The Phoenix Suns started in 1968 and have only made it to the NBA Finals twice – losing both times.
Despite the perceived disappointment in the franchise, there’s no denying the superstars the team has been blessed with over the years. From Connie Hawkins to Larry Nance to Tom Chambers to Jason Kidd, the Suns have a history of incredibly talented players.
From that crop of talented players, I’ll select an all-time starting five based on the best career with the Suns. There may be more talented players with better careers left off the starting five, but only the player’s career with Phoenix will be included. Feel free to comment (and critique if you must) below.
It’s easy to look at Amar’e Stoudemire now and wonder why he makes the list, but Stoudemire in his prime was a force to be reckoned with.
Stoudemire was a do-it-all threat on offense with the ability to score around the rim – he shot over 70 percent within three feet from 2003 to 2009 -and the ability to hit the mid-range shot – he shot around 46 percent from 10-feet to the three-point line during that same time period, both higher percentages than LaMarcus Aldridge‘s career highs, per Basketball-Reference.com.
While Stoudemire wasn’t the greatest of rebounders, he still managed to grab nine rebounds per game during his time in Phoenix, including almost three per game on the offensive end.
PF – Charles Barkley
Tom Chambers had one of the most electric dunks in NBA history, but it’s not enough to supplant the “Round Mound of Rebound” as the Suns’ best power forward.
Although he was only with the team for four seasons, Barkley is seventh all-time in the team’s history in offensive rebounds, fifth in defensive rebounds and seventh in total rebounds. Along with his rebounding, Barkley was ahead of his time with his ability to grab a defensive rebound and lead a fast break effectively.
Barkley notched over four assists per game during his time in Phoenix, and he had a Blake Griffin-like ability to pass on the fast break as a big man.
Aside from rebounding, Barkley’s best quality was his ability to score efficiently ahead of his time. Although Barkley has a strong distaste for advanced stats, he was an analytic darling. Despite shooting a lowly 30 percent from three during his career in Phoenix, he had a true shooting percentage of 58 percent during his stint with the Suns.
SF – Shawn Marion
Marion was the glue that kept the Suns together during the mid-2000s. At only 6-foot-7, Marion led the Suns in rebounds and blocks during his time in Phoenix while maintaining a true shooting percentage just under 55 percent (despite his unfortunate form).
Marion had the task of shutting down the opposition’s best player while leading a team consisting of Nash, Stoudemire and a revolving door at shooting guard to a league-average defense. The list of players who had the steals and blocks Marion did during his time in Phoenix is very short.
Among some of his greatest accomplishments was a two-year stint in which he shot 39 percent on three attempts from three-point range per game despite a shot that makes all witnesses cringe.
SG – Kevin Johnson
I know this is cheating, and Phoenix actually has a stable of qualified shooting guards for the list (Dan Majerle, Jeff Hornacek, Paul Westphal, Charlie Scott and Gail Goodrich), but it seems ignorant to compile a list of Phoenix Suns without including Kevin Johnson.
Over a nine-year period, Johnson averaged almost 20 points and 10 assists while shooting 51 percent from inside the three-point line (admittedly, his three-point shooting percentages aren’t as pleasing).
Johnson is best remembered for his famous dunks over some of the best centers of his time. Along with the dunk over Hakeem Olajuwon (video above), Johnson had an impressive dunk on Knicks center, Patrick Ewing. With almost a foot difference in height, these dunks are remembered for good reason.
PG – Steve Nash
The point-guard battle is one of the most competitive of almost any position on any team. In addition to Johnson, Jason Kidd is one of the best point guards in recent memory, and arguably a better point guard than Nash.
The peak of each player’s respective career was very similar with Kidd excelling defensively and Nash’s elite shooting. However, Kidd only played four seasons with the Suns compared to Nash’s eight seasons (not including the two at the beginning of his career).
During Nash’s eight-year stint with Phoenix, he led the league five times in assists per game and amassed double-digit assists in seven of the eight years (and averaged 9.7 assists the other year).
Nash’s shooting is what ultimately gives him the nod over Kidd. Nash was a career 50/40/90 (field goal percentage/three-point percentage/free throw percentage) in Phoenix, achieving it in four individual seasons. One of those seasons was in 2005-06 when he won his second consecutive MVP.
The question surrounding Nash was whether he should’ve been more aggressive shooting the ball. His career high in three-point attempts was 4.7, a number dwarfed by Stephen Curry‘s 8.1 this season. However, asking Nash to look to score more could’ve lessened the effect of his greatest skill, being arguably the greatest distributor the league has ever seen.
Previous all-time starting fives: Bulls, Pistons, Thunder-Sonics, Magic, Mavericks, Heat, Lakers, Wizards, Pacers, Raptors, Knicks, Bucks, Nuggets, Celtics, Grizzlies, Rockets, Pelicans-Hornets-Jazz, Clippers, Jazz, Spurs