Team Preview #7: Phoenix Suns
by Eric Wong AKA Roto EvilAugust 7th, 2008
LAST SEASONThe Suns made a bold move before the trade deadline by acquiring Shaquille O'Neal, but they still couldn't get past San Antonio in the playoffs. Once again, D'Antoni's squad was a hotbed for fantasy statistics, as the Suns finished 3rd in scoring, 4th in pace factor, 1st in FG%, 4th in FT%, 4th in made threes, 1st in assists, and 2nd in blocks.
OFFSEASON MOVESKey Additions: Matt Barnes, Robin Lopez
Key Losses: Gordan Giricek, Eric Piatkowski, Sean Marks
In '06-07, Matt Barnes was one of the Warriors' top reserves, but the past year was pretty tough on him. He couldn't get the long-term deal that he wanted, his mother passed away during the season, and his 3P% fell from 36.6% to just 29.3%. So now he's moved on to Phoenix, and while he's only getting the veteran's minimum (Barnes will get $1.2 million, but the Suns only have to pay $800 K as the rest comes from a "league fund"), he couldn't have found a better situation.
As figured, the Suns missed Shawn Marion's defense, athleticism, and versatility after trading him to Miami, but they just found his replacement him for roughly 1/15th the cost. No player in the league is quite like "The Matrix," but Barnes will be able to help Phoenix in a multitude of ways. After all, we're talking about a team that gave Gordan Giricek significant minutes against Manu Ginobili in the playoffs and even wasted a playoff roster spot on Eric Piatkowski. Now, I'll give the "Polish Rifleman" props because he had a couple of solid seasons with the Clippers, but Giricek has sucked ever since he came to the NBA, and I bet he'll get schooled when he goes back to Europe too!
Despite spending the last 2 years with Phoenix and the prior 2 with San Antonio, Sean "Kiwi" Marks has played a total of just 3 playoff minutes. Apparently, he used to school Duncan, Shaq & Amare in practice, but just couldn't perform when it counted (I'm kidding). So the Suns have replaced him with rookie Robin Lopez (the one with the fro). I'm guessing Marks (Cal grad) won't be giving Lopez (Stanford grad) any tips on how to beat Amare 1-on-1.
ROTATION / PLAYING TIMEDid you know? Over the past 7 years, Steve Nash has missed a total of just 23 games. Since he continues to orchestrate an offense superbly, he'll get 34 minutes of action once again. The Suns haven't found a true PG to back him up, but have 2 young & talented combo guards in Leandro Barbosa & DJ Strawberry. Barbosa's play declined in '07-08, so he'll have to show improvements if he wants to get 30 mpg again. Strawberry didn't play much as a rookie, but I'm a big fan of his defense & athleticism, so don't be surprised if he gets a bigger role this season. Raja Bell is still the starting shooting guard, but his minutes fell from 37.4 to 35.3 last season, and I'm expecting them to fall to 32-34 in '08-09.
Amare Stoudemire played just 27.9 mpg in November, but 35+ the rest of the way, which is what you can expect this season. Shaq actually averaged the same number of minutes (28.7) in Phoenix as he did in Miami, and I'm thinking he has one more 28+ mpg year in him. Boris Diaw will be their 1st big man off the bench, and also get about 28 minutes of action. Phoenix needed a long, active, defensive center, and they got one in Lopez. If he can be their version of Joakim Noah, he'll get to play in short spurts. At small forward, there will be a battle for minutes between the incumbent Grant Hill (31.7 mpg) and the newcomer Barnes (19.3 mpg). I'm expecting Barnes to bounceback and play a key role for the Suns in '08-09, so I'll tentatively project 28 minutes for Hill and 22 for Barnes.
DON'T SLEEP ON: Matt BarnesI think his versatility and passion for the game is going to win Phoenix fans, players, and coaches over right away, and if his 3-point shot is falling, look out! How good can Barnes be from a fantasy perspective? Well, if you know how to work your waiver wire, then you probably remember a stretch of games starting on 12/22/06. In the 13 games that followed, Barnes averaged 36.6 minutes, 16.2 points, 7.1 boards, 2.4 assists, 1.4 steals, .7 blocks, and 2.5 threes per game! He proved his all-around ability once again in the '07 Playoffs, when he averaged 11.1 points, 5.7 boards, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals, .4 blocks, and 1.7 threes (42.2% 3P) in just 29.9 minutes over 11 games. Clearly, Barnes can contribute in multiple categories when given the chance, but he's got to earn those minutes first. You don't need to draft him because no one else will, but if Grant Hill or Diaw goes down, I suggest you swoop Barnes up with a quickness.
BE CAREFUL OF: Raja BellIn '05-06, Bell was a 38 minute, 15 point, 2.6 assist, 2.5 threes, 1 steal, 45% FG guy. Those are rock solid fantasy numbers for a #2 shooting guard. But in '07-08, he was a 35 minute, 12 point, 2.2 assist, 2.3 threes, .7 steals, 42% FG guy. While it's just a slight decrease in each category, it makes a world of difference to his fantasy value. The guy HOUNDS people on defense, but like Tayshaun Prince, doesn't get many steals to show for it, which is disappointing. And with Barbosa & Strawberry vyying for more minutes, the veteran's statistical output could fall even further this season. He could be a Top 100 pick in some leagues, but unless you're desperate for threes, I wouldn't consider him until after Round 10 is over.
ROUND BY ROUND TARGETS(Where you should draft these guys in an 8-cat Roto league with 12 teams and 14 man rosters)
Amare: Top 3