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ESPN’s 5-on-5 paints gloomy picture of Phoenix Suns future


ESPN’s 5-on-5 series featured a look at the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday that will depress most any Suns fan.

I was joined by Scout Inc’s David Thorpe and TrueHoop Network colleagues Rahat Huq, Beckley Mason and Rob Mahoney for a five-pack of questions on the immediate and distant future on Planet Orange. They are as follows:

1. Fact or Fiction: Phoenix should trade Steve Nash.

All of us but Beckley agreed that the Suns should make a Steve Nash trade.

Beckley countered: “It’s not like owner Robert Sarver tricked him into re-signing; Nash knew management was cheap. He’s still a top-15 player — you don’t give him away for pretty good parts.”

Thorpe would switch to the fiction side if the Suns add star talent, and I’m with him in that regard.

Otherwise, as I argue in the above video, it just makes more sense to start playing for a quick rebuild with 2012 cap space and the potential of the 2012 draft class. Rahat agrees with that line of thinking as he’s “a firm believer that a team must first hit rock bottom before again reclaiming a place near the top.”

2. Should Marcin Gortat or Robin Lopez start at center?

This was the easiest question for me to answer, and Gortat rightly won in a landslide. Only Rahat went with Lopez, and even that was part of a grand plan to deal Marcin for prospects.

Thorpe feels The Polish Hammer is one of the league’s most underrated players and Beckley lauded him for being an “athletic finisher” and “active rebounder” whereas “Lopez has a well-earned reputation for being tall and having likable hair, but he’s really not that good.”

I feel Gortat is the most promising piece in the post-Nash future whereas unless Lopez proves 2010-11 was an aberration I’m not sure if he’s part of the future at all.

3. Fact or Fiction: Aaron Brooks is the PG of the future.

Another easy question for me that was unanimous across the board as we all agree Aaron Brooks should not be the Suns’ point guard of the future.

Thorpe sees AB as a mini version of Bobby Jackson in the “supersonic scoring combo guard” mold. Mahoney writes that “he’s a solid piece in a complementary role, but a building block he is not.” Beckley notes that “Brooks looks and runs like he could be from a distant future in which man has evolved to move at incredible speeds and bear giant heads designed for increased brain size” before saying that Brooks is too small for starter minutes. Rahat concurs unless he’s playing aside 1995 Scottie Pippen.

I am fully in agreement. I like Brooks as instant offense off the bench this year but hope he eventually gets dealt for a future asset.

4. Which wing will contribute the most going forward?

To me Jared Dudley is the no-brainer, but Grant Hill and Josh Childress also received votes from our fivesome.

Thorpe likes Childress if he were playing with better teammates because he “does a lot of things that make those players even better.”

Rahat casts a votes for the age-less Hill and observes that two of the top three picks in the 1994 draft (Hill and Jason Kidd) are still going strong whereas top pick Glenn Robinson “hasn’t been relevant since George W. Bush’s first presidency.”

Mahoney likes Dudley because “he’s a player who can contribute through spot-up shooting, rebounding and effort defense.”

Beckley failed to find anything positive about the Suns’ wing situation but spits out perhaps the funniest response of the feature: “Oh, man. A murderers (of Phoenix fans’ fortunes) row! It would surprise me if any of these guys played for Phoenix in three years. I think it’s between Hill and Dudley, and whoever does the most uplifting, socially important PSAs in the next two years wins.”

I disagree with that, I see Dudley playing in Phoenix for quite some time on his very reasonable five-year deal. He’s improved every season and is the type of player winning teams must have.

5. When will the Suns make the playoffs again?

Surprise, surprise, I ended up being the homer in the bunch on this question.

If the Suns add a solid shooting guard and keep the rest of the team together I could see them competing for the eighth seed this season, but I went with the season after (2013) because of how much cap space they will possess next offseason.

Really it’s impossible to answer this question before seeing what happens with Nash and how the new CBA will impact the Suns’ future direction. I felt like 2013 was a fair compromise without that knowledge at this point.

The rest of the crew was not so optimistic with Thorpe and Mahoney pegging the Suns as a 2015 playoff team and Beckley and Rahat going with 2016.

Thorpe chose 2015 because in his mind there is “no clear plan being orchestrated by the team (yet, anyway).”

Mahoney cautions that “by the time the Suns finally see the value in trading Nash, it will be far too late.” Thus he feels they will get minimal return on a trade and “be forced to endure a slow, gradual rebuild that will finally put them back in the playoffs halfway through the decade.”

Rahat’s less than bullish on Phoenix’s future as well, writing, “The team has no blue-chip prospects, and it will take years to both acquire and cultivate the kind of top-tier talent it needs.”