I’m going to give you three NBA teams who aren’t so high in the standings: the Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Throw Phoenix into the mix and you have four struggling teams.
Remember the old Sesame Street bit where they sang, “One of these things is not like the other?” This is similar, in the sense of how the teams built their current rosters.
Sacramento has gone the rout of putting as many young, high potential guys who like to shoot the ball (not much else) together.
Houston has a young group of interesting roster decisions. The point there is that they are young. Agree or disagree with how Darryl Morey got the players, the Rockets have exciting youth.
Cleveland rounds out the list with multiple lottery picks littering the roster.
The underlying theme in this is that the teams are young, and however frustrating it is to watch the team on the court (Sacramento), they have potential.
Phoenix however is different. There is no mention of a young building block with the potential or aptitude for stardom (i.e. Kyrie Irving, James Harden or DaMarcus Cousins).
Phoenix’s face of the franchise (if that) is probably Goran Dragic. That’s no slant on Dragic; it’s just that the Suns have no young, superstar player or even a reliable long-term/time starter. Steve Nash was the face of the franchise, but he’s redefining his crumpled-paper-into-wastebasket shot with the help of the Lakers’ training staff.
Dragic is a good player, and yes he’s fairly young at 26, but he’s nowhere near the level of a LeBron James or a Kevin Durant in terms of leading their team to bigger and better things. (That’s setting the bar extremely high, but you have to have that kind of talent to single-handedly lead a team out of a down period.)
Most young teams,if they have face of franchise or not, have loads of salary cap space for future aspirations and moves. They also, because of the previous stated fact, do not tend to splurge on veteran free agents. None of this was the case for the Suns when they plunked down 48 million dollars over the next four years to Dragic and Michael Beasley. Beasley is a 23 year old former number two overall pick, but is already on his third team. That shouldn’t be happening with a former number two overall pick when he’s 23.
The Suns don’t have a general direction. Yes, Luis Scola was a nice pickup, but he does nothing for a team that’s destined for the lottery. Plus, there is a part of the amnesty process which doesn’t allow Phoenix to move him this year, minimizing the value further.
The Suns problems stem from not having the young talent, which in itself stems from the Suns not having a bad enough record to get into the high lottery. The last handful of Suns first-round picks have been late lottery selections that project and play out as decent players, just not high-impact players like a first or second, or even a fourth overall pick might produce. The list of recent Suns first-round picks included Robin Lopez, Earl Clark, Kendall Marshall and Markieff Morris. All low-end lottery picks, all decent results.
The Suns need elite talent, good talent or even mesh-able talent, if you will, to compete. They either need to get bad and hit the jackpot with the next Derrick Rose or Kevin Love, or find a way to trade for elite talent. The Suns have been stuck in the middle much too long. They either need to rise or set. And they need to do it soon.