Greatest All-Time Starting 5: Phoenix Suns
Here at Off the Glass we’re taking on the arduous task of going through every NBA teams’ greatest possible starting five, using players that have played for that franchise. A player at each position (Point Guard through Center) will be selected, along with a 6th man who can be any position.
This is how it works:
Players selected must have played at least two full seasons for the franchise
The selection will be based on a combination of statistics, accomplishments/accolades and their significance to the franchise in question
Players had to have predominantly played at that particular position for at least one season to be eligible
Let’s get started.
Point Guard – Steve Nash: The Suns have seen a plethora of talented point guards run the show in Phoenix, but none of them were quite as impactful as Steve Nash. Although Nash was drafted by the Suns in 1996, he was traded shortly after to the Dallas Mavericks. It wasn’t until he returned in 2004 that he really established himself as elite on-court presence, leading the Suns to a league best 62-20 record that year and earning himself the first of 2 back-to-back regular season MVP awards. The Suns would go on to become perennial contenders in the Western Conference, but they never quite managed to get over the hump, missing the NBA Finals each year. Nash’s move to Phoenix didn’t just change the fortunes of the Suns’ franchise. The fast paced offense and volume three-point shooting that was mastered by Nash and Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni would change the entire landscape of the NBA, as teams around the league would begin to employ similar strategies.
Shooting Guard – Paul Westphal: Paul Westphal entered the league as a skinny combo guard out of USC, drafted 10th overall by the Boston Celtics. In fact, it wasn’t until a change of scenery brought him to sunny Arizona that Westphal flourished into 5-time all-star and 4-time ALL-NBA talent. Unlike most college combo guards, Westphal was truly capable of playing either guard position at elite NBA level. After spending brief stints with Seattle and New York, Westphal returned to Phoenix for one final season before retiring as a Sun. During his time with the franchise he averaged 20.6 PPG, 5.2 APG and 1.3 SPG while shooting 50.4% from the field.
Small Forward – Shawn Marion: The Matrix could do everything on a basketball court, with the exception of performing a textbook-looking jump shot. Despite his comically ugly shooting technique, Marion stuffed stat sheets in ways other NBA players could only dream of. After 9 seasons in Phoenix, Marion’s name is plastered all over the Suns career leaderboard ranking 4th all-time in points scored, 2nd in rebounds, 2nd in steals, 3rd in blocked shots, 4th in offensive win shares, 2nd in defensive win shares and 1st all-time in value over replacement. What makes those stats even more outrageous is the fact that he spent the majority of his time with the Suns playing alongside NBA superstars Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire, who soaked up all of the team’s media attention. In 2011, 3 years after being traded away from Phoenix, Marion went on to win an NBA Championship with the Dallas Mavericks, something that had eluded those talented Phoenix teams in the mid-2000s. However, it was his time as a Sun that truly defined his legacy.
Power Forward – Charles Barkley: Charles Barkley didn’t spend the majority of his career in Phoenix, but his time spent in Arizona was certainly his most competitive stretch. In fact, in 1993 Sir Charles led the Suns to only their second Finals berth in franchise history, unfortunately running into (and losing to) Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls once they got there. Barkley would go on to lead the Suns to the playoffs in each of his remaining years with the franchise, yet they would never again return to the championship round. In addition to having team success, Barkley achieved a lot of individual success also being named to both the All-NBA team and All-Star Game in each season as well as winning Regular Season MVP in 1993 to the tune of 25.6 PPG, 12.2 RPG, and 5.1 APG.
Center – Amare Stoudemire: Amare Stoudemire is one of the biggest ‘what ifs’ in NBA history. Blessed with out-of-this-world athleticism coupled with elite talent and skill, Amare at his prime was genuinely one of the best players in the world. In just his third season with Phoenix, STAT averaged 26 PPG, 9 RPG, and shot a blistering 56FG%. However, during the preseason of the following year, it was discovered that Amare had cartilage damage in his knee and he missed virtually the entire season. Amare manage to put together a couple of pretty great seasons after the injury, but he never managed to completely recover and injuries would soon derail his entire career. Nonetheless, the 6-time all-star was still dominant as a Phoenix Sun and somehow (despite the injuries) managed to etch his name all over the franchise’s career leaderboard.
6th Man – Kevin Johnson: If I were writing this list pre-2006, Kevin Johnson would be the no-brainer pick for the greatest Phoenix Sun point guard of all time. However, this is 2016 and we all saw what Steve Nash did in a Suns uniform, so KJ will have to settle for 6th man. Kevin Johnson was traded to the Suns during his rookie season and the rest, as they say, is history. He won the NBA’s Most Improved player in his sophomore season when his averages jumped from 9 PPG and 5 APG to 20 PPG and 12 APG with the Suns. In fact KJ would have 4 straight 20 and 10 seasons before injuries began to slow down his production in 1992/1993. In spite of the injuries, Johnson would still go on to have a stellar career being elected to 3 all-star games, 5 all-NBA teams, and even a finals appearance in 1993. The ever loyal, point guard would even come out of retirement to play 6 regular season and 9 playoff games for the Suns when their young star, Jason Kidd, broke his ankle during the 1999/2000 season.
Did I miss any of your favorite Suns? Let me know if you agree or disagree – @awrxshxx