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The 2016-17 Phoenix Suns: A Tale of Two (or three) Seasons

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It goes down in the record books as one season but that really oversimplifies it.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

At first glance you would think that if you were going to have to give this past Suns' season a grade it would have to be an F or a D-minus. That seems more than fair for a 24-58 season which was the second worst season record in the NBA and the third worst season record in Suns history.

But this season was more than just one long, bad season.

Before the All-Star break the Suns gave heavy minutes to the veterans, tried to turn Brandon Knight into a sixth man and generally just played ugly basketball. Even the wins were hard to watch.

There didn't seem to be a lack of effort. The pieces just didn't fit together very well and the end result was an 18-39 record before the All-Star break.

Many individual players put up very good personal statistics but it didn't translate into wins. I could quote a lot of stats for many players that would back this up but that would just be a waste of time since Suns fans already know this. With the exceptions of Devin Booker and T.J. Warren, many of the younger players were spending much of the early season warming the bench while many of us were pleading for them to get more court time.

But the Suns plugged on trying to win with the vets until the All-Star break.

For those first 57 games I would give the Suns a D-plus rating.

That may seem generous but they did eventually move Marquese Chriss into the starting lineup and basically benched Jared Dudley in favor of Dragan Bender as the backup 4 at one point which I thought was a move in the right direction. But of course P.J. Tucker actually ate up a lot of the minutes at both the 3 and the 4 while Brandon Knight was still eating up around 20 minutes per game in an unsuccessful attempt to turn him into a sixth man.

It was - in a word - a mess.

But after the All-Star break the Suns decided to go in a different direction.

They benched Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight. They gave bigger roles to some of the younger players and for a 10 game stretch they went 4-6. It was during this time that Suns fans actually seemed to get excited again. There was more ball movement and more team play. The younger players seemed to relish in their chance at playing more minutes and suddenly watching Suns games was fun again.

After those 10 games the Suns seemed to get worried that they might win too much and also shut down Eric Bledsoe for the rest of the season.

Before that happened, I would give the Suns a B-minus rating for that 10 game stretch.

After Bledsoe was shut down we were given the privilege of watching the Tyler Ulis Show. Ulis led the Suns in minutes played for the last 15 games (39.5 mpg) and averaged 16.1 ppg, 8.5 apg and 3.6 rpg. And there were also the five double-doubles by Alan Williams, the beautiful dunks by Derrick Jones Jr. and Marquese Chriss, T.J. Warren's rejuvenated scoring and improved rebounding, Dragan Bender's return from injury and Devin Booker averaging 27.6 ppg during this period of time.

During these last 15 games the Suns played with energy and a drive to win even though they were often undermanned and playing at times what was the youngest starting lineup in NBA history.

And yet they made those games competitive even though it was obvious that the front office was trying to tank the rest of the season.

Although the Suns only went 2-13 during those last 15 games, I can't give them anything below a C for that time because they were often playing games with only an 8-9 man roster (including Jarell Eddie and Elijah Millsap).

It was another terrible season for the Suns but toward the end I saw many things that give me hope for the future and because of that I give this season an overall grade of C-minus.

That may seem overly generous but I like what I saw at the end of the season and the direction that the Suns seem to be going. If not for that I would have given them a much lower grade.

Poll

How do you rate this season?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    A
    (33 votes)
  • 23%
    B
    (122 votes)
  • 43%
    C
    (224 votes)
  • 19%
    D
    (101 votes)
  • 6%
    F
    (35 votes)
515 votes total Vote Now