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Thirteen Degrees Of Suns Separation

Seven new players on the twelve man roster means chemistry is nonexistent, but in the Suns case there is a lot of familiarity across the roster.

2012 Phoenix Suns roster is a game of connect the dots
2012 Phoenix Suns roster is a game of connect the dots

The Phoenix Suns are more daft than they are being given credit for. Sure, they have assembled a team that is loaded with new faces and returns only three players that have been with the team longer than one full season. But this team is more than just miscellaneous spare parts from other teams. This team has an interesting theme of prior work history.

As stated in the theory of Six Degrees of Separation everyone is "six steps" away from each other and in-turn we all know each other through someone else.

For the Suns it is more or less one degree of separation, but we will call it thirteen degrees of separation to show the chemistry that this team should have in small pockets or groups. Once the small groups turn into a larger group also known as a team then they can begin to click and work together as the fans in the valley are used to seeing a well oiled machine on the court.


The subtle theme to this team is a rag-tag group of players that have prior history playing with each other in some way shape or form in the past whether it was for a full season or a portion of a season.

Of course Jared Dudley, Channing Frye, Shannon Brown, Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris, and Sebastian Telfair all played together last year with the Suns. New-old face Goran Dragic should start at point guard and has a season and a half of experience with likely starting power forward Luis Scola. With Dragic as his distributor in Houston Scola averaged nearly a full point and assist more per game while shooting right at his season average.

Dudley and Brown also played together for a year (19 games) in Charlotte in 2008 creating mild chemistry for this upcoming season on top of playing with the Suns last year. They are the teams' only two shooting guards, which a whole other story in itself as well as an an interesting side plot to this season as the team tries to figure out whom to go to for buckets late in the shot-clock.

Dragic obviously played with a few current Suns including two months with Gortat, a season and a half with Frye, and what amounts to two seasons with Dudley.

Four others had some experience with each other outside of Phoenix. For the last two seasons Wesley Johnson and Michael Beasley played together on the Minnesota Timberwolves. Playing similar roles on that team led to one starting over the other (Beasley in 2011 and Johnson in 2012). They were joined by Telfair for 37 games in the 2011 season as well even starting eight games together. They could all be a major part of the second unit playing together once again.

Beasley might be the moderator -- take that for what it is worth -- of the team having played with Johnson and Telfair, but also having played on the Miami Heat as a starter for nearly a season and a half with the newest member of the Suns Jermaine O'Neal from 2008-2010.

This summer Morris, rookie Kendall Marshall, and journeyman P.J. Tucker gained a nice rhythm as they learned each other's games night in and night out.


After some extensive connect the dots the unfamiliar new-look Suns actually have a lot of indirect experience playing with each other. Does this mean the Suns best line-up next year will be Telfair, Johnson, Beasley, O'Neal, and insert player X here? Or Dragic, Brown, Dudley, Scola, and Gortat? No, but camp should be a fun time catching up and sharing inside jokes building that well known comradely that this team has had for years before the overhaul.

With the future looking mediocre at best these days the little things that provide positivity about the coming season for the team are important inside and outside the organization.

Adding O'Neal was the team's final move in a very active offseason. He adds another big man capable of playing center with a different style than the incumbents -- Gortat and Frye. If the miracle training staff can work their magic on O'Neal like they have in the past with Grant Hill, Steve Nash, Shaquille O'Neal, and most recently Michael Redd then the Suns may have a steal in their second attempt at a former All-Star named O'Neal.

O'Neal is a 16 year veteran who has not seen his best days as of late. In his eight years with the Indiana Pacers he averaged 18.6 PPG and 9.6 RPG as a mainstay at the All-Star game making six consecutive appearances on that stage. Since leaving Indiana he has made pit stops in Toronto, Miami, and Boston as a rotational big man, but overall a shell of his former self.

Injuries have limited O'Neal as a player while age has made up the difference in making him the player he is today. Over the summer he flew to Germany to have the Orthokine Treatment - made famous by Kobe Bryant last summer - on both of his knees in preparation for a comeback this season. Originally it looked like O'Neal was going to sign in Los Angeles with the Lakers, but took the Suns offer instead.

Having a veteran like O'Neal on the roster to help balance the youth will be big on and off the court as this new era lacks leadership and direction. Who will be the one to rally the group together before camp, make sure everyone is eating right and training right? Everyone has played with someone on this team so they should all be comfortable with each others style and leadership methods, or at the very least have each other's number.

With the NBA being a small, but privileged fraternity it is not uncommon for the new Suns to be just a degree or two away from each other or to have the entire roster familiar with the rest of the purple and orange gang. Time to see if those degrees translate to wins.