Suns Still Lacking
I've seen them play a few times on NBATV against European and American competition. They are the same old Suns. Whether or not you think that is a good thing is up to you, but I noticed some things about their team that will keep them from beating the elite teams in the West, Dallas and San Antonio.
1) Amare Stoudemire is not 100%.
His lateral mobility has been reduced, and his leaping explosiveness is not at the level it was pre-microfracture surgery. I saw Sam Dalembert and Chris Webber both out maneuver him in the post, which should be disheartening for fans of Stoudemire. I compared him to Iguodala who is one of the more explosive forwards in the league. Iguodala's bounce is stronger, his footwork is more smooth, and this defensive set stance is stronger. Stoudemire has had two offseasons and a whole season to get his legs back and they still look shaky. I dont think that he will be the player that he was before. He'll have to recreate his game a little to become a more cerebral player with an elbow post shooting/passing game ala Malone. I think that he'll actually be a liability for the Suns at times when they play more physical teams. That means that the playoffs might be tough for him.
2) The Suns do not Commit Effort to Defense.
The Suns still save all of their energy for the fast break. Until they balance their effort out on both ends, they will not be able to orient themselves confidently on offense or defense in the playoffs when the game slows down and set plays become the standard set on both ends. We saw Dallas take the next step when they slowed their game down and committed to defending. Ironically it took the loss of Nash and the acquisition of defensive players like Diop, Dampier, and Adrian Griffin for Dallas to round out their style into one that was more playoff-capable. The Suns have yet to learn that lesson.
3) Steve Nash is not Getting Younger.
Nash has a history of sputtering out late in the playoffs. It was a problem in Dallas, and it was a problem in both of the Suns' appearances of late. He still competes, but he doesnt compete on the level of the other major Western MVP's (Bryant, Nowitzki, Duncan, and even McGrady) have for their respective teams over the years. Nash needs to take the next step to get his team over the hump just as Bryant, Nowitzki, and Duncan have had to throughout their careers. Im not certain that Nash will be healthy and ready to make that step from this point of his career forward. His best chance was in '06, and Nowitzki upstaged him.