After an underwhelming 11-17 start to the regular season, the Phoenix Suns would need a Christmas miracle to secure a playoff spot and shock the league this year.
A playoff spot seems extremely unlikely, but that may not be the team's priority. Phoenix is in the midst of a rebuilding process, and they will need more time to acquire some young talent and develop chemistry before they're back in the playoffs.
Even though the Suns won't be contending for a title this season, there are still a few things that Suns fans should be wishing for this Christmas.
Here are three of those wishes.
Improved Play from Michael Beasley
When the Suns signed Michael Beasley to a three-year, $18 million contract in the offseason, they expected to gain a player who would be the closest thing they would have to a star. Instead, Beasley has only been a liability for the Suns this season.
Right now, Beasley is averaging 10.5 points and 3.6 rebounds a game while shooting just 38 percent from the field and 33 percent from downtown. He also attempts 10.9 shots a game, meaning he shoots more shots than he scores points.
Beasley has struggled in literally every aspect of the game. He has 61 assists, which is just slightly more than the 60 turnovers he has committed. Beasley also has an awful PER of 9.9, and he has actually contributed minus-0.8 win shares to the team.
His struggles have also affected the whole team, as the Suns as a unit are much worse with Beasley on the floor. When Beasley is on the bench, the Suns score 107.7 points per 100 possessions and allow 99.1 points per 100 possessions. When Beasley is playing, they score 102.9 points while allowing 117.7 points. Those numbers suggest that Beasley has had negative effects on both offense and defense.
With such a bad season so far, the Suns recently decided to move Beasley to the bench, where he has played for the last seven games. Beasley has not played any better recently, however, as he is still shooting just 34 percent from the field in December.
Some Suns fans might wish for Beasley to be traded by the February deadline. While that's a possibility, it would be even better to see Beasley make a comeback and start to improve in 2013.
One thing Beasley can do is stop relying on so many three-point attempts and jump shots. Beasley is averaging a high 3.8 three-point attempts per 36 minutes, and 77 percent of his shot attempts are jump shots. But Beasley's field-goal percentage for those attempts is just 36 percent, while he does much better from inside.
It won't be easy fixing Beasley. He needs to commit to defense, he needs to attack the basket more often and he must also work on his jump-shot consistency. But it isn't quite time to give up on Beasley yet, and maybe the new year will bring about some positive changes in his game.
A Drama-Free Year
The start of the season was particularly bad for the Suns. The team struggled to develop chemistry, and that led to the frustration of some players, particularly Marcin Gortat.
Back in November, Gortat vented to a Polish publication about not being the team's main scoring option on the low block anymore. He does have a point, as Gortat's shot attempts have dipped from 11.7 last season to 9.1 this year, and his usage rate has dropped from 20.8 to 16.7 percent.
Gortat is set to make $7.7 million next season, but after that he will be a free agent. The Suns could trade him sometime in the next couple of seasons, but they would probably prefer to have Gortat as the team's starting center for years to come so they can focus their attention on other holes at shooting guard and small forward.
Really, the last thing the Suns need is more drama. They don't want to be taken on a roller-coaster ride in which Gortat is constantly either saying he wants to be traded or saying he will be loyal to the team. Furthermore, a situation like that would only affect team chemistry in a negative way, and poor cohesion would also impact the team's record.
Really, the Suns just want everyone on the roster to be happy that they're in Phoenix. That means they need Luis Scola and Gortat to coexist, and they need guys like Beasley to realize that they're liable to be benched when they're struggling and that they can't just demand a bigger role.
A Little Help from Conference Rivals
Right now, the Suns realize that they can't realistically make the playoffs. For this team, it's all about rebuilding. And you can't rebuild without a lot of draft picks.
That's where other NBA teams come in. The Suns currently have three first-round draft picks, and Suns fans should be rooting for some specific teams to finish with particularly bad seasons.
In addition to their own first-round pick, the Suns also own Minnesota's first-rounder in the upcoming draft. However, it comes with a caveat: The T-Wolves' pick is top-13 protected in the draft, and if Minnesota is also eligible to acquire Memphis' pick (top-14 protected), they are allowed to convey the least favorable of the two picks to the Suns.
Essentially, that means the Suns will most likely be given the Grizzlies' first-round pick. The Grizzlies have an 18-7 record and will almost definitely be a playoff team, so the Timberwolves will likely give that pick up.
It won't be a lottery selection, but draft position still counts. Suns fans should be hoping for a weak finish from Memphis, because the 15th or 16th pick in the draft is a lot better than the 25th pick, which is what the Suns would get if the NBA draft was today.
In addition to a pick from Minnesota, the Suns will also receive a first-round pick from the Lakers this year. But once again, there are some details included. The Lakers are supposed to give the least favorable of their own, Cleveland's, Sacramento's and Miami's picks to Phoenix. Basically, that means the Lakers will likely give the Suns a pick from the Heat, which should be one of the last picks in the first round.
But, the Suns could get lucky. If the Lakers pick is within the first 14 selection, they are required to give their pick to Phoenix and cannot choose to give away Miami's selection instead. Congratulations, Suns fans, you have yet another reason to boo the Lakers now.
If the Lakers finish in the lottery and are required to forfeit their pick to Phoenix, it will make a huge difference in next season's roster. Bringing in a rookie who was selected in the lottery means a lot more than bringing in a rookie who was one of the last first-round selections.
Look, the Suns are clearly having a bad year. It's all just a part of the rebuilding process. Even a Christmas miracle wouldn't bring a championship to this team right now, but these are some more realistic goals that all Suns fans should be hoping for in 2013.
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