Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Future of the Phoenix Suns

"Free Steve Nash!" "Fire Gentry!" "Trade ____!"

Such is the collective feeling of the Suns fanbase. Suns fans don't like what they're seeing so far this season, and honestly, I don't blame them. One might think that Sarver & co. would have learned a little something from the failed identity change of 2008-09, but yet again we find ourselves looking at a Suns team being asked to focus on defense first, throwing the familiar run 'n' gun style out the window. Like in 2009, it's not working very well.

Historically, the Suns have been quick in their rebuilding process and haven't really had any extended periods of losing, a la Golden State or the Clippers. To me, this preserves some hope that the franchise will put their plan in motion in time to minimise the rebuilding years and have the team back around the top of the West where they belong.

Part of the foundation has been laid, with just six guys under contract after the season (Marcin Gortat, Jared Dudley, Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick, Josh Childress and Markieff Morris) meaning there is money to be spent - what's important is that the Suns spend it on the right guys. Milwaukee and Detroit are two good examples of what can happen when teams make poor use of cap room. The next step would be to draft well, with Charlotte being an example of failing to capitalize on multiple lottery selections.

Above all, the Suns need to avoid the infamous mediocrity treadmill. That's why there's so much talk of trading Nash among Suns fans, because they're of the belief that Nash elevates this team from terrible to average, which puts the team (at this stage) in the late lottery, making it all the more difficult to draft the next franchise cornerstone.

The problem with that, though, is that the Bobcats, Wizards, Hornets and Pistons are all doing a much better job of losing, and the Raptors, Nets, Warriors, Kings, Knicks, Cavs and Bucks are all at around the same level, hovering between .300 and .400  in the standings. Obviously, the season's only around 1/3 complete, so things can (and likely will) change by the time the draft lottery is run. Despite that, it's hard to see the Suns losing enough games to significantly improve their chances of landing the #1 pick, with or without Nash at the helm.

Luckily, this draft class is touted as the deepest since the famous '03 class of LeBron and co., so Phoenix don't necessarily have to pick in the Top 5 to land a key piece of the future. Furthermore, there's talk of some lottery prospects staying in school another year, strengthening the following draft in a year the Suns are likely to be in the lottery again.

Building around a core of Gortat and bench role players means the supporting cast is already in place, leaving holes in the roster that can be filled by one guy at a time, instead of having to rely on a committee - i.e. franchise players. It's easier said than done, that's certain, but the Suns have the flexibility to land franchise players in all 3 possible ways (trade, draft and free agency).

Rather than trading Nash, I'd consider re-signing him. Call me crazy, but for $8-10 million there's still no other point guard I'd rather have running my team, and if I get to watch the brilliance of Nash without compromising the rebuilding process (i.e. the team still sucks enough to land good prospects), then a future with Nash is the future of the Phoenix Suns I'd like to see.

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