Regardless of whether or not you considered Sun Tzu a player worthy of a maximum contract, his impact (or lack thereof) will be felt in Phoenix during the 2010-2011 season. The Suns didn't do a whole hell of a lot to replace him just yet, so most fans of the team are starting to wonder, "Yo, what up wit dat?"
That's 23.1 points and 8.9 rebounds that are now MIA. Who on the current roster (provided the Suns don't complete a sign-and-trade for David Lee in the next few days) is going to step into that void and man up for the Suns next year?
Your candidates after the jump.
Robin Lopez. The Afro'd One developed a lot during the past season once he was inserted into the starting line-up and before his back injury took him down, averaging 11.3 points and 6.2 rebounds. He showed he has some moves down low (though still somewhat limited) and is a more-than-capable finisher in pick-and-roll situations. Will he become an offensive focus, given his surprise adeptness at putting the ball in the hoop?
Goran Dragic. The Slovenian Dragon also stepped up his development last season. We found out the kid's got a nice scoring touch when the need arises. He had a 32-point outburst against the Utah Jazz and everyone who cares at all about the NBA remembers his 23-point fourth quarter against the Spurs in the playoffs. It seems likely that Nash will play less and Dragic will play more next season. Will Goran put more points on the board during his time?
Earl Clark. Earl didn't get the chance to show much of anything last season, suffering through a pretty horrendous rookie season like teammates Lopez and Dragic did during theirs. Clark is almost a lock to get extended playing time during the coming season and everyone's hoping he'll make a similar sophomore jump. He's probably got the most upside and talent of all the young Suns. Will he meet his potential?
Hakim Warrick. He's the guy the Suns signed to replace Amar'e. (Kidding. Despite what everyone thinks, Warrick was not brought in to replace STAT, so don't put those unfair expectations on him.) But seriously, most everyone benefits a decent amount from the Nash effect. Warrick, during his best season in ‘06-'07, averaged 12.7 points and 5.1 rebounds in 26.2 minutes per game as a backup and has been mostly underutilized since then. Given that he will likely be a starter this season and he'll be playing with a true playmaking PG, will his numbers make a jump?
There are a couple of other candidates in Jason Richardson, Leandro Barbosa, and Jared Dudley. However, we'll take J-Rich's production as a given, since he was already one of the "Big Three" of last year's team; Barbosa is likely to be traded before next season starts; and Jared Dudley is an excellent sixth man who's likely to stay in that role.
So, who do you think is going to make the difference next year?