Suns

No Break for Suns Fans

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Some NBA experts have been calling the Phoenix Suns the “bright future” Suns for a while now. It has almost become their middle name – Phoenix “bright future” Suns.

It’s one way of saying their present is not very good. They indeed have a bevy of draft picks and young talent with potential, though. With all that said, that moniker is still not cute anymore after two or three years of looking forward to that proverbial future.

Disappointment.. again

Much more was expected from the Suns this season. Contrary to that sentiment, it has been yet another disappointing season to say the least– minimal change from the last couple of years. They entered the all-star break on a 15-game losing streak, plummeting to an 11-48 record. These are some ugly numbers. The only good news is, they are back in the Zion sweepstakes. Even the Knicks have a better record now.

With just 23 games left in the season, where is this organization headed? Is there any hope? Is the future really bright, or is it just a mirage? These are the questions troubling the Suns faithful. The challenge is, aside from Devin Booker, nothing is really clear with this roster. Deandre Ayton is in his rookie season and has looked good so far. There is no reason to panic about him or his potential. However, there is nothing that indicates he is going to be a dominant force in a year or two either.

Ayton definitely has shown flashes, but his focus cuts in and out and his defense continues to look shaky. His ceiling is pretty high, but his floor can look low at times as well. The problem for the Suns is this same comment can be stuck on all of the Suns’ young ‘uns. None of them are total busts, but no one looks like a future all-star. They all look great one possession but mediocre the next.

How Good is the Core?

As the saying goes, good is the enemy of great. Are the Suns just a collection of good players who don’t have greatness in them? Mediocrity is a no-mans land in the NBA. Suns don’t have to worry about that yet since they are sadly nowhere near mediocrity right now. They are much worse. But, the real concern for the fans is, is mediocrity the ceiling and not the floor for this group? If that’s the case, you are looking at a lot of high draft picks and lost seasons down the drain. When your record over the last 3 1/2 seasons is 79-226, you would think the team would be entering the bright future already. Is it too late to be still looking for the light at the end of the rebuilding tunnel?

The Suns were supposed to be sharing some of that bright future with the Jazz and the Nuggets. The future is already happening for those two teams. The Kings were behind, but seem to be ahead now with a much more exciting core. It did take the Kings a long time, but they are finally here.

Suns fans hope they don’t have to wait that long. Are Ayton and Mikal Bridges ready to join Booker shortly to form an exciting core? What can Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren, and Dragan Bender provide? Do they need better coaching to get to the next level? Or, is next year’s pick, Zion or otherwise, going to be the last piece of the puzzle? Can we trust this front office with that pick? These are some of the many questions on the table with not many clear-cut answers as we sit here at the break.

Suns Need an Identity

Now that the All-Star break is over and Devin Booker is back home from the three-point contest, what do we want from the Suns? Tanking is always a realistic strategy in the NBA, but we need more tangible things. They need to build an identity and show growth. Coach Kokoškov has to establish an identity for both himself and and the team. He should focus on building something cohesive and functional with this group.

If nothing else, make them play defense. Unlike offense or shooting, defense is more effort and alignment than pure talent. Let’s see some improvement on that side. This is especially important since Ayton is a key piece playing a defensive position. He is not a great defender yet and he’ll have to learn fast if the Suns want to turn around quick.

New Additions Hold Some Promise

It’s the job of the coaching staff to pull it all together into a cohesive unit. Phoenix needs to shoot for consistency of effort and chemistry even if the results stay elusive the rest of the season. That should be a goal. The young core still has a lot of promise, but they need to play like a core unit instead of a collection of random individuals with talent. Coach K should continue to identify what the Suns have in recent additions Kelly Oubre Jr. and Tyler Johnson. Johnson can fill a void at PG for now, but we would like to find out whats his long-term role in this team is. Oubre has looked great so far in a Suns uniform.

There’s lots to be done before the draft lottery. It is disappointing for the fanbase that the lottery will once again be the highlight for the Suns’ spring. But it will be another important step in the rebuild. The goal should be to finish the season with some momentum and build on it via the upcoming draft, free agency and into next season. There needs to be a sense of urgency to fast-track this rebuild, starting with their first game back– Thursday night in Cleveland.

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About Aravind Srinivasan

Aravind loves two things- the NBA and writing. He has been a long-time Phoenix Suns fans since the Charles Barkley-Kevin Johnson era of the mid-90’s. He now lives in the Golden State and follows the Warriors closely. An avid sports and NBA blogger since the early days of blogging, he is now a Suns and Dubs writer for TLSM. His favourite Sun is Steve Nash and his favourite Warrior is Steph Curry. Twitter: @15cent

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