As we are trying to do whenever possible, I asked a few questions of Seth Pollack from SBNation's Suns blog, Bright Side of the Sun. I must admit, I have very little feel for this Suns team. They're Steve Nash and a bunch of other guys at this point. So Seth's answers were crucial in helping me understand what to look for in tonight's game.
Seth Pollack: Some of it is the inevitable cycle of life and steady advance age and a lot of it is the result of decisions the team made over the past few years. Since Nash came back to Phoenix, he played with Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire, Jason Richardson, Shaq and Shawn Marion and all of those guys are now gone and really all the Suns have to show for it is Marcin Gortat and the 13th pick, Markieff Morris.
The Suns gambled in 2009 and 2010 and didn't trade Nash or Amare and it paid off in getting to the WCF in 2010 but the result was getting nothing back for Amare and holding on to Nash past the point he could have netted a good package of players like the Nuggets or Jazz got for their stars. Things were compounded in the summer of 2010 when Robert Sarver didn't replace Steve Kerr as GM and went on to give bad contracts to Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick and made a horrible trade for Hedo Turkoglu.
Steve: In the inevitable rebuilding process, whenever it starts, who are the keepers from the current roster? I've got Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris. Is that really it?
Seth: Pretty much and I would add in Jared Dudley and Channing Frye. Both are decent role players that would have a job on most teams. Neither are exactly building blocks but they do provide some continuity of culture and are solid pros so they are worth having around. You can see the lack of those type of players on a team like the Kings.
Steve: Nash is an amazing player and a class act all the way. In the midst of Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul and Dwight Howard whining their way out of much better situations than the one in Phoenix, the two time MVP has never said a word about wanting to be traded, even though he is asked the question constantly. What do you think the future holds for Nash? How many more years does he have in the NBA? Will he leave Phoenix? If he does leave and you could pick the perfect destination for him, where would that be (and I know you wouldn't say the Lakers, but do NOT say the Lakers)?
Seth:I WON'T say the Lakers.
I think Steve can easily play two more productive seasons and maybe more. But here's the thing that doesn't get discussed much -- his numbers are very much a product of the system. I don't see him being as productive or happy on a team like the Heat or even the Blazers.
In Phoenix he's allowed to play the game the way he likes to play it. Obviously, New York would offer the same IF D'Antoni stays. I would think the Raptors would be another place that would value him so much that they would let him dominate the ball and not worry about his defense.
The Suns will have cap space this summer and not that many free agent options to spend it on. I suspect the Suns will offer him a two-year deal at around $8m to $10m per which is more than the MLE and more than many other teams (that he would consider) can offer. My prediction is that he stays and finishes his career with the Suns.
Steve: The days of 7SOL are long gone. The 2012 Suns are 10th in the NBA in pace, 10th in three pointers attempted and made, a little below the NBA average in three point percentage. Does the current team have an identity? What is it?
Seth: Not really. They are trying to get better defensively and have made some progress but they still are a horrible rebounding team. The offensive efficiency is down because the talent isn't there. The Suns still run a ton of pick and roll which is pretty much all you can say about them. In other words, their identity is Steve Nash.