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Going Gorilla: The Suns lack star power

The results of the NBA 2015 All-Star voting reveal that the Suns are remarkably bereft of celebrities during a rebuild that has them fighting to avoid missing the playoffs for a fifth straight season.

This guy is all star.
This guy is all star.
Image provided by Dustin Watson

It seems like it's been eons, but it was just 2012 when Steve Nash was the team's last representative at the All-Star game. An absence the previous year (2011) concluded an era where the Suns had 14 selections in six seasons. That was a pretty good run.

The Suns aren't currently enjoying such good fortune.

Phoenix didn't even have a player among the leaders in the final vote totals for the 2015 All-Star game in New York. That includes 15 frontcourt players and 10 guards.

The guards in order were Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, Jeremy Lin and Mike Conley.

Amusingly enough, Nikola Mirotic of the Chicago Bulls received more votes than either Eric Bledsoe or Goran Dragic.

Statistically, Bledsoe makes a strong argument for inclusion. Eric is one of only four players in the league averaging at least 16 points, five rebounds, five assists and 1.5 steals per game. The other three are LeBron James, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Not too shabby.

Dragic, meanwhile, is averaging less points, assists and steals than last season when he garnered a third team All-NBA selection. Dragic is also struggling with his three point shooting, down from .408 to .346, and really seems to be the player sacrificing the most in the team's three point guard scheme.

Based on their seasons to date Bledsoe should seemingly get the nod over Dragic, but even subtracting the injured Kobe Bryant Eric would likely be eighth at best among Western Conference guards in the same group as Monta Ellis and Ty Lawson.

Despite his solid numbers, though, Bledsoe hasn't managed to build up the type of name recognition that tips the scales in fan voting.

In the 2013-14 season the Suns didn't have a player in the top 15 in jersey sales according to a report on Forbes. They were also not among the top 10 teams in merchandise sales.

Is this because an introvert and a foreigner with borderline All-Star talent are just not that marketable... or that the Suns just aren't marketing them properly?

This definitely plays into the apathy of the fanbase over the last few seasons. Perhaps some of it is culture shock based on a paucity of playoff appearances that is threatening to extend into record futility. The Suns are 23rd in home attendance this season at 16,402 despite having the league's 13th best record. Dave King wrote about the declining attendance at the conclusion of the 2013 season. While ticket sales are ascending from a recent trough, they are still a far cry from a seven season stretch from 2005-2011 when the team drew well over 17,000 a game and capped out at 18,422.

Winning can be a panacea for attendance, but the Suns are creeping up in the win column with a stockpile of very good, but not great players. There just isn't a Nash or Stoudemire on this current squad to sell to the public. Many casual fans I know can't name players on the team. Others just know them in passing. The other day during a game I was asked, "Who's the good one, Goran or Zoran?"

Despite the lack of sex appeal the Suns may have multiple players heading to New York for All-Star weekend on February 13th-15th. In the interest of increasing representation the Suns do have a few players who could participate in ancillary events.

Gerald Green is 10th in the league in made three pointers with 101 (2.2 per game) this season. Green is also first among reserves and takes pride in the fact he has expanded his game beyond highlight reel dunks. His selection in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest doesn't seem far fetched with six spots to fill.

Alex Len fits the bill as a world player in the new USA vs. World BBVA Rising Stars Challenge that showcases first and second year players. Alex has been a force in the paint since his insertion into the starting lineup 21 games ago, averaging 7.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Len is actually fourth in block % behind only Rudy Gobert, Anthony Davis and DeAndre Jordan.

The Taco Bell Skills Challenge also provides the NBA an opportunity to do the Suns a solid. In a format that includes four two-man teams why not put Eric and Goran together on one? At least one of the two should probably be a participant. Last season Dragic was teamed up with Reggie Jackson in this event.

That's about it unless unless Markieff Morris is invited to attend a new event involving drawing technical fouls.

Still, these consolation prizes don't move the needle much. Bledsoe and Dragic are buried beneath a pile of elite guards in the Western Conference and Len, the team's most coruscating young talent, is still not quite ready for prime time.

Alas, the one that got away in recent years, James Harden, headlines the glitterati in a season where he finds himself firmly entrenched in the MVP conversation. His talent manages to transcend his flailing and flopping... and even his ridiculous beard. He's exactly the type of player the Suns have been missing since Amar'e Stoudemire left after a Western Conference Finals run in 2010.

With no players to showcase in the actual All-Star game the Suns will turn to a stretch run where a playoff berth could foment the interest of a fickle fanbase. The postseason is an even bigger stage for teams and players to make names for themselves.

Ryan McDonough can continue to focus on the draft, trades and free agency. Jeff Hornacek can try to develop the neophytes of today into the stars of tomorrow.

These are the things that can help bring the next star to the Suns and help recapture the attention of the fans.

Because right now the starless Suns are quite entertaining, but a lot of people are missing out.

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