Position Breakdown: Point Guards
It makes sense that Goran Dragic returned to Phoenix in 2012.
Known affably around the locker room as “The Dragon,” it’s fitting because 2012 just so happens to be the Year of Dragon in the Chinese zodiac.
When Dragic was drafted by the Suns in 2008, it was hoped that he would be the franchise’s next great point guard. After heading to Houston for a season and a half to become a starter, the Slovenian playmaker seems ready to inherit that responsibility.
“He’s a much better all-around player than when he left here,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said. “He’s shooting the ball better, he’s a better free throw shooter and he’s getting to the basket and getting fouled more. I see that he’s made a big jump from being here and doing what he has done in that year and a half in Houston.”
Last season with the Rockets, Dragic averaged career highs in scoring (11.7), assists (5.3), rebounds (2.5), steals (1.3) and minutes (26.5) while appearing in all 66 games. As a starter, he thrived even more, averaging 18.0 points, 8.4 assists and 1.82 steals.
The only other NBA player with at least those numbers over the full season in 2011-12 was Clippers guard and First Team All-NBA selection Chris Paul.
"He's a lot more confident than when he was first here," said Gentry said. "I think he feels like he truly belongs. I feel like he thinks he can be an elite guard in the league and that confidence can only help."
After spraining his ankle before training camp, the 6-3 guard is fully recovered and enjoying an impressive preseason. In just 20 minutes a game, “Gogi” is posting 8.5 points and 5.3 assists on 51-percent shooting from the floor and 40-percent shooting from three-point land.
Already familiar with what Gentry wants out of the offense, it appears that Dragic is building off the end of last season, where he earned Western Conference Player of the Week honors last April for totaling 20.7 points, 8.3 assists and 2.67 a game during a week of action.
Although 2012 was the Year of the Dragon, 2013 could be the Year of the Point Guard in Phoenix.
Telfair won the Majerle Hustle Award last season.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
For Sebastian Telfair last season, it was a tale of two seasons.
After losing his backup point guard role to Ronnie Price, Telfair responded with a vengeance, winning back his job and anchoring the second unit.
Only 27 years old, Telfair is entering his ninth NBA season after coming out of high school in 2004. Last season, the former Brooklyn prep star averaged 6.1 points, 2.3 assists, 1.5 rebounds and 0.68 steals in 14.9 minutes a night.
“'Bassy' is one of those guys that loves to play,” Gentry said. “He loves to be out there and he loves to play in practice.”
By applying constant on-ball pressure on defense and adding another level of intensity when he’s on the court, Telfair became the recipient of the team’s 2011-12 Dan Majerle Hustle Award. The honor was chosen by fans, employees, players, the coaching staff and Majerle himself.
“He’s a pest on defense,” Gentry said. “He makes it really frustrating for whoever he’s defending to bring up the ball.”
But it’s all about how he ended the season. The 6-0 floor general averaged 3.2 points and 1.9 assists in February, 5.8 points and 2.5 assists in March and 10.3 points and 3.3 assists in April. In the last 11 games of the season he averaged 12.4 points and 3.9 assists on 55-percent shooting from the field.
After an offseason in which he worked out at US Airways Center more than any other player, the Suns are expecting Telfair to pick up where he left off last season. With his familiarity in the system and his confidence to execute within it, expect this season to be only the best of times for Telfair.
Marshall led the ACC in assists both seasons he played in college.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
Before Kendall Marshall was selected by the Suns with the 13th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the last Tar Heel chosen by Phoenix in the draft was Ring of Honor member and six-time All-Star Walter Davis.
Davis, known as “The Greyhound,” earned a reputation for being a remarkable open-court player that thrived in a run-and-gun offensive system. The Suns are hoping that one day Marshall can take a page from his UNC alum.
“He represents everything we want to be,” Suns General Manager Lance Blanks said. “If you look at his background and his history, he’s a winner, and that’s exactly what we want to be here, are winners.”
The 6-4 playmaker, who set an ACC single-season record by dishing out 9.8 assists a game last season, is best known for his outstanding court vision and deft passing. After leading the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League in assists per game, one can see why.
However, as a rookie, Marshall will have the opportunity to learn from both Dragic and Telfair. A cerebral player, Mashall is known more for his decision-making than his overwhelming athleticism.
“I can tell you right now, we did not get Kendall for his athleticism and Kendall knows that,” Blanks said with a smile. “We got him for his brain, his ability to make people better and for the locker room. This young man is very special in every way. I’m not sure we can make him more athletic, but he’s all 10s everywhere else as a basketball player and as a person.”
The 2012 Bob Cousy Award winner for the nation’s top point guard as a sophomore in 2011-12 has adapted well to picking up the offense and the up-tempo Suns style. He says that his days in Carolina prepared him for that.
Now, only time will tell how far that will take him.
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