Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

What we learned about the NBA from the 2013-14 Suns: Part 1


PHOENIX — The NBA playoffs roll on without the Phoenix Suns. While the results could add to ideas of where the league might be or should be headed, we can take a lot of lessons from the Suns themselves to apply to the NBA as a whole.

Here’s what the 2013-14 version of the Suns taught us.

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 12.34.39 PM

The West is tough, but conference or playoff re-alignment is something to think about

Forty-eight wins and the Suns are sitting at home.

The 1-8 and 2-7 playoff matchups to kick off the Western Conference postseason action doesn’t include the Suns, but if it had, there’s a good chance it’d be as good as San Antonio facing Dallas and Oklahoma City grinding with Memphis. These are, at-worst, conference semifinal games in terms of entertainment value.

So is conference re-alignment, or probably more easily, playoff re-alignment, are serious points that commissioner Adam Silver will look at.

“When you look at the teams in the East and see where you’d be seeded in the East, it kind of irks you I think,” Phoenix center Miles Plumlee said. “But I think the landscape in the NBA might change in the future and maybe it might just be the top-16 teams that are in it.”

Re-alignment could take a number of different forms, but it’s hard to say if that will ever come true. Logistically, it makes sense for Eastern Conference teams to stay out east. Business-wise, it’s not great for the NBA to tell most everyone east of the Mississippi to shove it.

Still, it’s easy to complain if you’re the Suns especially. Then again, the Hawks are giving the Indiana Pacers as much trouble as the Suns would. That’s a whole other story.

There are different ways to “tank”

Basketball players learn by trial. It’s often pretty clear when players have topped out, hit their peak.

When looking at the failed experiment of the 2012-13 Suns, it was clear who’d done that. So Luis Scola, Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat and even Caron Butler were shipped off. Phoenix got Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee and Ish Smith in return.

Nevermind draft picks. This was about opening up the floor for guys who were set on realizing their potential, though trading for players who were good teammates and keeping those that already were — Goran Dragic, Channing Frye and P.J. Tucker — was a different route than the one the Philadelphia 76ers took.

Channing Frye said he first saw the team’s potential not during the season, but after the preseason trades finished up the offseason.

“I saw it – and this is no knock on the guys that got traded – after they got traded I saw that everything opened up for everybody,” he said. “You know, it was kind of like a breath of fresh air. I saw what had come out of Miles and Markieff (Morris), I seen Gerald kind of flourish a little bit. Guys have stepped up this year.”

ESPN’s Kevin Pelton put it succinctly in this article from January.

… the lesson to me is in the Gortat trade. Had they kept the veteran big man, the Suns would probably be as successful as they are now if not better, but their future would not be so bright because Gortat has already maxed out his potential. Better to have those minutes going to Plumlee, who might be around for years to come.

The beauty of going young as part of the rebuilding process is that the franchise wins no matter what. Either the young core overachieves, as in Phoenix’s case, or a rough season is rewarded with a lottery pick. The franchise’s long-term outlook improves in both scenarios.

  • http://COX SOUTHPHILLY

    The problem is not the way the NBA is currently structured. This will change in future years and may even reverse. The Suns just need to keep improving,get more athletic, and get a go to player.Everything else will take care of itself.

  • DZ

    I like the “Old School” idea with two conferences and only two divisions.

    That also leaves the option to expand the NBA to 32 teams so that there would be eight teams per division. Seattle deserves a team and I’m sure there is at least one other city that could and would support an NBA franchise. Yeah, I know that some people would claim that it would hurt the NBA game by further diluting the talent pool but people were saying that even back in 1980 when the NBA added the Dallas Mavericks as an expansion franchise which upped the number of team to a whopping 23. But that’s another argument for another time.

  • BUTLER

    The problem has to do with a lack of stars, quality GMs, and great coaches. So little parity in this league. Re-arranging the playoff selection might give teams like this year’s SUNS a chance to get in, but it’s a band-aid for a problem that the current CBA attempts to solve in a different way.

    Love that Hornacek won’t get Coach Of The Year award. It carries a bad curse so I say congrats Pop.

    No awards is best for the entire SUNS this year. They need to remain hungry.

  • DZ

    There is no way to achieve parity in the NBA. The Heat have proven that. NOT because they somehow manipulated things but because the top players in the NBA want to win championships and by banding together and stacking the deck is the easiest way to do it. The other – and harder – way is to hire a great coach and GM and build a great team through the draft and trades. SA is the king of that method and OKC is not far behind. Hopefully the Suns are on that path too.

    I still think that it would be good to look into changing the playoff selections by changing the way the NBA is structured… or at least changing the way teams are ordered in the draft. The way things are actually help the Suns in the draft but but if the lottery was actually made up of the teams with the worst records in the NBA – regardless of whether they made the playoffs or not – then that would help the Eastern teams and bring the two conferences closer to parity.

  • DBreezy

    Butler,

    I agree on the lack of stars and good GM’s, but I thnk there is more quality coaching talent than is often recognizes. Even some of the guys who I don’t particularly care for are much better coaches than what the GM’s give them roster wise.

  • BUTLER

    Dave – I suppose there are lots of coaches out there who could probably do better with a different GM.

  • BCrayZ

    MUST resign LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • noitallman

    Ha Kevin Pelton…

    Chemistry is a big part of success, and with Gortat, our chemistry sucked. Sure, Brown and Beas also contributed greatly to that, but Gortat is not a great teammate.

    This team was successful because the players are all willing to humble themselves for their teammates, rather than berate them for not getting touches.

    Look at Indiana. They destroyed their chemistry and see how it is now. Still a lot of talent, but the pieces don’t go together.