A Dark Time for the Suns: How a Promising Young Team Evolved Into a Dysfunctional Bottom Feeder
The 2015/’16 season is not one to remember as a Phoenix Suns fan. After the All-Star Break, this once great basketball organization has dropped to a horrid 14-40 record. They are currently riding a nine-game losing streak, darkening the sunny atmosphere of Arizona. As a loyal Suns fan, it has been not only quite frustrating this year but also this team’s effort can be traced back to the dreadful deadline moves of 2015.
Potential All-Stars Dragic and Bledsoe were dominant throughout the 2013/’14 season. Significantly, the production of Dragic was increased once Bledsoe was injured, leading to new hope in the team. The success was shown as they had a very high season record by the end of the season. However, the West was quite competitive that year, leaving the Suns’ ninth place and out of the playoffs. Nevertheless, the atmosphere of the team was exciting. A youthful squad were anxious and ready to dominate in the upcoming season. The fans were hopeful and charismatic. Dragic was improving drastically and Bledsoe was returning from injury in good time.
The first mistakes were made by Sarver and the Suns’ front office in the offseason. The release of veteran and fan-favorite Channing Frye was key as he was a major factor in spacing the floor on offense. We miss his three point shooting and leadership skills as the days go on. Furthermore, the signing of another great point guard in Isaiah Thomas was great on paper however quite idealistic. The highly anticipated “three-headed” point guard system in Bledsoe, Dragic and Isaiah seemed appealing to Hornacek (the head coach) and the Suns as they favored a high-octane style of basketball. However, this system led to interpersonal conflict among players. The key player would be Dragic. After averaging ridiculous numbers and being snubbed out the All-Star game in 2014, Dragic found himself in the corners for most of the plays. From the primary ball-handler and scorer, he became a third option as a catch-and-shoot wing. The team was performing adequately however it did not have the same explosive feel to its offense. This did not please Dragic, leading to a trade demand and the darkest days for the Suns: the 2015 trade deadline.
This was handled so poorly that if you trace back to my Twitter on the day of the trade, you may come across vulgar language and caps-lock. The departure of Dragic was not a surprise however through a three-team deal, the Suns also traded a small but smart leader in Isaiah Thomas and the 2015 Lakers’ Protected First Round Pick (which turned out to be an explosive Julius Randle, 7th in the lottery). The anger that the Suns’ Nation felt that day was indescribable. The main player the Suns got back was Brandon Knight. He is a young and talented point guard however has not developed as much as firstly anticipated. This led to a troubling end to last season, placing the Suns in the worst position: not in the playoffs however not low enough for a good draft pick.
Another factor that has led and still affects the present Suns would be the Morris’ twins, the Suns’ power forwards. Ending the 2014-15 season with the most combined technical fouls in the league, they proceed to bash fans, throw fits in the locker rooms and yell at the coach.
Sarver exponentially increased this tension between the team and the twins by unrealistically dumping the lesser (Marcus Morris) to the Detroit Pistons in hopes for a LeMarcus Aldridge signing. This angered Markieff, the one still in Phoenix, and he publicly stated he won’t play for Phoenix in the offseason. This led to his boycott of practices and preseason workouts. This led to a divided locker room and hurt the prestige of the Suns’ organization. This disrespectful and childish fighting has hurt the Suns internally and disengaged the fan base and rest of the NBA. Most recently, Morris has tried to be nice to the media and coach as he and the Suns seem to plan to move him. However due to his behavior in the summer, his trade value was dropped enormously. Therefore, he has been “happily” and “respectfully” until of course the other day when he yelled and shoved his own teammate in a game. Although Morris has potential, his attitude is hurting the Suns much more. I predict that he will be moved at the deadline this year.
After missing out on All-Star Aldridge, the Suns settled for an aging Tyson Chandler in the 2015 offseason, who is still quite efficient defensively. However, this completely contrasts the rebuilding stage that Phoenix is evidently entering into. Although his defensive mindset and leadership is helpful for bringing in the young guys, paying a veteran over twelve million a year is not smart in this circumstance. In all, the Suns struck out during free agency adding more role players to this already average team.
Furthermore, this season has been plagued, seeing Bledsoe out for the season and others suffering minor injuries. Ironically, the only bright spot has been because of these injuries: the young guys get to shine. Devin Booker, the Suns’ 2015 draft pick has played tremendously and is very efficient, shooting nearly 50% from the three-point line. He’s 19 years-old and has already made many comparisons with All-Stars such as Klay Thompson. Devin’s potential is through the roof and due to the injuries, his playing time has increased drastically. He is the sole bright spot on the team. Other potential role players include young wing Archie Goodwin and the tall Ukrainian Alex Len who have shown flashes of good games. Mentors such as Chandler help the development of the young players.
This has been a mess of a season, one definitely to forget. Applause for Sarver and the front office for completely dismantling and dividing a once great roster. The trades and moves that have taken place over the past couple of years have been cringing and just sad. If the Suns somehow “reason” out a trade for Devin Booker, I may have to search for a new team.