Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
A lot of this year is going to involve discussing or prefacing discussions with last year. As Alvin Gentry begins to put his rotations together he has big voids to fill and endless questions to answer.
The biggest question with this team falls upon the judgment of head coach Alvin Gentry to use a chess-like mindset to figure out how to make all these pieces become a team. One idea he can throw out the window is going back to the well as most of it is 300 miles west of him now.
With those three on the floor for a collective 746.5 minutes )while flanked by Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley) the team went 26-15 (63.4%) with a +/- of +208 over the course of 41 games. Comparing the Suns to say the most used line-up by the Heat (22-14 and +108) or the Thunders most used line-up (22-18 and +81) makes it pretty clear that the team will be missing a lot going into this season.
All of that is relative to this newer group especially when looking at the line-up data where one common theme made itself irrefutably know; Dudley, Gortat, and Shannon Brown play really well together. Those "glass half full" pundits will point out that their production was because of Nash and Hill, and a to a lesser degree Frye, but the replacements are more than just mere plug-ins.
Those three, ideally, would be the other three players joining the starting rotation to begin the season.
Dragic's success in Houston came with a good athlete and shooter in Courtney Lee on the perimeter with him, a versatile wing in Chandler Parsons, Luis Scola on the block, and a defensive minded center in Marcus Camby and Samuel Dalembert.
Well upgrade Parsons and Dalembert to Dudley and Gortat for him this year with Brown showing some real promise as a starter last year and this group is an improvement for Dragic talent wise.
So who do the Suns start?
Dragic - Brown - Dudley - Scola - Gortat
In terms of leadership, familiarity, and overall balance this line-up makes the most sense as the starting unit. This is a basketball starting line-up. No set five is good enough to hold down the amount of minutes previous Suns teams had to play, but to start and close out a game -- on paper -- this is the best basketball group.
Brown stretches the floor for Dragic on the perimeter as an improved shooter over the past three seasons. During those 223 games Brown connected on 34.1% of his threes improving by about 1.5% each season and shot 39.2% as a starter in 26 games. He is also the closest thing to a prototyle two in this league that the team has to offer.
The front-court will be interesting because Scola and Gortat are the best duo coming into the year, but Gortat has a lot to prove post Nash. Last year 80% of Gortat's field goals in the paint were assisted on meaning only 1/5 baskets he scored came from post moves or individual effort. Flip that around to look at Scola where only 36% of his points inside where assisted on. They should be able to balance each other out in that Scola is an excellent passer out of the post.
This allows Beasley to be the bench scorer taking pressure off of the young bench to get buckets.
Dragic - Dudley - Beasley - Scola - Gortat
For either line-up Dudley has to be the rock. That may be a lot of pressure, but when you look at all the "What If" scenarios on this team he is not one of them. The ability to play the two and the three gives the coaching staff the flexibility to start either Brown or Beasley on the wing.
Starting Beasley gives the team more of an offensive punch, but also brings a ball-stopper into a unit traditionally known for swift effective movement. Also, Beasley is an effective scorer as a starter. In 177 games over his career he averages 16.7 PPG as a starter, which is +3.5 from his role as a reserve.
The rotation spots on the bench are a lot more up in the air. When putting together the starting line-up it has to be kept in mind how Beasley and Wesley Johnson did not play well together. Of course the talent around them is going to be different those two as a combination on the court together did not compliment each other.
Having Brown come off the bench means there will be very limited (proven) play-makers on the court putting most of those eggs in the starters basket.
How does the bench shape up?
The first three off the bench have to be Markieff Morris, Brown/Beasley, and Sebastian Telfair at this point. Unless rookie Kendall Marshall takes the job in the pre-season Telfair has never looked better during his eight year career and deserves the opportunity to replicate last season. With Morris's potential ability to switch between the four and the five this season will be a test for him as he will be leaned on to do that in spot duty without Channing Frye.
Working in the quartet of Wesley Johnson, Jermaine O'Neal, P.J. Tucker, and a potential training camp invite will be difficult. Unlike his predecessor, Coach Gentry utilizes his reserves and will work them into the rotation, but minutes may be sparse once you get this deep into the roster. O'Neal provides a stabilizing force in minor minutes off the bench, but with Gortat, Scola, Morris, and even Beasley in some spot duty.
This group provides a lot of flexibility or as some call it versatility, but it also opens up a Pandora's Box worth of questions that need to be answered.