Hi everyone! I’m Vaughan Jones, Sideline Intel’s new Staff Writer for the Phoenix Suns! In honor of the Suns celebrating 2000s night tonight against the Thunder, here are the best of the best from the Suns winning runs of the new millennium.
- Kurt Thomas (6.4 PPG, 6.6 REB)
The Suns weren’t much for centers. Thomas took up space in the paint on the Suns in the prime of the “Seven Seconds or Less” era from 2005-2007. He wasn’t much of a scorer, but he was a decent rebounder and held his own against the talented bigs of his era. The Suns always played small, even in a big NBA, so Thomas’s role wasn’t as big as it was on other teams he played for.
- Channing Frye (11.2 PPG, 5.3 REB)
Ah, stretch bigs. A important piece in today’s NBA, but a tough piece to find in the 2000s. Frye was deadly from 3-point range, and could rebound the ball when called upon. He worked perfectly in the Suns pick-and-roll centered offense, where he could set picks for Nash and fade back to shoot the 3, or stand in the corner to shoot while Nash and STAT did their thing. Fans will remember Frye’s clutch performance in a 2OT game against the Nets, where he hit two straight 3s to send the game into overtime (or at least, I’ll always remember it because that game was incredible).
- Shaquille O’Neal (15.9 PPG, 8.7 REB, 60.3% eFG%)
Although he wasn’t on the team for long, Shaq made a big impact for the Suns at center. Not only that, but he helped evolve Amar’e Stoudamire’s game by forcing him to shoot midrange due to the space Shaq took up in the paint. Though the Big Shaqtus’s run was short, it was certainly entertaining for Suns fans to watch one of the best centers in NBA history don purple and orange.
- Boris Diaw (11.3 PPG, 5.3 REB, 37.4% 3-Point%, 51.2% FG%)
History will remember Boris Diaw as an integral part of the Suns success from 2005-2009. Diaw was a talented scorer and shooter during his time with the Suns, and he was a guy who could score off the bench when the team needed a spark. Diaw was traded to Charlotte as a part of the Jason Richardson/Jared Dudley trade, and in a way, that was Diaw’s last assist to the team. Diaw currently plays overseas, but played with the Utah Jazz in the 2016-2017 season.
- Shawn Marion (18.3 PPG, 10.1 REB, 1.9 STL, 1.3 BLK)
The Matrix was the embodiment of what it meant to be a Phoenix Sun in the 2000s. A high flying defensive forward, Marion could score at will with a very strange looking jumper, and throw down highlight dunks on the fast break. He was one of the best defenders in the history of the Suns organization, ranking 2nd all-time in steals and 3rd all-time in blocks. Marion went on to win a ring with the Dallas Mavericks, and is now retired from the NBA.
- Amar’e Stoudamire (21.4 PPG, 8.9 REB, 1.4 BLK)
STAT, Standing Tall and Talented. Stoudamire could do everything. The 2002-2003 ROTY could shoot, dunk, defend, and run the pick and roll like no other during his time in the NBA. His career was beset with injuries, but that didn’t stop Stoudamire from playing 2 82-game seasons for the Suns. 6 out of 8 seasons with Phoenix, Amar’e averaged over 20 points, and he averaged over 1 block all 8 seasons. He’s 5th all-time in blocks, 6th all-time in points, and 3rd all-time in total rebounds for the Suns. Not to mention his unparalleled play alongside Steve Nash. Amar’e really was irreplaceable when he left for the Kicks. Stoudamire went on to play for the Knicks, Heat, and Mavericks. He played overseas in Israel last year, and signed a contract to play in the BIG3 this summer.
- Grant Hill (12.1 PPG, 4.7 REB, 51.2 eFG%)
After over a decade of play in the NBA, Grant Hill found the famous “fountain of youth” in the Phoenix training staff. Hill had several seasons of stellar play and playoff appearances, playing for the Suns from 2007-2012. He was deadly from the corner pocket, and helped spread the floor on offense. Hill’s age showed on defense, but he stood his ground and helped the Suns make their famed 2009-2010 Western Conference Finals run, where he played key minutes defending Kobe Bryant and Meta World Peace. Hill currently works for NBATV.
- Jared Dudley (9.6 PPG, 3.6 REB, 41.2 3-Point%)
JYD is on this list for defensive merit alone. His defensive assignment was always the toughest guy on the other team, and for good reason. After being traded from Charlotte in 2008, Dudley defended the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Paul Pierce, and other superstars. Dudley’s scrappy style of play, smooth 3-point shot, and overall energy was a key piece of the Suns playoff run in the 2009-2010 season, where he, like Hill, defended guys like Kobe Bryant and Manu Ginobili. Dudley current plays for the Phoenix Suns, where he is the “Gatekeeper” of #TheTimeline, and a good veteran presence off the bench.
- Joe Johnson (12.9 PPG, 4.1 REB, 3.2 AST, 48.1 eFG%)
“Iso” Joe, Big Shot Joe, Joe Cool, whatever you want to call him, Joe Johnson had the tools to score from anywhere on the floor. Johnson defined the early 2000s for the Suns as a wing player and NBA Superstar, and worked alongside Jason Kidd and Steve Nash playing exciting fast-paced basketball like the league had never seen. Johnson is currently searching for a ring on the Houston Rockets after a year with the Utah Jazz.
- Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway (12.0 PPG, 4.5 REB, 3.8 AST)
Penny, after an incredible few seasons in Orlando, began to experience trouble with his knee. After becoming an injury risk, he was traded to the Suns where the training staff worked their “magic” (pun intended). Hardaway only played 4 games in the 2000-2001 season, but bounced back to play 80 the next year. He ran alongside Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion and was a dynamic scorer. Though he never lived up to his time on the Magic, Penny was worth the paycheck as he neared retirement. Penny is now coaching high school basketball in Memphis.
- Quentin Richardson (14.9 PPG, 6.1 REB)
In only one season with the Suns, Richardson managed to space the floor incredibly effectively. A part of the 04-05 Conference Finals run, Richardson was in peak shooting form, shooting near 40% from 3-point range in those playoffs. His time with the Suns was incredibly short lived, and one could only imagine what could have been if he had spent more time with the team. Richardson is now working in front offices around the NBA, recently as a Detroit Pistons scout.
- Jason Richardson (16 PPG, 4.6 REB, 1.0 STL, 54.4 eFG%)
The key part of the Suns-Bobcats trade in 2008, Richardson had been previously known for his time on the “We Believe” Warriors. For the Suns, he was an incredibly dynamic guard. Whenever he would shoot from the corner after a deadeye pass from Nash, entire arenas would go silent and wait for the shot to fall. Richardson was arguably the 2nd or 3rd best player on the Suns during their 2009-2010 playoff run, as his shooting and dunking put the Suns on the path to success. Richardson would go on to be traded to the Magic for Vince Carter, and would end his NBA career in 2015 after injury-riddled years with the Sixers.
- Leandro Barbosa (12.6 PPG, 2.6 AST)
Barbosa is one of the most fun players to watch. The nickname “Brazilian Blur” is incredibly fitting, as Barbosa burned defender after defender with his incredible speed and scoring ability. He wasn’t much of a passer, but his instant offense was always appreciated off the bench. Barbosa spent the first seven years of his career playing in Phoenix, where he saw several playoff berths. He went on to play around the NBA, including two pitstops in Phoenix in 2013 and 2016, and he now brings his speed and handling the Brazilian basketball, where he grew up.
- Jason Kidd (14.1 PPG, 9.7 AST, 6.3 REB)
Technically, Kidd only spent one year with the Suns in the 2000s, but played with them over the course of five seasons. Kidd was one of the best passers to ever see the floor, and used his size to effectively defend against smaller guards. Arguably one of the best point guards in NBA history, Kidd wasn’t much of a shooter but he had eyes in the back of his head, and was the teacher of the #1 point guard (and #1 player) on this list.
- Steve Nash (16.3 PPG, 10.9 AST, 50-40-90)
In one of the biggest no-brainers in sports history, Nash is the best point guard and best player on the Suns in the 2000s era. Nash shot 50% from the floor, 40% from 3-point range, and 90% from the free-throw line over his career, a mark few have hit before or since. He averaged a double-double, dishing out assists to everyone in sight. He wasn’t an amazing defender, but is still 10th in Suns history in steals. Nash ranks 3rd in NBA history in assists, just below Jason Kidd and John Stockton. “MVSteve” was a two-time MVP for the Suns, and is also known for his charity work. Nash retired with the Lakers (gross), and is currently, as of February 2018, a Turner Sports Soccer analyst. Nash’s first love was soccer, his second love was hockey, and his third love was basketball. Can you imagine being THAT good at your third favorite sport?
That was a fun trip down memory lane! I grew up watching all these guys play, and I can say a lot of these guys were some of the best to play the game. Thanks for reading, and keep checking out Sideline Intel for more Suns content from yours truly, and more amazing sports content in general!