“Who am I?” is a question that has plagued man for eternity and that’s because it’s difficult to answer and ever changing.
It’s a question the Phoenix Suns need to look in the mirror and ask themselves right about now.
So here’s #TheTimeline of how we got here to help expedite the self-reflection process.
- 2009-10: Nine seasons ago you were two wins away from the NBA finals.
- 2012-13: Seven seasons ago you were a team transitioning from the Nash era and trying to do so with an ill conceived roster of has beens and never weres.
- 2013-14: A season later you were back with new uniforms, a new coach, a new GM and a new vision of tanking that went ary.
- 2014-15: A 48-34 campaign tanking was a thing of the past and it was time to go “all-in” on winning. After whiffing on landing LeBron, it was time to sign Isaiah Thomas to a team friendly deal and officially start the “Point Guard-ians of the Galaxy” era of three ball dominant guards in Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and the aforementioned Thomas on the same roster. That was fun for all of 53 games. Then came the trade deadline where you dealt a third of your roster, including Dragic and Thomas, in a matter of five minutes. Don’t worry thought, you did get Brandon Knight.
- 2015-16: No Dragic, No Thomas… major problems. Despite a 39-43 record and gutting the roster, the tank wasn’t back on. Instead, why not double-down. A two point guard lineup was back so why not take another swing at a major free agent? This time it was LaMarcus Aldridge and he too rebuffed the offer. The team was once again the bridesmaid and not the bride but they did get a wedding party gift of Tyson Chandler. The bright spot? The unexpected emergence of Devin Booker
- 2016-17: So that two point-guard thing? Yeah, it didn’t work. But, there’s a new coach. Yay! Unfortunately it’s Earl Watson. Eh? (But at least for the first few months his inspirational speeches are uplifting even if his record wasn’t.) Booker now has been joined by other young talent in the No. 4 pick Dragan Bender and the No. 8 pick, after some draft night maneuvering, Marquese Chriss. Oh, and the tank is back on. Just ask Eric Bledsoe, Tyson Chandler and the attitude of Brandon Knight
- 2017-18: So that was tough to watch but it landed us the No. 2 pick in the draft… Wait, what? OK the No. 4 pick in the draft but Josh Jackson is top 2 talent, at least that’s what we’re being told, so that worked out. Plus you dodged the bullet of having to draft a point guard and making it awkward with Eric Bled… nevermind. At least you didn’t wind up with the issue of Kyrie Irving… am I right? The tank is still on but at least there are some great new uniforms — no sarcasm there, they’re some of the best ever for the Suns — and Earl Watson was fired. Yeah, so Bledsoe forced his way out of town and you only got pennies on the dollar since you sent him home before the trade but that’s alright. At least next season is almost here… Wait, what? We’re only 11 games in?
As the great scholar Ferris Bueller once said, life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.
A lot has changed in nine years but it feels like the Suns are just as far as they were from knowing who they are as they were the day they dealt MV-Steve left to the Los Angeles Lakers. The growing pains — don’t worry there isn’t a bad Kirk Cameron joke here — have been immense and the results have been sparse with just one winning season.
It’s not all bleak. The aforementioned uniforms are now some of the best in the NBA. And as they say, dress for the job you want, not the one you have. So there’s that. In terms of talent, they’re in a better spot than when Lance Blanks left but perceived talent and wins on the court are far from the same thing. Devin Booker has a chance to be something special, T.J. Warren has shown flashes and Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss and Josh Jackson have all shown flashes. Plus, the Suns now have potentially 7 picks in the 2018 NBA Draft and a large amount of cap space once newly-acquired Greg Monroe’s contract comes off the books after the season.
The problem is this, the Suns have been the Elizabeth Taylor of the NBA thanks to their numerous messy public divorces with players. Marcin Gortat, Goran Dragic, the Morri, Isaiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe have all left the organization on uncomfortable terms that they weren’t afraid to talk about. In many cases, the organization even saying unflattering things as they leave. As the old saying goes, if you meet a jerk it’s unfortunate. If everyone you meet is a jerk, maybe they’re not the problem.
Cap space is only as good as the people you can potentially spend it on and right now the Suns’ image problem means anyone willing to sign a max deal with you probably wasn’t going to get it from anyone else. Players talk, agents representing numerous guys so alienating a group means you’ve probably poisoned the well for most. That won’t be an easy or quick fix.
That means it comes down to trades and the draft. With up to 7 picks next July and a roster full of potential there are likely deals to be had. They should come sooner rather than later though. Draft picks are only as good as their perceived value and, as of right now, teams don’t know what the Heat, Bucks or the Suns for that matter will be. Those picks, in the right light, can look pretty good to a team looking to go into rebuild mode. But which superstar will be disgruntled next and will the Suns like his fit? Only time will tell.
#TheTimeline and asset collecting isn’t a hall pass for Ryan McDonough and his staff though. The Celtics method only works if you finally make a move for a star and the clock is ticking. You have to prove to Devin Booker that, other than millions of dollars, that it’s worth investing your future in the franchise. More losing and dysfunction isn’t an option if you want to build around him and build something special.
Oh, and your arena lease is about to come up too and you have to ask the public for money for a new building. Not great timing.
So who are the Phoenix Suns? It’s time to figure it out before it’s too late and they’re just simply nothing more than an afterthought and a fond memory in the Valley.