No need to wait until 7pm EST to see the 2011-2012 NBA schedule for the Phoenix Suns on NBA TV tonight, we have it now! Thanks to Paul Coro and the AZ Republic, we have obtained the complete Phoenix Suns schedule before the official unveiling.
As expected, some of the NBA's biggest stars and marquee players will not be seen at US Airways Center this season; including Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Amare Stoudemire (although they will still face these players in away games). In addition, the Suns will face some unique challenges this season because of the condensed schedule. A shortened season creates less time to play the games; which means less rest for aging superstars Steve Nash and Grant Hill. What other challenges will the schedule bring for the Suns? Continue reading after the jump for the complete schedule and a breakdown of what the Suns can expect in the coming season.
Here are a few of the biggest challenges I see the Suns facing based on this schedule. First, like every NBA season, the Suns will play some back-to-back games, but, this season it happens 17 times. Not only that, they also have two stretches where they will play three games in a row (Feb. 13,14,15 and March 14,15,16)...and in both cases the Suns will have to travel between both home and away games during these stretches. Another potential pitfall of the schedule is that the Suns will face every eastern powerhouse team (Heat, Celtics, Bulls, Magic, Knicks) in an away game...doesn't exactly seem fair.
The good news? The longest road stretch is only five games which isn't too bad, and the Suns also start and finish their season at home. Also, the three-in-a-row games are against Warriors-Nuggets-Hawks in February, and Jazz-Clippers-Pistons in March...So at least their opponents for these three game streaks are projected to be only average.
When it comes to free agents, you sign people to plug holes in your roster (or, nominally spend money you didn't otherwise spend on your superstar). This season, barring any parenthetical reasoning, there is only one massive, gaping hole in the Suns lineup: Shooting guard.
Names floating around the national media water cooler, aka twitter, related to the Suns are:
Anthony Parker, 36 years old now, has spent the last few years in Cleveland after playing (and dominating) overseas for several years when he didn't get a fair shake in the NBA out of college.
...Parker also has no jets left and can't get anywhere near the basket on his own steam. He made 22 shots at the rim in 2,091 minutes and had one of the lowest free-throw rates at his position. The one thing he can still do, much better than people realize, is handle the ball and pass. Parker had the best assist ratio of any shooting guard and was second in pure point rating.
His strength is his defense. Parker is strong and competes and was the only Cav who could be trusted to guard good wing scorers last season. He has trouble against quickness, but post-up guards in particular have a rough time working against him.
Overall, he's barely hanging on offensively, and at 36 needs to be in a role where he can just catch-and-shoot or move the ball to the next guy. But his defense makes him an enticing short-term pick-up for a contender.
Contenders, including Boston, or at least exciting-sounding middling teams, including the New York Knicks, are interested in Parker for the same reasons the Suns are interested. He will likely be good with a one-year deal at somewhere barely north of the veteran minimum.
However, the Suns need someone who can create and make their own shot, and Parker is NOT that guy. He is more of a Raja Bell type of player. In fact, he IS Raja Bell without a clothesline maneuver on his resume. His career scoring average is 9 ppg.
Von Wafer wasn't even in an NBA rotation last season. Oh wait, nevermind, he was with Boston. He played in 58 games for about 9 minutes a game. He has never been on the same team for more than 1 year. In fact, he's been in the league for 7 seasons and played for exactly 6 teams. In fact, he was completely out of the league in 09-10, immediately following his best NBA season at 19 minutes and 9 points per game. No one wanted him. Not a ringing endorsement.
This is why I think the Suns are in more interested in the trade front this season and 2012 free agency.
Don't be too bummed when you don't hear the Suns mentioned in any hot FA rumors. They have no money for the big guys.
Per Paul Coro, the Suns open the season on December 26 hosting the New Orleans Hornets. Who knows who will be wearing the Hornets colors on that day. They have 5 guys under contract, and any and all may be moved in a Chris Paul trade by Christmas.
While the Suns may not see Chris Paul on December 26, they also won't see a lot of East all-stars either, thanks to the shortened schedule and the Suns' fall from elite:
The NBA lockout is ending, but Phoenix still is getting locked out from seeing those Eastern Conference stars. With schedules sliced from 82 to 66 games, six East teams will not visit Phoenix this season. The six (Miami, Chicago, Orlando, Boston, New York and Indiana) were 2011 playoff teams that account for every East All-Star starter and 10 of the 12 East All-Stars.
So I was looking at the Phoenix Suns depth chart...
PF M.Morris, Hakim Warrick
My next instinct was to try to fix it, because something is obviously broken. =-/
I mean, the dropoff in PG play when Steve leaves the game is to be expected, but did we really want to go straight from legend-of-all-time to D-league-callup? And I'm a Dowdell fanboy!
Then there's center, where we have 3 guys who should be in a rotation (a little crowded), and PF, where we have 0 rotation players at this point. Yes, Channing will slide over and play that position, but that only works on certain nights again certain teams. Some PF's end up torching him, and he's in foul trouble fast and often trying to stay in front of them.
Then theres SG, where we have 2 guys who are rotation players, but neither of them is starter-quality.
And I sort of put the needs in that order:
1) Backup PG
2) Real PF
3) Starting caliber SG
Of course, that could only bring me to Tom Ziller's excellent article on available free agents. Assuming that all the Tier1 guys are out of our price range, and that anyone we got would be someone worth cutting into our free agent monies next offseason, I thought the following people would be worth pursuing:
Rodney Stuckey & Aaron Afflalo: We probably can't get either of these guys, but they're both certainly worth offering the midlevel to.
TJ Ford: Veteran backup PG - check. He would be better than Dowdell, and we could probably actually have him, unlike the two above. He may be better than brooks as well.
Andrei Kirilenko: I know what your'e thinking - he isn't a real PF! On the other hand, all his best years of production were playing the 4, and if ever a player needed a fresh start, this is the one. Insert obligatory comparison to Shawn Marion here.
Chuck Hayes: Some guys just win no matter where they go, to the contrary of common sense. Chuck Hayes is one of those guys. He won't be particularly expensive, he'll play tenacious defense, rebound the hell out of the ball, and is generally an
Josh McRoberts: If Morris pans out as an NBA player, I envision him playing a lot like McBob does now. So why not skip the development stage and just go straight to it? He rebounds and stretches the floor, and he's more mobile than Channing at the 4 spot. Would he be better if he wasn't playing for the Pacers?
Nick Young: Offer will probably be matched by Washington, sure. But that will help us next year. And if not, we would finally have a player on our team who wants to shoot. (Pop quiz: can you name a player on our current roster who is shoot-first?)
Leon Powe: 2 things happen every time Leon Powe plays. First, he puts up great scoring and rebounding numbers in limited minutes. Second, his knee explodes. Come to Phoenix, Leon. This is the premier destination for guys-who's-knees-explode.
Who do you think would be a good fit here?