The Phoenix Suns came into the 2015-2016 season with high hopes of being a darkhorse contender for the first time since the Nash and Stoudemire era. Injuries, lack of talent, and the loss of faith in their coaching staff have the team reeling for some sort of direction for the future. This is where I will lay out a plan to help this team regain its relevance in the league.
Injuries are a key component of any sport, whether we like it or not. The biggest name to be plagued by a season ending injury, Eric Bledsoe is going to miss the rest of the season due to a torn meniscus. Role players such as Tyson Chandler, Jon Leuer, and Markieff Morris have battled their own injuries and disagreements. Morris has been a thorn in the side of the organization after being upset about the trading of his brother during the offseason. After his towel throwing tantrum, Morris will likely get what he wants, as the trade deadline begins to inch closer and closer. Even though injuries have been prevalent this season, even when healthy, the chemistry is poor and not that of a contender.
It is pretty obvious the organization has very little talent that can be cohesive. Eric Bledsoe can dominant both ends of the court, but his poor attitude has cost the Suns two good point guards, and rumors are swirling about his poor chemistry with another guard, Brandon Knight. Brandon Knight is a good stat stuffer, but lack of efficiency has always prevented him from being a great player. Markieff Morris is a good player, but his disgruntled attitude is causing people to question his role in the league without his brother, who is thriving without him in Detroit. Across the board his stats are down, only hurting both him and the team as the look for a trade destination. The role players for the Phoenix Suns all have good potential. 2015 First Round Pick, Devin Booker posted a career high with 21 points against the Kings on 1/02/2016. T.J. Warren is a deadly scorer from the wing, and after being on a tight leash the past season and a half, Warren is getting some room to showcase his skills. Jon Leuer has come out of shadows to be a deadly stretch four for the Suns bench. After two disappointing seasons, Alex Len is looking like he could be part of the core for the future. Tyson Chandler needs to be gotten rid of. Chandler once was a dominant defensive center, but his diminishing skill, outrageous cap number, and need to build for the future, has Chandler being a bigger liability than asset.
Phoenix has a great coaching staff that will likely be picked apart by other organizations at the end of the season. Even with that being said, the players have lost faith in the coaches. There have been quite a bit of rumors swirling that a reunion could be in store with Mike D’Antoni and the Phoenix Suns this offseason. D’Antoni had great success in Phoenix, and his style of fast pace coaching could be the answer for this young, electric squad looking for an identity to build off.
Now it is time to discuss how to fix this organization. The players have lost faith in Jeff Hornacek, and his staff. Phoenix will need to find a new coach to lead this squad, and hot names earlier on are Mike D’Antoni and Luke Walton. Walton is generating a lot of interest after his success in Golden State while filling in for Steve Kerr, but many people are skeptical of how good he really is with how good of a roster he was handed. Whoever is hired this offseason, they will be dealt a roster with holes across the board. The front office will need to make the choice of rebuild or spend, and quite frankly the rebuild road would be easier for this organization.
Now that we have a new head coach, and a plan to rebuild, here is the best way to exploit the roster for the best. Tyson Chandler needs to be traded. He is already 33, and his production is way below his career average. You might have to give up some future picks, but it will be worth it to shed his contract and poor play from this squad. Now you have a back court, who are struggling to find any chemistry, and neither one is a great compliment to one another. Brandon Knight is not the ideal point guard to lead a franchise, but with Eric Bledsoe’s poor ability to adapt to other guards, Knight might have to be the answer going forward for now. Bledsoe can fetch a really good haul for the Suns to build around. Philadelphia has a good chance to end up with two top five picks, and are in need of a guard of any sort, and with the 2016 draft class currently having little showcasing of talent from the guards, the Lakers top three protected pick could be the asset needed to get the point guard of the future for the lowly franchise. Morris is the next player that needs to be traded. This needs to happen no matter what else happens with this franchise. Morris has acted childish all season, and there is quite a bit of interest for his services throughout the league. With his poor play and attitude, Morris’s value is less than what it was going into the season, but a change of scenery should boost his attitude and game, while relieving the headache for the Sun’s organization.
After trading these three players, let us take a closer look at their new starters. You would have a starting line-up of Brandon Knight, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Jon Leuer, and Alex Len. This line-up is not very pleasant to think about taking the court, but we have the draft to help this problem out. Booker would be a good partner for Knight, as he does not need the ball in his hands to be effective. Warren is a capable scorer from the wing, but his still developing. The frontcourt is not NBA starting caliber, and that is what would need to be addressed in the draft.
This draft night scenario is completely hypothetical, and of course benefits the Sun’s greatly. Philadelphia trades the Lakers top three protected pick for Eric Bledsoe fearing the Lakers will retain the pick. Lottery night comes and the Lakers pick is the fourth overall pick giving the Suns a top five pick. With how bad the bottom of the Eastern Conference is, Phoenix ends ups with the sixth overall pick in this scenario. Phoenix decides to use both of their picks for the frontcourt. Jakob Poeltl is flying up draft boards, and rightfully so. Poeltl is more NBA-ready than any of the other centers in the draft class, and also brings a prototypical NBA body. Skal Labissiere might have a higher ceiling than Poeltl, but I would take the safer pick in Poeltl. With the sixth selection, Phoenix continues to address their frontcourt with the selection of Henry Ellenson. Ellenson is viewed as a Kevin Love type player, average defense, but terrific offense and rebounding skills. Poeltl is not a good floor spacer, so opening up the lane with Ellenson would be crucial for the Suns. The Suns also have another late first round pick, which should be used for a shooter or a draft-and-stash. We a newly built frontcourt full of offensive and defensive potential, and shooters filling the wing and backcourt, Phoenix would be in much better shape, than they are currently in. As the first sentence does state, this draft is hypothetical, but the selections were completely in their respective draft ranges.
If Phoenix wants to be a contender again they need to rebuild themselves through the draft. Phoenix tried to build around Eric Bledsoe, but things did not go as planned. As long as you do not completely gut your roster and only draft centers, a draft rebuild is not as difficult as the 76ers are making it look. If the front office can convince the fan base they are going to rebuild the correct way, things could be brighter in the desert in no time.
By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17