By Craig Kwasniewski
Is it possible that the Suns could be better off with Shawn Marion than Amare Stoudemire?
While Stoudemire is busy piling up offensive stats and highlights in losses, the Suns are quickly realizing (and missing) all the little things Shawn Marion did. Here are a few things I saw with the new/old look Suns after the first week with Shaq in the lineup (along with the help of Jeff Van Gundy's analysis, which by the way is the most entertaining in sports outside of the TNT package):
-Amare and Shaq BOTH don’t run back on defense, which ironically makes the Suns susceptible to fast break points. That was expected with Shaq, but there’s no excuse for Amare to walk back and point out his man to a sprinting Diaw, Bell, Hill or Nash.
-Van Gundy noted that over the past few years the Suns lost their jump shooters for slashers. In the past, their offense was based on Nash dribbling around, drawing a double team and passing out to Joe Johnson, Quentin Richardson, Eddie House, Raja Bell, Shawn Marion and even Boris Diaw. The beast way to beat the Suns was to stay at home and single-guard Nash, who would occasionally KILL their opponents like Dallas in 2005. Now they have Grant Hill and Barbosa on the wings with Shaq clogging the middle and Amare slashing to the hole or taking 17-foot jumpers. They’re not as spread out or as difficult to match up as before.
-Marion was their second best man defender and spent a lot of time spelling Bell with the likes of Kobe, Wade and LeBron. You can see that Bell’s getting fatigued with all the defensive pressure on his shoulders. They tried to get Quentin Ross at the last minute before trade deadline (which would have been a serious coup, like Kurt Thomas to the Spurs), but it fell through at the last minute. The Suns will miss Marion’s defensive presence more and more as the season goes along.
-Van Gundy also said something very true toward the end of the Detroit debacle. Mike Breen was trying to make a positive spin on the blow out asking Van Gundy, as a coach, what kind of motivation is there when on the wrong end of a big loss (he was trying to set up Van Gundy for a “we’ll set up plays for the future” or “try to pretend a in-game situation and win the quarter”). JVG responded, “They’re all out there trying to pad their stats.” This is EXACTLY what Amare was doing at the time!
So how long will it be before Shaq realizes that he’s working his ass off just so Amare can drop 35 and 10 every night and get ESPN highlights? Will the “Big Fella” get jealous and bitter halfway through next season and finish it out like Miami? Or will Amare actually try playing on both ends of the floor?
No doubt about it, the Suns needed to trade for Shaq. Their current configuration was not getting passed the Lakers or Spurs in the next two years. And I know that on paper it's hard not to love what Amare Stoudemire brings to the table (a highlight machine capable of monstrous offensive numbers). But with Nash near the end of his illustrious career, it's looking like Shawn Marion would have been a better fit with the Shaq'ed Suns than Amare.