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Playoffs of the underdogs, where are the Suns?

The eighth seeded Memphis Grizzlies upsetting the number one seeded spurs. The regular season cast away Atlanta Hawks upset the former NBA finalist and Eastern Conference finals contender Orlando Magic while being in a 2-2 series with the best record Bulls. And finally the Dallas Mavericks, who people gave little credit too even though being third seeded, swept the two time defending champions. This years playoffs has one recurring theme in it, underdogs pulling off upsets.

Disregarding low expectations and soaring when no one expects it, that is the theme the Phoenix Suns have become familiar with. Each year critics give the Suns low expectations because of an aging point guard and a system that favors offense over defense. Last year we saw the suns being the underdogs in the playoffs and managing to bring the eventual NBA champs to a tough six game series which could have easily changed if it weren't for an Artest rebound. Unfortunately, less than a year after making the western conference finals, the Suns become a lottery team in the weakest draft in years.

Future of the Suns does not look that bright either: our best player is an aging point guard and our second best player is an aging small forward. But hey, we have the 2012 free agency to look forward too. Not really though because Dwight Howard is the type of player who prefers the spot lights and cannot carry a team on his own. Derron Williams seems to like his future in New Jersey. Chris Paul would rather team up with Howard in Orlando than Phoenix.

Obviously, the argument people make  about Amare leaving to New York is that he would eventually break down because of his knees and miss a season. I'd rather have a few more seasons of Amare and Nash pick and rolling than a lottery team with a grim future. This is the way I see it, a year after nearly making the finals, we resigned Amare. Left the team intact and the bench players develop. Nash and Amare would have given the suns two or three more years of a title window. If Amare were to get injured say his third or forth year into the contract and miss a season then we've obviously sunk and the deal would seem like garbage. But by the time Amare's knees have gone out, Nash and Hill will already be retired( except maybe Nash for one more year). A team with no Amare and Nash in the lineup would be detrimental to the season and bring us down to a top five in the lottery.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·        <!--[endif]-->Although we would be in the lottery with an unevitable Nash retirement and the likely crumbling of Amare's knees, we would become a top five lottery team with a chance of landing a franchise player to play along side Amare starting the rebuilding. But because we didn't sign Amare we have three years of flirting with the playoffs and hoping in the lottery rather than having a few years at a chance of a title. Further down the path, post- Nash era, we have no superstar like Amare but tumbling in the lottery team with no leadership.

Here are the points I am illustrating because we did not sign Amare:

1. A team lead by a 35 plus point guard who can make this team good enough to be near the playoffs but not good enough to make the second round.

2. A team being good enough to land a 13th or 14th pick in the first round.

3. Once Nash retires, the suns will be stuck in lottery limbo because they rely so much on him while not having a viable back up.

4. Not. One. Superstar. let alone an all star.

Why we should have signed Amare:

1. a few more years of a Nash and Amare together would have given us a better chance of winning the big one.

2. Robin Lopez would not look as bad as he does not with less attention from the defense focused on him and more of it focused on Amare

3. When Nash retires and Amare loses a season due to injury we would be so horrendous that we would hopefully have a deep draft pick.

I know the scenarios involving Amare are filled with chances but those chances include possibly reaching the finals as compared to possibly making the playoffs without him. These playoffs, filled with upsets, just reminded me of how successful the Suns were and how grim the future looks for them unless they get luck in the 2012 free agency.

We can keep talking about what if we signed Amare but its a year later now. Rumors of Nash being tossed aside would obviously make us a worse team but would definitely accelerate the rebuilding process that has to happen. But the tough decision is, what if we do land a superstar like Mr. Superman in 2012? What better to appeal him to come here than playing with a star like Nash. Obviously he has options like Chris Paul and Derron Williams he would rather join up with but that slight chance he would come to Phoenix for Nash would be the only reason I see to keep Nash. Otherwise Nash is hurting our future for a championship rather than securing it.

One option would be to trade Nash, a widely unpopular one. But one thing is for certain is that we must start rebuilding soon. To rebuild is through free agency, draft, or trades.

Rebuilding through free agency is definitely a strong way to do it but incredibly difficult. There are factors that players consider before signing with a team. One, unfortunately for Phoenix, is a big market area. Franchises have been destroyed soley because they are a small market team causing players like Lebron and Carmelo to hold their team hostage. Second, fortunately for the Suns, a chance for a player to make an imprint on the NBA for years to come. What do I mean by this? What better way to build a legacy for a player than him bringing a ring to a ringless area. Lebron and Wade would be overshadowed by Jordan if they signed in Chicago this past offseason. But think about it, say hypothetically Lebron James had won a championship in Cleveland. Which do you think will have more of an impact on his legacy? Winning a ring in a small market place like Cleveland? Or a big city place like Miami? Players chase that opportunity and that is one thing we have going for us in free agency. But the reason its not a great idea to rely on is because how often does a free agent come to Phoenix? Or even better, how often does a summer like the one that past that changed the foundation of the NBA occur? Exactly.

Trading pieces to land a star rarely happens. But if there was a time to do it then it would be in the 2011-2012 off-season and regular season. Why? Because LA will likely do a major change to its roster if it doesn't show any signs of life in the regular season and teams like Orlando and New Orelans will be the new Denver. The only problem is we do not have any pieces that really stand out to offer. 2010-2011 regular season had two block buster deals involving Carmelo and Williams. Why did these deals happen? Because the Denver franchise did not want to go through what the Cavs did and Utah did not want to go through what Denver did. So out of the result came two block buster deals done for the highest bidder. This upcoming season, assuming the three super stars don't sign an extension, will have a similar scenario compared to the 2010-2011 season. Franchises held hostage.  This would be perfect for us if we had the pieces to aquire any of them but the fact is we don't.

We could trade Nash and Hill and hope for great draft picks to give us more gold to put into the envelope but that would be unlikely as well. It would be better than doing nothing though, trading Nash and Hill for assets that could also be packaged for more assets that would land us a superstar. If nothing is done then no player on this team would be able to draw attention from Orlando, New Orleans, LA, or New Jersey. Rebuilding through trades would require great execution by the front office which we haven't seen them do much of.

Finally the draft and the lottery. Lottery not meaning our draft selection but banking on a rookie turning out to be a franchise player for our organization. Lately in the past decade, the draft has brought up some great players: KD, Derrik Rose, Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin, John Wall and the list goes on. Bad news for us is the upcoming draft seems weak in talent meaning our 13th pick would do little for our future except give us possibly a trade asset. But that doesn't mean there is no hope in the draft. Living by the draft would be like living by threes and dying by threes. On one side, it could be detrimental like Minnesota. On the other hand it could turn out phenomenal like it did for  the Clippers and OKC. Even Portland managed to build a great team through the draft only to be cursed by injuries.

The Suns FO will have to choose their gamble because you can't live by all three. You can't hope to land a super star in the draft while looking at other teams players dreaming to snatch an all star or two. The FO needs a game plan and it needs to be consistent. Build your team filled with tradable players seems like a great idea for next year and these past two years but chances like these are rare. Build your team set with young solid role players through the draft waiting on a superstar seems easy but the only hard part is finding the super star. Free agency doesn't quite have the same excitement like it did the past summer on a yearly basis.

What the FO does this offseason could shape how the Suns will land in the future rankings. Depending on how we deal with the Nash situation and the golden opporunties of trading for the superstar in the 2011-2012 season or in the FA. Either way, waiting for something great to happen is the wrong thing to do and something that seems like this organization might end up doing this upcoming off season. Thanks for reading my article and I'm glad to be a new member of this blog.

 

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