The 2010-2011 NBA season has shown that the Phoenix Suns future chances of making the playoffs, let alone the conference finals, are all but over.
The age of key players and lack of young talent signals that the future for this team is not looking very bright. The rebuilding process needs to start now for this team to be competitive as quickly as possible.
The Suns missed a golden opportunity to start the rebuilding process last season, when they decided to forgo trading Amare Stoudemire. The Suns went on to the conference finals and fell to Lakers in six games (and actually had a chance to be up 3-2 in the series), but I believe most people knew they were not going to win the title.
Multiple teams were interested in acquiring the 6'10" power forward, in which the Suns would have received a package of young players and at least one high draft pick. Instead they passed, hung on to him and saw him walk to the Knicks last summer.
Age is the biggest issue facing this team at the present time.
Steve Nash is 37 and has one year left on his contract. His name swirled in trade rumors to title teams this past season, in which the Suns could have received some good young talent, but trading the best player in team history has proven difficult for management and the fans.
Grant Hill is 38 and not under contract for next season. Despite being productive the past few seasons, he is nearing the end of his road.
Vince Carter is nearing the end of his road as well, and most likely will not have his $18 million dollar team option picked up for next season.
When looking at each position for the Suns, help is needed almost everywhere. Nash has one year left and Aaron Brooks will back him up for an entire season next year. Brooks is a good young player who could very well succeed Nash, but more depth is needed.
The two guard position is very weak, as Vince Carter will more than likely be leaving and Jared Dudley (who has been starting late in the season) is a good bench player but not a starter in this league.
Hill, who is not under contract next year, gets most of the minutes and production at the three spot. Mickael Pietrus has a player option for next year, but it would not surprise me if he does not pick it up.
The power forward position is by far the strongest for the Suns.
Channing Frye has had another productive season after signing a five-year $30 million dollar contract (which is too much for him, but Suns were almost forced to). Hakim Warrick is a good backup who likes to get his shots up, but as long as he plays hard and can be a bit more consistent, he should still see minutes.
Marcin Gortat should remain a Sun for a while as his production has been great since joining the Suns midseason. He solidifies the center position, but needs a backup as Robin Lopez has been a bust since being a lottery pick a few years ago.
The coaching spot may also have to change sooner rather than later. Alvin Gentry is a good players coach, but the system does not work in this day and age. We saw it with Mike D'Antoni for years, the run and gun game.
Gentry runs it as well (maybe with a bit more defensive emphasis than D'Antoni), but we have seen over the years that this system will not win a title.
This offseason will play a big role in how the Suns perform over the next few seasons. The draft is where everything will start. The Suns have drafted well over past years (Marion, Stoudemire, Deng, Rondo, Fernandez, Gortat).
The problem is they rarely hold on to the players and traded many away due to financial issues.
In this year's draft, the Suns need to address their issues. The biggest being either an athletic, scoring two guard or small forward who can get his own shot and be a centerpiece of the team for years to come.
Rebuilding can be difficult for fans to stomach, but in the case of the Suns, it's necessary.
When looking at teams such as Cleveland, Washington and Minnesota, it may seem like the rebuilding project will continue forever, but to get back to the top, it is a necessary a step.