The Phoenix Suns' BIG Problem: It ain't the guard position(s)
Draft fever has been in full swing for quite some time in the Valley of the Sun. This year that fever has manifested itself in more than a few infectious mutations. Who the Suns should take with those teen-aged picks, who the Suns should take if they can package those picks and move up into the sexy part of the lottery, and / or who the Suns should acquire in a package deal using those picks and assets to acquire a "superstar."
There are many articles and fan posts dealing with a lot of potential Phoenix Suns noobies whether they be rookies, stars, or some other bargain basement deal that GM Ryan McDonough sees through his spectral Ninja Negotiator glasses. These articles deal with many interesting talents - two-way rookies, offensive juggernauts, (potentially) or floor-spacing forwards. These players are all very nice, but many of them don't actually correct or improve the weakness that kept the Suns out of the playoffs. They also don't allow the Suns much of a chance in the playoffs, if they get there next season.
Always looks great in a vehicle. Just so damned pleasing to the eye. Looks and works spectacularly on a basketball court too.
The teams that have this are the teams that compete for championships year in and year out. The teams that don't are like that trendy new cafe you probably haven't been to yet. You know the one though. Fresh, exciting, hyped up for awhile. Gets a lot of press in the news papers and on the backs of magazines. Never wins any special awards, though, and is eventually broken down and rebuilt as some other trendy business venture.
To translate that to basketball, quite simply: if you are going to compete for championships in the NBA, you're going to need an offensive presence from your big men, and you're going to need a defensive presence from your big men.
Lets not talk about the teams who have won championships over the last 6 or 7 years. Lets talk about the teams who came close, but never actually captured the trophy. OKC has the all-powerful Iblocka patrolling the defensive side of the ball, but absolutely no option on the offensive end to make life easier for Durant and Westbrook.
Indiana, as they are constructed, cannot get by Miami because they don't have enough punch from Roy Hibbert offensively, and they don't have enough resistance from David West defensively. Dallas had the formula for championships, until Tyson Chandler ended up in a Knicks uniform. You see the pattern taking shape, I'd imagine.
What the Suns have on the front lines
13.8PPG / 7.8RPG / 1.8APG / 1.3SPG / 1.1BPG
Not bad for an NBA big man, right? Well, those stats are the highest stat, from our front court, born from a mash-up of THREE separate Suns bigs. THREE.
The points, and assists are brought to you by the resident Sixth Man Markieff Morris. Rebounds and blocks come to you by way of Miles #PLUMSAUCE Plumlee, while the steals are pillaged by P.J. Tucker.
Tucker and Plumlee can't guard dangerous 4's or 5's. Keef isn't a terrible interior defender, but he tires out under heavy and constant punishment. Quite simply, the Suns have absolutely nothing more than a stack of fluffy white bread and warm butter as it's defensive wall around the paint. Offensively, they've got the equivalent of a pirate ship with one working cannon left which is being loaded with, and firing bags of grain at it's opponent. Oooooh, scary.
The harsh reality is, until Phoenix does something about this part of the team both offensively and defensively, nothing else is going to matter. Nothing else will be enough.
This is the year for a Herculean attempt at fixing this problem, on both sides of the court
Fortunately for the Phoenix Suns, they could make a grand attempt at setting the foundation for colossal towering wonders in one off-season. The top-end of the NBA draft this year has 2 or 3 amazing interior prospects that can impact the game on both sides of the court. Even more who can impact the game on the defensive end.
There are also some veteran players who may be available outright or via trade, and most importantly, there are players already in house who maybe ready to take that next big step if they are still in purple and orange come the regular season.
In house ascensions
Offensively, Keef seems ready to step off the ledge of serviceable and land on the floor of "Beast Mode." 14 & 6 in 26 minutes per game with a 49% FG Percentage and 80% from the line. He can face up and attack. He's getting that post-up-turn-away jumper down, and that dribble-separation jumper is velvet smooth. You can have him out there at the end of games and as he changes that frame, the rebounds and blocks are sure to go up.
Unfortunately for Alex, he's going to need to make very significant strides from year 1 to year 2. He has to surpass Miles Plumlee - no. He has to rip that starting center spot away from him, and he has to do it this coming season. Summer League will tell us a lot about what Alex means to the Suns - future monster or future trade asset.
Draft day help
This scenario means that, at the top, Phoenix has traded their mid-teen picks, a decent player, and a couple of pure daughters for the opportunity to draft...
Already has the defensive intangibles Phoenix tries to instill in it's bigs. Arms UP!! on defensive challenges, does a great job looking for a body before he goes for rebounds. Almost a blessing in disguise that he isn't more athletic because it's forced him to work on technique and couple that with those long arms. Plays great ball-denial D and isn't easily run over down low. No current Sun can boast that.
He won't be there. Even if we trade up to 7-9. But if he is, you have to take him. If another team allows this kid to end up in a Suns uniform, the GM of those teams should be fired. He is the ultimate solution both offensively and defensively for what Phoenix likes to do. I'm done talking about him, makes me sick.
This would be more of an improvement to the front court by upgrading the SF position in the short term, which would allow more of a leash for the 4 and 5 in terms of development and options. Love P.J. Tucker, but this kid can do more than he can, is far younger, and would be a lot cheaper, (for 3 or 4 years)
Another guy who is going to have to fall a bit. Randle, offensively, has a lot of moves - more than Keef, because he comes in already armed with a back-to-the-basket game and crazy spins. Mobile enough, can run, can dive quickly off screens, has a jump hook, and he rebounds his ass off.
Probably available without having to trade anything. Miles Plumlee and Channing Frye in one with double the body control. He'd be a universal remote in that he'd work with any other big on the court whether it's Keef, Len, Plumlee, Gordon,
Embiid, Randle, ETC.
Oh, and shout out to Patric Young. Love him. Smiley Face.
Veteran Help: (trades & free agency)
Personally, I would not go this route. I'm not really on the Love boat. It'd be a lot to give away for a player who could walk, and gets beat down low like he was married to Ike Turner in a previous life. Don't like Monroe's fit. Don't want Gortat back, and our pace would probably kill Z-Bo during a 20-second time out. He'd just explode due to severe over-heating.
Get it done, now.
Before anything else is taken care of, this frontcourt problem should be addressed. I listened somewhere, (probably part of a Habbas podcast), to a suggestion along the lines of Phoenix swinging for the fences and using multiple picks on multiple bigs in hopes of landing that next great stud. I'm all for that.
I'm all for cycling them to and from the D-League affiliate and "mine the gold" and discard the rest. In reality, going this route, also, would allow maximum money to retain Dragonblade, AND possibly re-sign Gerald Green while allowing Archie Goodwin time to develop. Hey, obtaining these bigs solves the guard
problem issue as well.
In any event, in order for the Phoenix Suns to survive and contend in the playoffs, they're going to have to get significant contributions from their big men. No matter the plan of attack, this part of the weapon must be upgraded.
Put everything else on the back burner, and address this. Right now.