In Part 1 of a two-part interview with Stumbling on Wins author David Berri, the Southern Utah econ professor who uses economics to discover inefficiencies in sports, Berri discusses where the NBA...

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Enough talking about mundane things like where the Suns' next PF is coming from.

Let's take on an earth-shattering topic instead. Think long and hard about the poll question and potential answers, VOTE, and then give us a good explanation WHY.  

Tell us your entire thought process.  Let's make this fun!

Poll
You have to give up one of the following. Which do you relinquish (and tell us why in the comments)?

  655 votes | Results


The Suns have faded in the West. Is this the season the flame is extinguished? ... Prediction: 9th in the West (Chad Ford, ESPN.com)
That said, while I think the Suns can top out in the high 40s, the offense just isn't good enough to carry what will be a terrible, terrible defense. ... Prediction: 39-43 (Kelly Dwyer for Yahoo Sports)

This team is not deep enough to go far in the playoffs, too talented to be blown up. ... Prediction: 10th in the West (Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com)

It is now fair to say the sun has set on the window of opportunity for Phoenix. (Justin Johnson for docsports.com)

Yeah, the 2009-10 Suns sure did stink.  

I hope they carry the same odor into 2010-11.

 

It is always part infuriating and part amusing to see pre-season prognostication totally dismiss the Suns.

It is true that the Suns have never won an NBA championship. It is also true that they have the 4th best all-time winning percentage in the NBA. Over the last 6 seasons, they have won 67.5% of their regular season games, missing the playoffs only one year (after the tumultuous 2008-09 season which saw 2 coaches, a trade of 2 players, and a season-ending injury to a star, while still posting a 56.1% winning percentage).

In this case, it is enjoyable to look back and see that not too many people saw the good things in store for the Suns in the 2009-10 season.

To be fair, I cherry-picked the quotations. The collective wisdom of the ESPN writers and commentators were that the Suns would finish as the 8th seed in the West. Marc Stein predicted them to finish as high as 6th.  

The gold star goes to Tim Kempton who predicted the Suns would finish with over 50 wins (as high as possibly 55-58 if they won all their close games).

In all of the early discussions for the 2010-11 season, I have yet to see anyone mention the Suns.  

You know, the team that won 54 games in 2009-10, finished 3rd in the West, swept the San Antonio Spurs, and lost to the eventual NBA champs in the Western Conference Finals in 6.

Unbelievable. Or should I say, predictable. Even with the Suns finishing well in the regular season, the big name commentators wrote them off time and again in the playoffs. My favorite was when Kenny Smith was asked to compare the 2009-10 Suns to the early Suns team; he said the 2004-05 Suns had a better bench. I couldn't believe this guy actually gets paid to give his opinion. It was pretty clear that Kenny had not spent much time watching the 2009 Suns. I wonder if the playoff run opened his eyes some.

In any event, I was thrilled that the Suns refused to blow things up last summer:

My contrarian opinion is that the Suns are still a highly talented team that is only a break or two away from competing for the big prize, and nonetheless continuing a long successful stretch of fun entertaining basketball.

Additionally, some of their young players got some significant experience and seemed to be playing much better toward the end of the year (especially Dudley and Dragic).  Standing pat I suspect the Suns would have finished above 50 wins and solidly in the playoffs for 2010.

But you say... the Suns did lose their superstar power forward, Amare Stoudemire.

How can the Suns not take a step backward without him around?

Let me tell how:

  • They added 3 solid players (Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, and Hakim Warrick) to the team who would start or come off the bench for any team in the NBA.
  • One of those players, Hedo Turkoglu, was a prize free agent the year before.
  • Anybody remember the 2005-06 season, where we played just about the whole season without Amare and still made the Western Conference Finals? Does anyone doubt that the 2010-11 roster will not be at least as good, if not better than the 2005-06 roster?
  • How many players have had career years playing with Steve Nash? Look out Turkoglu, Childress, and Warrick.
  • The Suns will have the strongest bench in the NBA: 10 players that would start or sub for any team in the NBA.

But... Steve Nash is older.  He has lost a step or two.

I say:

  • Haven't we heard that before? Cuban didn't want to pay Nash what he was worth back in 2004 because he didn't think he could last playing like he did. We know how well that went, as he went on to win 2 MVP titles, 4 NBA Assist titles, made the Conference Finals 3 out of 6 seasons.
  • Last year, he shot over 50% from the field, 42% from 3-pt land, and 93% from the free throw stripe while dishing out a league-leading 11 assists per game. How many other point guards can say that, or anything close to that?
  • With such a deep team, Nash should not have to play as many minutes.  
  • When Nash sits, we will still have an emerging Goran Dragic, and Hedo (and Hill) to help the offense move the ball.

There are, of course, no guarantees.

  • Yes, I think that Nash, Hill, and possibly Richardson will decline some this year.   
  • Yes, I think that Lopez, Dudley, Dragic, and Frye will play at least as good as last year, if not better.  
  • Yes, I think that between Hedo, Childress, and Warrick, we will find 1 or 2 solid, dependable players who will step up.   
  • Yes, I think that Clark and Lawal have a chance to make an impact and get some playing time. 
  • Yes, I think the Suns will field another entertaining team that will have a different set of stars step up from game to game. 
  • Yes, I think the 2010-11 Suns will surprise a lot of people. 
  • Yes, I think the 2010-11 Suns will stink... just like the 2009-10 Suns... I hope.
Poll
What will the Suns do in 2010-11?

  1402 votes | Results

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns were known for possessing a special chemistry on the court last season, and they’re trying to replicate that formula in their revamped front office. “You’ve got...

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These guys are looking at you to hear what you think of them. Seriously. Do it. (Photo by Max Simbron)

These guys are looking at you to hear what you think of them. Seriously. Do it. (Photo by Max Simbron)

View full size photo »

As we trudge further along through the doldrums of the NBA offseason, we find less and less to talk about. The top free agents have signed, the Vegas Summer League is over, and all we have now are chances to speculate about possible trades and where Hedo Turkoglu should find pizza.

It's sad, but it's enough to get by.

This is a chance for everyone to engage in a lively discussion. Everyone loves player evaluations. The "Armchair GM" is one of the most popular positions of the whole sports blog nation (also of SB Nation, coincidentally). So, let's make everyone happy and give everyone the chance to agree with, disagree with, or simply start some genuinely interesting conversation. I'll be using this as the grade guideline: Must Keep, Should Keep, Neutral, Should Trade, and Must Get Rid Of.

I'll go with the starters first, and then move onto the bench players (in order of appearance off the bench). First things first...

STARTERS

Steve Nash: Must Keep

I know that somewhere out there, there are a few people that think that Nash should be traded for whatever we can get for him. These are the people who are also dissatisfied with constantly making the playoffs but always winding up falling a bit short. To these people, I say this: without Steve Nash, this team doesn't even make the playoffs. He is the motor that makes this team go. Oh, and on top of that, with our apparent lack of first round draft picks over the past few years, we wouldn't have even been able to build our team through the draft. We would have just stayed a terrible team with no hope in sight. I don't want to name names, but I'm looking at you, Minnesota. And Golden State. And the Clippers.

Jason Richardson: Should Keep

I know there are a few avid Jason Richardson haters out there, but I think J-Rich should stay. He was one of the more consistent contributors in the playoffs for the Suns. He may have blown a dunk or two in the regular season, but he nailed a banked-in three point attempt to give the Suns a chance at a Game 5 victory vs. the Lakers. He may not be a perfect player, but he works about as hard as anyone else I can think of in the league.

The only reason I don't put Richardson into the "Must Keep" area is his contract. With a very hefty, very expiring $14.4 million contract next season, Jason Richardson looks like a prime trade target for teams looking to create cap space at the trade deadline. This is where the Suns must decide: do they want to trade him for assets, or do they keep him and try and resign him for less next season? My gut goes with the latter, but if the deal is sweet enough, I couldn't fault the organization for taking the former.

Grant Hill: Must Keep

In no way, shape or form should Grant Hill be traded from the Suns. I don't care if we're in the midst of the worst season since the dismal 2003-04 season, Grant Hill should not be traded. I understand that he's on the last legs of his career. I understand that it might be "polite" to send him to a contender at the trade deadline. I get all of that. I just really want to see a great guy retire from our team. I want to see his number retired, even though he will have (probably) spent only 4 years with the team. Grant Hill is one of the league's classiest players, and there's no doubt that he'll be truly appreciated for the player he is. I just want to see that happen in Phoenix.

Hedo Turkoglu: Should Keep

I really have no idea how Hedo is going to fit in with this team. My instincts say that he'll do just fine. However, I throw him into the "Should Keep" category simply because we just traded for him. Nobody wants to be like Quentin Richardson from last summer, bouncing around from town to town. Plus, the guy was great during his final two years in Orlando before being traded to Toronto. Who's to say he won't go right back to who he was with the Magic?

Robin Lopez: Must Keep

In the past, there had been much frustration circling amongst Suns fans and the NBA Draft. I'm going to go ahead and throw a shot in the dark and say that it was because the franchise either sold or traded most of its picks. Maybe. I don't know. Or maybe it was because during the years of 2002-2006, the Suns draft history went as such:

2002: Amar'e Stoudemire, Casey Jacobsen; 2003: Zarko Cabarkapa, acquired rights to Leandro Barbosa; 2004: drafted and traded Luol Deng for Jackson Vroman and some cash; 2005: drafted and traded both Nate Robinson and Marcin Gortat for Kurt Thomas and the rights to Dijon Thompson; 2006: drafted and traded both Rajon Rondo and Sergio Rodriguez.

Aside from the obvious winners (Amar'e and Barbosa), there wasn't much to write home about. Since then, the Suns' draft picks have been a little more encouraging. As in, they actually decided to keep them. Robin Lopez, along with Goran Dragic and possibly Earl Clark, have shown promise and hope - something we haven't seen 'round these parts in awhile.

BENCH

Goran Dragic: Must Keep

The Slovenian Sniper. Dragon. Frosty. You can call Goran Dragic whatever you'd like, but no one can deny the fact that he is shaping up to be a fine young player. As mentioned before, we've seen something out of Dragic that we haven't seen in a long while: promise and hope. Along with that, we've also seen something we've rarely seen in the past 5 years: someone who can adequately back up Steve Nash. And for that, my young, Slovenian friend, you get a gold star. Or a "Must Keep". It's just as good.

Jared Dudley: Neutral

I've been thinking a lot about Jared Dudley over the past few months. Jared Dudley is one of the most spirited, intense, and entertaining players to come off the Suns bench in years. He has developed a penchant for being able to hit shots when the team needed it most. He is the definition of grit and determination. He is the possessor of the most athletic hands in history.

However, right there is where I'm confused about Jared Dudley. He has had a breaking out of sorts with the Phoenix Suns, and is now a known name on the market. Not to knock Jared or anything, but he seems like the kind of guy who absolutely loves the spotlight. He even searches for it. Don't get me wrong - I love Dudley as much as anyone. I'm just not convinced that he won't bolt for greener pastures come contract extension time. Do I think the Suns should look to trade Dudley? No. Conversely, if a team came along offering a pick or two and maybe a young, unproven player? You would most certainly have to listen.

Jared Dudley was invaluable to the 2009-10 Phoenix Suns "Cinderella" team. However, am I convinced that he's truly a Phoenix Sun at heart? No.

Channing Frye: Should Keep

Channing Frye recently inked a 5 year deal with the Suns priced in the neighborhood of $30 million dollars. It goes without saying that the Suns want him to stick around for awhile, and hate all you want, but Channing Frye was one of the most important players on the Suns last season. On most nights, as went Channing, so went the Suns. Frye was one of the main catalysts to the incredible 14-3 start to the season. Once defenses started keying in on him and frustrating his shot, the team struggled. In the playoffs, when Frye shot a dismal 1-20 in the first three games against the Lakers, the team needed a huge performance from Amar'e Stoudemire (42 points) in order to even pull out one game.

The Suns should keep Frye, even if his shooting can be streaky and his defense can leave much to be desired. Why? Because he's a great fit, necessary for the offensive scheme of the team, and can still improve.

Josh Childress: Should Keep

I'm not going to put J-Chill into the "Must Keep" category quite yet, but I have a feeling that come season end, we'll all be putting him there anyway. Ever since the Hawks surprise playoff series against the Boston Celtics, I've wanted Josh Childress in a Suns uniform. Goofy teeth and everything. Three years and one stint in Europe, and he's finally sporting the purple and orange. He's even had a massive dental transformation. Even better.

Hakim Warrick: Neutral

It's hard to judge a player who hasn't even played in a game for your team. I like the idea of Warrick in the Suns system, as it tends to make generally middling players look much better than they actually are. However, his lack of rebounding and defense make me wary. Will he throw down some sick dunks, courtesy of a Steve Nash pass? Of course he will. I'm just not sure what else he'll be able to bring to the table. Jury's still out on this one.

Louis Amundson: Should Trade

Lou Amundson has been one of my favorite Suns players to watch over the past couple years. I know, me and every other Suns fan. However, with this summer's crazy free agency market, Lou may just be out of the Suns' financial reach...and that may not be a bad thing.

There is no doubt that Lou has been an anchor to the defensive unit of this team. He has as much hustle as I've ever seen in an NBA player and plays with tremendous heart. Even still, there are multiple, younger players with more potential that need to be given a fair chance to prove themselves. As much as it will hurt to lose a guy like Lou, it may also help the team.

Earl Clark: Neutral

I'm not sold on Earl Clark. However, I keep remembering how poorly Goran Dragic and Robin Lopez played in their first seasons (and the subsequent Vegas Summer League) and continue to hold out hope for Clark. It would be extremely unfair to Earl to not be given the same chance to prove himself as the other two youngsters. However, I'm not sure Clark has it in him. He's never stricken me as a fierce competitor. I've never seen the fire to get better that I see in other young players in the league. I'm extremely hopeful for the kid, and I would be very disappointed if he didn't turn out to at least be a serviceable player. I just can't say I'm expecting it.

Jarron Collins: Must Get Rid Of

I would have put "Should Trade" for Jarron, but let's face it: no one will make a trade for him. He's even a free agent, so there's no need to even trade for him. (Delusional teams around the league may now rest easy.) He filled in admirably for the injured Robin Lopez, but that was about it. I doubt most Suns fans will realize he's gone.

Taylor Griffin: Must Get Rid Of

Um...this one goes without saying. Plus, I hear he's demanding a trade.

 

There you have it. Since Gani Lawal and Dwayne Collins technically aren't signed to the team, I chose to not include them. The time is now yours to agree with my impeccable logic or straight up bash my every train of thought. I won't mind. I actually welcome it. I dare you.


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