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Each year, the folks at SB Nation preview their teams for the rest of the world to see. This "Cliffs Notes" preview is a snapshot of the team from the Valley of the Sun. We do know that "he who was MVP" is no longer running the show, but we're ready to move on to the next era.

#NextStartsNow

Team Name: Phoenix Suns

Last Year’s Record: 33-33 (10th place in the West)

Key Losses: Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick, Michael Redd, Ronnie Price, Robin Lopez

Key Additions: Luis Scola, Michael Beasley, Goran Dragic, Wesley Johnson, Kendall Marshall, Jermaine O’Neal

1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?

Welcome to the rebuilding era of the Phoenix Suns. The two faces of the franchise, Steve Nash and Grant Hill, have both found new homes in Los Angeles, Nash with the Lakers and Hill with the Clippers. For the first time in eight years, the Suns are without their franchise point guard and two-time MVP. It was a tough pill to swallow.

Childress met the amnesty axe ending his brief and disappointing stint with the Suns. Michael Redd remains floating in the free agency pool and Ronnie Price has found a new home backing up Damian Lillard and Nolan Smith in Portland. Warrick and Lopez have both been shipped off to New Orleans.

Enter: the New Guys. With the 13th overall selection in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Suns chose North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall. Marshall might not start right off the bat because of the return of Goran Dragic and the solid play of Sebastian Telfair last season, but I can see Phoenix handing him the reigns to the team within the next two seasons. Winning the amnesty auction for Scola gives the Suns a pretty decent inside presence with him and double-double machine Marcin Gortat. Phoenix also is taking some risks by signing Michael Beasley and Jermaine O’Neal and hoping Wesley Johnson contributes more than he did in Minnesota.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?

Outside observers, at first glance, won’t have many good things to say about the new-look Phoenix Suns. They see that Nash is gone and has left thousands of fans with out-of-date No. 13 jerseys. I see something different. I see a Suns team that finally has youth at its foundation and a high ceiling for potential.

Besides Hill and Nash, the Suns lost five role players. With Scola, Beasley and Dragic, they have gained three potential starters. Kendall Marshall has potential to be a franchise point guard. Markieff Morris is coming off a strong rookie campaign. Shannon Brown and Jared Dudley are joined by Wesley Johnson to give Phoenix a young, fast offensive-core that has potential for excitement.

With a team this young, chemistry is vital for youth to either be their strength or their weakness.

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?

The weakness of the team is that they lack consistency. For eight years, they had one of the best guards that the NBA has ever seen. The Suns knew who was going to be leading them, who was going to deliver night in and night out and who was going to have the ball with the game on the line. That consistency is gone. Nobody knows who is going to take that last shot.

The other weak aspect of the team is that they lack size. Besides Gortat and Scola, Phoenix doesn’t possess another big man who can bring in rebounds and provide stability in the paint. Markieff Morris is inconsistent and Jermaine O’Neal has not been able to prove he can remain healthy. The Suns might have to employ a lot of small-ball lineups that spot Beasley or Johnson at the four. Losing Channing Frye for the season, if not his career, was a blow in this area. I would not be surprised if the Suns go with a big man in the next draft or try to make a move for one during the season.

4. What are the goals for the team?

The main goal for this team should be to remain competitive for a fringe playoff spot. I understand that is a very optimistic goal, but that’s why it is exactly that … a goal. Realistically, Phoenix needs to show that they are a unified team. They need to demonstrate that they can be competitive in their post-Nash era.

The Suns front office has to prove with action that they believe the team has a chance. They have to show that they are willing to spend, build and create a team that will be competitive in the near future. No more treading water.

5. Is there any hope for the Phoenix Suns in the future?

Yes. Although next year’s draft class is considerably weaker than the 2012 class, there are some viable prospects that can fit well with the Suns. Phoenix has a youthful core that has potential, plus a boatload of draft picks and cap space, to give the Suns a bright future and create some excitement on the court. I think that in order for the Suns to be a real threat in the Western Conference, they need to add size and a consistent scoring threat.


The NBA announced Wednesday morning that it intends to stop the flop, but it only took until the afternoon for resistance to rear its head. The NBA announced a penalty ladder that begins with a...

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Marcin Gortat (MAR-chin GORE-tot) has burgeoned into a very solid, if not spectacular, NBA player. After posting impressive numbers of 15.4 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game last season, he comes into this season as the Suns' most proven commodity. His average of a double double put him in an exclusive club with Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum as the only centers in the league to accomplish the feat.

Yet questions and criticisms abound. Can he score as effectively and efficiently without Nash? Can he withstand the rigors of an 82 game season? Can he shed his tissue soft label stemming from enervated episodes of gently laying the ball in attacking the basket?

Gortat's mission to quash the critics and silence the pundits begins now. To be frank, I don't think that Gortat even lends credibility to many of these aspersions by acknowledging them. What I do think is that as a byproduct of the high level of play I expect out of Gortat this season that many of these issues will be resolved indirectly.

Next isn't starting now for Marcin. He's already been at the forefront of ushering in the new era for some time now. Media Day gave him an opportunity to vocalize what makes the hammer swing.

Another question coming into the season is how the dynamic between Gortat and new power forward Luis Scola will unfurl. The agglutination of these two players may be pivotal to the team's success. Gortat addressed this issue on Media Day.

"I'm a really big fan of Scola," said Gortat. "Back in the day I was watching him in Europe. When I was playing in Germany he was playing in Spain. I really thought back in Europe he was one of the best big men."

"He's a great passer. He can read the game very well. He's very smart," Gortat continued. "It's going to be a pretty good mix."

I think this is a fairly balanced and accurate analysis. Scola seems like the type of teammate that can assimilate into a new system and adapt to what is requested from him expeditously. I've been a huge assailant proponent of the Scola waiver claim from day one. Given the recent unfortunate circumstances I believe that the tandem of the Polish Hammer and the Ice Cream Man will need to bring it this season.

Of course there was the compulsory question about life without Steve Nash and what changes Gortat might need to make to adjust to an existence deprived of his majesty (because Gortat was completely dependent on Nash, right?).

"I'm not going to change my game at all," Gortat responded to questions about how his role would be different this season. "I'm going to try to prove that I'm a better post-up player this year than I was last year. I believe that 20 games in the offseason with the national team helped me."

That's what we want to hear Marcin. Don't change a thing (except for sprinkling in a few more savage dunks). Suns fans (generally) understand what you bring and diligence in improving that contribution is all we ask.

Gortat responded to queries about the potential of the defense by stating that the team has younger guys, hustlers and a full training camp to improve the defense.

You heard it from Gortat first. The Suns are the new hustlers of the NBA.

Gortat feels he is in great shape, but that he basically didn't get any rest this summer. He thinks he may hit a wall after about 30-40 games. He better run right through that wall. There was speculation last year that Gortat's declining production in the second half of the season was a result of lassitude. A similar trend this season could exacerbate the ire he draws from purple and orange faithful.

The best answer of the interview came when Gortat replied to a question asking what he learned from being the go to guy for Poland with a very terse yet profound response of "What I learned was that you've got to make a basket."

Has he been listening to Eddie Johnson?

Gortat echoed the sentiment that the Suns will play run and gun basketball with little change from previous years. He also said that hopefully Goran Dragic will be the Suns' new Steve Nash. Gortat even pronounced Goran Dragic's name correctly (GORE-on DROG-ich) (no small feat considering how often it's stated incorrectly - just think Dragon).

Gortat seemed almost as sanguine about the possibilities of the upcoming season as I am. I think he acquitted himself admirably.

Take a look at the live footage we shot of Gortat from media day below. The sound is faint for the first 20 seconds, but then becomes perfectly audible. Alex sneaks in a question about the defensive scheme at the end of the video.



20120611_kkt_st3_479

Marcin Gortat (MAR-chin GORE-tot) has burgeoned into a very solid, if not spectacular, NBA player. After posting impressive numbers of 15.4 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game last season, he comes into this season as the Suns' most proven commodity. His average of a double double put him in an exclusive club with Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum as the only centers in the league to accomplish the feat.

Yet questions and criticisms abound. Can he score as effectively and efficiently without Nash? Can he withstand the rigors of an 82 game season? Can he shed his tissue soft label stemming from enervated episodes of gently laying the ball in attacking the basket?

Gortat's mission to quash the critics and silence the pundits begins now. To be frank, I don't think that Gortat even lends credibility to many of these aspersions by acknowledging them. What I do think is that as a byproduct of the high level of play I expect out of Gortat this season that many of these issues will be resolved indirectly.

Next isn't starting now for Marcin. He's already been at the forefront of ushering in the new era for some time now. Media Day gave him an opportunity to vocalize what makes the hammer swing.

Another question coming into the season is how the dynamic between Gortat and new power forward Luis Scola will unfurl. The agglutination of these two players may be pivotal to the team's success. Gortat addressed this issue on Media Day.

"I'm a really big fan of Scola," said Gortat. "Back in the day I was watching him in Europe. When I was playing in Germany he was playing in Spain. I really thought back in Europe he was one of the best big men."

"He's a great passer. He can read the game very well. He's very smart," Gortat continued. "It's going to be a pretty good mix."

I think this is a fairly balanced and accurate analysis. Scola seems like the type of teammate that can assimilate into a new system and adapt to what is requested from him expeditously. I've been a huge assailant proponent of the Scola waiver claim from day one. Given the recent unfortunate circumstances I believe that the tandem of the Polish Hammer and the Ice Cream Man will need to bring it this season.

Of course there was the compulsory question about life without Steve Nash and what changes Gortat might need to make to adjust to an existence deprived of his majesty (because Gortat was completely dependent on Nash, right?).

"I'm not going to change my game at all," Gortat responded to questions about how his role would be different this season. "I'm going to try to prove that I'm a better post-up player this year than I was last year. I believe that 20 games in the offseason with the national team helped me."

That's what we want to hear Marcin. Don't change a thing (except for sprinkling in a few more savage dunks). Suns fans (generally) understand what you bring and diligence in improving that contribution is all we ask.

Gortat responded to queries about the potential of the defense by stating that the team has younger guys, hustlers and a full training camp to improve the defense.

You heard it from Gortat first. The Suns are the new hustlers of the NBA.

Gortat feels he is in great shape, but that he basically didn't get any rest this summer. He thinks he may hit a wall after about 30-40 games. He better run right through that wall. There was speculation last year that Gortat's declining production in the second half of the season was a result of lassitude. A similar trend this season could exacerbate the ire he draws from purple and orange faithful.

The best answer of the interview came when Gortat replied to a question asking what he learned from being the go to guy for Poland with a very terse yet profound response of "What I learned was that you've got to make a basket."

Has he been listening to Eddie Johnson?

Gortat echoed the sentiment that the Suns will play run and gun basketball with little change from previous years. He also said that hopefully Goran Dragic will be the Suns' new Steve Nash. Gortat even pronounced Goran Dragic's name correctly (GORE-on DROG-ich) (no small feat considering how often it's stated incorrectly - just think Dragon).

Gortat seemed almost as sanguine about the possibilities of the upcoming season as I am. I think he acquitted himself admirably.

Take a look at the live footage we shot of Gortat from media day below. The sound is faint for the first 20 seconds, but then becomes perfectly audible. Alex sneaks in a question about the defensive scheme at the end of the video.



PHOENIX — Upon entering Monday’s media scrum, it took exactly five seconds before starting point guard Goran Dragic was posed a question with the words Steve Nash and big shoes attached...

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