To preview the Mavericks game against the Suns on Thursday, we've brought in a East Bay Ray, part of a deep team of bloggers who do a great job covering Phoenix for SB Nation's Bright Side of the Sun.
Head over to their site for my answers to their questions about Dallas.
1) Do you think Steve Nash will be traded by the deadline, and as a fan, would you rather the Suns make a run at the 8 seed or begin to rebuild?
As you can imagine, there's quite a debate about this among Suns fans. Personally, I'm of the belief that Nash will stay on the team due to him being more valuable to the Suns than to other teams, and because the Suns front office has stated time and again that they will have him on the team for as long as he wants to stay. For his part, Nash has also said repeatedly that he wants to stay, so I find the "will the Suns trade Nash?" talk that is all over the national media to be a little amusing. How many times do Nash and the front office have to say no?
As for the second part of your question, again there is a wide divide among Suns fans but I'm firmly in the camp that believes a team should always try to win and make the playoffs. A losing culture is an insidious thing, and I don't want the Suns to give in to it. If being a playoff or borderline playoff team costs a few draft spots, so be it. Phoenix hasn't been great at drafting in the few years, but Markieff Morris has been an excellent selection and they should be able to find a quality player in the early to mid-teens.
2) If they do hang onto Nash, do the Suns have enough fire power to sneak into the playoffs?
It will take virtually every variable on the team to turn out for the positive for this team to make the playoffs after their slow start. They squandered opportunities early on, losing games to poor opponents, and now the more difficult part of the schedule awaits. I'd put the Suns chances to sneak into the playoffs at somewhere between 10-20%. To do so will take improved shooting from their wing players, improved rebounding from their bigs and continued good health of their starters.
3) How much longer can Nash remain an All-Star caliber player and how remarkable is it to watch a 38-year old PG play at such a high level in this lockout-compressed season?
I'm an old-time Suns fan and I've written that I think Steve Nash is the greatest player in franchise history. That he's still able to deliver at an all-star level at age 38 is nothing short of amazing. It's hard to say how long he can keep it up. He keeps himself in impeccable physical condition and seems to have the right mental approach to the game to continue his longevity. I can see another season or two at this level of play, or close to it.
4) Three years from now, what players on this roster do you think/want to still be in Phoenix?
The Suns figure to shake up their roster and go to more of a youth movement this summer or next, so not many of the current players will be around in three years. Among those who should be or who I'd like to be are Marcin Gortat, Jared Dudley, Markieff Morris and Channing Frye. Gortat is currently underrated, as he's having an outstanding season in Phoenix but isn't a highlight reel guy so the national media doesn't pay much attention to him. Dudley is a pro's pro, a worker and team leader who always finds a way to contribute. Morris is the best Suns rookie since Amare Stoudemire, and Frye is a versatile. floor-spacing big man.
5) Robin Lopez has a $4 million qualifying offer for next season. Do you think the Suns will keep him and is he a starting-caliber NBA center?
My hunch is that Lopez will receive a fairly large offer by some big man-starved team, the Suns won't be willing to match and he'll walk. That is, if the Suns don't trade him by the deadline, which I think they should. Lopez is young and athletic, but injury problems and immaturity have led to inconsistent production. Looking around at some of the starting centers in the league, Lopez could certainly start for a handful of teams but will never be more than a serviceable player.