For some NBA teams, the offseason is just as it is called: an offseason.
For other teams, the offseason is really the true season. The Phoenix Suns are one of those teams.
After the Suns lost Steve Nash last summer, it became inevitable that Phoenix was in for a subpar season at best and a terrible one at worst.
The team's final record of 25-57—worst in the Western Conference—qualifies as terrible, although it may not be as bad for Phoenix's future as a subpar year would have been.
Because the Suns were so bad, they will draft higher and have an easier time restructuring what may be the worst-built roster in the NBA.
Here are the questions Phoenix has been waiting since last summer to answer. If they answer them correctly, maybe they'll have something to look forward to in the fall.
Before drafting, trading, signing free agents and constructing a lineup for next season, the Suns must be clear on what their identity is—or at least what they want it to be.
Given the fact that the Suns do not have any high-end players on their roster, the team's identity should be built around whatever their coach wants it to be. And since Phoenix does not currently have a head coach, they really are in a somewhat desirable position.
They can chose the best coach available, regardless of system. They can then build their roster around this coach, much like the Golden State Warriors have done with Mark Jackson.
Once the Suns find a coach, they must distinguish between players that are assets and players that are roster filler.
Phoenix's top players in terms of PER last season were Goran Dragic, Luis Scola and Jermaine O'Neal. However, Dragic's team-high PER was only 17.5, a less than desirable rating for any core player let alone a leader.
O'Neal is a free agent and will be 35 next season. The power forward Scola and point guard Dragic are both effective statistically, but both play positions that are ripe with talent in the NBA. Thus, both are mediocre for their position.
The only Phoenix player that should definitely be kept around is Marcin Gortat. His averages of 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 52.1 field-goal percentage are solid numbers, but his ability to play over 30 minutes a night and stay out of foul trouble (2.1 per game) is an incredibly underrated trait. It allows the Suns to have their primary rebounder and paint protector in the game at big moments.
After that, Markieff Morris is the only other Sun worth retaining long term, as his upside is high due to his combination of athleticism, length and youth.
Marcin Gortat has been established as the team's best player, so centers should be avoided here. Markieff Morris is the team's best prospect and Luis Scola is a solid veteran, so power forwards (at least stretch-4s) would ideally be off the table as well.
Point guard is an option, but the presence of Goran Dragic and last year's top pick Kendall Marshall would mean any additions here would have to be followed by a trade.
This leaves shooting guard and small forward. Jared Dudley, P.J. Tucker and Shannon Brown would combine to make a very good player who can shoot threes, attack the rim and rebound. Still, Phoenix lacks any semblance of perimeter defense, and the wings they have are too one-dimensional to make up for their lack of defensive prowess.
Victor Oladipo seems to be a perfect fit for Phoenix. The Indiana shooting guard is unlikely to go in the top four due to his lack of offensive polish, but his explosiveness and ability to lock down opposing point guards, shooting guards and small forwards is exactly what Phoenix needs on both ends of the floor.
If the Suns draft Oladipo and hold on to Gortat, Morris and Dragic, they'll be set at three positions.
Due to the NBA's current wealth of talent at power forward, Phoenix likely will not be able to move Luis Scola for much, even though it would open up space for Morris.
That leaves enigmatic forward Michael Beasley and his $6 million cap hit as the best trade chip. While the Suns don't desperately need the cap space, moving a player who's baggage outweighs his game and clearing a slot at starting small forward/sixth man is not a bad idea.
If Phoenix can get so much as a second-round draft pick and some size for Beasley, it will walk away a winner.
Should Phoenix's offseason go according to this plan thus far, the holes in the Suns' roster entering free agency would be at small forward and backup center.
While the small forward crop is thin, players such as Corey Brewer and Matt Barnes present interesting options. Brewer would give the team the defense and length it currently craves, while Barnes would defend and also contribute some long-range shooting.
For backup center, the Suns should pursue someone who could give them 20 minutes a night and rebound at a high rate. Zaza Pachulia fits this description, and he would give Phoenix a defensive boost as well.