Position Breakdown: Point Guard
Posted: Sept. 29, 2008
Following a workout last week at the US Airways Center, Suns Head Coach Terry Porter was asked a number of questions in regards to the team’s lineup for the upcoming season. Said the new head coach with a smile, “I can tell you who will be starting at our point guard position, that’s pretty secure.” Security doesn’t even begin to describe what All-Star point guard Steve Nash provides the Phoenix Suns, but best of all for the ballclub is that this season the two-time MVP will have some help. With pure backup point guards Goran Dragic and Sean Singletary in place, Nash can finally be the recipient of rest during the regular season. It’s one of the many reasons the Suns like their chances heading into the 2008-09 campaign.
In terms of evaluating his value to the Suns, there isn’t much that hasn’t already been said about two-time MVP Steve Nash. Since rejoining the franchise prior to the 2004-05 campaign, Nash has not only helped the Suns return to the top of the NBA’s Pacific Division – but also atop the list of the league’s most popular teams.
His run-and-gun ability is primarily responsible for that, and has become a philosophical staple of Phoenix Suns basketball. While the organization has encouraged a fast-paced style of play for decades, rarely has it been done with the speed and flair Nash brings to the table. Those attributes have not only helped to enhance the games of the people around him, but helped the Phoenix franchise gain popularity on a global scale.
“I see more and more young players trying to impersonate Steve Nash, which is a good thing,” Suns General Manager Steve Kerr said. “Steve’s game is all about making other people better which helps make him great for the culture of the game. He’s inspiring young basketball players out there to become better, more unselfish players and has really helped to transcend the game.”
While he may not have received the national attention that players like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James received last year, Nash was again one of the league’s top players, finishing with averages of 16.9 points and 11.1 assists per ball game. As he has in the past, the playmaker turned in some very memorable performances during the 2007-08 campaign, including a 37-point, 10-assist contest against the Bucks on Jan. 22 and a 25-point, 13-assist game against the Grizzlies on Feb. 26. No surprise that both performances would come in winning efforts for the Suns.
But as Suns Head Coach Terry Porter points out, no stat sheet can properly measure what Nash means to this team.
“He’s Mr. MVP not just because of his individual efforts, but because of his ability to control games,” Porter said. “He knows how to run a team and knows how to make sure the tempo of the game remains in your team’s favor.”
“He’s the engine that runs the team,” Suns assistant coach Alvin Gentry added. “Obviously the guy’s a two-time MVP, but he’s also the heart of this ball club.”
The importance of a good heart is precisely why the playing time accumulated by Nash will be a major focal point for the organization this season.
“His health is going to be important this year which is why we’re looking so much into different ways we can cut back on his minutes,” Gentry said. “We just want to make sure he’s not worn when the season ends and we head into the playoffs.”
When the Suns’ front office learned they had secured the rights to Slovenian guard Goran Dragic on draft night, the war room on the fourth floor of the US Airways Center erupted. Through just a few practices with the team, it’s easy to see what all the excitement was about.
With a quick first step and a leaping ability one has to see to believe, the left hander has drawn some early comparisons to a current Spurs All-Star.
“When I watch him I kind of see him as a Manu Ginobili-type player who plays the point guard position,” Suns scout John Shumate said. “He’s a 6-4 point guard who is going to help give Steve Nash some rest. He’s a tough kid with a really nice feel for the game and some nice athleticism. He really has an opportunity to be a star in the future and we’re very glad to have him.”
Suns assistant coach Dan Majerle has worked closely with the second-round pick this summer and likes what he has seen.
“It seems like the sky’s the limit for him,” Majerle said. “He’s young, very happy to be here and I love the attitude he’s shown me so far this offseason.”
With the team’s coaching staff already backing him, Dragic also has another incredible asset in his corner in the form of a two-time MVP. While it’s yet to be seen how close a teacher-student relationship he and Nash will develop this season, Majerle certainly believes that having No. 13’s locker nearby will only help Dragic throughout his rookie campaign.
“He has a great opportunity playing behind Steve. Nash is a player he’s idolized so Dragic is not only getting a chance to play in the NBA but to learn from one of the best. It’s a great situation for him.”
But as Suns Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin points out, Dragic is already heading into his rookie season with a bit more maturity and experience than others in his class.
“Goran is not your typical rookie,” Griffin said. “He’s a little more worldly, speaks four languages and having lived in multiple countries, he’s probably more prepared for the riggers of the league compared to most rookies coming in.”
The 22-year-old Dragic has spent time professionally in both Slovenia and Spain, and in 2007-08 averaged 11.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists in Adriatic Play. Included among the contests was a 24-point performance which saw Dragic shoot 10-for-12 from the field against Zveda. The left-handed shooter also competed at the 2007 European Championships in Madrid, Spain, as well as the 2006 FIBA World Championships in Japan.
“We think he has a chance to someday be our starting point guard,” Suns General Manager Steve Kerr said. “It’s difficult adding a guy who can fill the role of point guard, but we feel he has an excellent chance at doing that and are thrilled to have gotten him.”
The Suns pulled off just one trade during the 2008 offseason, a transaction that brought them a six-foot rookie by the name of Sean Singletary. So what is it about Singletary that was so desirable? According to Suns General Manager Steve Kerr, it’s a combination of both collegiate experience, as well as, ability.
“Sean’s a pure point guard,” Kerr said. “We really liked DJ Strawberry as a wing defender, but we felt we needed another pure point guard on our roster. Sean showed he can be that at Virginia and we feel he has a chance to have an impact on our team this season.”
While his ability to distribute the basketball was a major selling point for Singletary, the youngster showed at Virginia he also can also score with the best of them. This wasn’t exhibited any better than on March 1 when the product out of Pennsylvania dropped a career-high 41 points against the Miami Hurricanes.
The sociology major would go on to finish his career at Virginia fifth on the all-time scoring list and is the only player in ACC’s history to finish with 2,000 points, 500 assists, 400 rebounds and 200 steals.
Following his college career as a Cavalier, Singletary wowed scouts at the NBA’s pre-draft camp, where he enjoyed an assist-to-turnover ratio of 5-1. That effort combined with his play in college helped make Singletary a second-round pick in 2008, selected by the Sacramento Kings with the 42nd overall pick. The point guard was then shipped to Houston in the Ron Artest deal before ultimately making his way to the Valley. Now on his third NBA team before ever playing an NBA game, both Singletary and the Suns are confident the youngster won’t be filing any more change-of-address forms anytime soon.
“I watched Sean a lot in college last season and saw a young player who will help bring us a lot of energy,” Suns assistant coach Igor Kokoskov said. “He’s a team-oriented guy who plays hard every night. Best of all he has an opportunity to watch from the best in Steve Nash.”
Singletary was the third rookie added to the Suns this offseason along with an international guard in Goran Dragic and a Stanford big man Robin Lopez. How much time Singletary with see with the Suns and their D-League affiliate the Albuquerque Thunderbirds remains to be seen, but Senior Suns Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin said there is one thing the trio of Suns rookies will have in common this season.
“I think the three rookies we’ve added to the roster this summer go in line with everything we’ve done to build the team these past three or four years. Chemistry and character matter a lot and these three kids fit the bill,” Griffin said. “Sean is a very intelligent, very bright kid who I think is going to adapt well to this league.”
Suns Acquire Sean Singletary