2013-14 Suns Position Previews
With the roster finalized and the season set to begin, the Suns are ready to stop talking and start showing what is being billed as the first chapter of a new era.
The offseason changes were many. The returning cast members are few. Even the uniforms are different. The result has been a noted air of optimism for the future, spearheaded by newly acquired young talent, draft picks and financial flexibility.
The last two have run their offseason course. Management has done the heavy lifting. Now it is the players’ turn, a fact they are tired of discussing and ready to start showing.
"I'm ready to start playing with everybody," Eric Bledsoe said. "Everybody brings something to the table. Just to see it in practice, I just want to see how it translates in the game."
With that in mind, here’s a position-by-position preview of the “New-Look” Suns heading into the 2013-14 campaign:
While both have primarily manned the point in their respective careers, Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek has repeatedly compared the pairing to another Phoenix guard duo: himself and former All-Star Kevin Johnson.
“Goran’s about the same size I was,” Hornacek said. “He’s faster than I was. Eric and Kevin are pretty similar players in the way they can get the ball up the court. They’re strong. They can jump. Hopefully they can really turn up the heat. There’s going to be a mismatch somewhere.”
Dragic and Bledsoe showed an immediate ability to play both guard spots interchangeably in the preseason. The Slovenian playmaker scored 20 points against the Clippers while his counterpart dished out seven assists. The two flip-flopped a week later, when Dragic finished with eight assists and Bledsoe scored 21.
Archie Goodwin has the highest profile of the backcourt backups. The 29th overall pick in this year’s draft, the 19-year-old offers a jolt of athleticism matched only by his passion for the game. His jump shot is still a work in progress, but he showed his ability to get hot within the flow of the game in the preseason, logging two double-digit scoring fourth quarters.
Journeyman sharpshooter Dionte Christmas provides much-needed outside shooting and confidence on the perimeter, while Ish Smith will see spot minutes at point guard.
Consistency and competition will sort out this position group, and probably more than once. Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker and Marcus Morris bring different skill sets to the forward positions. Green can shoot (53 percent from three in the preseason). Tucker plays defense (1.7 steals per preseason game). Morris does a little bit of everything.
What helps this trio stay out of each other’s way is its versatility. Green can slide to shooting guard. Morris and Tucker can shift to power forward. Such options allow Hornacek to solve matchup issues on the defensive end, whether it’s going small with Morris at the “four” or playing a big lineup with Green or Tucker at the “two.”
Perhaps more important of all, all three players have incentive to play well. Green is intent on proving his all-around play and shedding his dunk-first image. Tucker wants to further solidify his place in the NBA after breaking through a year ago. Morris will seek to establish consistency.
Either way, the small forward group offers enough pieces for Hornacek to plug in on an as-needs basis.
No position will look more different than the post. Even “returning” veteran Channing Frye is somewhat of a new face after sitting out last season with heart complications.
Miles Plumlee is the new standout in this group after riding a wave of momentum from his offseason workout regime and good showings at training camp and in the preseason. The second-year center has improved his outside shooting touch and low-post game enough to earn the starting nod in the middle. Combine those skills with his raw athleticism, and he’s a candidate to surprise a lot of fans this season.Frye’s sooner-than-expected return has ignited optimism within the franchise and for the Suns offense. With Dragic and Bledsoe slashing to the rim, expect the Valley native to thrive.
Markieff Morris returns with a renewed desire to punish opponents both in the paint and with his outside shooting. No. 5 overall pick Alex Len will have plenty of opportunities to play, and Slava Kravtsov provides an extra big body in the middle.