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Phoenix Suns preview: Jermaine O'Neal feels this team is better than last year's

Jermaine O'Neal feels this Suns team can be better than the Suns of old. But is that necessarily true?

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The Suns, who are ready to begin their 2012-13 campaign in a little less than a month, will be trotting out some new faces this season. Steve Nash is gone and so is Grant Hill. Robin Lopez is now a thing of the past, as are veteransJosh Childress and Michael Redd.

This year's Suns are dominated by young faces, players looking to gain redemption in the league and a couple of savvy veterans. One of those players is Jermaine O'Neal, a center who has spent time all around the NBA. Entering his 17th season in the NBA, O'Neal says that he feels as healthy as ever after spending his summer in Germany getting a special treatment on his knees.

His teammates are excited about not only what he can bring to the court, but also the veteran leadership that he brings with him. According to the players on media day, he has already established himself as a figurehead in the locker room.

We should expect him to say all of this. That is what the team was looking for when they signed him to a one-year veteran's minimum deal. What they may not have been expecting were his comments regarding this year's team as compared to 2011's.

In an interview with and Tom Leander, O'Neal stated that this team has the potential to be very good. In fact, they might be so good that they could have a better record than last year. "It's funny because people seem to think that this team worse off than it was last year. And talent-wise, obviously you lost a great player in Steve Nash and also Grant Hill, but overall, one through fifteen, this team is better, talent-wise, than it was last year," O'Neal said.

"Talent doesn't win ball games. It's just going to determine how fast we can bond and mature together. A lot of that is the stability and the leadership. You don't accept failure. You don't accept the smaller issues that come up. You've got to nip those in the bud."

Suns team President of Basketball Operations, Lon Babby also stated that there is, "no question this team is more talented this year than a year ago" according to Bright Side of the Sun's Alex Laugan.

Now, I listened to all of the interviews, and to me, this was the most startling statement. While I think that many are underestimating the talent level of the 2012 Suns, I am not necessarily sure they will be better. Take a player likeMarcin Gortat, for example. Will Goran Dragic be able to run the pick and roll effectively with him? Last year, that is almost exclusively how Gortat did his damage in the scoring column with Nash feeding him the ball.

The same goes for guys like Jared Dudley, Channing Frye (when he returns) and the other spot up shooters. None of these guys are used to creating shots for themselves. Without Nash and even Hill distributing the ball, will they be able to achieve that level of success?

While Suns fans should appreciate what O'Neal stated, they should also take it with a grain of salt. I don't think Suns team is better than last year's. They simply lost too much of the core of their squad.

But will they be better? That is the hope, but it seems unlikely.