The Suns of the mid-1980s were a rebuilding squad, a bridge between the strong teams of the 1970s and early 1980s and the dominant squads of the early 1990s. In 1986, coming off a 32-win season, the Suns used the sixth overall pick on William Bedford, a talented center who saw his career derailed by drug abuse.
They used their next two picks on Joe Ward, who never played a minute in the NBA, and Rafael Addison, who played just one season in Phoenix. It wasn’t until the second-to-last pick of the second round that the Suns landed a player who would make a major impact — Iowa State senior guard Jeff Hornacek.
Hornacek would play six seasons in Phoenix, starting as a rotation player from day one by playing 80 games his rookie season. By year three, he was a full-time starter and averaging double-digit points.
In his sixth season in 1992, he was named to the NBA All-Star team after averaging 20.1 points per game. That season he put up a whopping 11.6 win shares, a number topped by just five players in Suns history.
Perhaps one of the most important things Hornacek did for the franchise was give them the firepower to trade for All-NBA power forward Charles Barkley in 1992. It was Barkley who pushed the Suns over the hump and into the 1993 NBA Finals. Hornacek played a year-and-a-half in with the Philadelphia 76ers before being sent to the Utah Jazz, where he carved out the remainder of a fine NBA career.
After retiring, Hornacek later entered coaching, starting with Utah, but in returning to the Suns as their head coach in 2013. In December of 2013, he won NBA Coach of the Month honors, becoming the first and only player to receive that honor as both a player and a coach for the same team.