May 5, 2010; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard (13) Steve Nash and forward (1) Amare Stoudemire in the second half against the San Antonio Spurs in game two in the western conference semifinals of the 2010 NBA playoffs at the US Airways Center. The team is wearing "Los Suns" jerseys on Cinco de Mayo in response to an anti-immigration law recently passed in Arizona. The Suns defeated the Spurs 110-102. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Looking Beyond The Horizon

The Phoenix Suns haven’t been a playoff team since 2010, and since the days of Nash & Stoudemire pick and roll the Suns glory days have all but gone down the crapper. The Suns are the 5th most winning franchise in NBA history so it’s difficult for most Suns fans to watch their team miss the playoffs for the second straight season and a highly possible third.

Question at this point is, when will the Suns’ be contenders again? Well contenders have many details to their team that the Suns are currently missing. For one, a contender has a superstar, if not superstars. Secondly contenders have a supporting cast of role players and finally contenders have a coach who can make adjustments to cover up their respective team’s weakness during a tough playoffs series.

When I look at that those qualifications to be a contending team I can’t help but notice the Suns have two of those three checked off. The Suns certainly have a solid core of role players in guys like Jared Dudley, Markieff Morris, Shannon Brown, and rookie Kendall Marshall. Alvin Gentry, during the Suns playoff run back in 2010 made many adjustments throughout the entire playoffs such as using the zone defense to cover up for defensive issues, taking Nash and Richardson off big time scorers to conserve their energy on the offensive end, and adjusting the Suns bench to put pressure on the opponent’s bench players.

Here’s the toughie, during the Suns title window they had a tier one superstar in Steve Nash and a dynamic all-star Amar’e Stoudemire who was Nash’s perfect sidekick. Now that both of them are gone the Suns no long even have an all-star player on the roster so forget about a superstar. There are a few players who are already stars and there are a few with superstar potential that could potentially be wearing a Suns jersey this year or the next. Let’s have a four on four shall we?

 

James Harden:

Harden will be a restricted free agent at the end the 2012-2013 season assuming he and the Thunders don’t work out a deal during the upcoming season. Harden made a statement earlier this week saying he’s open to playing for the Suns because his mother lives in the Phoenix area, he was a former Arizona State star, and he called Phoenix his “Second home comfort wise”. The Thunders will most likely do everything in their power to keep him but there’s a window of opportunity to bring him to Phoenix and the Suns will be absolutely foolish to not make a run at the rising superstar who won the 6th man of the year award last season, made drastic improvements every year, lead the league in free throws made in the 4th quarter, and is a solid playmaker.

 

Tyreke Evans:

Evans like Harden will become a restricted free agent at the end of the 2012-2013 season and the Kings aren’t exactly set on keeping him. After Evans won rookie of the year in 2009, but he’s failed to make the leap to stardom because his incompetent coaches kept switching him back and forth between point guard, shooting guard, and small forward.  Evans much like Harden is very versatile and is a solid play maker. He doesn’t have Harden’s shooting touch but Evans draws a lot of fouls and is a great finisher due to his strength; if you ever played NBA 2K you’d know that he’s been lifting weights since the 7th grade(commentator comments). Under the guidance of a good coach like Alvin Gentry perhaps he can make the leap and be the star he was set to be before his coaches got in his way. The Kings may let him walk in free agency or trade him during the course of the season instead of letting him walk for nothing.

 

Andrew Bynum:

Bynum is already a superstar; he’s the best offensive center in the league and the best center, better than Dwight Howard according to Skip Bayless. Bynum’s contract expires at the end of year and has struggled with consistency as well as maturity issues last season and may be on his way out of Los Angeles sooner rather than later. Bynum is already a great low post scorer, a great rebounder, and shot blocker. He’s also been injury prone and the factor of the Suns training staff is something that should be very attractive to Bynum. Gentry is a player’s coach and is very popular with his players, if there’s anyone who can set Bynum’s mind straight Alvin Gentry is the man for the job. Bynum certainly is talented enough to lead his team to a title but whether or not he’ll ever acquire the leadership skills or the mindset to do accomplish a mission like that is another story.

 

Cody Zeller:

Okay I’ll be frank, this is a bias choice but I can definitely back it up. Zeller is still in college and is projected to be the 2nd prospect of the 2013 NBA draft class. Zeller is a center/power forward who’s a great low post scorer, with high basketball IQ, highly mobile and highly efficient(shot 63% from the field overall during his freshman year at Indiana). I am confident that he’ll be a superstar in the NBA, he has all the tools to succeed in the NBA; his ability to score in post will propel him to become a good NBA player right away. He’s all but a lock for to be a top 3 pick, and in a bitter sweet way I don’t think the Suns will be bad enough to land a top 3 pick but who knows? A few ping pong balls bounce their way 10 months from now and he may be wearing purple and orange next year.

Okay I know many Suns fans will make the claim that the Suns already have Gortat on the roster so why do they need to go after centers. Well here’s some news flash, Gortat will be highly fortunate to ever even play in an all-star game and that’s not a knock on him but he just doesn’t have the skill set to be a cornerstone. Harden, Evans, Bynum, and Zeller all have the potential to be superstars, and superstars can be cornerstones. Don’t be surprised if the Suns are struggling around all-star break and Gortat is traded away. Gortat has solid trade value and with all those draft picks the Suns can put together a package for a blockbuster trade. It’s going to be a tough year Suns fans, and that’s if we’re lucky.

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Tags: 2013 Draft Alvin Gentry Amar'e Stoudemire Andrew Bynum Cody Zeller Free Agency James Harden Marcin Gortat NBA Phoenix Suns Steve Nash Thunders Trades Tyreke Evans

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