With the face of the franchise in point guard Steve Nash gone, the Phoenix Suns take on a whole new look in the 2012-13 campaign. Not only is Nash gone but the team said goodbye to forward Grant Hill, center Robin Lopez, forward Hakim Warrick and forward Josh Childress. One of the most active teams this off-season, the Suns welcome guard Goran Dragic, forward Michael Beasley, swingman Wesley Johnson and center Luis Scola to the roster.
After missing the playoffs last season with a 33-33 record, the retooled Suns -- on paper -- have a good shot to get back to the post-season this year.
The big move of the summer for Phoenix was shipping the 38-year old Nash to the Lakers for two future first-round picks. The Suns wasted little time in signing Nash's replacement with his old backup in free-agent Goran Dragic. The Suns were familiar with Dragic and they invested a lot of money in him, inking the Yugoslavian to a four-year, 30-million deal.
The Suns actually had Dragic on the team two seasons ago before they traded him away to the Rockets, and last year the 26-yearold had his best season as a pro, averaging 11 points and 5assistsforHouston. Dragic is obviously penciled in as the opening game starter at point guard. Dragichas big shoes to fill in Phoenix but he is talented enough to be a more than an adequate replacement for theperennial all-star Nash.
Phoenix also used its first-round draft pick to take point guard Kendall Marshall out of North Carolina. Marshall likely will serve as Dragic's backup, and what Marshall lacks inathleticismhe makes up for in his smart decision-making and ability to run an offense. In hissophomoreseason at UNC, Marshall averaged 10 assists to go along with 8 points.
The Suns brought back shooting guard Shannon Brown, signing him to a two-year contract. Brown started 19 games lastseasonfor Phoenix, averaging 11 points. The 6'-4" Brown is a strong, athletic scorer who can also play solid defense. Brown will battle Wesley Johnson for the starting two-guard position.
Johnson was Minnesota's 4 overall pick in the 2010 draft but so far has not lived up to the selection. Last year, Johnson averaged only 6 points for the Timberwolves who traded him to the Suns this off-season.
Johnson's teammate in Minnesota, Michael Beasley, joins Phoenix viathefree-agent route, signing a three-year, 18-million deal. Beasley has had his off-court issues but when he is focused he is a legitimate scorer. Beasley's average last season dipped to 11 points from 19 points the year before with the Timberwolves. If the 6'-10" power forward can find his game, this could be a great steal for the Suns.
The Suns have the always solid Martin Gortat back at center and he will get up front with the addition of power forward Luis Scola. Before being amnestied by Houston, Scola averaged 15 points and 6 rebounds for the Rockets. Phoenix also signed veteran Jermaine O'Neal to a one-year deal to back up Gortat.
This is a completely different looking Phoenix team but it will still play its up-tempo brand of basketball even without Nash. Alvin Gentry loves to push the ball and that will be no different with Dragic now running the show. Win or lose, the Suns should atleastbe entertaining to watch this season.