Message to Phoenix Suns—You Are Rebuilding: A Look at the Draft

Steven SmithCorrespondent IJune 19, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 18:  Phoenix Suns bench celebrates as Shaquille O'Neal #32 of the Suns drives up the court after blocking Al Thornthon's #12 Los Angeles Clippers shot during the second quarter at the Staples Center February 18, 2009, in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

This Phoenix Suns season was a disappointing one. It’s not because the Suns missed the playoffs for the first time in four years, and not because the Suns lost all-star Amar’e Stoudemire for the season. It was disappointing because the front office didn’t stick to their guns.

Many fans thought this season was going to be a transitional one, with the Suns finally adopting a more defensive-minded mentality. That was quickly discarded with the firing of Terry Porter and the entrance of Alvin Gentry—a leftover of the Mike D’Antoni run and gun style.

This offseason the Suns are dealing with three disgruntled stars that are wondering where the franchise is headed.

Nash won’t sign an extension until he has a better sense of what the roster will be. Stat seems to already have one foot out the door and O’Neal is probably twittering (or is it tweeting) about Lebron and the Cavs as I write this.

The Suns can start their quest for a championship team by admitting they will not be winning a championship any time soon. Right now there is too much age, not enough talent, and no real direction to get any higher than a brief playoff appearance.

Secondly, they can finally commit to a defensive philosophy. You are officially a shadow of the running team you once were with a giant $20 million dollar anchor shackled to your leg. The Suns haven’t made any indication that they want to hunker down on D, but at least they are trying to cut the anchor to free up some money.

Lastly, they need to add more talent. The Suns have actually done a good job drafting young talented players—Rudy Fernandez in 2007, Rajon Rondo in 2006, Nate Robinson in 2005, and Luol Deng in 2004—but they always trade the rights away to save money.

Luckily the draft is about a week away and they have a number of options that can affect the future of this franchise. Here’s a look at some of their possible choices in the NBA Draft.


Draft a Versatile Forward

This is most likely the route that the Suns will go. Grant Hill and Matt Barnes are free agents and this is the perfect time to infuse some talent and versatility at the forward positions.

There have been a lot of names thrown into the No. 14 spot of the draft—Terrence Williams (Louisville), James Johnson (Wake Forest), Austin Daye (Gonzaga), and Chase Budinger (Arizona) to name a few.

I think the pick could go to Earl Clark from Louisville. He can play both forward spots; he’s less of a long-term project like Austin Daye and has more upside than James Johnson.

The future of Stoudemire with the Suns is unknown, and Clark can pick up where he left off—hopefully with a better attitude. He can also be a better defensive stopper than Stoudemire if coached correctly.


Draft a Guard For the Future

I’m not sure why the Suns want to extend Nash’s contract in the first place. At the age of 35, there’s no telling how much he has in the tank, and he has been a defensive liability since—since he came in the league.

He’s had some great years with the Suns, but you can’t have a player who consistently lets the opposition into the lane to wreck havoc in the paint—at least if you want to win a championship.

Names that have been thrown around are Jeff Teague (Wake Forest), Jonny Flynn (Syracuse), Ty Lawson (North Carolina), and Brandon Jennings (Italy). Although it’s unlikely he’ll be there, Jrue Holiday is a player that should get a lot of consideration if he’s still on the board.

Holiday didn’t perform well at UCLA, but I expect him to be one of those players that do better in the NBA than in college.

He hasn’t defined his game at either guard position, but he’s capable of running an offense effectively. He can learn from Nash for a year or more and be the starting point guard of the future. Most importantly he’ll automatically bring an all-around defensive presence to the backcourt.


It’s difficult to figure out how the Suns plan to get things back on track, but having some young athletes in the gym to mix things up would be a good start. Moving Shaq would also be a good way to get things moving.

General Manager Steve Kerr will be visiting Nash to discuss the franchise’s future plans. I wish they would let us in on that plan as well because, quite frankly, Kerr needs a plan he can really stay with.

You wanted Porter, and four months later you didn’t. You wanted Shaq, now you realize what a hindrance his contract is. Since Gentry hasn’t packed his bags yet, I’m assuming you want the up tempo playground style of basketball.

If that’s how you want it, then remember the No. 1 rule of the playground that you seem to have forgotten. No do-overs.