The Phoenix Suns are drifting dangerously close to the dreaded "worst team in the NBA" territory. Statistically speaking, the boys in purple and orange are only technically the fourth-worst team in the league, but armed with a fresh array of bad mistakes made by the front office, the Suns have plummeted from bad to worse.
The worst part about this franchise is that, unlike fellow bottom dwellers — most notably Cleveland, Washington and Charlotte — this club isn't a super-young team still trying to find their NBA legs.
Cleveland has a future All-Star in Kyrie Irving, a big man coming into his own in Tristan Thompson and a young guard who could become a legitimate threat in Dion Waiters. Washington has the enigmatic John Wall, another young guard who is already becoming a legitimate threat in Bradley Beal and will have yet another top pick to reload in this year's draft. Even Charlotte has Kemba Walker, who, after a disappointing rookie campaign, is finally rounding into a solid player and leader, and a legion of raw players with high upsides.
What do the Suns have? The bright spots include Goran Dragic, a 26-year-old guard who has finally come into his own, but whose talents are being largely wasted with the lack of a supporting cast. There's P.J. Tucker, whose tenacity and grit earned him a spot in the starting rotation, even if his almost complete lack of offense is a bit alarming. And, despite many critics' estimations of him, there's Marcin Gortat. Say what you will, but he's blocking shots at a career-high rate and knocking down 52.5 percent of his shots — good for 18th in the league.
Also included in the bright spots list is Jermaine O'Neal, and, to a lesser extent, Luis Scola, who is more a victim of circumstance than anything. He continues to come out and do essentially what he's done for his whole career; it's hard to blame him for being signed by a team in turmoil.
Now, on to the swings and misses. This team is 100 percent the product of the current front office. Almost completely gone are the players Kerr drafted and the current Suns squad, as expected, has zero resemblance to the Nash-led teams of yesteryear. In short, the failures of this team fall squarely on the shoulders of Lon Babby and Lance Blanks.
While it's only been 41 games into the season, it's still been 41 games into the season. Michael Beasley is still the bust he's been all his career, Wesley Johnson still hasn't been able to crack the rotation, Markieff Morris has done all but take a step backward — despite the fact that I think any sort of leash should be removed and he should play as many minutes as he possibly can, but that's neither here nor there — and our shooting guard carousel has left everyone wanting more.
I could stop there, but this team's woes extend much further than what meets the eye.
Internally, this team is a mess. I've heard rumors from within the organization that Lon Babby is controlling the team more than one would ever hope. Alvin Gentry's departure, while disappointing to many, is more on Babby than anyone has let on. He was a victim of bad circumstance; his firing was akin to Ken Whisenhunt of the Arizona Cardinals, with the only difference being that Gentry hadn't completely lost control of his players.
I don't mean to paint Gentry purely as a martyr; there's always the mentality that if Gentry were truly as good as many of us hold him as, surely he could have found a rotation that would be at least sort of competitive. However, that only holds true if Gentry was the only one calling the shots on his rotation.
I'm not one to put on the conspiracy theorist hat very often, but given Babby's history as a player agent, it wouldn't surprise me in the least bit that he'd try and get the guys he brought in minutes to try and boost their value and take the heat off of himself. As for Lance Blanks, his most notable position prior to filling the Suns' GM vacancy was being the assistant to the general manager who couldn't keep LeBron in Cleveland.
In addition to the questionable personnel decisions made during the Babby/Blanks tenure, there's the head coaching vacancy fiasco. I'm not vindicating anyone of any blame here or pointing any fingers, but hiring Lindsey Hunter — and apparently intending to do so all along — while stringing along Elston Turner and Dan Majerle isn't a way to endear yourselves to almost anyone. Toss in the fact that Majerle is fed up enough with the way things are being run that he's simply not returning to the team — and that Turner is leaning toward doing the same — and you've got yourself on the verge of a full-blown identity crisis.
The light at the end of the tunnel is getting farther and farther with each passing day and this team's competitive pulse is critically close to flatlining. Will a top draft pick and a potential second lottery selection be enough to turn this team around? Can this front office surprise everyone and make smart player and personnel decisions in the coming offseason? Or will the dark have to continue for a while longer before the dawn breaks?
Who will be the one to save the Suns, or are they past the point of saving?