Every key player on the 7 seconds or less Phoenix Suns teams was perfect for their roles.
Steve Nash, the engine of the offense, was elite at controlling pace. Amar’e Stoudemire was an athletic power forward who could run and jump for days. Shawn Marion was a slasher, solid shooter and quality defender.
Pace and space is the norm of today’s NBA, with 16 teams boasting a pace of 100 or higher this season, per NBA.com stats.
But former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni had his squads playing fast long before the current era. D’Antoni became head coach was during the 2003-04 campaign, as Frank Johnson was fired in December 2003; the Suns went an abysmal 29-53 that season. Nash played his first two years in the league with the Suns. And when Nash returned in 2004, he helped D’Antoni’s offense skyrocket.
The Suns led the NBA in pace during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 campaigns, the first two seasons Nash was back with the team. From there, the Suns ranked top five in pace for the next four seasons, all the way through the 2009-10 campaign.
Their fast-paced style wasn’t just for show, either. The Suns were productive, ranking first in points per game five times during Nash’s second stint with the team.
As one of the top point guards ever, Nash was the difference for those electric Suns teams. They went to the Western Conference Finals in 2005, losing to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs in five games.
Nash is the best point guard in Suns history, as he’s the franchise’s all-time leader in assists and 3-point field goals, per Basketball Reference.
Though Nash was important for the offense’s overall success, the two-time MVP had quality complementary players around him in Stoudemire and Marion.
Both Stoudemire and Marion established their reputations in Phoenix. Stoudemire earned five of his six All-Star appearances with the Suns, and Marion earned all four of his with the franchise.
Stoudemire had arguably his best season when Nash came back to the Suns in 2004. During the 2004-05 campaign, Stoudemire averaged a career-high 26.0 points per game and grabbed 8.9 rebounds per game. He led the Suns in scoring, and he ranked fifth in the NBA for points per game. He finished his career with the Suns averaging 21.4 points and 8.9 rebounds. According to Basketball Reference, Stoudemire is sixth on the Suns’ all-time leading scorers list.
Marion was essentially an ultra 3-and-D player before the term was popular. He locked down the perimeter, and he regularly played passing lanes. He led the NBA in total steals twice during his career, and he ranks second all-time in Suns history for the category. Along with his quality defense, Marion also was a decent shooter; he shot a respectable 34.2% from deep while in Phoenix.
Though the Suns were filled with talent, they could never reach the NBA Finals during their run. The closest they got was in 2006 and 2010.
They lost in six games to the Dallas Mavericks during the 2006 Western Conference Finals; they lost in six games to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers during the 2010 Western Conference Finals.
Despite having zero Finals appearances during the stretch, the Suns’ impact on the current game is clear. There are plenty of 3-and-D players like Marion throughout the league. The league is filled with bouncy forwards like Stoudemire.
Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young is reminiscent of Nash, with his dazzling handles and high-level passing. Per NBA.com stats, Young and the Hawks are sixth in the league this season for pace.