In what feels like seven years ago, the Phoenix Suns were coming off a 48-win season in the summer of 2014 with two different cores they could choose to build around.
Goran Dragic, Channing Frye, Gerald Green and P.J. Tucker were all in the primes of their career and played large parts in the construction of a near-playoff team.
Eric Bledsoe, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Alex Len, Miles Plumlee, Archie Goodwin and 2014 first-round picks T.J. Warren, Tyler Ennis and Bogdan Bogdanovic all brought promise to the future of the team.
Ryan McDonough made his choice on which core to choose, letting Channing Frye walk and sign with the Orlando Magic, extending the Morris twins and Bledsoe and signing Isaiah Thomas.
The direct impact of that move is clear. Dragic was unhappy and wanted to be traded, Green didn’t re-sign and negative reports about his last season came out towards the end of it.
So, group two it was, but what’s left after player development and failed big moves by McDonough leaves the new group from the second take of a rebuild in a situation that presents limited room for error.
Bledsoe remained a significant injury risk after being re-signed. After looking like the type of center who could dominate second units and eventually succeed Tyson Chandler in 2015, Len still was far too inconsistent throughout the 2015-16 season, his third NBA season since being drafted No. 5 overall. Goodwin is still buried on the depth chart while showing no real strides of improvement since his rookie season as he heads for restricted free agency next summer and Warren has played in 87 NBA games in two seasons.
Only two summers later, those are four of nine players that remain from that group. The Morris twins, Bogdanovic, Ennis and Plumlee were all involved in trades to bring in better players and prospects, with the results so far either being bad or yet to fully play out.
The after effects of all those failures bring the past two season win totals of 39 and 23, and head coach Jeff Hornacek losing his job.
Brandon Knight, Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and a new head coach in Earl Watson are what came as a result of that losing and those trades, presenting the second group of four along with the aforementioned leftovers.
To certain levels, each of the eight players present their own reason for optimism and hope for the potential outlook of the team two years from now.
Bledsoe could finally stay healthy and maintain All-Star form, his relationship on the court with Knight still has the pieces in place to finally click and, particularly for Knight, complement the best parts of their games. Booker is the first franchise generational talent since the big three of the Seven Seconds or Less era, the potential dynamic between Bender and Chriss is exactly what the future of the NBA looks like and the last trio of Len, Warren and Goodwin are, in theory, terrific supplementary pieces around those five players.
The question for Suns fans is if in two summers it will be take three of a rebuild or a unit that finally clicks and shows long-term growth. That’s the exciting, yet, frightening part of a young team with potential.
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