The All-Time Phoenix Suns team is exactly what you’d expect them to be. Exciting. Full of brilliant play makers. Deep. The Suns have a rich tradition, currently ranking fourth among all active franchises in all-time winning percentage, at .551, behind three teams that have combined for 38 championships (the Lakers, Spurs, and Celtics). Unfortunately, Phoenix has not yet been able to break through, twice losing in the Finals. Why have they not been able to win it all? Personally, I always considered them to be an offensive-minded franchise, but that has not always been the case, as seen in their year-by-year ranks in offensive and defensive rating:
Sure, they’ve had more years where they were dominant on the offensive side of the ball, but they have had periods where they were able to compete at a high level defensively, as well. Other than the period from 1989-1993, however, they haven’t been great on both ends of the court at the same time, which may be a reason why they’ve never been able to win the big prize. Regardless, their all-time team is one of the most fun in our tournament, and will present match up problems for their first round opponent.
The starting backcourt consists of the dynamic combination of Steve Nash and Paul Westphal. For his Phoenix career, Nash was able to cumulatively surpass the shooter’s holy grail of 50-40-90 (50 percent field goal percentage, 40 percent three-point field goal percentage, 90 percent free throw percentage). Certain calculations had Nash leading the league’s top offense for nine straight years, and even if his two MVP awards sparked some controversy, he’s undoubtedly one of greatest offensive players ever. Westphal was a superstar in his prime, making the all-NBA first team three out of four years from 1977-1980 (and making the second team the other year), and leading the Suns to their first NBA Finals appearance in 1976. There’s little drop off to the guards on the bench. Kevin Johnson was a dynamic playmaker who has a legitimate Hall-of-Fame case. Jason Kidd is one of the greatest all-around guards ever, and adds a much needed defensive presence to this backcourt. Walter Davis, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, will also see heavy minutes as the best shooter (outside of Nash) on the team.
Shawn Marion, the starting small forward, will play a key role as the main (and only) defensive stopper in the starting lineup. He provides this team with great flexibility, since he can play either forward position. Charles Barkley, the team’s first MVP, who led the franchise to its second NBA Finals appearance, is the starting power forward. Though he wasn’t the athletic marvel that he was in Philadelphia, he was still one of the best players in the league on the Suns, and provides them with a dominant low-post scorer. Amar’e Stoudemire, one of the great pick-and-roll big men ever in his prime, is the starting center. At his peak, Stoudemire was one of the best offensive players in the league. For his Suns career, he had a cumulative .606 true shooting percentage. In 15 games in the 2005 playoffs, he averaged 29.9 PPG, 10.7 RPG, shot 53.9% from the field, and had a 27.6 PER. Off the bench, Hall-of-Famer Connie Hawkins can play at either forward position. Though he sadly wasn’t able to enter the NBA until he was 27, he still made a great impact on the Suns, and was named to the All-NBA first team in his first year with the franchise. Larry Nance was a great all-around player, who will be this team’s best rim protector. Tom Chambers was another offensively talented big man, and Alvan Adams, one of the great passing centers ever, rounds out the bench.
This team will be an offensive force that can throw many different looks at their opponents. A big issue will be the defensive performance of their starting lineup. Paul Westphal, Barkley’s former coach, was once quoted as saying, “next to Shaq, Charles may have been the worst player in history at defending the pick-and-roll.” Stoudemire and Nash were poor defenders as well. Expect big minutes for Marion, Kidd, and Nance to help make up for the defensive deficiencies of their teammates.
Coach: Cotton Fitzsimmons (you can’t go wrong with John MacLeod, Paul Westphal, or Mike D’Antoni, but Fitzsimmons led the team to top 10 finishes in both offense and defense from 1989-1992)
All-Time Franchise Winning Percentage (through 2014-15): .551