With hands on hips, Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry walks off the court after losing to the Sacarmento Kings 116-113 in a NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, March 29, 2011.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

One of the Phoenix Suns' biggest problems last year was scoring to close out a game. Sure, the Suns wanted more size and defense too. But winning teams have guys who can hit clutch shots in the closing minutes, be it a contested layup, a stagger-screened 15-footer or a spot-up 3-ball after PG penetration draws the defense into the paint.

Alvin Gentry had this to say when the Suns' cleaned out their lockers for a long summer (Paul Coro wrote this article on April 14, 2011):

The Suns' clear path for now is that they need to add a go-to scorer, more size and (to) improve defensively, in attention and scheme as well as personnel.

"We've got to be little better from the standpoint of being able to have a go-to guy where we don't count on Steve (Nash) to create every play at the end of the game and to make every shot in situations like that," coach Alvin Gentry said. "That's something that we have to look at."

The Suns appear to have checked off many other offseason goals:

  • keep Steve Nash and Grant Hill, preferably without committment past this season
  • add a new defensive scheme (Elston Turner)
  • add guys who give better effort and can play better defense than their incumbents (Sebastian Telfair > Aaron Brooks, Shannon Brown > Vince Carter, on defense at least)
  • get rid of Mikael Pietrus and Vince Carter's contracts (Carter is done, and Pietrus was ALMOST done but not yet)
  • add size and defense on the front line (Markieff Morris, plus maybe a resurgent Robin Lopez?)
  • preserve 2012 cap space

The Suns have already checked off those tasks (nominally, anyway) without sacrificing a dime of 2012 cap space.

But go-to scorer for the 2011-2012 season? So far, no good.

To be fair, finding a go-to scorer is not easy when you only have only $5 million to spend on pure free agents and want to limit any commitment to 1 year unless the player has huge long-term upside. A round-up of this offseason's best-scoring guards available in free agency:

  • Jamal Crawford - being offered more than $8-9 million x multiple years by non-playoff teams
  • Marcus Thornton - got $8+ mil/yr from Sacramento x 4 years
  • Jason Richardson - got $6+ mil/yr from Orlando x 4 years at 31 years old
  • Wilson Chandler - playing in China until March
  • J.R. Smith - playing in China until March
  • Arron Afflalo - RFA, but Denver HAS to match whatever might be offered given all of their other losses
  • Nick Young - RFA, no mention in any rumors yet, which likely means Washington will match any offer

The Phoenix Suns DO still have Amare's remaining trade exception, which I believe is about $5.7 million. But the only way they'd use this money in the next week is to (a) add a one-year rental or (b) add a young, long-term guy comparable to Steph Curry, James Harden and Eric Gordon, who are all RFAs either next summer or the summer after that.

As it stands, next summer will offer some really good, young go-to scorers in Wilson Chandler, JR Smith, Russell Westbrook (RFA) and Eric Gordon (RFA).

The summer after that makes go-to scorers James Harden and Steph Curry, among others, available as RFAs.

As of next summer, the Suns will have at least $30 million in cap space to spend on any free agents - RFAs (restricted) or UFAs (unrestricted). The acquisition of a long-term go-to scorer may be better served to wait until then.

For now, don't expect miracles. Those of you begging for Michael Redd? While I hope you're wrong, I do see him fitting the Suns' 2011-2012 free agent profile - a one-year veteran-minimum contract.


PHOENIX -– During a typical offseason Phoenix Suns players trickle back to town by Labor Day and scrimmage for as many as six weeks before training camp begins, bonding time that has catapulted the...

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Sebastian Telfair never lived up to expectations. Through seven NBA seasons, the Abraham Lincoln High School star and cousin of Stephon Marbury has yet to play like a lottery pick. He failed to...

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Kansas forward Markieff Morris dunks during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Colorado in Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday,  Feb. 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

With the 13th overall pick in this year's NBA draft, the Phoenix Suns selected standout Kansas forward Markieff Morris. Not the first, not the second, but the third NBA brother (and second NBA twin) to join the Suns, Morris was drafted to help bring depth to the position vacated by Amar'e Stoudemire a year earlier.

Morris has yet to set foot on the court, in practice or otherwise, as a Phoenix Sun, but that won't stop me from speculating about what his potential impact will be this season and beyond.

  • Finishing Ability: As a Jayhawk, Morris was known as an excellent pick-and-roll finisher, converting almost 70% of his touches at the rim last year. He's been working on improving his back-to-the-basket moves, but is known primarily as an attacker. The Suns like the pick and roll. Steve Nash likes the pick and roll. I like the pick and roll. It's all good.
  • Rebounding Skill: Steadily improving throughout his 3-year collegiate career, he averaged 8.3 rebounds last year and improved his rebounding rate in each year. Alvin Gentry can expect a guy willing and able to attack the boards when Markieff's name gets called. I don't think we're in for another Taylor Griffin experience in this category, but one thing Morris will need to do is stay in the weight room. He's not a huge body in the paint but he has good footwork.
Those two attributes aren't qualities that I would pin on Channing Frye, the current starter at the PF spot. Channing has a uniqueness among NBA forwards in that he has the silky smooth, reliable 3-pointer stroke that allows him to stretch the floor. Over the last year or so, Frye has been improving in areas such as post defense and rebounding, but his bread and butter is the pick-and-pop with Nash.

Join me after the jump for a little bit more....

Markieff Morris is just what the Phoenix Suns need to bring increased balance to the frontcourt. Channing Frye will continue to be a matchup nightmare for any team and I expect him to continue starting at the 4 as long as the shot remains silky smooth. The really cool part, though, comes when Morris is inserted into the lineup. Able to hold his own in the paint, Markieff will develop into a hard-nosed defender and aggressive slasher when that's what's needed.

So, what should we watch for this season with Markieff? Watch for aggressive weak-wide rebounding and good defense inside 15 feet. Watch for the pick-and-roll (hopefully a more controlled version of the Hakim Warrick p&r), with both Steve Nash and Sebastian Telfair running the point. Watch for a new mid-range jumpshot that he's been working on that he started to develop last year.

I would dare say that Morris will be perfect fit for the Phoenix Suns' second unit this year. It would take Channing Frye losing his edge for Morris to bust into the starting lineup, but I'll look for him to get 13-18 minutes out of the gate, complementing Channing's outside shooting with his own brand of mix-it-up-in-the-paint basketball.


Get ready for a lot of these!

The Phoenix Suns have acquired two short-term and relatively cheap players who can help the team this season while still allowing Phoenix to save cap room for next seasons' expected rebuild. Shannon Brown and Sebastian Telfair were both selected to fill positions of need that will help shore up the Suns roster for the time being, and hopefully help this team stay competitive for one more season before the inevitable changing of the guard (pun intended) next year.

Heading into the 2011-12 season, the Suns have cut ties with Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, and Gani Lawal (we hardly knew ya) and added Shannon Brown and Sebastian Telfair in their place. Actually, Telfair was signed to replace Aaron Brooks, who appears to be stuck in China until at least February, as the back-up point guard to Steve Nash. Either way, the Suns now appear ready to begin training camp with their new team for the 2011-2012 season without any glaring holes at any of the five positions.

So now that the Suns have made their choices, how will these new players fit in with the Suns offense and style of play? Can the Suns expect to still compete this year with the players who are currently on the roster? Continue reading after the jump for some possible answers as well as some highlight videos of both players.

There's no doubt Shannon Brown is best known for his insane leaping ability and highlight reel dunks. However, he can also be an effective defender and a three-point threat who can light it up from beyond the arc when he's in rhythm. Brown has sometimes been criticized for his shot selection and his reliance on outside shooting rather than penetrating to the rim, but he has consistently improved in nearly every aspect of his game over the past few years and could be a very good fit for a Suns team looking to add more energy and athleticism, on both ends of the court.

Although most of us are already familiar with Shannon Brown, I thought one of the writers over at our fellow SBNation blog covering the Los Angeles Lakers might be able to provide us with a more in-depth perspective of what he may bring to the Suns. So I contacted C.A. Clark over at Silver Screen and Roll to get his take on Brown as a player...Here's what he had to say:

Shannon Brown is a really mixed bag as a player. Athletically, he's probably one of the top 5 players in the league. His dunks are obviously amazing, but I think the most amazing highlight I've ever seen out of Brown was a block attempt he made in his first season. Point is, he's one of the best jumpers in the league, and he also has some of the biggest hands in the league. He can be a decent shooter, as long as he's taking the right shots, though even then he is prone to inconsistency.

Unfortunately, just about all the other feedback I can provide tilts negative. His defensive instincts are terrible, which is tragic, because an athletic guy like him should be able to forge a decent career as a defender. Nine times out of ten, he'll go under every screen when he shouldn't, and his ability to stay in front of his man isn't the best either. He goes through stretches of being an effective one on one scorer, but those stretches are more than mitigated by the number of times we've wanted him to move the ball to somebody else quicker. He's quite prone to over-dribbling and bad shot taking. I don't know that I'd call him selfish, and I'm very curious how he'll translate his game in Phoenix, where he will have better point guard play than he's ever had in L.A.

As I see it, Brown's impact in Phoenix will depend on how he's used and what the Suns expect from him. He may not be a polished offensive or defensive player, but I have no doubt that his energy and athleticism can be a positive attribute to our team. The addition of Brown to the Suns' roster will give them more flexibility at the wings; allowing them to rotate Dudley and Brown at the two-guard to find the right fit for each unit. Brown isn't going to be able to replace what we lost after trading Jason Richardson, and he simply hasn't proven that he can be consistent enough on either offense or defense to be relied upon for either...at least not yet. But Brown should definitely provide that spark off the bench that the Suns' 2nd unit lacked last season after Dudley was moved into the starting unit, and he will be certainly be entertaining for the fans to watch play as well.

Plus, and this can't be overstated, the guy can flat-out DUNK!!!




As for Sebastian Telfair, where do I begin? Once believed to be one of the most talented players in the world and on par with the likes of fellow high school standouts LeBron James and Dwight Howard, Sebastian Telfair was a playground legend from NYC who was both the subject of a book (The Jump: Sebastian Telfair and the High-Stakes Business of High School B-Ball) and also a documentary film (Through the Fire). But since turning pro, Telfair's story has been one of disappointment and constant relocation, playing for what will now be his sixth team in nine seasons.

So who is Sebastian Telfair? He is no longer the high-school phenom that was once the 13th pick in the draft. He is now a 26 year old player who is finding it difficult to shed the bust label after sky-high expectations when he first entered the league straight out of Lincoln H.S. in NYC. Telfair is not a consistent outside shooter, but he is a fast and quick guard with tremendous ball-handling skills who can penetrate to the rim and score. Nor is he a great defender, but he is effective in using his quickness to stay in front of his man and pressuring the opposing player.

There's no guarantee that Telfair will be the de facto back-up PG to start the season. Zabian Dowdell is still on the roster and may have a leg up due to his familiarity with the system and the players. Still, even though Dowdell performed better than expected during his opportunities last season, he still struggled to run the offense for any length of time and was very limited as a scorer s well. Something Telfair has already proven to be capable of.

Telfair has already been a starting point guard in this league and has the potential to be a very solid back-up as well. Of course, he also has the potential to be a complete bust for the Suns, but I believe with limited responsibility in the 2nd unit and his incredible speed and quickness he could really help this team.

Take a look at Telfair at his best when playing for Minnesota:




In all, both Shannon Brown and Sebastian Telfair bring youth, energy, and tons of athleticism to the Suns. Both of these players fit in extremely well with the fast-paced tempo of the Suns' offense; and they could both benefit Phoenix by giving the Suns added scoring off the bench as well, which was something the Suns struggled to find consistently last season.

Could these players help the Suns compete this year? Sure, but they won't make enough of a difference by themselves. If the Suns hope to be a competitive team this season they will need to find increased production in the post by a player other than Gortat. If Morris, Frye, Lopez, or Warrick can step up and contribute more on the inside, Brown and Telfair could certainly help solidify our back-up guard positions while Nash and Dudley are off the floor.

The bottom line is that with one-year deals, no one is expecting either of these players to be a long-term solution or a building block for the future, but they could both turn out to be sound additions to the roster for this season, if nothing else.


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