Friday , Jan , 05 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Healthy Suns are ready to rule the West

(Sports Network) – Phoenix has a deep and talented roster. The Suns are an
offensive machine and this could be the year that they return to the NBA
Finals and capture the franchise’s first world championship.

Reigning MVP Steve Nash is the catalyst for the most energetic and exciting
team in the league. Nash, who has won the MVP the last two seasons, leads a
cast that includes multi-talented All-Star forward Shawn Marion, dominant
Amare Stoudemire, defensive stopper Raja Bell and rising stars Leandro Barbosa
and Boris Diaw.

Head coach Mike D’Antoni allows the Suns to do what they do best, score.
Phoenix has been eliminated in the Western Conference finals two straight
years. The Suns fell in five games to the San Antonio Spurs in 2005 and in six
to the Dallas Mavericks in 2006.

Questions are always raised about the Suns ability to win without much defense
in the postseason. But, with the pure talent on this team it will finally be
good enough to get the Suns into the NBA Finals for the first time since the
1992-93 campaign.

The 32-year-old Nash keeps getting better and is doing his usual thing. He
dictates the tempo of the game and continues to get the ball to his teammates
where they can be successful. Nash, who is arguably having the best year of
his career, leads the Suns in scoring and assists.

Stoudemire is back and finally looks like the dominant force he used to be. A
one-time All-Star, Stoudemire, who averaged 26.0 points and 8.9 rebounds
during the 2004-05 campaign, played just three games last season because of a
serious knee injury. He underwent successful left knee microfracture surgery
in October 2005 and had a tough road back to the court.

Add a healthy Stoudemire to a frontcourt that consists of Diaw and Marion, and
the Suns have a very dangerous and versatile frontline. Diaw and Marion can
both do it all, as they can knock down the outside jumper, are effective
driving to the hoop and can handle the rock.

Barbosa, who is the early favorite to capture NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, can
play both guard spots and has become a scorer, while Bell is the team’s best
perimeter defender and is also able to put the ball in the hoop.

Big man Kurt Thomas is a role player for the Suns. Thomas is a solid rebounder
and can score near the basket. He allows Stoudemire to get some minutes at
power forward and will be very valuable when the playoffs roll around.

Nash continues to make everyone he plays with better. His unbelievable
playmaking ability and remarkable court vision has helped the Suns maintain
their incredible efficiency on offense.

There is no doubt that Nash is the key to the offense, the Suns cannot afford
to lose any of their key players if they hope to reign supreme in the West.

San Antonio has Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and plenty of experience, while Dirk
Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jason Terry lead a deep Mavericks’ squad. Dallas and
San Antonio know what it takes to win, and the core group of Suns has not had
that feeling yet.

The Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz are also factors in the
West. The Nuggets, Lakers and Jazz are all solid, but they are all still a
notch below Dallas, Phoenix and the Spurs.

As long as they are healthy, the Suns have the right combination to get them
to the Promised Land. Nash is doing it all and his supporting cast, which is
led by Marion and Stoudemire, is ready to help him win the big one.

Athleticism, talent and scoring will rule the West when the dust clears in the
postseason.