Enemy Lines: A rival scout sizes up the Suns
2012-13 Record: 25-57
Coach: Jeff Hornacek (first season with Suns)
It's going to be a very long year. There are going to be a lot of beatings.
The Suns' big offseason move was to acquire Eric Bledsoe from the Clippers. He was great in Los Angeles as a backup point guard because of his ability to change tempo by pushing the ball and scoring and by getting after a point guard defensively and creating turnovers. He gets a head of steam and you can't stay in front of him because of his athleticism and quickness.
The issue is Bledsoe's ability to run a team. He has never been taught to execute an offense. The Clippers ran a lot of pick-and-roll, which was perfect for him. Ask him to do more than that, though, and he'll struggle.
It's going to be interesting because they are playing Bledsoe and Goran Dragic together. They are both point guards. One problem is that neither is a great three-point shooter. Dragic is better than Bledsoe from that range, but he's not consistent. They might struggle having an off-the-ball guy who can't spot up. I don't think that pairing will be bad defensively, with Bledsoe's aggressiveness and Dragic's length.
A lot of teams are playing with multiple ball handlers. But the problem for the Suns is that they don't have much behind the point guards they're starting together. Ish Smith is decent, but he's still looking to establish himself. Kendall Marshall was a first-round pick in 2012, under a different general manager, and he barely played as a rookie. He can't get by anybody, can't defend anybody and can't shoot. But he is an excellent passer. He would be good on a team with players who can get open because he can find them. But he doesn't look to create shots because he can't draw help. If you can't get by your man, and you can't defend, you aren't going to make it that position. And that's where Marshall is at.
In the frontcourt, the Morris brothers, Marcus and Markieff, are just space-the-floor power forwards. Markieff is a better rebounder. Neither one is going to make an impact defensively. They are not the guys you get the ball to inside and let them play on the block. Neither is Channing Frye, who is back after missing last season with a heart condition. Frye is another stretch big man who had a few good years as a spot-up three-point shooter when Steve Nash was the main playmaker in Phoenix.
Marcin Gortat is their starting center, but I view him as a backup. Against a legit center, he is going to struggle. He has a couple of moves on the block and he can run the floor. He can finish off pick-and-rolls. He is more an offensive center who puts up good numbers on a bad team. Gortat will come up in trade rumors because he's in the last year of his contract and the Suns drafted Alex Len to be their center of the future.
Len is a couple of years away. He just needs time to build strength. This year his main move is going to be facing up because he doesn't have the strength to deal with contact in the post. But he is very skilled.
Their other first-round rookie is Archie Goodwin, who is only 19 after spending one year at Kentucky. He can't shoot yet and he's going to struggle defensively. Guys are going to bully him until he's able to add strength, too.
They have a lot of young guys but no veterans to mold them. They lost a leader when they traded Luis Scola to Indiana for a first-round pick, Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green, who will give them a highlight once in a while but who last season didn't look like the game guy who had some success with the Nets in 2011-12.
This was a broken group last year. There was no room for a leader like Scola because the place was divided. There was no way for Scola to rub off on guys. Maybe he could've had more of an effect as a leader this year after the Suns cleaned house [by hiring Jeff Hornacek as coach and Ryan McDonough as general manager] and set a new direction. And the same goes for Caron Butler, who was traded to Milwaukee after being acquired in the Bledsoe trade. Not having vets to help the coaches mold these players is going to hurt.
I like Hornacek's demeanor on the bench. He has a really good presence. The last few years, as an assistant in Utah, he didn't speak, so you didn't know what personality he had on the sideline. He'll run a lot of early offense and high pick-and-rolls. He is going to keep it simple -- he has to. There just aren't a lot of multidimensional players on this team.