5-on-1, Part 1: What's one word to sum up the Suns' season?


With the Suns’ season over and the offseason already in full swing as the team searches for a new general manager and a head coach, questions are aplenty. So instead of the traditional 5-on-5 to recap the season, we’re going to — like the Suns — start from scratch and work through five 5-on-1 sessions. Because if you can’t run an offense during a walk-through with a coach, no chance it’s working against five defenders.

Let’s not even get into how much we all overestimated the Suns — even the admittedly negative Dave Dulberg overshot the win total estimation — but what’s one word to sum up the year?

Michael Schwartz: Transition. We all knew this was coming, right? We may have all been overly bullish on the Suns, but before the season I posed the question of which team was definitively going to be worse than the Suns in the West? Perhaps Sacramento, maybe New Orleans, even possibly Houston before the Rockets pulled the trigger on the James Harden deal. But unlike in prior years when the Suns were a lock to at least battle for a playoff spot, they seemed to need some good fortune just to stay out of the West cellar.

With the way the last few years were spent trying to fine tune a Steve Nash roster to get as close to the playoffs as possible without any star successor on the roster, we knew it could get ugly when Mr. Two Time finally left town, and of course it was. Every team cycles through losing seasons eventually, even a team like the Suns with the fourth-best winning percentage in NBA history (I at least think that’s still the case). This year will be known as Year 1 post-Nash and the start of the rebuilding project.

Ryan Weisert: Necessary. After an incredible four-year run which redefined the franchise, the Seven Seconds or Less Suns were slowly dismantled. First Shawn Marion was traded away for Shaquille O’Neal. Then coach Mike D’Antoni bolted for New York. Then, following their miraculous run to the Western Conference Finals, the Suns let Amare Stoudemire walk. Through all of those losses, Steve Nash almost single-handedly kept the Suns close to contention. But his efforts served only to prop up a house of cards. The Suns were always going to collapse in the wake of the SSOL-era. That style of play required specific personnel and vision to execute. Once key players started to leave, the system started to crumble. The fact that it took five years for it to completely fall apart is a testament to Nash and former coach Alvin Gentry.

This hard fall, though painful for everyone associated with the team to endure, was necessary and inevitable. Now the franchise can find a new identity and move in a positive direction. Unless the lottery balls fall against them, the Suns should have a Top 5 pick in the upcoming draft. They have cap space and a few pieces, like Goran Dragic, to build around. So long as this abysmal season hasn’t ruined the team mentally, the Suns, having taken their licks, are definitely in a position to improve next year.

Kevin Zimmerman: Directionless. As great as tanking is for the future and as expected as it might’ve been, the Suns didn’t treat the post-Nash era like things would go this way. There was accumulation of assets and the open belief that Phoenix could be somewhat competitive. Though the Suns aren’t exactly the youngest of teams, there was somehow discussions about player development and a head coach, Alvin Gentry, who was going to go down swinging — by playing his veterans. Then, the Suns brought in Lindsey Hunter and still took a good chunk of time to finally admit that it was time to call it a lottery-bound year.

The confusing decisions and poor handling of everything from Gentry’s firing to the Shannon Brown playing time debacle sent a confusing message to fans and even the Suns players. In the end, all that might have been the basic reasoning behind the parting from general manager Lance Blanks. The end of the Nash era was easy to criticize and, to be fair, hard to conduct. But to call the 2013-14 season the first year of a rebuild seems contradictory to what happened this past season.

Dave Dulberg: Necessary. Whether they want to admit it or not, the Suns front office wasn’t really rebuilding these past few years. With a roster good enough to compete for the No. 8 spot out West and back-to-back No. 13 picks in the NBA Draft, the Suns were more or less floundering on the fringe of being competitive and on the fringe of rebuilding.

With likely a top-5 pick, a new GM and potentially a new head coach, the Suns can finally start planning for their future. The team was bad, even by my preseason standards, but they needed to be. And sadly, they’ll likely need to be again in 2013-14.

There’s no guarantee they end up like Memphis or Oklahoma City at the end of the process, but in a star-driven league, unless you can somehow acquire one in free agency/trade, the best place to look is the draft. Well, most drafts that is.

Matt Petersen: Painful. Planet Orange was in for a rough year, but I don’t think anyone thought 2012-13 would be the embarrassing plummet that it was. Other than Goran Dragic, everyone performed worse than hoped, particularly the high-profile “x-factor”, Michael Beasley.

The consolation prize: After years of slow deterioration, a lot of fans got the tank job they wanted. A potential top-3 pick would go a long way toward soothing fans’ frustrations. Still, it’s hard to have confidence in a franchise that hasn’t nailed (or kept) a good draft pick since Amare Stoudemire way back in 2002.

Either way, the reputation of the Suns as a franchise has gone from a source of pride to a source of shaking heads around the league, which may be the biggest reason fans are irate with management right now.

  • Ty-Sun

    Ugly. There were a few good things but mostly is was an ugly season. I expect another ugly season next year but hopefully not quite as bad.

  • phxfan88

    Depressing.

    The Suns teams I grew up watching never needed to fully rebuild, never had to miss three years of playoffs (assuredly more than three before it is said and done). We also just re-signed the guy who hired Blanks and said “I am confident this group will make fans fall in love with the franchise again. It’s a bright, sunny day in Phoenix” last October. What a joke we have become.

  • foreveris2long

    Actually I love the narrative Zimmerman gave, “Directionless”.Ok since I should not borrow his excellent descriptive term, I would say JOKE. They played a joke on the fans in believing they built a team to compete last summer and still the fans do not have one player on the roster 25 or younger with star potential.

    Management played a joke on Gentry when they refused to extend him and gave him a roster destined to fail which lead to his termination.

    They played a joke on Majerle. When the team was essentially given up for dead, instead of entrusting a lottery bound squad to the former Sun who had paid his dues by being a part of the Suns culture when they did win, the job went to the new hire Hunter.

    The Suns and their most loyal fans are the joke of the NBA after this past season which is the 3rd consecutive season with no playoffs. We are now the least talented team in the NBA. With a weak draft on the horizon and a substantial question if any promising GM candidates will express interest in being a part of this mess, the joke will likely be here for awhile.

    In closing the biggest joke was played on Clyde Drexler who thought with Scola and Dragic the Suns would likely secure the 4th seed in the playoffs. I along with some fans never expected this team to compete for the playoffs so we just endured the inevitable.

    I guess I kind of stole this from Phxfan88. Forgive me Phxfan as I could not resist.

  • c

    FLUSH!!!

  • Scott

    Self-destructive.

    I know it’s not popular to diss Gentry, but I think he had a hand in selecting who he had on the roster. Perhaps he played Beasley so much because he felt he had to prove he’d made a good choice.

    IMO, given the roster, the Suns would have won more games with Tucker and Brown at SG, Dudley and Johnson at SF, and Scola and Beasley at PF, with Markieff replacing Beasley early on those occasions where he didn’t have it.

    On those occasions where O’Neal wasn’t available, Scola would start as first unit C.

    Tweaks could have been applied for match ups and to shake things up, like playing O’Neal at PF and Dragic at SG to end close games.

    You do that, and I think that’s about the best you can do with the group.

    I don’t mind holding Marshall back till he was good and ready. I don’t mind trading Telfair away. I think those were reasonable moves. I think Brown should have been traded as well, if anyone would take him.

    I think several losses came from giving Beasley extended minutes at SF.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    I’m sorry guys, and maybe this will make some of you feel a bit better about things. The truth is, one bad season does not plummet the Suns to low levels alongside the Kings, Bobcats, Wolves, and not-so-distant-memory Clippers of the world.

    This season was WHAT NEEDED TO BE DONE – that’s how I look at it.

    Two years of trying to compliment a superstar in the league and one dreadful year immediately following that superstar’s departure does not make the Suns the joke of the league.

    Granted, many people don’t like Sarver, but that’s more an attack on his personal character. It’s for that very reason that many in the media and around the league dislike him. The fact that he now owns what is still considered a treasure in the NBA and has missed on home run hits is what bothers people.

    The Franchise, on it’s own, is still viewed highly. We’re just on the downswing. Every franchise goes through it. Great players get old and / or want more money than they should be paid. Great players move on due to personal reasons. It is what it is.

    So now the Suns are on the bottom of their downswing and are preparing to rebound. As we all know I’ve been waiting on this for 2 years, so I’m happy.

    They’ve cleaned house and will continue cleaning this off-season. They’ve admitted mistakes and have moved to try to correct them in every instance. They held true and have stockpiled picks and young players and players who hold value to contending teams. Fantastic.

    They’ve got a point guard, (AN ABSOLUTE MUST IN PHOENIX NO MATTER WHAT ANYBODY SAYS), and a young backup who can improve on a cheap contract. They will have salary to target any stars who may become available after this season who fit with the new direction of the team.

    They don’t have to draft positions. They can freely swing for the fences and go “stud shopping.”

    I’m not upset in the slightest. I’m excited.

    I do expect 2 or 3 freak athletes on the Suns roster after the draft and free agency period. I also expect Wes Johnson to be kept; Ken Doll too.

    Put them out there, let them play an entire season. Lose some games, mature, and add more next off-season.

    As long as they snatch one stud and at least one heavy contributor in this draft, the course will be set.

  • DBreezy

    Anesthetizing

  • Luka

    Relief… that it’s finally over.

  • Azbballfan

    Comatose

    The Suns looked and played terrible D this season, were mediocre in every ranking in the NBA and just flat out gave up in alot of games

    However, once we get a new GM in here, none of that will matter because whoever it is cant do a worse job than blanks did, and most of the people on this current team are going to be shopped hard for something, anything

    Gortat, Scola, Brown, Beasley and the Morris Twins i could see all getting traded or cut or whatever we want to call it

    Jared Dudley and Frye as well

    i would rather get some young talent and future draft picks for our current players than bring anyone but dragic, tucker, and johnson back

    Dudley deserves to be on a better team and Frye, who knows whats going on with him.

    Wtith this draft so weak and the suns so talent deprived, the next GM has got to shop anyone but the 3 keepers and see what he can get

    Gortat to Dallas for the 12th pick? sure

    Dudley to Atlanta for their 18th pick? sure

    Brown and Beasley to Portland for Meyers Leonard? fine

    hey Boston want Luis Scola for one of your picks? here ya go

    future picks, 2nd rounders we can package, anything is better than this configuration of talent

    I would only keep marshall if we cant find any of the above for him

    Sacramento looks like they could use a backup PG

    we could take, say, patrick patterson off your hands or chuck hayes

    Yeah next year will be bad too but so what

    this rebuild will really begin next summer when the draft is deep and you want as many picks as possible

    We could somthing like

    Oladipo, Franklin, Dario Saric this year then, get Julius Randle next year

    rebuild with young guys, get some cheap dependable veterans to help

    if Gortat to Dallas wont work what about Gortat to Minny for their pick?

    Charlotte is desperate for a scorer in the front court, would they give us their pick for say, Beasley, Gortat and the 30th pick?

    Throw in 3 million in cash and thats 10 million worth of expiring deal for Charlotte and their front court gets alot better and beasley becomes someone elses reclamation project

    Who ever the next GM is he has gotta be working the phones the nanosecond he takes office unless we wanna be stuck with this same configuration next year

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Dogcrap

    hey, anyone playing “one n done playoffs” over at espn.com?
    they won’t let me comment but they’ll let me play their games….anyway, you get to pick one player per day (and there’s games every day) and you get points for pts scored, rebs, assists etc…
    the catch is once you select a player you can never use him again….so you don’t want to take LeBron or Durant early….points increase as playoffs progress…ie: 2x for 2nd round….3x for 3rd round and so on.
    Yesterday I had Dwight Howard & the bum gets thrown out……aaggghhhh !

    It’s fun….I’m in the “Fans of Phoenix Suns” group….about 500 players….last I looked I was in 43rd place.

    ps…too bad about Westbrook
    and @ DBreezy….even with one word you manage to write a long post :)

  • DBreezy

    The truth hurts Hawki :)

  • DBreezy

    @Scott,

    Looks like Austin had a torn labrum that would have kept him out of workouts. Too bad, that might have allowed the Suns to steal him with the 30th pick.

  • http://none Keith

    Great post, Rich. Completely agree. It’s always darkest before the dawn. Personally, I’m at peace.

  • Scott

    @DBreezy -

    Ah, good point about Austin. I hadn’t heard that.

    I have to say, though, that I’m not so much attached to particular players as I am wanting the Suns to put themselves in position to take the best talents available.

    Also, at this point I don’t mind the Suns picking players who will take a year or more to develop. Some are calling for Marshall to be traded, for instance, but I don’t see the point. What’s the rush? The Suns aren’t going anywhere in the next year, there’s time for Marshall and other young guys to develop.

    Nash wasn’t all that good in his first year, and neither was Shawn Marion. Amare was pretty good, but he was more the exception than the rule. I think fans and the FO have to “measure twice and cut once” on choosing their young talent – that is, they should pick with care – and then they should give them time to develop.

    In fact, as I’ve said before, I think the Suns should purposefully target in draft and trade a few players who – like Goodwin (youth) or Sullinger (injury) – have talent but aren’t ready to perform next season. If there’s room, add a few young guys who haven’t delivered yet on their draft promises (like Wes Johnson, Xavier Henry, or Austin Rivers) and try out some undrafted or D-League role players. Just plan on the Suns dipping into the lottery again next year, and get guys on the team now who can benefit from a year of seasoning.

    Then you come into the 2014-2015 season reloaded on a good and youthful foundation.

  • DBreezy

    http://www.brewhoop.com/2011/8/30/2390009/exclusive-interview-with-assistant-gm-jeff-weltman-we-view-the

    http://www.brewhoop.com/2011/9/1/2397278/exclusive-interview-with-assistant-gm-jeff-weltman-during-the-season

    Two interviews wth John Weltman who according to FSNAZ via Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel says is again a candidate for the GM job that he turned down here 3 years ago. He supposedly has permission to interview and obviously Milwaukee’s season just ended.

  • Scott

    BTW, now that the dust has settled on who’s in and who’s out of the draft, from now on it’s all about who goes in what order: both the teams picking, and the players to be picked.

    Right now DX has the top 12 narrowed down fairly reasonably, in that I doubt many of those players will be dropping significantly.

    #13, though, is projected as the Dallas pick, and DX has Mason Plumlee penciled in. From the scouting I’ve seen, that’s way too high for Plumlee.

    The next pick, #14 to Utah, is given to Kelly Olynyk. I think Olynyk will go lower, though maybe not as low as Plumlee.

    So to me this is an inflection point where the draft order is going to shift significantly as players get evaluated.

    My belief is that Dieng, currently projected to go at #15 will slide up to #13. He’s a better defensive player than Plumlee, and he’s got some offense as well.

    Since the Jazz pick at #14 and they’re still bringing along their project SG, Alec Burks, I doubt they’d add to their woes by selecting Archie Goodwin, another project SG. Instead, some observers think the Jazz might let Al Jefferson go, in a salary dump, sticking with Favors and Kanter. So I could see them taking a 3rd C in the draft, a young project C like Steven Adams, or if they’re less confident in Kanter, they might take Jeff Withey.

    #15, the pick for the Bucks, I think will most likely be a SG, as both Ellis and Reddick have expired contracts. In this sort of situation they’ll be looking for a NBA ready player, not a project, so I think they’ll take Jamaal Franklin.

    Next up is the Celtics, at #16. Assuming the speculation above is accurate, of the remaining players, I’m really not sure who the Celtics would want. Since Fab Melo played in just 6 games this season, despite Garnett being old and creaky, they might be thinking they’re weak at C and might try to pick up Jeff Withey.

    The next two picks go to Atlanta. Like Milwaukee, Atlanta looks to be going through a rebuild while also being in the playoffs. I think they’ll re-sign PG Jeff Teague, but they might decide to skip on Devin Harris. So they may select Dennis Schroeder with their first pick.

    If Atlanta is thinking of parting ways with Josh Smith, they might draft similarly tall SF Dario Saric.

    The Cavs pick next, at #19, and I think by this time Archie Goodwin will go.

    After this it gets murky, and the talent at this point seems low enough to not merit much interest.

  • john

    Inevitable.

    Nash and Amar’e weren’t going to play forever, and without a shot at landing a stud in the lottery in nearly a decade, the Suns were going to have a rough season eventually.

    Hopefully they can find that stud they’re missing sooner rather than later.

  • Azbballfan

    Yeah i heard that Austin goes back to school after negative feedback from scouts, basically they told him he had to get in the post and develop a post game and defense instead of being a 7 footer who scores on the perimeter.

    I too was hoping we could pick him with our 30th pick but no dice we will have to wait until next year

    The Suns need to to decide if Dragic or Marshall is the PG of the future

    Dragic and Marshall togther in the backcourt worked ok last year

    but it didnt seem like a long term solution to the hole we have had at the 2 since jason richardson was shown the door

    even if marshall develops i dont seem him putting up better numbers than dragic except assists

    both marshall and dragic would hugely benefit from increased talent to throw the ball too

    i just dont know where marshall fits on this team long term

    and i dont think the suns know either

    it would be a waste to put dragic in the backup pg role and play him 18 minutes a game, and marshall gives you no scoring at all from the pg position if you start him

    maybe the long term solution is a athletic scoring small forward ? with Dragic at the 2?

  • Scott

    I don’t think the Suns need to decide right away about Dragic versus Marshall.

    Marshall will never be anything more than a backup if he can’t shoot better. And frankly, with his 7.85 PER, he’s barely a legit backup.

    For that matter, Dragic needs to develop a more reliable shot. He’s come a long way, but he still has a ways to go, IMO. *Maybe* he could excel as a SG if he could focus purely upon scoring, but I think he really prefers being a PG.

    So I don’t see the problem in having the two of them, except that the Suns need higher quality from both players at PG, and they need more dependable scoring from all spots.

  • bill.thomas

    @Azbballfan: I see you got a new keyboard, keep working those other 19 keyboards, they’re bound to pay off. At worst you could get a single Pastrami & Rye for each one.

  • bill.thomas

    Ooops, spoke to soon, seem to be alternating with a bad KB. Where can I get some of that green stuff ??? I have a card.

  • bill.thomas

    I think Olynyk will disappoint anyone if he’s taken in the top 22. A longer Amundson but with an inability to finish on the break and a complete lack of strength and fundamentals.

    Plumlee is a fire hydrant on stilts who should just give it up and go to MBA school. At the most I would use the 30th pick on him if we can’t think of a single better idea, even outside the box.

  • bill.thomas

    @Azbballfan: an athletic 3 with Dragic at the SG? How about Johnson and Dragic. How about then using Marshall as the starting point. You say using Marshall as the starting point gives us problems on D?

    No way, we just give Marshall a pile of the tire-spiking strips to lay out in front of opposing guards. If he runs out of strips, we call a 20 sec. TO and just give him more strips. LAPD would highly approve. Those were used to good effect in the OJ case.

  • Scott

    @bill -

    You never know, sometimes players surprise by breaking out some new part of their game that you never knew they had. Olynyk could be one of those.

    And I would say he’s not really an Amundson … he’s more of an unathletic Amare. He doesn’t rebound and he doesn’t defend, all he does is drive in to score.

    Plumlee … I think college was the peak for him. I hope the league doesn’t invite him to be in the green room, because that could get sad.

  • Azbballfan

    Yeah if only it were that easy bill!

    Yeah with a new GM and likely new coach who knows what changes are in store

    we may not have to think about the marshall/dragic combo for too long, since the new GM may want to erase the touch of blanks from suns fans memory and cut or trade away everyone he brought to the team

    which in the long run wouldnt be a bad idea, we were only 5 games better than the worst in the NBA, we dont anywhere to go but up

  • Scott

    Well, technically the Suns CAN go down, and they can also wander aimlessly at a low level, like some of the other chronic lottery teams.

  • bill.thomas

    @Azbballfan & Scott: We gotta get out the tire strips for Marshall !! Then everything will be OK !!

  • bill.thomas

    Plumlee–We should Easter-gift him. Its still a Christian majority, ain’t it?? Then Easter gift him to the Alaska Malamutes of the F-League. He can stay in some cabin where the Unibomber stayed. Are you listening, Babbby??????

  • bill.thomas

    @Azbballfan: Dammitt, I am going to hand-deliver a working keyboard. And I am guessing you have never written a good check in your life.

  • bill.thomas

    If this franchise selects Plumlee, nobody on here will ever buy another ticket in his/her life. Everyone knows this.

  • bill.thomas

    That fat loser will go to Detroit with their second round pick.

  • bill.thomas

    We wont be made into laughingstock by the likes of Plumlee, no way !!!

  • bill.thomas

    Laughingstock Blanks !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • bill.thomas

    BTW, what is that laughingstock Blanks going to do now?? Go coach high-school girls basketball somewhere?? Thanks for your efforts, lance !!!

  • bill.thomas

    Plumlee=Laughingstock!!!

  • bill.thomas

    @Azbballfan: Dammitt, where are you ?? I’ve got a full tank and an aux. tank. Gotta deliver you a working keyboard and an auxiliary English teacher.

  • Rich Anthony

    The suns have to draft athletic. They cannot afford to draft anything else right now. This is two-fold in regards to both the current point guards on the team.

    Dragon needs dynamic athletes to help him excel in terms of, well, not being hounded 24/7 because he’s the only threat on the floor. He needs others who command attention and who can get to the cup. Dragon is an opportunist. If defenses show any signs of having any other focus, he blitzes until that team stops it. That’s why he always unloads early in games then fades. Hard to keep attacking when you’re catching triple-teams at the top of the key. Having another dynamic threat enhances Dragic.

    Ken Doll is the head communicator. He’s not attacking anything. What he needs? WEAPONS. Lots of weapons. Sleek, FAST, freak weapons. If he has horses, he can punish bench-defensive units. He can even run point with Dragon playing off. His passing becomes a lethal instrument. But he needs people around him who can fly.

    The suns are void of these things. They must address that. Guys like Plum / Otto, etc aren’t BAD players but they cannot be PHX picks. FREAKS are what PHX must target – potential crazy-studs who can go hard and fast while serving a purpose moving forward.

    Whether its Nerlens, Ben, Victor -OLADIPO2013- whoever is there has to be taken. Later picks? Find the freaks.

    Trades that result in more picks? More freaks. Trades for youth? Athletes with specialized skill sets, (rebounder shot blocker but can run the floor – floor spacer – lockdown defender)

    We don’t need the Jared Dudleys of the world right now. We need the Ibakas, the Manimals, the DAJs. That’s what they need to be doing. Role players are always around. No need to draft them.

  • Scott

    @Rich -

    Athletes … with length, IQ, motor, and a drive to score. :)

  • Pingback: 5-on-1, Part 3: What was the Suns' most mind-boggling event of 2012-13?

  • SkyBill40

    LUNACY.

    It’s hard to continue to be a fan with Sarver as the owner. Seeing him sabotage the franchise year after year is painful, and this year was no different. Seeing Babby and Blanks eagerly drive the franchise into the ground on Sarver’s whim did nothing to help. Alas, trading Steve Nash to a conference and division rival that we’ve come to despise just as strongly as the Spurs was just the icing on a poop filled cake.