Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Phoenix Suns: What To Look For In 2010-11

2009-10 Regular Season: 54-28
2009-10 Playoffs: #3 seed; lost in the Western Conference Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games
Additions: Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick, Gani Lawal
Key Losses: Amar’e Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa, Louis Amundson
Projected Rotation Players: Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, Robin Lopez, Goran Dragic, Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick, Jared Dudley

Now that he’s no longer being asked to be a first option, look for Hedo Turkoglu thrive as part of a deep, versatile crew.

In just one disastrous season north of the border, Turkoglu somehow managed to engender a level of hatred that had previously been reserved for one, Vincent Lamar Carter. Hell, Chris Bosh hosted his own “Decision” special for the entire regular season and he’s likely to get less venom than Hedo in his first trip back.

I guess that’s the price you pay for signing a $50 million deal before proceeding to blatantly mail in an entire season while playing in front a passionate and knowledgeable fan base. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Turk got himself suspended in March, after he was spotted late at night in a Toronto nightclub after missing a due to a “stomach virus”… and later said he wanted to leave the team, claiming he’d been mistreated by Raptors' management.

So, yeah. Don’t look for Hedo to get much love on February 25, when the Suns visit Toronto.

While there’s no excuse for so blatantly disrespecting your employer and an entire fn base, the fact that Turkoglu was miscast in his on-court role may have contributed to bad attitude and subpar performance as Raptor. Although he possesses the idea size and skill set to be a team’s primary playmaker as a “point 4,” Hedo’s more suited to play a role as a part of an ensemble cast.

If we look back on the teams on which Hedo’s thrived in the past- at the start of his career in Sacramento, and later with the Orlando Magic- he’s was always one of the most skilled players, but he’s been surrounded by versatile, skilled players and has never needed to be the primary option on offense.

As he’s done in the past, Turkoglu begins his run in Phoenix not expected to be savior or even a star. He’ll simply be asked to do what he’s done best throughout his career- be one member of a talented cast and use his versatility against opposing forwards to create matchup problems. Playing alongside versatile talents like Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Jason Richardson and to a lesser extent (duh!) Josh Childress and Goran Dragic, Turk will get open looks, he’ll have opportunities to isolate against slower bigs and will get to be a secondary facilitator. While it may not show up in the numbers, this is an ideal situation for Hedo Turkoglu. Look for him to return to form in 2010-11.

Bottom line: Vegas has the over-under on regular seasons wins for the Suns at 41.5. While a return trip to the Western Conference Finals is unlikely in the aftermath of Amar’e Stoudemire’s departure, the 2010-11 Suns have the talent and versatility to put together a .500+ regular season. Look for the Suns to rack up 42-45 regular season wins in 2010-11 and likely grab one of the final two playoff spots in the West.

Despite advancing age (37 in February) and nagging injuries, Steve Nash has not lost a step. He will continue to be one of the top PGs in the league and the clear leader of this team, but should benefit from a lighter playmaking workload with Turkoglu and a more experienced Goran Dragic in the rotation.

Meanwhile, frontcourt addition Hakim Warrick has averaged 10.6 ppg and 4.3 rpg in just 20 minutes per game in his career- which works out to roughly 18- 8 per 36 minutes- and he’s never played alongside Steve Nash. This is not to suggest that Warrick is Amar’e’s equal, or that he can mae the same type of postseason impact, but it’s reasonable to think that in longer minutes, with Nash feeding him, Warrick can be a very productive frontcourt player.

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