NBA: Phoenix Suns Future
Three years ago the Phoenix Suns were a very good basketball team. They had the league’s best offense and were led by two-time MVP Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and an explosive bench that featured Leandro Barbosa, Goran Dragic, and Jared Dudley. Summing up their season, the 2010 Suns were less than a handful of plays away from breaking into their first NBA Finals since 1993, making it all the way to the Western Conference Finals before be taken down by the Lakers.
Fast forward to present day and the team has been completely renovated. Nash is playing for the Suns’ biggest rival, the Los Angeles Lakers and Stoudemire is in New York. The only two players who remain are Dudley and Dragic (who was traded from Phoenix to Houston in February 2011, but signed a four-year, $30 million deal with the Suns as a free agent this July).
The current Suns roster has no superstar caliber players; which is a vital part in contending for an NBA Championship. This summer they made a run at Shooting Guard Eric Gordon, but were foiled when New Orleans matched their maximum contract offer sheet. The money that the Suns ended up saving was probably for the best, as Gordon remains on the sideline with a lingering knee injury, but it doesn’t help the Suns current situation from a talent standpoint.
Let’s take a look at some scenarios for the Suns that might get them back on the right track towards making a run at an NBA championship; possibly faster than anybody might expect.
The Suns roster, for both this season and next, is a collection of talented pieces that don’t fit all that well together. They have very little three-point shooting (they are toward the bottom of the rankings) to space the floor and their talent in the backcourt is severely lacking. They are currently last in the league in defense as well. What they do have are players that have contracts that can easily be moved in the right package.
If you look at the contracts of Goran Dragic, Marcin Gortat, Luis Scola, Jared Dudley, and Michael Beasley, nobody is making more than Gortat’s $7.7 million. (That contract expires at the end of the year) All of these players, (yes, even an inconsistent Beasley), could be useful for a contending team. Each of them could be a useful asset that might swing a deal for a high impact player, especially if you throw in the extra draft picks Phoenix acquired from Los Angeles in the Steve Nash trade.
How about “Cap Space”? Next summer the Suns will be approximately $13 million under the salary cap. That is more than enough money to upgrade their athleticism by buying low on a player like Tyreke Evans. Or, if they want to get clever, clearing enough room for a bigger name, like Andrew Bynum by dealing Michael Beasley and a draft pick. The way Beasley is playing right now, Phoenix will try to deal him quickly.
One final aspect to look at is the Suns Training Staff. They are often rated as the best in the league at keeping their players on the court. Players around the NBA are more than aware of the Suns trainers and that could be an underrated factor that players might seek out during their contract negotiations.
The roster looks rocky right now, but there’s no reason to believe the picture won’t look better soon. It will come down to the Suns front-office. Are they going to be trend setters and offer up contracts for some star players or are they going to sit back and get lesser talented players just to fill the roster. Only time will tell.