With an 11-19 record, the Phoenix Suns have been disappointing this season to say the least.
Many of the players have struggled this year, and the Suns continue to drop more losses while they try to develop chemistry and discover their identity as a team.
But even for those underwhelming players, a new year also brings hope. With some hard work and a little bit of luck, some guys should be able to show signs of improvement in 2013.
Here are five players who will step up their game next year.
Note: All stats and figures expressed in this article are accurate as of 12/29/12
Jared Dudley really struggled at the beginning of the season when he started at shooting guard, but he has been on fire recently, a trend that should continue into the new year.
Ever since he was inserted back into the starting lineup at small forward, Dudley has been great. Through 13 games in December, Dudley is averaging 16.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists a game while shooting 53 percent from the field. During this hot streak, he also put up a career-high 36 points against the Knicks.
In addition, Dudley has earned a lot of respect from head coach Alvin Gentry, and that has led to an increase in minutes. Dudley has logged over 40 minutes in three games this month, and he averages 24.3 points and has shot 63 percent from the field in those games.
Dudley is by no means a primary scoring option, but he can be lethal from long range and he has proven over the last month that he can be counted on to score 20 or more points every so often.
You could argue that this is nothing more than a hot streak for Dudley, but he has all the tools to put up these numbers on a consistent basis. As the longest-tenured member of the Suns, Dudley should continue to be given every opportunity to succeed in 2013.
Shannon Brown has played up to expectations this season. His three-point shooting is down, but he's averaging 12.9 points a game as the team's starting shooting guard. However, Brown could take advantage of the fact that the Suns need a clutch scorer for all of these close games.
Brown is easily one of the team's most clutch players, and he's been showing it all season long. Brown has shot 48 percent from the field in the fourth quarter this season, which is fantastic considering that he shoots just 37 percent from the floor in the first half.
But Brown has also found success outside the fourth quarter in December. He's averaging 15.0 points and 3.3 rebounds a game in his past 10 performances, and Gentry has given him more minutes to work with than Dragic, Scola and Gortat.
Brown is definitely not a long-term option at shooting guard for the Suns. But right now, he might just be the best pure scorer they have, and he will be one of the team's go-to offensive weapons for the rest of the season.
If the Suns keep losing, they won't really have a choice but to start giving Kendall Marshall playing time.
Marshall was drafted by the Suns as their first-round pick in 2012, but he is the third-string point guard behind Goran Dragic and Sebastian Telfair. So far, he has appeared in just eight games for a total of 46 minutes.
But if the season appears to be a lost cause, eventually the Suns will need to focus on the future and let Marshall showcase his talent.
Whether Marshall truly is a promising young talent is yet to be seen. However, it is certain that he will work extremely hard in 2013. He has already made a trip to the D-League, and it is safe to say that he didn't envision himself as a bench warmer in the NBA after being drafted in the lottery.
If Marshall gets the chance to prove himself, he will try to outplay Sebastian Telfair in order to secure the backup point guard spot for himself in the future.
Will Marshall ever play a crucial role on this team? Probably not. But playing a few minutes as a backup is better than not playing at all, and stealing that backup role should be Marshall's goal for the remainder of the season.
Everyone knew that Marcin Gortat wouldn't have as easy a time on offense this year without Steve Nash. Well, maybe everyone except for Gortat himself.
Near the beginning of the season, Gortat complained to a Polish publication that he wasn't considered on offense anymore. Since then, his name has turned up in a lot of trade rumors.
The stats do make his case seem valid. Gortat is averaging 11.4 points per game, down from 15.4 last season, and his usage rate is down as well.
But Gortat has a couple of reasons to step up his game now. The first is simply to take advantage of the current situation in Phoenix. Luis Scola is really his only competition in the post, and Gortat may look to establish himself as being the team's best post player in addition to being their best post defender.
But of course, if Gortat does wish to leave, he has even more incentive to step up his game. Gortat will make $7.73 million next season, but after that he's a free agent.
Gortat is one of the better centers in the league, and he may want to increase his value as much as possible in order to receive the biggest payday possible. If Gortat can become the man in Phoenix, his value will skyrocket in the eyes of potential suitors.
So whether Gortat decides to stay or to leave, there will always be a good reason for him to improve his game.
Right now, the Michael Beasley signing definitely looks like a failed experiment. In fact, it might be one of the team's worst signings in history.
This season, Beasley is averaging 10.4 points and 3.6 rebounds a game while shooting 38 percent from the field. He also has a PER of 10.4, and he's posting career-low numbers in a lot of other statistics across the board. This awful performance from Beasley so far ultimately led to his benching several games ago.
So with that being said, nobody really expects Beasley to return to form or be an All-Star caliber player. But it can't get much worse than this, can it?
If Beasley is serious about having a successful NBA career, he will need to work extremely hard on his game. But there are also a few easy fixes that should help him improve right now.
For one, Beasley has to use his athleticism as a strength. Beasley has the ability to take the ball inside, and he isn't doing that nearly enough. Instead, he is settling for mid-range and three-point jump shots.
In his rookie season, Beasley averaged 1.5 three-point attempts per 36 minutes. Now, he's averaging 3.7 attempts per 36 minutes, which is way too high for someone shooting 32 percent from beyond the arc.
Also, the Suns need to put Beasley at power forward a lot more. This season, the Suns have outscored their opponents by 19 points with Beasley at power forward, but have been outscored by 177 points with him playing small forward.
While playing power forward, Beasley averages 21 points and 13 rebounds per 36 minutes while posting a 12.9 PER, which is a huge improvement over his play at small forward.
Beasley may look bad right now, but it seems impossible that someone with so much potential could struggle so much for a full season. It isn't time to give up on him yet, and hopefully he can change his ways in 2013.