5 Tough Decisions Phoenix Suns Must Make This Offseason
5 Things the Phoenix Suns Need to Think About
The best way to describe the Phoenix Suns at the moment is “in transition”. After finishing 25-57 this past season, there really is nowhere to go but up for the Suns, who have faced adversity in the past few years, a big change from their rich history of success. With new general manager Ryan McDonough and new head coach Jeff Hornacek in place, changes will obviously be made this offseason. McDonough and Hornacek will need to carefully re-examine last season's tape and stats, and decide what can stay the same moving forward and what needs to be reformulated.
Though they were so bad last season, the Suns probably are not that far away from being able to contend. They have some exciting young players such as Markieff Morris and Kendall Marshall that could make a difference with more playing time, and they have solid complementary pieces such as Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat, and Goran Dragic. All three of these players have been important parts of playoff teams, albeit as bench players rather than being in starting roles. Phoenix has two first-rounders in this year's draft, picks no. 5 and no. 30, and they have a second-rounder, so they should be able to add some more quality young players.
It is important that the Suns maintain a level of patience, as they will probably avoid free agency for the most part and rely on their youth to develop. With that said, it takes a while for NBA players to reach a level of brilliance -- LeBron James didn't even make the playoffs until his third season -- so they are just going to have to wait it out if they want to take an in-house approach to success. Here are five questions that the Suns will have to ponder this offseason as they sort out their issues and move forward on the path back to competitiveness.
Is Hamed Haddadi a Legitimate Force in the Paint?
The Suns got a nice surprise late in the season as 7-foot-2 center Hamed Haddadi emerged and became a weapon around the rim. The five-year-veteran, who was acquired at the trade deadline in a deal that sent Sebastian Telfair to the Toronto Raptors, was inconsistent and seemed to show signs of faulty conditioning, however. It should be interesting to see if the Suns have bigger plans for Haddadi, who has never played in more than 36 games in a season. He is not a complete enough player to be a regular starter, but the Suns need to decide whether the big man can be a valuable rotational player for them in 2013-14.
Can Kendall Marshall be the Starting Point Guard?
Though Goran Dragic was the team's leading scorer last year and is their highest-paid player, he fits better in a complementary role. Dragic had the season of his career thus far, and there is no guarantee that he will put up numbers like that again. Marshall was the 13th overall pick this past year, and it is time for him to start coming into his own as he enters year two of his career. The Suns would ideally like to start Marshall at point guard next season and shift Dragic to the two-guard, although this largely depends on who they draft and how Marshall progresses.
The key with Marshall seems to be patience, as he fits the mold of a more traditional passing-and-defense-focused point guard and is not the type of player who can be moved to shooting guard. It's anyone's guess as to how much faith the new administration has in Marshall, and we should be able to tell based on how the draft goes. Some experts have mocked Michigan point guard Trey Burke to the Suns, which would likely make Marshall trade bait or limit his ceiling with Phoenix to that of a rotational backup.
What Will They Do With Michael Beasley?
The Suns foolishly signed Michael Beasley to an $18 million dollar contract before the 2012 season, perhaps thinking they could get some of the play out of him that made him the second pick in the draft back in 2008. Beasley provided decent offensive production off the bench this past season, but did not play nearly good enough defense for his 6-foot-10, 235-pound frame. He only had 3.8 rebounds per game and finished 11th on the team in personal efficiency, which does not at all justify him being one of the highest-paid players on the team. Add in that Beasley has more character concerns than the vast majority of the players in the NBA, and you have a player that McDonough should be itching to get rid of in any way possible. He's probably making too much to simply release, but maybe the team can move his contract as part of a trade. If not, they will have to hope he steps it up and is a better all-around contributor than he was in 2012-13.
What Should be the Primary C/PF Combination?
The Suns already have a wealth of big men, and that's not even including any that they may add with their three picks in this year's draft. Marcin Gortat, Hamed Haddadi, Markieff, Marcus Morris and Luis Scola will all be vying for front-court playing time. In addition, Channing Frye is on the roster, although he is unlikely to play again after being sidelined for all of last season with a heart ailment.
Gortat was the most effective of this group for most of the year, leading the team in blocks and rebounds before going down with a lisfranc sprain that caused him to miss the rest of the season. He figures to have a pretty firm grip on a starting spot again this coming season. Scola was second on the team in scoring and overall efficiency; however, he is not a very dynamic player and could end up being replaced by Markieff Morris, who has shown plenty of bursts of potential over the past two seasons but has been inconsistent. His brother Marcus, also a former first-rounder, has loads of potential as well and could develop into a quality starter, though probably not by the beginning of next season. Though they have plenty of depth at the two front court positions, it still may benefit the Suns to bring in a big man with better offensive skills.
Who Should They Take with Pick 5?
The Suns' biggest need is clearly a guard/forward type who can be a difference-making scorer. They haven't had a truly elite scorer since Amar'e Stoudemire, and have not had a great swingman since Joe Johnson left in 2005. If this type of player would fall into the Suns' hands, they could be competitive rather quickly, as they already have talent at the point guard and front court positions.
The two best fits would probably be Ben McLemore, the shooting guard from Kansas, and Victor Oladipo, the guard from Indiana. Both players have received comparisions to Dwyane Wade and have great offensive potential. Oladipo is more likely to be available with the fifth pick, although McLemore has reportedly looked out of shape in pre-draft activities and could fall to no 5. If by some incredible chance Georgetown forward Otto Porter falls to pick five, he would be a great fit too. No matter the case, the Suns need an offensive game-changer to complement the great defense and hustle that they already have.