The Phoenix Suns are still sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference, and they could desperately use a savior right about now.
In terms of talent, the Suns aren't such a bad team. Goran Dragic has been great all season long, and other young prospects are starting to do their part as well. Overall, the Suns looks to be a team heading in the right direction.
However, Dragic is no superstar. He could complement one nicely, but he lacks the ability to be the go-to scorer the Suns need. The team is still searching, and they may have to spend another few years looking for player that can bring Phoenix back to relevance.
But what does this look like? Every team's answer is different depending on that individual team's needs, and the Suns may need to look for some unique traits in their franchise player.
Here is an outline of what the perfect hero might look like to the Phoenix Suns.
Let's face it, Phoenix is not Los Angeles, New York or Chicago. They're a small-market team, and that means the Suns need a superstar with a specific personality.
First of all, maturity is a crucial aspect of any superstar. The perfect franchise player should have a good work ethic, and be a responsible player both on and off the court with a high basketball I.Q.
Players such as Andrew Bynum and DeMarcus Cousins are good examples of guys that may have superstar talent but whose childish behavior gets in their way. Both players are talented, but at the same time they have gained notoriety for being difficult and irresponsible.
The Suns will need a player who fans can rally around when they're at games, and someone who will improve team chemistry and morale rather than seek to destroy it. The last thing a rebuilding team needs is a locker-room cancer who will constantly get into fights with referees, coaches and even teammates.
Also, the Suns will need a player who is more than just content to be in Phoenix. That means acquiring a player humble and modest enough to be able to hide in a smaller market and perhaps take the smaller paycheck and accept less publicity for the sake of team success.
It's true, the Suns are looking for a go-to scorer, and pure scorers can often be fairly selfish. However, the last thing Phoenix needs is a self-centered, narcissistic star who overrates himself.
Why is that? Because again, Phoenix is a smaller market. Not only do those players negatively effect team chemistry, but they also tend to run to a larger city at their first opportunity for a more lucrative paycheck or a better chance at a championship.
Considering that there has been a considerable amount of drama surrounding stars such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard over the past couple season, it may seem hard to believe that there are still any modest superstars.
But rest assured, they certainly exist. Don't believe me? Just look at LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
All of those players have been with just one small-market team for their whole career, and every single one has endured at least one losing season. That is the type of dedication the Suns will need from their superstar.
It's clear that the Suns are looking for a pure scorer who can drop at least 20 points per game. However, that player's position is a little less obvious.
The best choice would be shooting guard or small forward. The Suns already have Goran Dragic running the point, and there are also plenty of forwards and centers on the roster.
But the Suns are fairly desperate on the wings. Shannon Brown and Michael Beasley have both fallen out of favor with Suns fans, and although Wesley Johnson, Jared Dudley and P.J Tucker are all hard-working players, none of those three can fit the description of a go-to scorer.
So, the Suns will need to look to either free agency or the draft for a new wing man. But let's get into the specifics of the savior's qualities and attributes.
Most important is that this player be a primary scoring option. That means a multitude a things. First, that he isn't afraid to shoot, and that he won't hesitate to take a shot with the time expiring or with the game on the line—so long as it is a good look. The shot may not always go in, but confidence is always crucial for a scorer, especially when they enter a cold streak.
Second, our hero would hopefully thrive in clutch situations. The Suns have forfeited eight games to their opponents by less than five points, but some of those matches could have been won in the fourth quarter if the team had not collapsed near the end. Dragic has a game-winner against the Grizzlies, but in general he has struggled in the fourth quarter and the Suns could really use a clutch player.
Also, this scorer should excel in specific areas of scoring. For example, the Suns are currently 29th in the league in three-point shooting percentage, and long gone are the days when the Suns could bury their opponents under a barrage of three-pointers.
Phoenix could really use a long-distance shooter to help spread the floor. That player doesn't have to be Ray Allen, but a consistent shooter who can knock down 35 percent of his three-point attempts at an NBA level should suffice.
As a go-to scorer, this player should also be able to isolate on defenders, and preferably have the quickness and aggressiveness to get to the rim. High-flying athleticism is not necessary, but the ability to throw down emphatic dunks is always a plus.
Aside from that, this player should be fairly well-rounded. He doesn't have to replicate Steve Nash's passing ability, but a complete ballhog simply won't do.
Also, the Suns are no longer a team that can rely on offense to win games. Defense is going to play just as important a role as offense over the next few seasons, and that means any new acquisitions should preferably be decent defenders. Scoring 20 points a night is great, but consistently allowing your opponent to drop 20 to 25 points because of a lack of effort won't ultimately win the team any extra games.
Overall, the Suns are looking for an all-around player, one without many glaring weaknesses. He should be a fairly dominant offensive player, and although he may not dominate every aspect of the game, an Achilles' heel would be difficult to find.
Does This Player Exist?
Finding a player like this would be fantastic for the Suns, but does he actually exist?
Unfortunately, no—at least, not that we know of yet. There are no "perfect" players that will be available in the next few drafts or free-agent classes, perhaps unless the Suns signed LeBron James or drafted Andrew Wiggins.
However, there are plenty of players who could be great options for Phoenix. They may not be the perfect heroes, but as long as the Suns prioritize certain qualities in a player and choose which attributes are most important to them, they can still find a great catch. Even so, every player will come with his own set of weaknesses.
Let's start with the 2013 free-agent class. Unfortunately, this class is rather thin on wing players.
O.J Mayo is having a breakout season for the Dallas Mavericks, but he is still no superstar. He could be a great No. 2 scoring option to complement another star, but is he really the true answer to the team's problems? In all likelihood, no.
Then there are Tyreke Evans and Monta Ellis, who both come with plenty of weaknesses. Ellis often requires the ball in his hands on offense, which may take away from Dragic. He is quick, athletic and terrific in the fast break, but he has struggled from long-range with the Bucks and is also very weak defensively.
Evans could be a cheap option to pick up in free agency, but his production has continued to decline with each season on the Kings. He did once score over 20 points per game in his rookie year, and perhaps he can do it again in a fresh new setting, but that is probably his ceiling. Evans may never be anything more than an above-average starter or possibly borderline All-Star.
In the draft, there are also several options the Suns can look at. Shabazz Muhammad is one prospect who will certainly be taken in the lottery, and he has all the tools to be an elite scorer in the NBA.
However, Muhammad is inconsistent. He often has poor shooting games, and the fact that he averages less than one assist per game is not encouraging either. While he may be a pure scorer, Muhammad has the potential to also be a black hole in the NBA. After Brown and Beasley, the Suns may not want another one of those.
Victor Olapido is also quickly rising up mock drafts, but scoring is not his forte. He is an amazing athlete and almost definitely will be an elite defender immediately in the NBA, but Olapido averaged just 13.6 points per game for Indiana this season and made just 0.8 threes per game. Remember, most threes in college are still just long mid-range shots in the NBA. He's a freakish athlete, but probably not a go-to scorer.
That leaves Ben McLemore, who is the closest fit to the perfect savior.
McLemore can be an elite guard in the NBA, and he is a monster offensively. He attempts almost five threes per game but still manages to shoot 42 percent from behind the arc, and he also shoots 49 percent from the field and 87 percent from the line to make him an all-around shooter.
But it doesn't stop there. McLemore is a good shooter, but he's also an explosive athlete. He can easily drive through the lane and throw down a ferocious slam, and his long arms and fantastic quickness make him a nearly unstoppable force.
McLemore is not weak defensively either. He averages nearly one block and one steal per game, and has a defensive rating of 92.4. Saying he will be an elite perimeter defender at the professional level may be a bit of a stretch, but he will at least keep his opponent in front of him and make sure whoever he's guarding does not outperform him.
Of course, there are weaknesses. McLemore struggles to create his own shot, and he is also inconsistent.
But if you can get past that, he looks like the perfect fit for the Suns. Just hope Phoenix can get a little lucky on lottery night, because whichever team lands the first pick of the NBA draft would be crazy to pass on this guy.
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