The Phoenix Suns have entered the New Year in a familiar position, in the bottom half of the Western Conference standings looking up. Through nearly half of the regular season, jostling for position in the play-in tournament spots was definitely not what the front office had in mind when this group was put together.
Although some players have far exceeded their roles - such as Grayson Allen - and the Suns are even getting some run out end of bench players like Bol Bol, this roster feels like one that needs shake up around their three stars. Which is the only way they can get better, because Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal are going nowhere this season.
According to various ESPN Insiders however - that won't be happening for the franchise - as they all think that the Suns won't make any moves at the trade deadline.
The question was put to the panel of experts with one month remaining until the deadline itself, and was phrased as follows; Which team currently outside the top six in the West (Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, LAL, GS) most needs to make a trade to solidify its playoff hopes? Surprisingly, only one of the five people asked mentioned the Suns at all.
That was Tim Bontemps, who offered up this worrying response to Suns fans about what the deadline has in store for the organization;
"Lakers by default. The Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns have nothing to trade, the Houston Rockets have taken a massive step forward and the Golden State Warriors have the Klay Thompson and Draymond Green situations to deal with."- Tim Bontemps
This is concerning for a number of reasons, not least because the Houston Rockets are complicating things for the Suns. In an ideal world they wouldn't have to worry about the frisky Rockets - but with the Suns trailing them by one game in the loss column - it is becoming clear that they are not going anywhere.
This represents another unexpected barrier for the franchise to get through before they can even think about the postseason, and with the Rockets in a much better position to make a trade if they want to, they might be about to separate themselves from the Suns even more.
Back to the Suns themselves though, and although what Bontemps says should come as no surprise, it really does just hammer home that the front office has no moves left to get better. Even a player like Tyus Jones - who is rumored to be available and would be the perfect get at a reasonable price - is out of the Suns' price range.
The fact nobody else mentioned the Suns at all - electing instead to mostly talk about the Los Angeles Lakers - tells you all you need to know about how the team from The Valley are viewed around the league right now. On paper the potential exists to be very good, but until they can actually string some wins together against credible opponents, this roster will only ever exist on paper.
There is however one player that Bontemps didn't bring up when talking about the Suns, and who definitely has value around the league. That would be Allen, who is third in the entire league in 3-point shooting percentage (47.2 percent), and who many contending teams would love to have coming off the bench for them.
The reason Bontemps didn't bring him up is twofold, and leaves the Suns in the same position they find themselves in now. Allen has started all 32 games he has played in this season, and is more valuable to this team then he would be anywhere else. On top of that, he is in the final year of his current deal.
Which means he would likely be a rental for whoever did trade for him, although they could always offer him a nice new deal in the offseason to stay. The kind of money the Suns won't be able to come close to coughing up, which is why this season may be a one-and-done for Allen with the organization.
When your only viable trade asset is crucial to the current success of the team though, then they're really not an asset at all. It seems highly likely then that the Suns are going to stand pat and hope a buyout market guy emerges to take a chance on. Unfortunately for them though, other teams in the West look like they are gearing up to improve and create more distance from the Suns.