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How do the Phoenix Suns Return to Relevance?

How do the Phoenix Suns Return to Relevance?

All teams deal with losing. It is a colossal aspect in sports. For one franchise in Phoenix, it has become tradition. The Suns are in the midst of yet another 60-loss season. They have not been in the playoffs since the 2009-2010 season, and have just one winning season since.

The days of the Seven Seconds or Less offense are starting to become a distant memory. The Suns have just 68 wins in the last three seasons. The question remains, how did Phoenix go from one of the most exciting teams in the league to an organization with no detectable direction? It all starts at the top.

The person who has made the biggest impact on the Suns’ franchise over the years is Owner Robert Sarver. If an owner’s name is a household one, it is not a good sign for the organization. Sarver has made his mark on the Suns, and leaves an impression with every person who walks through the locker room. It usually behooves owners to hire the most knowledgeable people to run the show. Not Sarver, he likes to be right in the middle.

According to ESPN, Sarver once burst into the locker room after the loss to teach his big men how to set screens. Maybe Sarver was a former player. No, he is a businessman who co-founded a real estate development company. There countless stories about how Sarver would confront coaches and players both post game, and at halftime. The Suns have not put a winning product on the floor in almost a decade, and their front office is turning into a laughing stock. The Suns need to begin taking steps to becoming relevant.

Build Through the Draft

The Sixers went through one of the worst five-year spans in NBA history. They built their team through the draft. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid were the process that everyone in Philadelphia raves about. While that has no actual meaning, the Sixers are back. This is a route the Suns have a chance to take.

The Suns have been near the top of the draft every year. Another important aspect of building through the draft is nailing the picks. Phoenix has not done that. The Suns drafted Tyler Ennis with the 18th pick of the 2014 Draft, Alex Len with the fifth pick in 2013, and Kendall Marshall with the 13th pick in 2012. The Suns’ biggest blunder remains using the fourth overall pick on Dragan Bender in 2016. Since then, Josh Jackson and Deandre Ayton have been their first-round selections. And of course, Devin Booker in 2015.

Booker is scoring 24.6 points per game this season. He is quickly turning into one of the most lethal, young scorers in the game. Despite his offensive ability, Booker is not a player who can lead a team to a championship. He needs help. Ayton has had a fine rookie season. The neophyte is averaging 16.6 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Jackson and T.J. Warren have proven that they can be pieces in the rotation moving forward. The Suns will have yet another top-five pick in this summer’s draft. It is important that they get this one right to bring in another strong player.

Big Splash Acquisition

In 2004, the Suns signed a 29-year old point guard named Steve Nash. During his time in Phoenix, Nash won two MVP awards, made the Suns regulars in the postseason, and built his legacy as one of the best point guards of all-time. This is regarded as the best free agent signing ever in Phoenix, and it is not close. The Suns need an acquisition like this to get them back on track.

Booker is an above average player. Ayton is showing potential to be a special player, but the Suns are lacking that superstar that winning teams need. It is no surprise that the best teams in the league have superstars leading them. In 2017, there were stirrings that Blake Griffin might be on his way to Phoenix. Griffin opted out of his contract in Los Angeles, and met with the Suns. A deal never came to fruition. Griffin ended up re-signing with the Clippers, and was eventually traded to Detroit.

That is the type of player that Phoenix needs. Maybe not Griffin in particular, but a big-name player. Someone who is the best player on the floor in most games that he plays. They do not have that player currently. Adding a stud to their roster will immediately make them relevant.

It will take time to get to championship levels, but having a superstar would them them a must-watch. This is a big summer coming up. The free agent class is as strong as it has ever been. No names have been linked to Phoenix yet, but the Suns need to at least bring some players in for a meeting.

Coaching

Mike D’Antoni was the head coach in Phoenix from 2003-2008.He was the implementer of of the quick offense that was built on fast breaks. The Suns were scoring 120 points before that was normal. In a way, D’Antoni changed the game, and introduced something new.

Since 2008, the Suns coaches have been abysmal. Alvin Gentry was the longest tenured. He was on the sideline for 261 games. Other names include Jeff Hornacek and Earl Watson. Lindsey Hunter was the head coach for 41 games while Terry Porter coached 51 games.

The dysfunction in this franchise starts with the owner, and trickles all the way down to the head coach. Igor Kokoskov is the current head coach. This is his first season, and it is not the start he wanted. The Suns have not had a formidable head coach in over a decade. The team currently has no guidance, no plan, and a bleak future.

Arizona has many professional sports teams. The Cardinals, Diamondbacks, and Coyotes all reside in Arizona. The Suns are the only team that is from Phoenix specifically. The Suns have made 29 trips to the postseason in their history, and have a winning percentage of .552. They have never won an NBA Championship. Nash and Amare Stoudemire were never able to get it done under D’Antoni. Unfortunately for Phoenix, there is no parade coming to town in the foreseeable future.