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What should the Suns do next: A five-step plan

Devin Booker

With the days of Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, and the vaunted seven seconds or less offense now seeming like nothing more than a distant memory, the Suns are desperate to win some basketball games. It was five offseasons ago now that Steve Nash was acquired by the Lakers in a sign-and-trade. In the five seasons since, the Suns have gone 159-251 (0.387  W%) and have not made the postseason.

Their roster makeup now consists of mostly recent lottery picks and a couple savvy veterans. What can the Suns do to help them pile up victories without sacrificing their future?

Well, they could follow this five-step guide.

Step One: Give up on winning in 2017-18

Yes, the Suns and their fans are desperate to see some wins and maybe even a little postseason action. Unfortunately, with the way the league is currently stacked, it is very difficult to see that happening in 2017-18. The Western Conference is incredible right now and it’s hard to think of a move Phoenix could realistically make that would get them into the playoffs this year. They are better off racking up the losses for one more season to get one last high lottery pick.

In 2018-19 however, the Western Conference is a bit of a question mark. Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan, and LaMarcus Aldridge all have the opportunity to become free agents, which could shake things up quite a bit.

Step Two: Develop the young talent

Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports

This one seems pretty obvious but its importance should not be understated. The Suns have some of the best young talent in the league.

Let’s review:

This is quite the crop of young ballers. Phoenix needs to be incredibly devoted to developing these guys properly. They should inspire them to want to get better and emphasize the most important skills for success in the modern NBA.

Step Three: Unload veteran contracts

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Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Tyson Chandler, and Jared Dudley will make a combined $51.1 million this season, and $52.7 million the following one. That makes up over half of the total salary cap, and while these are good players, they do limit what the Suns are able to do financially.

Bledsoe is the most interesting of the four because he could land a decent return given his skill; he would be the easiest to unload. At the same time, he is only 27 years old and could be an important part of their future if he can stay healthy. I would lean towards keeping Bledsoe if they can move some of the other contracts on the team.

Knight would be a perfect player to move. He has an average cap hit of $14.6 million over the next three seasons, and a team in need of scoring would probably be willing to take him off the Suns’ hands. Knight is still only 25 years old and has proven he can score in this league. He struggles a little bit defensively, and that makes him a little redundant to the Suns as they are chock-full of good scorers with below-average defense, which makes him a moveable player for them.

Dudley and Chandler are in the home stretch of their careers but can still be useful to some teams. Chandler is still a good rim protector, and Dudley can still drain the three ball, both of which are very important skills in the game today. They won’t net much of a return given their cap hits, but they won’t be much use to the Suns when they’re ready to contend anyway. The cap space, if used correctly, could be much more valuable for the Suns.

If the Suns move Knight, Chandler, and Dudley while getting back only expiring contracts, they could find themselves with quite a bit of cap room next offseason. If they were to move those contracts, Phoenix could find themselves with over $50 million in cap space and only Warren to sign as a restricted free agent in 2018. This gives them a lot of flexibility and options for free agency.

Step Four: Become master pitch artists and recruit free agents

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This step is much easier said than done, but the possibilities are endless. 2018 has the potential to be one of the best free agent classes in years. If the Suns can get the cap space, they have to use it. They might be a tough sell to superstars, but their young and talented core could be attractive.

The Suns would have the cap space to sign a max-superstar and two other good players. For example, say they could convince DeMarcus Cousins, Danny Green, and Trevor Booker to sign with them. All of a sudden, this is starting to look like an incredibly dangerous roster, especially with another year of development for their young players and their top pick in 2018.

Again, this is much easier said than done.

Step Five: Start winning

By this point, Suns management has done their job; it’s now up to the players to perform. They should be able to at least compete for a playoff spot immediately. At the very least, they should bring lots of excitement to the fans and increase ticket sales.

Three years down the line, if the young core progresses to their full potential, this team could actually contend for a championship once again.