Mar, 7, 2012; Oklahoma City OK, USA;Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden (13) looks to pass the ball against Phoenix Suns small forward Jared Dudley (3) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

Oklahoma City Thunder 2012-13 Preview: Phoenix Suns


Thunderous Intentions will begin to preview the 2012-13 NBA season by going through every team in the league and breaking down how they match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Be sure to check out the previous matchups we have previewed: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers.

Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

Phoenix Suns Team Overview

The Steve Nash era is now finally over in Phoenix. Nash played the last eight seasons in Phoenix, was the MVP in the first two and made the Suns title contenders for all but the last two.

Nash shocked the basketball world when he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers upon his request. There he will join Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol as he looks to capture the elusive NBA championship now in the twilight of his career.

The Suns are starting over now. They were a solid 33-33 last year which is amazing given the roster they had.

Grant Hill, Robin Lopez, Hakim Warrick, Josh Childress and Ronnie Price will be departing from last year’s team. The new additions include Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Kendall Marshall and P.J. Tucker.

They have a roster with some talent but it is tough to see how it will exactly all fit together. They could actually use someone like Nash to make sure everyone gets their touches, but then again couldn’t we all.

Last year

The Oklahoma City Thunder played the Suns three times last year and beat them each time.

They beat them on Dec. 31 in OKC first 107-97. Kevin Durant played only 26 minutes and had just 12 points. Russell Westbrook had 18 and James Harden had 10 off the bench. The real story for OKC was Daequan Cook hitting four threes off the bench as the Thunder easily rolled to the win, leading by 22 after three.

The Thunder beat the Suns again at home on March 7 115-104. Harden scored a then career-high 30 off the bench on 8-of-12 shooting. Durant had 30 and Westbrook had 31. Serge Ibaka had 18 and the only other points scored in the game by the Thunder were the six that Kendrick Perkins had.

Nash had 12 points and 13 assists while Marcin Gortat torched the Thunder with 28 points and 11 boards.

In their final meeting in Phoenix on April 18, it was Harden who again stole the show reaching a career-high again with 40 as the Thunder won 109-97. Harden was efficient again going 12-for-17 from the field. Durant had 29 and Westbrook had 15.

The matchup

The Suns had an impressive offense last year led by Nash and were 6th in the league overall in terms of points per possession.

The Suns were 2nd best in the league on pick-and-roll plays and 7th best in transition. They were 14th on spot-up plays and 7th in the post.

The Thunder were not the best vs. the pick-and-roll at just 11th vs. those plays but they were able to do a better job in their games vs. Phoenix during the season.

The Suns had just the 18th best defense though and the Thunder offense would have an advantage vs. them on any kind of play. The Suns were 9th best vs. isolation plays but ranked just 24th vs. pick-and-roll plays.

Next year

The Suns will look different next year without Nash and despite adding some more talent in his absence, they will probably take a step back in the standings. Playoffs would be a long shot for this team.

The Thunder will play the Suns four times first on Dec. 31 in OKC, then Jan. 14 in Phoenix, then Feb. 8 in OKC and finally Feb. 10 back in Phoenix.

An interesting wrinkle to this matchup is Phoenix’s openly being interested in Harden should he become a restricted free agent next summer. The Suns would love to make Harden the same max contract offer sheet they made with Eric Gordon this summer. The Thunder have until Oct. 31 to sign Harden to an extension to avoid this situation next summer.

Harden played some of the best basketball of the season last year against the Suns and Phoenix would love nothing more than to see those performances in their jersey instead.

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