NBA Capsule - Phoenix Suns

United Press International

Phoenix Suns 2001-02 Capsule

COACH: Scott Skiles (third season, 91-53 overall)


LAST SEASON: 51-31, third in Pacific Division, lost to Sacramento in first round

ARRIVALS: G Stephon Marbury (trade with New Jersey), G Dan Majerle (free agent), F John Wallace (trade with Detroit), G Jud Buechler (trade with Detroit), C Soumalia Samake (trade with New Jersey)

DEPARTURES: G Jason Kidd, F Clifford Robinson

SLAM DUNKS: The Suns have a very different look than a year ago, mainly due to the trade that brought Marbury (23.9 ppg, 7.6 apg), a scoring machine that now has a better supporting cast. F Shawn Marion (17.3, 10.7 rpg) emerged last season as a potent scorer and rebounder and gives Marbury a better No. 2 than anyone he was teamed with in New Jersey. However, with Kidd gone, Marion will have to create more shots for himself. G Penny Hardaway (9.8, 4.5) played just four games last season, but remains a dangerous player when healthy. He says he is healthy this season. F Rodney Rogers (12.2, 4.4) has to return to the form that made him Sixth Man of the Year two seasons ago if the Suns hope to replace Robinson. F Tom Gugliotta (6.4, 4.5) was hampered by multiple injuries last season -- including a seizure -- and may never return to his 1998 form. G Tony Delk (12.3, 3.2) is a solid scorer and a streaky shooter and Phoenix hopes C Jake Tsakalidis (4.5, 4.2) can make strides to provide an inside presence.

AIRBALLS: The Suns won just five less games than the Los Angeles Lakers last season, proof that they overachieved. The team has a different look, but has not improved much, and other Western Conference teams have. Marbury has never been known as a point guard that makes his teammates better. Hardaway's health always seems to be a problem and the group of guards is thin as it is. Aside from Marion, there is no legitimate threat in the frontcourt, especially if Rogers does not rediscover his toughness.

IN THE ZONE: Without a legitimate big man, the Suns will have problems scoring against teams that have a dominant shot-blocker to position in the lane. Marbury and Hardaway are not typical shooters and the loss of Robinson has left the team without its best three-point shooter from a year ago. Phoenix has to try and run to make up for its lack of size, and that ability will be hindered by the loss of Kidd.

OUTLOOK: The Suns are simply going to have a lot of trouble matching last season's win total. They are smaller than they were last season in a conference dominated by the likes of Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Webber and Kevin Garnett. Phoenix may be able to post enough wins against the weaker Eastern Conference teams to have a shot at the playoffs but it doesn't have enough weapons to be a serious threat to the top-notch teams.

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