Being Lon Babby For A Day - A Critical Evaluation Of The Suns' Roster

Gentry, Hedo and Babby.

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Gentry, Hedo and Babby.

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We talked about VALUE the other day, but I wanted to take a different spin by putting them in order of LEAST likely to be moved to MOST likely. The point of this exercise is to guess what a GM or President of Basketball Operations might be thinking when looking over the Suns roster.

The Suns current rotation boasts 10 quality players who deserve 20+ minutes per night. There are only 240 minutes in a game, so you can compute an equitable distribution of 24 minutes per player. But Richardson, Nash, Turkoglu and Childress all historically get 30+ per night, and for a good reason: they are so good, you don’t want to take them out of the game. Dragic, Lopez, Frye and Dudley all cut their teeth last season and come into 2010-2011 deserving even more time than they did a year ago. Only Warrick (20 mins) and Hill (24 mins) seem "just right" with the planned minutes.

That makes 8 of 10 rotation players who deserve more time per night than they are going to get.  I don’t anticipate any open complaining, but I do feel a little bad for some them who will get squeezed.

If there’s an overload, it’s at SG and SF.  If there’s an underload, it’s at PF. 

Poor Lou Amundson got squeezed by not only the roster swell, but also the youngsters – Clark, Lawal and D Collins – all being bigger than him and having more potential (though they won’t get any minutes this year, barring massive injury problems).

 

Biggest Weaknesses

The Suns’ biggest weaknesses are rebounding, high-post and short wing defense, and the at-the-rim shot-blocking. The latter three can be hidden by defensive schemes.

That leaves rebounding as a weakness that can't be hidden.  But not really, right? 

The better answer: reducing the other team’s second-chance points after a missed shot. The Suns were actually good at causing missed shots last season, ranking in the top 10 overall in opponent FG%. But they were terrible in forcing a change-in-possession on those misses, and allowing a high number of second-chance points.

Change-of-possession can be accomplished in several ways: blocks, steals, shot-clock violations and rebounding missed shots. 

Blocks are misleading, since they usually don’t result in change of possession. Shot-clock violations are rare, and usually more the fault of the offense than the defense.

So really it’s steals and defensive rebounding that need the Suns' attention.

The Suns were actually one of the league's worst teams in steals last season.  This figures to improve in 2010-11 with the addition of Childress and Turkoglu (both averaged 1+ per game), and more minutes for Dragic and Dudley.

But the defensive rebounding figures to be a sore spot. Any deficit in defensive rebounding can be hidden during the regular season, but would be exposed in the deeper rounds of the playoffs.

Ideally, the Suns would acquire some more muscle for the PF spot. And since the Suns already have 10 rotation players, they would need to move at least as many players as they acquire or the new player wouldn't get much time anyway.

Let's take a look at the roster, from point of view of a GM, or President of BBall Ops.

 

Won’t move under any but the most extreme circumstances:

1)       Steve Nash – you just don’t move your 2-time MVP who, by all tangible and intangible measurement, is the key to any winning environment until he retires.  Plus, his contract is a great value at 10 million per year.

2)       Grant Hill – similar to Nash, though not as talented, Grant is an assistant coach on the floor with a high BBall IQ.  And, he only makes 3 million this year. No way he goes anywhere.

3)      Robin Lopez – young, agile 7-foot C who can block shots, play defense and finish on the pick-n-roll are too valuable to be moved in a trade.  Let alone those who only make 2 million. No way he gets moved.

4)      Goran Dragic – young, athletic, tall PGs who can still dramatically improve beyond an impressive second season (including 26 points in the final 14 minutes of a close second-round playoff game against a hated rival) don’t get traded either.

Suns you don’t move because they were just acquired, and offer exciting skills/options:

5)      Josh Childress – the Suns just signed him to a reasonable contract (5 yrs, 6 million a year). He is tall for an SG (6’8"), plays defense, has a high BBall IQ, and scores efficiently. No way Childress is moved before playing a single game, and only then if he fails miserably.

6)      Hidayet Turkoglu – much like Childress, Hedo is very unlikely to be moved before playing a single game and even then only if he fails to perform or mesh with the team.  But he is older (31) and his contract is more onerous (4 yrs, 40 million), so he’s a bit less valuable than those higher on this list.

Holdovers you don’t move because they fit your team perfectly, but if the right deal came along

7)       Jared Dudley – I’ll bet you’re itching to blast me right now for ranking Duds so low. Hold on a sec. Three guys above him play the same basic game (versatile enough to play the 2 or 3, defend, high BBall IQ, efficient scoring).  While Dudley is younger than them (25) and lower-paid (2 million) and makes game-winning plays, he is also less athletic and shorter (6’7") with a lower ceiling. Plus, there’s no guarantee Duds re-signs with the Suns once free agency hits.

8)       Channing Frye – This is another guy very likely to stay, since the Suns just gave him 5 yrs/30 million to do so. That’s a lot of money for guy who really only fits in the Suns’ scheme as opposed to a traditional one. If he can improve his consistency and continue to make 45% of his 3ptrs, then it’s worth it. He’s a perfect complement to Robin Lopez – a yin-yang pairing to fluster opponent big-man rotations at the 5 spot.

 

So who is left?  Who would the Suns actually move?

Most likely to be moved, if a high-quality Power Forward became available

9)       Amare’s 6.5 million TPE – this slot is just dangling there, waiting to be filled. But don’t hold your breath. The Suns will likely enter the 2010-2011 season with a payroll at 65 million, after signing rookies Lawal and D Collins and maybe Reynolds and a veteran backup C who won’t deserve any playing time unless there’s an injury (like Jarron Collins last year).  This TPE can be used to bring in another player without giving anything up, though it cannot be combined with anything else in a trade except future draft picks.  Take into account the Suns already have 11 guys worthy of nightly minutes, and it makes no sense to use this TPE right now for another deserving rotation player.  The Suns’ smartest move would be to hold onto this TPE in case of injury/emergency.

10)    Earl Clark – Earl has a great deal of talent, and when the light comes on he will be an important player on a good team. It just hasn’t clicked for him yet. And on this squad, he won’t get the minutes he needs to come alive. I can see the Suns including him in a bigger deal to net a high-caliber PF, or even in a prospect/prospect trade with another team disappointed in their young player (Jason Thompson, Sacramento?)

11)    Hakim Warrick – the Suns JUST signed the guy, so they can’t trade him in combination with anyone else for 60 days. And he would be good in this system. But his ceiling on a 50+ win team is backup PF. If the Suns can get a high-quality PF from another team, then Warrick’s 20 minutes are the most likely to be reduced if he’s not included in the trade. Plus, the other team might want someone back who can take some of the PF minutes their traded player was using, and Warrick can do that as a stopgap.

12)    Jason Richardson – Here’s another place you might want to blast me.  I do NOT want to trade J-Rich.  He was HUGE in the playoffs.  But if you subscribe to the belief that the Suns need more rebounding to compete deep in the playoffs, and that an ideal rotation would include 1 less wing player and 1 more PF, then J-Rich is our most tradeable asset.  He is older than Dudley and Childress and Clark, makes "great player" money (14.4 million), and is a free agent at the end of the season. 

 

Of course, the Suns could just stay with the lineup they have and see what happens.  Likely, the team will be exciting, win 50+ games and get into the second round or maybe the Conference Finals.  And if a SG or SF goes down to injury, they can throw another one in there without missing a beat.

But what if Lopez misses time again next year?  Or what if the Suns are good enough to get a high seed, and really want that one last chance to get Nash a ring?  To win a championship, you really need more height and beef on the front line.  Turkoglu and Warrick will probably not provide enough resistance against Gasol and Odom (assuming Lopez takes on Bynum).

Do you agree with this ranking?  What would you change?


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