At least one expert projection has Nash-less Suns flaming out; players' brothers establishing own names.
By RANDY HILL FS Arizona
Just in case
Suns fans were worried about their team getting overwhelmed by unreasonable expectation (cough), ESPN The Magazine -- assisted by the analytics sharpies at basketballprospectus.com -- has taken care of that worry.
Based on their crunching of applicable numbers related to personnel and other tricky concerns, the Suns are predicted to stagger home at 14th in the 15-team Western Conference.
Right, at least there won’t be much pressure to match or exceed that.
According to the ominous and precisely massaged data, Phoenix can expect, oh, 26.1 victories and 55.9 defeats. But if things skew a bit south -- the example given was Goran Dragic only matching the overall numbers he posted last season in Houston -- the Suns could manage only 24 triumphs.
It should be noted that Goran’s numbers (11.7 points and 5.3 assists per game with 46.2 percent shooting), were hiked by the 18/8.4/49 he rang up in 28 games as a starter. And in his Phoenix return to replace Steve Nash, The Dragon figures to remain the starter this season ... unless physically compromised. By the way, the ESPN forecast informs us that with Nash still in town, the Suns would rise all the way to 29 wins.
It’s interesting to note that even with the additions of Luis Scola, Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson and Jermaine O’Neal, the aging Nash supposedly wouldn’t be able to get the Suns to even the 33 victories they achieved in only 66 games last season.
By the way, this statistically driven study informs us that the combined player-efficiency rating of Scola, Beasley and Marcin Gortat (the Suns’ expected starting lineup) is only slightly less than the frontcourt of last season’s Oklahoma City Thunder. It also should be mentioned that Scola, Beasley and Gortat played for three different teams last season, so bothering to make these comparisons seems a bit clunky.
The OKC reference reminds us that The Magazine’s prediction catalog includes the Nuggets coming out of the West to meet the Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals.
LUKE, WE ARE YOUR BROTHERS
Finishing with fewer than 30 wins would allow the Suns to claim quite a few Ping-Pong balls in the 2013 draft lottery.
But that may not be enough to bring Luke Zeller’s brother to the desert. Luke, you may have heard, is the undrafted (2009) free-agent big from Notre Dame currently attempting to secure a roster spot with the Suns.
In Friday’s big audition -- a 107-97 loss to the Thunder in Tulsa -- the eldest of three basketball-playing Zellers bagged almost 25 minutes of burn while coach Alvin Gentry took notes. Zeller, whose value would seem rooted to his ability to shot from distance, made just 3 of 10 shots in that one.
Anyway, Zeller’s younger brother Tyler was a first-round pick last season and now works for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Youngest brother Cody is a sophomore center at Indiana and is listed as the top prospect for the 2013 draft, according to NBADraft.net.
The Zellers are from the Indiana town of Washington, where a little more than 11,000 residents help pack a 7,100-seat gym whenever the Washington High Hatchets are playing.
KEEPING UP WITH BROTHERS
While Cody Zeller attempts to play up to this exalted level, the younger brother of Suns guard Shannon Brown will help in Proviso East High’s (Maywood, Ill.) bid for another deep run in the Illinois state tournament.
Sterling Brown, a 6-foot-4 guard, is a four-star prospect listed at 76th (Scout.com) in a ranking of the nation’s top seniors. Brown and the Proviso East Pirates lost only once last season -- in the state final to Chicago Simeon and Class of 2013 All-America hotshot Jabari Parker.
Brown has committed to play for Larry Brown at SMU.
Meanwhile, Ethan Telfair, the younger brother of Suns guard Sebastian, has left Lincoln High in New York City and will play his senior season at Quest Prep in Las Vegas. The 5-9 point guard averaged 7 points and 4 dimes as a junior for Lincoln.
Zoran Dragic, the 25-year-old sibling of Suns point guard Goran, is working on a two-year contract for Unicaja Malaga of the Spanish League.
And Marcus Morris, twin brother of second-year Suns forward Markieff, scored 7 points over 12 minutes in his only preseason appearance this season for the Houston Rockets.