18 July 2012
Heading into next season, the Suns will be without their two main leaders over the last several seasons. As has been well documented, Steve Nash was sent to Lakers in a sign and trade more than a week ago and Grant Hill surprised many with officially signing a two-year deal with the other Staples Center occupant, the Clippers, on Wednesday.
It goes without saying that losing both guys is a tough pill for Suns fans to swallow as Nash and Hill continue to play at a very high level despite both guys nearing their 40's. Not only were both these men the Suns two best and most valuable players over the years, they were the two cornerstones in the locker room providing unmatched leadership and mentorship to the team's young players.
Replacing both won't be easy, but it is a task that must be done in order for the Suns to remain competitive in the always tough Western Conference heading into next season.
The most logical replacement currently on the roster would be Jared Dudley. Duds set career numbers in pretty much every category last season earning the most minutes he has ever gotten in his career. The former Boston College product, who is heading into fifth season in Phoenix, has showed his leadership qualities over the last couple seasons and I am sure that both Nash and Hill helped him out to improve himself in that department.
Dudley has been on the Suns roster for a number of years now and is one of the oldest members on a suddenly younger roster, but it would be hard for me to call him the main leader on a team where he is arguably the third or fourth best player at best. The exact same can be said about Channing Frye, whose career is similar to Dudley's, but also like the small forward is no where close to the Suns best player, especially coming off of a season where Frye really struggled.
After Dudley and Frye, there aren't a whole lot of options who Alvin Gentry could comfortably turn to. Gentry could look at newcomers Goran Dragic and Luis Scola. Dragic is very familiar with the Suns offense and is well liked by his teammates and Scola is a hardworker and is said to have been a nice leader in his years with Houston, but that is asking a lot of two guys who weren't on the roster last year.
This is why I felt that bringing back Hill was a must for the Suns. Yes, he is still a great defender and can still score the basketball, but his leadership is his most important and valuable quality that he possesses. Players regardless of age and talent know all the wars that Hill has been through over the years and respect him for it. He would have been a great mentor to Michael Beasley, but Hill will now do that same job in Los Angeles with a very good and young Clippers team.
Heading into next season, the Suns have their work cut out for them trying to find a new leader for a revamped roster. They will probably start out with a leader by committee approach, but hopefully as the season wears on, something will step up and grow into that role. Only time will tell who that individual will be. Maybe he isn't even on the roster at the moment.
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