Land Of The Rising Suns

Last month, I did a little write up of the Phoenix Suns. With the Suns heading into New York on Tuesday, it’s seems like as good a time as any to revisit that column, and see how my analysis has stood up over time.

The Suns main weakness is their bench. The Suns 5 starters are averaging 37 minutes a game, because they don’t have good options coming off the bench. If one of their starters hits the IR, the team will loose a good amount of production.

True. Phoenix lost all 4 games that Nash missed due to injury. The Suns just don’t have the bench to pick up the slack. Any team that has to replace their All Star starter (22.6 PER) with a below average player is liable to drop a few. Now some people have gone too far saying this is proof that Nash should be the league’s MVP. Hogwash. Nash’s backup, Barbosa, is sporting a minor-league PER of 9.5. Name me one team that can keep winning after replacing an NBA All Star with the Brazilian League Rookie of the Year for 2002?

I’m not saying that Nash isn’t a great player, or shouldn’t be considered for the MVP. He’s an excellent player, one of the best on his team, and maybe the best PG in the game right now. However arguing that 4 games in January is proof of anything really doesn’t hold water outside of a sports “debate” show.

Phoenix still has a few chips to cash in. Although they owe a future first to San Antonio (protected), they also own the Bulls first round pick (protected top 3). The way the Bulls are playing it would be a waste to trade that pick for only a bench player or two.

False. Chicago’s New Year resolution of “not sucking” has worked. The Baby Bulls are 11-2 since the ball dropped. That pick looked liked like a great bonus for a team that could go to the Finals, but now is a mid-rounder at best. With an average offense, Chicago’s suffocating defense should keep their front office from playing ping pong in June. Unfortunately for the Suns, the pick that could have netted them another stud will now be better served if they cashed it in for better odds at winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Luckily for Arizonians, the Suns also have a pair of European prospects with the teenage Maciej Lampe and the rights to Milos Vujanic, who’s still enjoying his European Vacation. Before the trade deadline is over, Bryan Colangelo might have to make that tough decision to sacrifice some of that youth for a better bench for a championship run, because the Suns are in a good position to win one this year.

True. The Suns recently traded Lampe, along with Jacobson & Vroman to the Hornets for vagabond Jimmy Jackson. Jackson will provide the media with the veteran presence they need to write about, and he’ll provide the Suns with deadly outside shooting. Consider that he hasn’t shot less than 40% from beyond the arc in 3 years, and Phoenix attempts the most treys in the NBA, and it’s a match made in heaven.

For an NBA elite team that has dropped 6 of their last 7, Phoenix is still in a good position. Despite a slip in the standings, the Suns post season prospects are better off today than they were when I wrote about them for numerous reasons. The first is they acquired a legitimate 6th man in Jackson, who will fit in their Wild West shooting gang. Secondly, they still have tradeable assets to patch up their weak bench. Lots of teams might be interested in the Bulls pick, even though it’s lost a lot of it’s value since December. Jackson’s arrival means that the Joe Johnson rumors will pick up steam heading into the deadline. It’s possible that some team will take a shot at getting Milos Vujanic to stop listening to David Bowie, and come play in the NBA.

Finally, the Jackson deal shows that management is willing to part with their youth to win it all. Lots of teams play it conservative, trying not to ruin “team chemistry”, or don’t have anything left to use as bait. Right now the Suns are still holding all of the chips.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).