Posted by Sekou Smith
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The Phoenix Suns we’ve come to know over the past few years will be somewhat unrecognizable to the group Alvin Gentry puts on the floor this season.
Sure, Steve Nash will still be at the controls. And Grant Hill and Jason Richardson will be there.
But Amar’e Stoudemire is gone, as is the dynamic 1-2 offensive punch he and Nash provided the last six seasons.
Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick will join a deep and talented Suns crew, including a monster bench mob, that is long on ability but short on chemistry, since so few of them have played together heading into training camp.
Still, there has to be plenty of excitement in Phoenix about a team with so many interchangeable parts — especially when Nash is running the show and Gentry’s bench-friendly approach to the game.
The Suns had the best bench in basketball last season and probably will have it again this season, though it remains unclear how all of this will work — once the Suns complete all of their business.
Can last season’s hailed Suns chemistry survive losing three rotation players and others getting fewer minutes because of more overlap on the wings? Can a poor rebounding team get by with Turkoglu as the starting power forward? Will the Suns’ go-to play of Steve Nash running the pick-and-roll be anywhere close to as effective with Robin Lopez and Warrick as his top pick-and-roll partners? Can Earl Clark get that promised rotation time if there are six people ahead of him who can play one or both of his forward spots?
Turkoglu was struggling and unhappy in Toronto, but he is two years removed from arguably playing like an All-Star. Even at 6 feet 10, Turkoglu at power forward harkens back to when the Suns reached the conference finals four years ago with [Boris] Diaw as a makeshift center and Shawn Marion as an undersized power forward. Turkoglu’s ability to guard power forwards is questionable, but the 31-year-old’s ability to stay in front of wings could be a concern, too. Defense and rebounding from the Suns power-forward spot already was questionable when Stoudemire was there.
Turkoglu has a court savvy that helps him at both ends. However, Turkoglu often ran the Orlando offense in his best years, but the Suns have Nash to dominate the ball.
Turkoglu was disgruntled in Toronto but wants to be here, especially if his agent, Lon Babby, aided it and is set to head the Suns’ basketball operations. Turkoglu will yield about $5 million of his trade kicker and make his $12 million salary for 2013-14, when he is 35, only half-guaranteed.
The Suns will pay Childress an average of $6.6 million over the next five years to back up Jason Richardson and Grant Hill on the wings, where Phoenix also has Jared Dudley and potentially Turkoglu, Clark or Goran Dragic at times. Dudley is up for a contract extension by October, but how does Childress’ contract affect that?
Phoenix was set up for salary-cap space next summer before the moves but still is not a luxury-tax team and does not have a regrettable contract.
The Suns are in a much better position than we imagined they would be without Stoudemire, who was far more important to that team than many give him credit for being.
The Suns have an intriguing brew working with their roster now. It should make for a very interesting training camp in Phoenix.
It always helps to start with Nash, though.