Can the Suns redeem themselves?

After a half decade of turmoil, team looking to right the ship

Charles Landis, Sports Editor, Puma Press

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Since 2010, the Phoenix Suns have not made the playoffs and have finished with a record over .500 only once. This team has struggled to find its identity since the Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire era has ended, and it has not yet found a way to make itself relevant again in the Western Conference. Below are suggestions for the Suns to help them reclaim success in the conference.

Play the waiting game

The Golden State Warriors recently broke the 20-year NBA record for most wins during a regular season, finishing at 73-9 overall. This team is still quite young and just reaching the pinnacle of its greatness.

For the Suns to try and compete during this time does not make sense because the Warriors are almost unstoppable and have a very good chance at winning the NBA finals once again this year. Instead, it would be wise for the Suns to begin rebuilding for the future, so when the Warriors dynasty is past its prime, another team is waiting in the wings to be relevant.

The Suns have a chance to be that team, with formidable options going forward, including Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Devin Booker and Alex Len. Bledsoe is the oldest of the group at 26 years old, and Devin Booker was the youngest player in the NBA this year at 19.

With Knight being 23 and Len 22, this team is young at its core, and these players will likely not be hitting their primes until at least five years down the road. This gives the Warriors plenty of time for their trophy grab, and by the time they are finished, the players will probably be past their prime years of basketball.

Bledsoe averaged 20.4 points per game in the 31 games he played in the 2015 regular season before tearing the meniscus in his knee. Knight averaged 19.6 points per game this year, and the rookie Booker averaged 13.8 points. He also played 16 games in which he scored 20 points or more. Len averaged nine points per game this year, but showed promising potential with 31 points against the Orlando Magic and 26 points against the Warriors this season.

This team has struggled to find its identity since the Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire era has ended, and it has not yet found a way to make itself relevant again in the Western Conference.”

Stop trading everyone

The Suns have been known for the past few years as a team that will trade whoever to wherever, whenever they feel like it.

They traded Goran Dragic to the Miami Heat because the team was worried he would not sign a contract with them in the offseason because he believes that they can not be trusted.

They abandoned ship on the “three-headed point guard” idea and traded Isaiah Thomas to the Boston Celtics for unclear reasons and then traded for Brandon Knight to come to Phoenix in the same day.

A year after this trade deadline debacle, the Suns shipped off Markieff Morris to the Washington Wizards for a protected first round pick and the salary dump of veteran forward and infamous 72-day husband of Kim Kardashian, Kris Humphries.

Basketball is still a business at the end of the day, and the franchise has to make whatever trades it feels necessary to move its team in the right direction, but how about keeping the players around for a little while before hitting the panic mode every single time?

Take a risk early in the draft

The Suns have four selections in the top 34 picks this year in the NBA Draft, and they can find some very good players for those picks.

Australian high school senior, Thon Maker, was recently declared eligible for the draft. He would be a perfect pick for Phoenix with the 28th overall selection in the first round. He is a 7-foot-1, 220-pound center that is only 19 years old and has the shooting and ball handling skills of a guard. He is fast, light on his feet, and does not shy away from contact and fouls when driving to the rim.

Another intriguing player the Suns may have a chance to draft is Dragan Bender from Bosnia-Herzegovina. He is 18 years old, 7 feet tall and weighs 215 pounds. Much like Maker, he has strong ball handling and shooting skills for his size and is an incredibly young prospect the Suns have the chance to build around for years to come.

Bender has the extremely high chance to be drafted early in the first round, so the Suns may have to use their fourth overall pick if they want to secure him as part of their franchise.

As previously stated, the core of the Suns is very young. If they believe they have the ability to draft two young prospects and turn them into developing NBA players, the rewards could be tremendous. Not only does this make this team even younger, they would have a very deep pool of talent in their organization for years to come.

Do not overpay for a veteran free-agent once again

In recent history the Suns have not had the winning success needed to be able to land big free agents in the offseason. The team had the opportunity this past offseason when it was rumored that former Portland Trailblazers forward, LaMarcus Aldridge, might very likely come to Phoenix.

He has averaged 19.2 points per game over his entire NBA career, per NBA Stats.

Instead he chose to sign with the San Antonio Spurs, but because of his rumored interest, the Suns signed center Tyson Chandler to a four-year contract worth $52 million in guaranteed money. Tyson is known for his outstanding defense and rebounding and that was what Aldridge was reportedly looking for in a teammate to play with in the frontcourt.

Chandler is currently 33-years old, averaged 7.2 points per game this year and has three years of guaranteed money remaining on his contract. The Suns have a much younger, and certainly more promising player at this time in center Alex Len. He is only 22 and was drafted in the first round in 2013 with the fifth selection overall. When a team drafts someone as high Len, it should be expected that he will be a starter soon, which he should be. The problem is that the Suns are now tied to Chandler’s contract because they thought he would entice Aldridge into becoming the franchise player for Phoenix.

      Build a “culture” around the team

Too many times I have seen turmoil surrounding the members of this team. From Markieff Morris throwing at towel at former head coach and Suns great Jeff Hornacek, to point guard Archie Goodwin fighting aforementioned Morris on the bench. Where is the respect and professionalism? It begins with the coaching they receive, and it had been rumored many times that Hornacek had a hard time disciplining the hotheads on the team. Morris has 45 technical fouls in his career, so it helps that he is not a distraction for the team anymore.

With the hiring of new head coach Earl Watson, the Suns now must decide what they want their identity to look like as a team. Hopefully Watson will instill patience, confidence, and the right amount of grit into these impressionable young players.

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Can the Suns redeem themselves?