13. Kendall Marshall, G, North Carolina: A Grade
I hate myself for not mocking this as the pick. It makes so much sense since it is unlikely Steve Nash is returning to the desert. Marshall is going to be an assist leader in the league soon enough because of his outstanding court vision.
*** 2012 NBA Offseason Needs and Free Agents listed below this comment box. ***
2011-12 Season Summary:
It's actually pretty amazing that the Suns were in contention for a Western Conference playoff spot late in the season. Besides Steve Nash, the team lacked any real star power, relying on its depth and sharing of the basketball to slightly exceed expectations. Still, Phoenix missed out on the postseason for the second straight year, the first time that's happened in almost twenty-five years.
The aging Nash once again set the stage, finishing second in the NBA in assists. That depth was evident on the perimeter with Jared Dudley, Grant Hill, Shannon Brown, and Michael Redd all chipping in. Let's be honest though, Nash makes the talent around him better and that group of wing players isn't going to be an overly-productive bunch.
The frontcourt was paced by Marcin Gortat who led the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging a double-double as he continues to develop into a very productive NBA big man. Channing Frye is a steady complement who can stretch defenses with his outside shot, but he saw a dip in production from the previous season. Rookie Markieff Morris showed flashes at times, but inconsistencies plagued him in his first season in the league while Hakim Warrick and Robin Lopez are, at best, average role players.
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Marcin Gortat/*Robin Lopez
PF: Channing Frye/Markieff Morris/Hakim Warrick
SF: Josh Childress
SG: Jared Dudley
PG: *Aaron Brooks
NBA Free Agents:
*C-Robin Lopez (RFA)
*PG-Aaron Brooks (RFA)
PG-Steve Nash (UFA)
SF-Grant Hill (UFA)
SG-Shannon Brown (UFA)
SG-Michael Redd (UFA)
PG-Sebastian Telfair (UFA)
PG-Ronnie Price (UFA)
2012-13 Team Salary: Approximately $30.7 million
NBA Offseason Needs:
1. Point Guard:
With Nash's future in the desert up in the air, the Suns have zero points guards under contract for next season. Nash has been loyal to Phoenix, but since he will turn 39 next season, you figure he might be heading to a title contender in hopes of getting a ring.
Even if Nash does return, Phoenix needs to add some depth at the one that will be an upgrade from the Sebastian Telfair/Ronnie Price tandem the Suns used off the bench this past season. Restricted free agent Aaron Brooks, who spent all of last season playing overseas, could be the answer if he is retained.
2. Wing Scorers:
Jared Dudley and Josh Childress are the only wing players on the Suns' roster for 2012-13, and Childress has been a huge disappointment since being acquired two years ago. Phoenix needs to find some scoring on the wing, preferably an athlete who can get to the basket and create on his own. You would have to think the Suns will target a perimeter threat with their first-round pick and look to throw some of their cap space at one of the marquee free agents as well.
Defense remains an issue for the Phoenix franchise. The Suns showed some improvements but still finished 25th in defensive field-goal percentage and 27th in rebounding percentage. Add in the fact the Grant Hill has been their best and most versatile defensive player but is a free agent and may not return. Even if he does, Hill is 39-years old, so Phoenix should look for a younger option as a lockdown defender.