Phoenix Suns: Rebuild or Retool?

Ben Leibowitz@BenLeboCorrespondent IIINovember 30, 2011

Phoenix Suns: Rebuild or Retool?

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    Now that the NBA lockout is officially over (after months of greed and posturing resulting in a deal the two sides could have reached seemingly eons ago), we have a shortened season in sight. 

    For the Suns, a team that is basically in limbo between a rebuilding team and a team that can compete in the playoffs, they truly need to consider the direction in which they wish to go moving forward. 

    Should the team rebuild?  Or should they make one final run at a championship with Steve Nash at the helm?  I will explore some possible options for Suns basketball moving forward, shortened season and beyond.

Option 1: Go Back in Time

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    Unfortunately for Suns fans, there's no possible solution to solving the team's past troubles.  Well, short of meeting Dr. Emmett Brown and having the Gorilla drive Robert Sarver up to 88 miles per hour.

    It’s truly a shame that Suns fans can’t send Sarver, the Suns’ majority owner, back to the past in order to make better financial decisions regarding the roster.

    It’s hard to believe that just two seasons ago the Phoenix Suns made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals, where they competed admirably with the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers, but lost in six games. 

    Currently Phoenix is nothing but a shell of that highly successful team. 

    Of the 15 players that were on the roster during the 2009-10 season, only five players remain (four if you discount Grant Hill, who is currently a free agent): Steve Nash, Jared Dudley, Channing Frye, Robin Lopez and Hill.

    After reaching the Western Conference Finals, the offseason brought hard times for Suns fans.  Superstar power forward Amar’e Stoudemire was a free agent, and instead of shelling out $100 million and matching the Knicks offer of more guaranteed money, Sarver allowed Stoudemire to walk.  

    Instead, Suns management doled out over $80 million to acquire Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick, and Josh Childress in a confusing effort to replace Stoudemire.

    To this day I can’t understand the logic behind this exchange. 

    Why didn’t Sarver simply spend $20 million extra on a proven superstar talent who, with the help of Steve Nash and a great supporting cast, brought the Suns within two games of competing for a championship trophy? 

    He obviously had to have known what he was getting with Stoudemire.  Yes he’s had injury trouble, but he proved on two separate occasions that he has the ability to bounce back strongly from surgeries (in his case, of the knee and eye).

    These moves remind me of what rarely works in baseball, which is a closer by committee.  Meaning, instead of having one player in the closer’s role responsible for locking down close games, it becomes the responsibility of the entire bullpen to assume that one role.

    The Suns attempted to replace their all-star power forward with Stoudemire-by-committee Warrick, Turkoglu, and Childress. 

    Obviously this turned out to be a disaster.  The team couldn’t get into a consistent rhythm and had close to no chemistry.  In addition, Childress rarely saw court time despite his big contract (five years, $33.5 million), and Turkoglu was traded to the Orlando Magic along with Jason Richardson and Earl Clark after being unable to find a niche in the Suns’ system. 

    Although the Suns did play better after the trade, they still failed to make the postseason.

Option 2: Sign David West, Re-Sign Grant Hill

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    This would a function as a “replace Stoudemire” move that may actually do the job, unlike last season’s effort to do so.

    West averaged 18.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last season with the New Orleans Hornets, and has averaged over 20 points per game twice during his eight-year NBA career. 

    West would serve as an adequate replacement for Stoudemire, acting as a great pick-and-roll partner for Steve Nash, and could create an incredibly solid frontcourt including Marcin Gortat and…

    Grant Hill.

    Another key move I think the Suns would have to make if they intend to compete this season is re-signing Grant Hill. Although the Suns have a logjam at the small forward position (Mickael Pietrus, Jared Dudley, Josh Childress and Hill), I think that Hill is the best option to have in the starting role.

    The oft-injured small forward has been rejuvenated on the Suns (playing in no less than 80 games during three of his four seasons with the club).

    If the Suns could have a frontcourt including Marcin Gortat, David West and Grant Hill, that would prove to be a very formidable trio (much better than their current situation).

    The issue in signing West comes down to the money. 

    Do the Suns have enough cash on hand to make a splash in free agency?  Maybe they will if they buy out Vince Carter’s gargantuan contract for a much lower rate.

Option 3: Completely Rebuild

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    Having lived through the Suns’ past years of inadequacy, this would be a tough pill to swallow for fans in the Valley of the Sun.

    Nobody wants to watch a rebuilding team lose year after year waiting for the perfect draft pick to come along and change the team’s fortunes.

    Nonetheless, this option has to be considered if the team does not have a sufficient chance to compete for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

    As much as I hate to say it, rebuilding for the Suns includes trading Steve Nash.

    Nash has been the heart and soul of Suns basketball ever since he and former coach Mike D’Antoni started the famous run-and-gun Suns that won 62 games during the 2004-05 season.  However, for the Suns to rebuild the team, Nash has to go.

    Not only would a Nash trade benefit the franchise, it would also benefit the Canadian point guard.

    Nash is too much of a class act to request a trade from a team struggling to make the playoffs, and the franchise owes it to their point guard to give him the best opportunity to win, which appears to be elsewhere.

    Ideally, the Suns should re-sign Grant Hill and package him with Nash to a contender in order to get maximum value in return. 

    An added plus for Phoenix would be to add an unsavory contract (probably Josh Childress) to the trade as an ultimatum for a contending team looking for a star point guard (the Atlanta Hawks?  possibly the New York Knicks?). 

    The Suns need to look for young, talented players, as well as first-round draft picks in a possible Nash trade as a way to look toward the future.

    It pains me more than I like to admit, but if the Suns choose to rebuild, the Nash era in Phoenix (which has been nothing short of fabulous) will probably reach its end.