Four years ago during the season of 09 (2009-2010 for those who may get confused) the Phoenix Suns peaked as a team.
The Suns at that time featured a lot of veterans and a few young players. The roster consisted of Steve Nash, Amare’ Stoudamire, Grant Hill, Jason Richardson, Channing Frye, Robin Lopez, Barbosa, Collins, Clark, Amundson, Dudley and soon to be Nash protégé Goran Dragic. Alvin Gentry was the head coach and happened to be at the tail end of his contract.
The team was in “Win Now” mode and would’ve been devastated if one of their star players left.
Led by Stoudamire and Nash, the Suns made it to the Western Conference Finals that year. They lost to the eventual champions, the Los Angeles Lakers in six hard fought games. After the season rumors surfaced about Nash retiring and Amare’ jumping ship.
Nash didn’t retire like people thought he would. Instead he decided to keep playing and stayed loyal to the fans and organization. Stoudamire didn’t.
Thinking about himself and what’s best for his career, Amare’ left the Suns and went East to the New York Knicks. Leaving the Phoenix Suns gutted. Without Amare’ the Suns weren’t even Playoff material, let alone contenders. Their status as an upper echelon team diminished and they dropped to mediocrity.
The following years came and went. Various pieces left as well. Dragic departed (only to return once Nash left). After two and Grant Hill left. After two years of holding Nash hostage the Suns went on traded him to the Lakers while acquiring many picks in the process. The rebuilding phase had officially begun.
Following the departure of Nash, Phoenix brought back Goran Dragic, who had spent a few years in Houston playing for the Rockets. They also brought in Luis Scola and made a trade to bring in Marcus Morris after already having his twin (Markieff Morris) on the roster. Along with the likes of Gortat and Michael Beasley the Suns went on to finish with a record of 25-57, while placing last in the Western Conference during the 12-13 season.
After hitting rock bottom the Suns changed damn near everything.
Head coach Alvin Gentry was replaced by first year head coach, Jeff Hornacek. In the draft the Suns selected Alex Len and few overseas prospects. Phoenix also did a number of trades. They brought in guards Eric Bledsoe, Archie Goodwin, Ish Smith; forward Gerald Green and big men Emeka Okafor and Miles Plumlee. Beasley, Scola and Gortat were all moved. During the season they also added veterans Leandro Barbosa and Shavlik Randolph to improve their depth.
Going into the season no one expected Phoenix to end where they were. They faced a lot questions in regards to the players and coaches on their underrated squad. Goran Dragic was thought to be mediocre, Bledsoe was a huge unknown because he never started and no one knew if Hornacek was going to be a good coach. Phoenix finished the season 48-34 which was good enough for ninth in the loaded Western Conference. And was one game away from being a Playoff team. A lot of those question marks from the beginning of the season turned into exclamation points with good purpose.
Dragic turned into a borderline Allstar as well as Bledsoe. Hornacek ran a system that suited the players and honed their skills. The Morris twins were nice, Gerald Green was a stud and everyone else complemented Bledsoe and Dragic. Young core, bright coach and the right role players. Truth be told if Bledsoe hadn’t have missed over 20 games the Suns would’ve been a Playoff team. (Sorry Mavs.)
If Phoenix could get their hands on a decent big (Hello Greg Monroe ) they’d really be a force out West. With the addition of PG Isiah Thomas and draft picks T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis Phoenix has perhaps the best group of guards and best group of trade assets to lure a big fish. With a huge turnaround in year two of the rebuilding phase the Suns have positioned themselves to be a nice young group in years to come.