Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
To rise from the ashes, you first need ashes
The Phoenix Suns, like so many other teams I've previewed in this series, are a conglomeration of interesting parts that may or may not work together. Personally, I don't think they'll work together very well at all. That's not to say I dislike the moves Phoenix has made. In a vacuum, each of Phoenix's moves has made sense.
Signing Goran Dragic was a really nice addition. Dragic played well in Phoenix before being traded to Houston, and played well once he arrived in Houston. I think the Suns got him at a nice price, as well. I still like Jared Dudley. He should probably play small forward, but has proven himself to be a solid shooting guard as well. He's underrated, in my opinion, strictly because the Suns haven't been a must-watch team the last couple seasons. Michael Beasley is the type of lotto ticket a rebuilding team should take a chance on. Beasley still has potential if he can ever get his head on straight. Picking up Luis Scola off amnesty waivers makes sense as well. The Suns will get solid production without excessive cost. And Marcin Gortat is a solid center to round out the starting five. I also love the draft pick of Kendall Marshall, even if signing Dragic makes the pick a little redundant.
I think the Suns made a good choice to amnesty Josh Childress, who never came close to returning to form after his time overseas. Similarly, the Suns unloaded the final year of Hakim Warrick's contract. Warrick was overpaid, and hadn't developed in the desert. Robin Lopez is fine and all, but he clashed with Gortat, and Phoenix definitely made the right choice regarding which player to keep.
So if I like all of these moves, why do I dislike the prospects for the Suns this season? Because the team just shouts "bad team" to me. Steve Nash hid the flaws of this team for years, even before the departures of Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion, and Amare Stoudemire. Nash was the glue that held everything together. Dragic is a fine point guard, but he's not going to carry this team the way Nash did. And I don't think anyone is consciously expecting him to. But the expectations for the team seem unusually elevated. I think the impact of Steve Nash is about to become painfully obvious.
The Suns may not be the worst team in the West. Phoenix has enough interesting players, and a good coach in Alvin Gentry, that I could see them being in the middle of the lottery pack. But I consider it more likely that this will be a difficult year. I don't expect Beasley to be any different than the Beasley we've come to expect. I don't expect Wesley Johnson to suddenly be good. Scola had a really rough year last year, and could be on the downward slide now that he's on the wrong side of 30.
What I fear more than anything is that Phoenix, like so many teams before them, did just enough to delay the full collapse. The NBA has shown us time and time again that it's best to bottom out and reload with young talent. Instead, the Suns could contend just enough to hurt their draft position.
It would have been different if the Hornets had declined to match the max offer Phoenix gave to Eric Gordon. That more than anything is what I believe threw this roster into chaos. Dragic, Gordon, Dudley and Gortat is a nice core. But it needs a guy like Gordon. Without him, the roster doesn't make sense.
It may be a tough year for the Suns, but the long term foundation is there. Dragic and Gortat are young enough to be relevant once Phoenix reloads. Marshall is a great young prospect that will help Phoenix's second unit from being completely terrible. Markieff Morris is another guy I like. But the best thing for Phoenix is probably a bad season, allowing the team to acquire an impact rookie, preferably a wing scorer who can fill the role Phoenix expected Gordon to play.
The pieces are there. Phoenix needs only a few pieces to be relevant once again. But I firmly believe the Suns will be one of the worst teams in the league this year.