Over the past few months I have received tons of emails regarding the Phoenix Suns. Some people want the team to stay together, others want the team to be blown up.
For me the answer is obvious. It’s time to start over, rebuild. In fact it was time to start over last year.
There is no way this Phoenix Suns team should have come back intact this season and tried to make a run for the playoffs. Their time was done and the fans and organization should have realized it instead of holding on to this pipe dream that they were still contenders.
It was never more obvious than the playoff series against San Antonio last year where Phoenix managed to win just one game. Mike D’Antoni got out of Dodge as quick as he could because A) He knew this thing was on its way down and he wanted to abandon ship before it sank. B) He understood that if he came back and didn’t take this team to the playoffs he would have been fired. So Mike did what was best for Mike — he parlayed his success with the Suns into a bidding war between Chicago and New York — while those jobs were open. Smart man that D’Antoni is. He knew that Chicago and New York weren’t going to have job openings this offseason so he struck while he could.
Now it’s time for Phoenix to salvage something out of the players they have. Look. Let me say this for the 100th time. This is not Steve Kerr or Robert Sarver’s fault. They went for it and that’s what the fans wanted and the team just got old and played no defense. Kerr needs to be judged on how he rebuilds this team not in how he tried to keep it together. And fans are going to have to learn a little patience because it is going to take some time for Kerr and his right-hand man Dave Griffin to make this team a contender again.
First things first, say goodbye to Steve Nash. The Suns point guard should not be back under any circumstances. He still has value in the league, one year left on his contract after his option gets picked up and he is not going to want to be part of a rebuilding process. So Nash is trade bait #1 where I believe at least 5 teams and probably more will be willing to part with a young player and a draft pick to acquire him.
Second, it’s time to find out Amare Stoudemire’s true worth. If a good deal can be made — not that garbage from Memphis or Chicago that was talked about. But a good honest basketball trade that allows Phoenix to bring back talent and draft picks then say goodbye to the all offense no defense Stoudemire. Stoudemire is going to want a three-year extension this offseason. Phoenix does not want to give it to him. But they also don’t want him to walk after next season when it is his right to opt out. So its either trade him or pay him. I go back to Golden State and look for Andres Biedrins and Anthony Randolph for STAT. If a good deal can not be found, I pay him in hopes of trading him at some other point.
Third piece to the puzzle is financial. The Suns are a financial mess with the salary cap going forward — that’s what they get for going for it. Shaq is making 21 million next year and if he can be moved for a player that will also be in his final season and is making less money, than by all means send Shaq packing. He is not going to want to be here while the team rebuilds. It will be impossible to get back young talent and draft picks for Shaq so a trade for a player making around $15 million that another team does not want (see Ben Wallace) will make the most sense. That will save the Suns around $10 million counting the salary and luxury tax.
Lastly, the players who need to stay are Leandro Barbosa, Jared Dudley, Lou Amundson (look for the Suns to give him an extension) and Goran Dragic. None are great players, but good role players that fit in, work hard and are young. If Grant Hill wants to finish out his career here mentoring young players then by all means keep him. If Matt Barnes wants to play for similar money, he can be back as well, but that is highly unlikely as he will look to cash in on a good season. Jason Richardson is under contract and the Suns will need someone who can score so under most scenarios he stays unless there is a team in desperate need of scoring and willing to overpay for a one dimensional player.
So in closing the Suns need to get younger, more athletic, acquire draft picks, make good trades and have a plan. A plan that allows them to grow into a contender the way Portland has in the last few years. It won’t be easy, but it could be fun and by all means it is necessary.