Yikes. If that headline doesn’t give you night tremors as a Phoenix Suns fan, nothing will. It seems like the visual equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. “Miles Plumlee is the starting center for the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns.” Although Ryan McDonough has proven himself to be a wizard GM when it comes to making sure the Suns are tanking as much as possible and stockpiling draft picks for the loaded 2014 NBA Draft, the Marcin Gortat trade does have one unpleasant result. Watching Phoenix play this season will be like downing a handful of wasabi: hard to swallow, with possibly fatal effects.
That’s not to say there’s no reason to watch the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns play, however. I’ve already covered the top 10 reasons for Phoenix fans to tune in this season and luckily for Suns supporters, Gortat, Shannon Brown and Kendall Marshall weren’t anywhere on that list. Unfortunately, neither was Miles Plumlee, who now assumes the starter position from Gortat and over Alex Len and Channing Frye.
Why will Plumlee be getting his first career start instead of Frye or Len? Basically, they’re not ready yet. Frye missed all of last season with an enlarged heart condition that he was only recently medically cleared for. His game looked fine enough in the preseason, but his conditioning isn’t there yet. Frye already has enough problems guarding physical centers and he’s not a good rebounder for his size (5.2 boards per game over his career), so there’s no point in making it worse by leaving him in there winded.
The same goes for Len, who had a minimal (and pretty disappointing) role in the five preseason games he actually played in. Len’s been rehabbing from two summer ankle surgeries and is actually listed as questionable for the season opener against the Portland Trail Blazers. However, Len’s progress is well ahead of schedule since he was originally expected to be out until sometime in December. That being said, there’s no point in rushing things and risking the health of any 7-footer, especially in a tank season. Hence, Miles Plumlee’s name will be called out in Phoenix’s starting five introductions Wednesday night.
Plumlee has something to offer this team, however. He’s a pretty gifted athlete for being 6’11″ and can finish above the rim because he’s got great jumping ability. His preseason performances showed he’s a hard worker and a pretty solid defender who can bring energy and possibly even become a fan favorite in time, much like P.J. Tucker was last season. He’s still pretty raw on offense and won’t emerge as a superstar anytime soon, but he has value and is the most justifiable starter in Phoenix for the time being (FANTASY VALUE ALERT!).
How long will Plumlee hold on to the starting spot? It depends. Even if Plumlee emerges as a double-double threat and waiver wire darling in his time as Phoenix’s starter, it might be hard to tell how much of that has to do with Plumlee’s talent and how much of it has to do with the Suns not having anybody else to take up big minutes inside. And if Plumlee struggles in his first NBA starting role, Len will absolutely take over as soon as he’s healthy even if Plumlee’s a shade superior right now since Len is a younger prospect with more upside.
For now, Plumlee is the starting center of the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns. It sounds really bad on paper, but the two biggest things to watch for this season are the Goran Dragic-Eric Bledsoe backcourt and tanking, so it really doesn’t matter. Plumlee is a definite step down from Marcin Gortat, but the Suns win whether or not Plumlee excels. If Plumlee emerges as a viable or league-average starting center/power forward, even more kudos to McDonough for nabbing another young, decent prospect. But if he doesn’t, it’s not like Phoenix had to trade away something valuable to bring in a temporary starting center during a season in which the objective is losing.
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