In the span of two months, the Phoenix Suns went from young team on the rise to total dumpster fire. Once very much a rumored destination for Kyrie Irving, the Suns are now dealing with a disgruntled player of their own in PG Eric Bledsoe. The 27-year-old has been one of the few bright spots for this franchise, averaging a career-high 21.1 PPG last season. Bledsoe’s request to leave town shines light on the dysfunction of the organization that starts at the top.
Perhaps the most damming comments came courtesy of ESPN NBA Analyst Amin Elhassan. He suggested that Suns Owner, Robert Sarver, is to blame for the team’s years of ineptitude. Elhassan would know; he worked in the Suns’ front office until 2012. Sarver has a long-earned reputation as one of the worst owners in sports and his General Manager, Ryan McDonough, is beginning to feel the heat as well. This team finished last in West in 2016-17, but was expected to improve with the help of youngsters Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss. Five games into the season and fans are already anticipating another freefall.
Questionable Personnel Moves
McDonough does not have a great track record when it comes to the draft or trades since taking over as GM in 2013. His first move was to hire Jeff Hornacek as the team’s head coach. He took a big swing on Center Alex Len at the draft in that same offseason. Hornacek was fired after a horrendous 14-35 start to his third season, while Len remains glued to the bench in 2017.
One of the biggest issues plaguing the Suns is their inability to keep star players happy. PG Goran Daric has been shipped out of town twice. The first time he was traded, it netted the Suns PG Aaron Brooks, who put up a subpar 9.6 PPG in 25 contests before leaving the team. Isaiah Thomas was just coming into his own when arrived in Phoenix in 2014. He averaged 15.2 PPG, but was quickly sent to the Celtics. Thomas was only 25 years old at the time and could have served as a centerpiece in the Suns’ ongoing rebuild.
Phoenix has not sniffed the playoffs since the 2009-10 season, meaning the team owns the third-longest postseason drought in the NBA. The Suns’ seven-year drought trails only the Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings. But with the addition of Jimmy Butler, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the Timberwolves will end their drought, leaving the Suns and Kings in a race for futility. In fact, the Suns have failed to win more than 24 games in the last two campaigns.
The scary thing is just how quickly this team has fallen. In 2009-10, they didn’t just make the playoffs; they forced a game-six in the Western Conference Finals against Kobe Bryant and the L.A. Lakers. Since then, the Suns have finished dead last twice in the West (they also finished 14th in 2015-16). The Suns’ rapid descent has a lot to do with their iffy draft history. Alex Len was the fifth overall selection in 2013. Once expected to wear the label of franchise player, nowadays, Len can be referred to as nothing more than a bust. 2016’s top-prize, Dragan Bender, has yet to crack the starting lineup. Will the young players develop or keep the Suns stuck in perpetual quicksand?