(Christian Petersen/NBAE/Getty Images)

It’s been a summer of change for the Suns, and that’s OK. Remember last summer, when then-general manager Steve Kerr shipped out Shaquille O’Neal for two guys (Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic) who would never suit up?

And things still worked out well for the little team that no one really expected to make the playoffs. Actually, things worked out great, as the Suns advanced all the way to the Western Conference finals on sheer resolve, not to mention the inspiring play of Steve Nash, Grant Hill and a bunch of youngsters off the bench.

Of course, Amare Stoudemire had plenty to do with that, and we all know he’s now a Knick. Good luck in the Big Apple, Amare. You will be missed.

And good luck to Kerr, whose reign as GM can now be considered a success. He is certain to be a winner in whatever venue he decides to pursue. (Right now, that’s TNT broadcasts of NBA games.)

But this is about the future, or at least the here and now. This is about the new-look Suns, who boast a new team president in Lon Babby — a former player agent who knows a little something about negotiations and wily roster maneuvering. Say what you will about Babby, but he’s not likely to overpay anyone.

This is also about old standbys such as Nash, Hill, Jason Richardson and constantly emerging big man Robin Lopez and backup guard Goran Dragic.

And this is about newcomers such as Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress, who returned to the NBA after a two-year stint in Greece. One GM told me Childress could be the most underrated acquisition of the offseason, with Childress’ skills and athleticism making him a good fit for the Suns.

Of course, the same can be said for Turkoglu, especially if the Suns are getting the Turkoglu from two seasons ago in Orlando. One thing’s for certain: His ball-handling, passing and perimeter shooting skills seem to have been designed for Coach Alvin Gentry’s freewheeling offense.

“We can put the ball in his hands and take some of the pressure off Steve as far as making plays at the end of the game,” Gentry said at Turkoglu‘s introductory press conference.

It’s true that the Suns got a little older by making Turkoglu one of their main pieces. He’s 31, while Hill will be 38 when the season starts and Nash will be 36. But everyone else is either in their peak years or still getting there.

Another thing to consider is the Suns will remain one of the league’s most entertaining teams. They averaged a league-best 110 points per game last season and it’s hard to imagine that dropping off much. As long as Nash and Hill are around, the Suns are also likely to be highly competitive. Just like last season, the Suns are a solid combination of youth and Guys Who Have Been There.

I don’t know what Gentry has in store, and there’s no doubt I’m nowhere near as smart as the man, but I envision a starting lineup that looks like this:

Lopez at center, Turkoglu at power forward, Hill at small forward, Richardson at shooting guard and Nash at the point. Basically, the same as last season with Turkoglu in for Stoudemire.

Then, off the bench in the frontcourt are Channing Frye, Jared Dudley, Warrick, second-year man Earl Clark and rookie Gani Lawal.

In the backcourt, it’s Dragic and Childress — and the Suns may still yet pick up another guard, especially since Leandro Barbosa was dealt to Toronto in the Turkoglu deal. Zabian Dowdell, a free agent who spent the past three seasons overseas after a fine career at Virginia Tech, fared well for the Suns in summer play and may be a possibility.

But while the roster and the front office have undergone some changes, it should pretty much be more of the same for the Suns. Namely, a lot of engaging basketball and probably more wins than anyone expects.

SCHEDULE COMING SOON

The 2010-11 NBA schedule will be released sometime within the first two weeks of August, giving fans the chance to see when the likes of the Lakers, Celtics and suddenly suave Heat of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh are coming to town.

Just a guess here, but the Suns are likely to appear on national television quite a few times after last season’s trip to the conference finals.

Sam Amico has covered the NBA for more than a decade and is a frequent contributor to NBA.com and Suns.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SamAmicoNBA.

  • http://twitter.com/almaherself Alma

    Can’t wait!

  • JOHN SERPE

    I don’t believe we win a championship yet but our Suns on paper look to be a better team than last year so who can tell. Amare, please don’t bother even telling me were going to miss his ego, all about me attitude and defensive inability. Have fun in New York, bye bye. Should Turkoglu play up to capability and Clark follow Djuric and Lopez with a breakout year it’s going to be very interesting, especially with the deepest bench in the NBA. Early prediction, fourth in the west.

  • Rakemeback

    I’m really curious to see how Amare will do as a Knick! Will the Steve Nash effect kick in (like it has in Marion’s case)or will he be just fine? I am kinda pissed he left the Suns btw, but I’m not rooting for him to become another Shawn Marion.

  • Jacob in Omaha

    What about Scottie Reynolds as that 5th guard? He impressed me more than Dowdell did and actually has an invite to training camp.

  • kristel

    nice blog SAM!
    im looking forward for a great season in SUNS!

  • Pastor B

    I envision the Suns vs The Heat in the NBA finals, with the Suns winning. Steve Nash and Grant Hill will get their first rings and then both retire. What a year it’s going to be

  • SUNS2011

    The suns were smart in all off-season pickups this is our year.

  • gabriel

    go suns!

  • pointguardheaven

    There should be better ball movement with this squad next season. Without a CHARLATAN as the other teams food for fuel, we should be able to mount A DEFENSIVE STAND more often than not. Suns take the pacific, Nash has career assist’s #..Still a high scoring team next year. Gentry coach of the year..

  • JB

    This team as a lot to offer but the key to winning is the same this season as it was last season and the reason why we lost in theplay offs. We over look J rich and grant to often even in games when they are hot we don’t look to use them enough these 2 are the only proven consistant scorers and theyre not high enough on the option list. Steve is the greatest ball handler but this is a team that plays and wins with the ball moving If he holds the ball to long they tend to watch and not move. We also need to mix the starter in with the 2nd team we arnt 10 deep and our starters set to long of a streach in the 2 and 4 quarters. Go suns play by there tempature not by there minutes. these are NBA players not High school or college players.