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Team RankingPTS/GOPP PTS/G
Pacific Division105.2 (2nd)102.6 (3rd)
Western Conference7th8th
Mejia's Offseason Grade
Quentin Richardson is gone, and Joe Johnson was traded to the Hawks. Making matters worse is that Stoudemire will miss four months as he rehabs from knee surgery. The fun-and-gun days in Phoenix are over. The team will be forced to take a slightly more conventional approach with Kurt Thomas in the post. Wings Raja Bell and Boris Diaw are most certainly a downgrade from Johnson and Richardson, and the team struck out in reported attempts to sign Lithuanians Arvydas Macijauskas and Sarunas Jasikevicius. Undoubtedly, the Suns will be a weaker bunch. Grade: C-
 
Key Players
Steve Nash: He'll have a different cast of characters to pass the ball to, but he should in last season's playoffs that he can carry the team on his shoulders.
Shawn Marion: Unlike Nash, Marion disappeared at times during last season's playoffs, but teams will be keying up on him with teammate Amare Stoudemire racked up for four months.
 
Role Playing
Jim Jackson, Forward
Sixth man of the year candidate: He really took to the Suns style in the 40 games he played once he came over from Houston and now could really flourish with a year in the system under his belt. Entering his 14th season, the 35-year-old will be counted on to help make up for Amare Stoudemire's absent point production.
Brian Grant, Forward/Center
Warrior mentality: It was a great move by the Suns to go out and get the battle-tested veteran, but they never envisioned him playing the abundance of minutes he'll now likely be tasked with now that Stoudemire is out. He'll give them everything he's got, but considering his recent run of injuries, just how much is that?
Boris Diaw, Guard/Forward
Versatility: His play for France in this summer's European Championships -- horrid free-throw shooting not withstanding -- was exactly what the Suns wanted to see from their new acquisition. He can play the one, two and three spots, doing a nice job of staying within the flow of the game. He seems well-suited for Phoenix's high-octane attack but will have to improve from the perimeter to maximize his effectiveness.
 
Burning Question
Can the Suns keep themselves in the race long enough to allow Amare Stoudemire's February return to make a difference?
The team that won 61 games last year is now out three starters, so you can throw nostalgia out the window. What they do have going for them is Mike D'Antoni's offensive system and Steve Nash's brilliance in orchestrating it. The frontcourt can score and is solid defensively, albeit undersized. The wings have never proven themselves as full-time starters, but they'll have to do. Depth is as scarce as it was last year. Considering the lengthy road trips that await them at the end of December and January, it's going to be tough for Phoenix to sustain momentum without its prized big man.
 
 
Amare Stoudemire evolved into a superstar in a short span. The Suns will miss his production in the early going. (Getty Images)
 
 
Team Projections
Projected finish: 3rd, Pacific Division
Projected win total: 39-45
Team MVP:Steve Nash
Leading scorer:Shawn Marion
Leading rebounder: Marion
Leading assists: Nash
Top defender: Marion
 
Stat Rankings
Stat Rank Total
Pts Scored 1 110.4
Pts Against 30 103.3
Rebounds 1 44.1
FG% 1 40.9
 
PROJECTED STARTERS
PG Steve Nash
If he leads this bunch back to 50 victories and prominence, he deserves another MVP.
SG Raja Bell
Finally getting his shot, expect him to emerge as the Suns No. 3 scorer.
SF James Jones
Former Indiana second-round pick worked his way from IR land into Rick Carlisle's rotation due to his great work ethic and slick versatile skills.
PF Shawn Marion
He'll need to put a disappointing playoffs behind him and help put the frontcourt on his back as he once again operates out of position.
C Kurt Thomas
Brought in to bolster the defense and toughen the team's image, he'll now see his role enhanced.
Team Depth Chart
 
Player Movement
Movement Player Pos.
Key loss Joe Johnson SG
Key gain Raja Bell SG
Player Movement Chart
 
 
 
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