(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)

2009-10 record: 54-28

How it ended: Quite surprisingly, as a team that no one expected to make the playoffs advanced all the way to the Western Conference finals, before losing to the eventual world champion Lakers in six games. Still, you could make the case that the Suns were the second-best team to reach the NBA’s Final Four last season.

Coach: It’s a well-known fact that the guys thoroughly enjoy playing for Alvin Gentry, and in the NBA, that can carry you a long way. Especially since the Suns have adopted many of Gentry’s traits — by playing with confidence, intelligence, chemistry and professionalism.

Arrivals: F Hedo Turkoglu, F Hakim Warrick, G/F Josh Childress, F Gani Lawal, G Matt Janning,

Departures: C/F Amare Stoudemire, G Leandro Barbosa, C Jarron Collins, C Dwayne Jones

Projected starters:
F Turkoglu, F Grant Hill, C Robin Lopez, G Jason Richardson, G Steve Nash

Position battles:
Considering the Suns consist of a bunch of interchangeable parts who can play a variety of positions (as usual), there really aren’t many positions battles, per se. So jockeying for playing time will be less of a “battle” between multiple players and more of an audition to see who can play the most positions. For instance, Turkoglu may get more minutes at power forward than Warrick and Channing Frye one game, and less the next. A lot will depend on matchups and for the Suns, who is hot.

Chemistry experiment: The loss of Stoudemire won’t change much when it comes to Gentry’s philosophy, but it will alter the Suns’ approach considerably. Basically, they are more of an outside team than ever, with no proven low-post options (although Lopez is getting there). And you know what they say about trying to live by the jump shot. Still, if the ball movement is as quick as expected, and Turkoglu adds an extra strong passer as expected, then this could be another season of fun. It will just have be a different kind of fun.

Best case: The ball keeps moving, the outside shots keep falling, and the Suns remain one of the league’s most well-conditioned teams, leaving opponents gasping for air in the crucial closing moments. If all that takes place, another second-place Pacific Division is certainly within reach.

Worst case:
Nash (36) and Hill (38) finally start to show their age, Turkoglu displays the type of inconsistency that indicate his best years are behind him, and other newbies such as Childress and Warrick fail to keep up in the fast-paced system.

Prediction: When it comes to predicting the Suns, well, there really is no proven formula. In the years they are expected to struggle, they flourish instead. Other times, when you finally start to believe they’re really on to something, they take a small step back. So the safe pick is to assume the Suns will finish somewhere in between. That way, when they overachieve you get to say, “See? I told you so.”

Sam Amico covers the NBA for NBA.com and Fox Sports, and is a regular contributor to Suns.com. Follow him on Twitter @SamAmicoNBA.

  • JAS

    Great blog, right on the money. Since my comments have already garnered the wrath of a few fellow fans this young season, I will try to temper my thoughts. Rebounding will once again be a huge problem, it was a team effort last year and will be more so this season. Won’t have Amare to help fill the defensive lapses by Nash and your right, father time waits for no one and we have a couple of main players pushing that envelope, big concern. Funny thing about age, unfortunatley I know, you realize there is no “impossible” but hopefully your smart enough by then to grasp reality. My personal reality with our Suns this year is 40-45 wins, 7 or 8 seed with three big quilifiers. Nash and Hill make the season, Lopez stays injury free and Clark finally comes around. If not, sorry but were going to get a dose of reality we fans won’t enjoy.

  • JAS

    Ouch!! The last preseason game just ended and red flashing warning signs are going off all over the Purple Palace. A whipping without Carmello on the floor is not a confidence booster. Dudley is one of my favorite players but if he has to come off the bench and be high scorer this season is going from dismal, right into bad.

  • http://suns scssal

    Did u forget that lou was part of the departure???

  • JAS

    Come on guys your killing me. Now Nash is quoted as saying he wouldn’t bet on the Suns making the playoffs if he were a betting man!!! I’m begging you, please, we need a SUPER STAR!!! Sorry, but we have one very very good player who used to be a great star, another one who overcame all odds and is still very good, one youngster who could possibly be great, someday and a bunch of good players filling in around. NO SUPER STAR!! Translation: Not a good year, no playoffs, starting over with alot of good players but still no SUPER STAR!!! How odd is it that I would actually be happy if I was wrong.

  • JAS

    Nice try against Portland in the opener, but Steve is never going to carry this team. Rebounding was even worse than expected. This was the Blazers, were in trouble.

  • JAS

    What, now the blog writers have cramps, okay our Suns may be outside looking in this year, but their our Suns!!! Were going to win some games, well I’m pretty sure we are. I got the message already watching some of these teams (Thunder)that they are not playing around, they are serious. Durant has in my opinion become the most feared player in the league. I don’t think we play them until Dec., maybe we start to gel by then, it could happen. Okay not buying it? Repeat after me, Love of the game, Love of the game.

  • JAS

    Jerry Sloan may wish he had retired, it’s early but the Jazz are horrible. Nice win for our Suns, we played very good for almost the entire game. Bench is solid and Warrick can play, Amare who? If the Suns give this kind of effort on a consistent basis we should make the playoffs.