts this year.
Michael Beasley: The contract was a head scratcher at the time it was handed out, and there really isn't much in his career to suggest that Beasley would be worth about six million dollars annually. He's the favorite to win the starting job, but Beasley has never been one to put in the effort defensively, which will likely land him in Coach Alvin Gentry's doghouse, like it has with past coaches. Beasley will get his looks offensively, but he has never been an efficient scorer, and he doesn't contribute threes, blocks or steals. Let someone else pick him off name value in your draft.