Position Breakdown: Small Forwards
When Suns head coach Alvin Gentry talks about forward Michael Beasley, the word versatility usually follows shortly after.
At 6-10, the former No. 2 overall selection in the 2008 NBA Draft can score both in the paint and on the perimeter.
Just two seasons ago, Beasley averaged over 19 points a game for Minnesota and will be asked to add some offensive punch to the lineup this season.
“I don’t know if we look for him inside or outside but I think we’ve got to have the ball in his hands,” Gentry said. “I told him that he needs to take a fair amount of shots for us. He has to become more of a rhythm player, and I think he’s getting there, but I don’t want him to play so cautiously.”
Since arriving in Phoenix, Beasley has played the role of considerate teammate, looking to get others involved and attempting to master a new offensive system. Although a positive trait, the Suns’ coaches would like to see him play more selfishly.
“I want him to be a little bit more aggressive with his offense and take a few more chances,” Gentry added. “I think he’s trying to be a pleaser and I don’t want a pleaser. I want him to attack the rim and take the shots that are available.”
The Suns’ coaching staff sees Beasley as someone that can not only play power forward, but both wing positions, as well. His ability to score from anywhere on the court makes him a tough matchup for defenders around the league.
Thus far in the preseason, Beasley is shooting 53 percent from the field and 67 percent from behind the arc. So it appears that he’s finding places in the offense to thrive.
For his career, Beasley is a 15.1 point and 5.6 rebound a game player. However, for as well as he can put the ball in the basket, Gentry thinks that he could be just as valuable on the defensive end.
“He has a pretty good understanding of the game,” the Suns head coach said. “And with his athleticism, he’s capable of being a pretty good defender too.”
Now the challenge falls to Gentry. With so many options of how and to where to play Beasley, it will be interesting to see how the heady coach ultimately decides to utilize him.
Johnson has shot the ball extremely well from
long range this preseason.
There are several players on this roster that want their former teams to feel like they made a mistake by letting them go. Count Suns swingman Wes Johnson as a member of that group. p> The 6-7 Johnson, who was the No. 4 overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft, was acquired by Phoenix during a busy offseason for the club. Thus far, Johnson has been a pleasant surprise for the Suns’ coaching staff.
“His ballhandling is a lot better than I thought, although it needs work because we want him to be a screen-and-roll player,” Gentry said. “His defense is better than I thought, too.”
After a solid rookie season that saw Johnson average 9.0 points and 3.0 rebounds to go along with 36-percent shooting from downtown, his numbers slightly dipped during his second year. Now, with a coach that will only substitute him out for not shooting, Johnson appears to be comfortable heading into this season.
Although he’s only appeared in two preseason games, Johnson is averaging 15 points and four rebounds a game while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 39 percent from behind the arc.
“It’s just a matter of him understanding that the coaching staff has complete confidence in him,” Gentry said. “He’s a guy that confidence means everything to and he knows how we feel about him. He knows how much we wanted him here and I think he feels good about that.”
Due to his length and foot speed, the former AP First Team All-American and Big East Player of the Year will move between both wing positions. His athleticism will also allow the Suns’ coaching staff to have him defend all three perimeter positions.
Lastly, if Suns fans are looking for a highlight reel guy because of his ability to rise, look no further than the former Syracuse Orangeman. His 37-inch vertical and 7-1 wingspan should make for some interesting SportsCenter moments this season.
Tucker has brought defense and intensity to this
Sometimes people always aren’t aware of what they have until it’s gone. Suns small forward P.J. Tucker considers himself one of those people.
Originally drafted with the 35th overall pick in 2006 by the Toronto Raptors, Tucker lasted 21 games before beginning a professional basketball odyssey that took him everywhere from Puerto Rico to the Ukraine. After six years of playing ball around the world, he’s finally back in the NBA.
And the reason he’s back in the NBA is because of his energy.
“He’s just an intense guy,” Gentry said. “He’s a very good defender and he’s a guy that can bang with almost anyone.”
In the German League last year, Tucker averaged 16.2 points and 7.1 rebounds in 44 games and was named the MVP of the German Finals. The former Big 12 Player of the Year at Texas was plucked off the Suns’ summer league roster after averaging 5.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in 21.6 minutes in Las Vegas.
“Since he’s been here (in the NBA), gone away and come back again,” Gentry stated. “He doesn’t want to go away again. I think you’re going to get maximum effort and the best P.J. Tucker that you’re going to get.”
And if he continues to play with the reckless abandon he’s brought to the table this preseason, Suns fans can expect to see why Tucker is back in the NBA.
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