The Suns have become the laughingstock of the NBA the past few weeks (yes even more so than the 76ers) and are garnering plenty of negative attention league wide. Whether it’s their owner calling out Markieff Morris and the millennial generation’s inability in general to recover from setbacks, Markieff Morris throwing a towel at Jeff Hornacek during a game, the decision to fire part of Jeff Hornacek’s staff, the rumored issues in the locker room between Eric Bledsoe (who is now injured for the year) and Brandon Knight, or the fact that they have lost 15 of 19 games since the beginning of December, it is clear that the wheels are falling off in Phoenix and the Suns are barreling their way toward rock bottom at breakneck speed.
Their best course of action is to completely shake up the organization from top to bottom to extricate themselves from a toxic situation and start from scratch. That means cleaning house from GM Ryan McDonough, to Head Coach Jeff Hornacek and part of their current core.
How they got here
The Suns are only one season removed from being the surprise team of the NBA in 2013-14 when they won 48 games and had an exciting, young roster full of talent and chemistry along with plenty of cap space and draft picks.
Ever since then a series of bad decisions and bad luck have slowly but surely turned the Suns from one of the most promising rosters and franchises in the NBA to one of the worst.
The decision to bring in Isaiah Thomas to an already crowded back court coupled with the decision to let a valued veteran who was key to their chemistry and floor spacing in Channing Frye set the current series of events in motion.
Things were compounded when the addition of Thomas led to a great deal of unhappiness in their best player in Goran Dragic and his mistrust in the organization spawned a trade demand right before the trade deadline last February and led to a series of panicked moves by GM Ryan McDonough once the Suns were backed into a corner.
The Suns not only traded their best player for nothing but future draft picks, but they also dealt another asset in Isaiah Thomas for essentially a late first round pick, and traded a potential top five draft pick from the Lakers along with 2014 first round pick Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee for another tweener guard in Brandon Knight.
Fast forward to the 2015 offseason when the pursuit and failure to acquire LaMarcus Aldridge in the offseason engendered a new set of issues for the Suns.
In order to clear space for a potential Aldridge signing, the Suns dumped a number of players on the Detroit Pistons, most notably Marcus Morris which caused even more drama within and mistrust in the organization as an already untenable situation with Markeiff Morris became much worse. The Suns also added veteran center Tyson Chandler as part of their pitch to Aldridge which has proven to be a disastrous signing thus far as a banged up and aging Chandler has looked like a shell of his former self.
All of this combined with the cloud hanging over the organization until the Markieff Morris situation is resolved and the loss of their best player in Eric Bledsoe for the season has led to the Suns falling near the bottom of the West and quite possibly their lowest point in franchise history.
It is time for the Suns to completely embrace the tank. Amidst all of the drama, turmoil and struggle is a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a top three draft pick and the golden opportunity to draft a future superstar like Ben Simmons.
At 12-25, the Suns already possess the fourth worst record in the NBA currently, only ahead of the 76ers, Lakers and Nets and have a realistic opportunity to finish with one of the two worst records in the NBA and a 20-25% chance of landing the number one pick.
This is a rare year where the East is much better and the number of truly awful teams is much lower than usual. The Suns franchise has only had two top 5 draft selections in the past 38 years (Alex Len and Armon Gilliam, yikes) and finally allowing themselves to bottom out might be exactly what the doctor ordered for this once proud franchise.
The only two players who should be off the table in any trade scenarios with the rare exception of being a part of a package for a young superstar are Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe. With Bledsoe and Booker you have the potential of an elite two way traditional back court with size and skill instead of the mostly failed experiment of two point guard back court.
Markieff Morris needs to be moved immediately for whatever the Suns can receive for him even if that is nothing more than a 2nd round pick.
The Suns also need to cut bait with Brandon Knight and Tyson Chandler in my opinion, but should be moved first and any other player on their roster should be made available should the right deal present itself.
Here are three trade possibilities for Tyson Chandler that work with the salary cap and would make sense for all teams involved:
Here is a trade involving the Suns and the Brooklyn Nets that may make sense for both sides as well:
The Pelicans are in dire need of a traditional center with the ability to patrol the paint and anchor a defense and may be interested in acquiring Chandler by unloading Eric Gordon on an expiring contract or Ryan Anderson on an expiring contract and a fill in player like Quincy Poindexter to make the salaries work.
The Pacers are competing to be a contender in the wide open Eastern Conference and are flsh with combo guards like Stuckey and Monta Ellis and could sorely use a traditional defensive center to anchor the middle every night.
The Nets and Suns trade is incredibly intriguing and makes total sense on a number of levels. First the Nets are trying to win this year as they don’t own their own draft pick (it belongs to the Celtics) and are in dire need of a talented young point guard like Brandon Knight. They also don’t have a traditional four with any starting caliber potential with Thaddeus Young manning the four and being backed up by Thomas Robinson, Chris McCullough and Willie Reed. The additions of Knight and Morris are a way for them to add talent to their team despite having almost no trade assets or flexibility at the moment.
Joe Johnson would play sparingly on his expiring deal for the Suns and the Suns would pick up another young exciting wing and potential elite wing defender in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to build around.
These trades would allow the Suns to probably tank and lean on their young players to develop the next couple seasons without being tied into any real long term contracts besides Eric Bledsoe.
Trading Knight and Chandler allows a greater opportunity for young players like Devin Booker, Alex Len and Archie Goodwin to get a chance to develop and progress as well.
The Suns need to realize this season and their current roster construction isn’t going anywhere and their best strategy going forward is to blow it all up and start over around a few young pieces.
If the Suns handle their current calamity effectively and with an eye toward the future by bringing in experienced and knowledgeable basketball people to run the organization and a coach who demands the respect of his players, with a little patience and some lottery luck Phoenix could rise again.