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The offseason is over. The endless conversations debating the free agent acquisitions and departures of the new-look Phoenix Suns are gone and now the young team is forced to prove its merit.

Jared Dudley, Michael Beasley, Shannon Brown and Wesley Johnson are the guys on the wing this year. This Suns team will either sink or swim depending on how these four key players contribute this season. Without strong showings night in and night out from these four, it will be tough for Phoenix to win enough games to contend for a playoff spot.

Jared Dudley

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It is a scary realization that Jared Dudley is currently the most tenured Phoenix Suns member. Since joining the team, Dudley has shown little to prove he can be someone to depend upon for scoring on a regular basis. As a role player, he could be valuable. Coming off the bench and providing some sparks late in games is what Dudley should be doing in the NBA. Last season, Dudley became a valuable role player forced to start on a team lacking depth.

Depth has been added. The Suns finally bolster a lineup of young, talented wings that have potential. They don't have the pressure of trying to give Steve Nash his ring and now they can try to develop a core that is energetic and eager to succeed. For Dudley, a successful season would be improving on his 12.7 points per game. His efficiency is crucial to his success this season, especially with fans around the Valley calling for the Suns to go after former Arizona State Sun Devil James Harden and the high flying Shannon Brown knocking on Dudley's doorstep.

Shannon Brown

Last season marked the first season in Brown's career where he averaged more than 10 points per game. Granted, he has been behind Kobe Bryant for a majority of his career. There were glimmers of Brown's potential last season. Most notably, his game against San Antonio in March of last season. That impressive outing featured Brown dropping 32 points and going 11-18 from the field.

Right now, it looks like Jared Dudley will begin the season as the starting shooting guard, but Brown could very easily snatch that spot if he shows more consistency this season.

Michael Beasley

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Michael Beasley is an enigma. He has shown talent in spurts, talent that made him the 2nd overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. He has to be comfortable with having pressure on him, able to hit those last second shots or be that go to guy when needed to be. It looks like he will be the person with the ball at the end of games for now.

I have high expectations for Beasley. As the number one scoring option in Phoenix, there is no reason why he can't score close to 20 points per game and combine that with at least five rebounds per game. Now, we probably won't see those numbers, but I am an optimist when it comes to the Suns. I can't help it.

Wesley Johnson

Wesley Johnson has the abilities to be a valuable role player for the Suns. He can knock down the outside shot and provide energy off the bench when needed, but he hasn't shown the talents to make him a starter in this league. The Timberwolves seemed like it was easy to part with Johnson, especially since they are bringing in Brandon Roy. Doesn't that say something about Johnson though? The Timberwolves had no problem trading him and they would rather bring back the injury-prone Brandon Roy from retirement than start Johnson for another season. Suns fans, including myself, are hoping that we stole a valuable role player who can come in and give depth to this young Suns team.

P. J. Tucker

I personally do not expect much from Tucker this season. After being waived by the Raptors, Tucker has spent the past five seasons playing in Israel and Europe. Although he has been impressive in those international stints, Tucker still has a way to go before he proves that he has NBA-level talent.

Summarizing the Wings

We want these guys to succeed. Nothing would please me more than seeing this group of young, talented wings pull off a special season and make the playoffs. Jared Dudley has to step up and provide more than he has, Shannon Brown must be consistent, Wesley Johnson needs to provide that spark off the bench and Michael Beasley has to be dependable. If these things happen, the Phoenix Suns could be competitive.

Dave's extra:

I wondered how close the top three wings coming into this season might compare to the top three wings coming into the 2005-06 season, after Raja Bell was added to Leandro Barbosa and Shawn Marion, like Michael Beasley was added Dudley and Brown this year. Obviously, this is totally throw-away, but I remember the 2005-06 season being one where the Suns were NOT picked for the playoffs after the loss of Stoudemire to microfracture. But instead they became the legendary '7 seconds or less' team centered around the play of the guards.

The table below compares the 2004-05 stats of Bell-Marion-Barbosa to the 2011-12 stats of Beasley-Dudley-Brown.

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If you look at it closely, the top three wings on this year's Suns don't pale in comparison to the ones entering the 2005-06 season. The SSOL guys were better shooters but two of them were coming off a 62-win season in an offense tailor-made for them. Sure, the big difference is the point guard but with how impressive Dragic has been, I have to wonder how good of a season these guys can have around that perimeter.

Just something to chew on.

Poll
Which wing player will provide the most for the Suns this year?

  295 votes | Results


Let's call it how it is, Goran Dragic is killing it so far in the preseason. Remember that time Steve Kerr said he was the second-best point guard in the 2008 draft behind only Derrick Rose? Looking pretty, pretty, pretty, good.

Here's some postgame links from the Suns preseason win over the Dirk-less Mavs. People, please try and keep a good handle on your dirks. You don't want to get caught out dirkless.

Here's the gamebook.

Mavericks Final Score: Mavericks fall to Suns, 100-94 - Mavs Moneyball

O.J. Mayo: He can disappear for moments at a time, but I see that scorer's mentality in him. Go ahead and pencil him in for both a 2 point and a 40 point game this season, and who knows, they might be back to back.

Suns Vs. Mavericks: Phoenix improves to 2-1 on the preseason - SB Nation Arizona
The Phoenix Suns beat the Dallas Mavericks 100-94 thanks to strong performances from Jared Dudley, Goran Dragic, Wes Johnson and Marcin Gortat.

Phoenix Suns hold off the Dallas Mavericks

"I was surprised how good Diante is," Dragic said. "He’s really explosive. He can shoot. He can pass. He’s really a good player." Garrett’s presence and Telfair’s edgy practice ways have made for competitive practices while Marshall learns the trade at a pro level. Garrett has been out of college for a year and played pro ball in France.

Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, Luis Scola buoy preseason win in Dallas

Although plus-minus figures should be taken with a grain of salt on a game-to-game basis, it still was nice to see that trio combined to outscore the Dallas starters by 20 points in their shared court time.

Let us know if any of you planning to protest this destruction of Phoenix history?

Phoenix Suns bulldozing old hotels next to US Airways Center - Phoenix Business Journal

The Phoenix Suns are demolishing two early 20th century brick motel buildings the team owns just west of US Airways Center in downtown Phoenix. Demolition crews were at work Wednesday morning tearing down the St. James and Madison Hotel buildings



Alvin Gentry, never one to look a preseason win in the mouth, told reporters after the Suns win in Dallas that he wants his team to focus on getting better defensively. Phoenix improved to 2-1 in the preseason with the road win.


Preseason is about the small victories. Especially for a team like the Suns with so many new faces to integrate, it had to be encouraging that three crucial starters — Goran Dragic, Jared...

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It wasn't always pretty, but it's still a win (in the preseason where wins mean virtually nothing). The Suns starters played very well en route the the six-point victory, but the team as a whole was very up-and-down.

Phoenix got off to a quick start offensively, but unfortunately they left their defense in the locker room and Dallas kept pace for a the first several minutes. The Suns picked up the effort level and built up a 24-16 lead before Goran Dragic took a seat. That's when things took a turn for the worse.

Behind everyone's least favorite flammable shooting guard the Mavs ripped off a 15-0 run. Vince Carter scored seven points during the stretch, and the trio of Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris and Sebastian Telfair looked incompetent offensively. A Shannon Brown jumper put an end to the run and the Suns were able to make it out of the first quarter only trailing by three, 31-28.

The bench picked up their defense in the second quarter and worked their way back, taking a 43-42 lead on a pair of Markieff Morris free throws. The two teams battled back and forth with the Suns pulling ahead at 49-46. However, the Mavericks closed out the final 2:46 of the quarter on a 8-0 run to take a 54-49 lead into halftime.

Unfortunately, the Suns lost Shannon Brown for the game when he rolled his ankle on a drive with about 30 seconds left in the half. Thankfully, it's not too bad:

Update on @shannonbrown. He turned his ankle tonight in Dallas. There is no swelling and he is expected to return soon. #SunsAtMavs

— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) October 18, 2012

The starting five kicked off the second half and the Suns dominated the third quarter behind the brilliant play of Goran Dragic. With Dragic and Gortat playing nearly the entire period, the Suns outscored the Mavericks 32-20 and took a 81-74 lead into the final quarter.

Gentry turned the reigns over to the second unit (plus a couple) to close out the game, and they almost blew it. The Mavs cut the deficit to as little as two points when Dallas reserve guard Josh Akognon stole the ball from Telfair and scored with just under a minute to go. However, after a chaotic sequence where the ball was lost by both sides multiple times, Diante Garret was finally able to secure the loose ball and drop it off to Ike Diogu for the game-sealing slam. A pair of Telfair free throws closed out the scoring and gave the Suns the 100-94 win.

Stat Leaders:

Points - Jared Dudley was credited with 16 points on 7-9 shooting, but there's a bit of confusion as two of his baskets may have been scored by Michael Beasley (who officially finished with eight points on 4-10 shooting).

Rebounds - Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat each finished with six boards to lead a very balanced effort on the glass by Phoenix.

Assists - Goran Dragic continues his masterful play with six assists to go with his 12 points in just 18 minutes of playing time.

+/- - Dragic, Dudley and Luis Scola each finished at a +20 to lead the Suns, and that was no coincidence as all three plpayed terrific games and spent much of their court time playing together.

Bad Guys - Chris Kaman led the Mavs with 16 points, but it was Jae Crowder who acted as a thorn in the Suns' side all game long. Crowder finished with 10 points, six assists and 5 steals, and also completely shut down Markieff Morris (who put up an ugly 2-14 shooting line).

Complete Box Score

Final Thoughts:

  • Both Goran Dragic and Sebastian Telfair played excellent defense on Dallas' starting point guard Darren Collison. The duo held the quick little guard to zero points on 0-2 shooting, although he did finish with six assists.
  • Speaking of the Dragon, that guy is incredible. The more I see of him, the more excited I get for the season to start. That third quarter domination was all on Dragic, as he played a masterful floor game, hitting shots when they were there and setting up teammates when they weren't. You guys already know this, but he;s going to be really good this year.
  • The Suns did a good job on the glass today, and everyone got in the act as the 45 total rebounds were spread out pretty well an seven players finished with four or more caroms. I noticed the Suns crashing the offensive glass pretty hard early on, which is something I'm not used to seeing with this team.
  • Michael Beasley didn't have quite the total game he gave us in the first two preseason games, but he still played pretty well. Early on, Beasley was playing in the flow of the game and looked great. He made some good scoring moves and also pushed the ball up the court and recorded a couple of nice assists in transition. It wasn't until the offense started struggling and he tried to step up and be the creator that he began to struggle as he forced things a little too much.
  • Ike Diogu was the one out of the three auditioning bigs to get the call late in the game, and the veteran did pretty well, scoring four points and hauling in five rebounds in six minutes of playing time. He looks to be the leader in the club house for the 13th active roster spot.
  • Diante Garrett, another roster hopeful, got a bit more burn today, but didn't play as well. However, he did spend more than half his minutes at the two alongside Bassy, which A) shows his versatility and size but also B) doesn't allow Garrett to show what he can do. I'm still a believer in the former Iowa State Cyclone, but he's going to have to play pretty well down the stretch if the Suns are going to keep him as the 15th man.

I'll leave you with this, as I feel it sums things up pretty well:

Great win vs Dallas Mavs!!! Next stop OKC. Let's go #Suns

— Goran Dragic (@Goran_Dragic) October 18, 2012


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