The Suns' Aaron Brooks and Jared Dudley.

As a longtime NBA fan, it’s off-seasons like the one facing the Suns that I’ve always found fascinating.

Honest.

Know why? Because it’s cool to see what moves the team will make to improve.

Do the Suns do it from within, waiting for younger players such as Robin Lopez (23), Gani Lawal (22) and even Jared Dudley (25) and Aaron Brooks (26) to take the next step in their careers?

Do they continue to ride old reliable-types such as Vince Carter (34), Grant Hill (38) and, of course, Steve Nash (37) — who just may be the first point guard to play in the NBA at the age of 50. Not really, but with the way Nash played last season, there’s no reason to think he’s beginning to decelerate.

Or do they start to repurpose through trades and free agency?

Of course, we won’t really know the answers until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached between the owners and players, but let’s forget about all that for a minute. What we know for sure is that basketball will be played again at US Airways Center and the Suns will have to field a team.

Let’s start with the NBA draft. The Suns own the No. 13 pick — and that’s it.

Now, they can always trade their way into compiling more selections (as teams do every season), but let’s stick with what the Suns’ own today.

It’s very early, but those so-called “draft experts” have the Suns taking anyone from Kansas power forward Markieff Morris to BYU shooting sensation Jimmer Fredette. Whoever they take, the Suns are likely to add a young player with potential at 13.

Then it will be decision time for president of basketball operations Lon Babby, general manager Lance Blanks and the rest of the front office.

Hill is an unrestricted free agent. Brooks is restricted. Mickael Pietrus owns a player option. And the contracts of Nash and Carter expire at the end of next season. And it’s no secret the Suns can buy out Carter this summer and save money, if they decide not to bring him back.

As Babby said at season’s end, “We’re going to find the solutions, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

One of those things, both Babby and coach Alvin Gentry have conceded, is finding a “go-to” scorer other than just Nash. The preference seems to be another big man

“But if we add size, it has to be good players,” Gentry said. “We can’t be adding size just to be adding size.”

On the bright side, the Western Conference isn’t as formidable at the top as everyone insisted it would be prior to the season.

Old rival San Antonio showed serious signs of age by collapsing in the first round of the playoffs against eighth-seeded Memphis. The L.A. Lakers crumpled in a second-round sweep at the hands of Dallas. And who’s to say the aging Mavericks will return to form, as their best players are also nearing the past-their-prime stage?

So the West is as wide-open as ever, and the opportunity to sneak into the playoffs will undoubtedly exist.

With the right moves, the Suns could right back in the thick of it. That, more than anything, will make this an off-season worthy of your interest.

Goodness knows, I’ll sure be paying attention.

  • Jay

    I think the Suns need a solid 4. Without it we’re done for.

  • Steven H.

    For me, it’s the constant revolving door that Suns have a reputation of, that is worrisome. Of course it is always a gamble to hang on to players who might not be reaching the potential that was anticipated, but it’s an equal gamble to replace them with someone who shows signs of potential and the problem with trading them is that such a move often disrupts the team chemistry. Gortat was a terrific acquisition, but the Suns lost one of their best players, Jason Richardson, in the process.

    The Suns seem to start building a team only to prematurely start from scratch by thinking they can trade their way to a championship. So it becomes the never-ending, revolving door, and all the fans get from it is an introduction to new players, season after season after season. How is that teams like the Lakers and the Spurs are able to take a rag tag team of unknowns, sprinkled with a few superstar players and win a championship? Because they believe in their system and have the patience to see it pay off. Unfortunately, I don’t see that same poise in the Suns as an organization. I’m a lifelong fan, but I’m being pragmatic, even though I hang on to hope that in spite of their finagling of the rosters, that perhaps they’ll get lucky one year and finally win it all.

  • christian

    The draft will provide a solid player with potential. I agree with that. Free agents? That list isn’t so hot this year. I mean are there players out there that can help? Yes. Bring back Kurt Thomas for another stint. Frye, Lopez and Thomas would be a weird combination but it would work. Carl Landry and David West (even Kenyon Martin) would be huge upgrades at the PF spot. That’s to say they haven’t/don’t re-sign with their teams. We’re set at the SF position. Bring back Hill for another couple of years and trade away Pietrus (there’s no way he should be making $5.3mil this upcoming year at least not with the Suns). Shooting guard? Start Dudley!!! The guy came in leaner and promises to come back stronger? He has IT and he wants IT. As for VC: trade him to another team that wants an expiring contract. Get a couple of 2nd round picks for him. The backup SG, Jimmer Fredette will have a blast in this offensive system. Playing with Nash, Brooks and Z? Yup. The PG spot is a none issue. DO NOT TRADE NASH! He’s got a few more high level production years in him, the guy is a pro and an awesome skill set teacher that Brooks and Z will only learn/get better from playing with him. That PF spot is what worries me (again). If Suns can, trade VC/Pietrus in a package for a young, bright PF that fits this system and plays defense!!!

  • phamie

    I Think Phoenix Suns need a guy like blake griffin. but still steve nash is still the key, or keep the roosters last season intact for better of the team if you can’t get another good and scoring player. just keep it.

  • reneh

    Let Vince Carter go. i love him and he has always been one of my favorite players but he is not contributing anything to the team anymore. My number one concern is the TEAM. Letting Vince go and saving money and adding a need “go-to” guy will take some pressure off Steve Nash and Grant Hill (two of the most hard working and deserving people in the NBA)

  • http://msn.com jeff

    I’m glad we got brooks, but what if he chooses to test free agency and not return? We can address the personell needs better through this reportedly weak draft because there are no “can’t miss potential stars” in this draft.

    There are some guys that should be able to improve the talent of our bench and maybe even develop into starters or all-stars. Their are plenty of athletic bigs that can rebound and block shots giving us the interior defense we lack.

    There are also several athletic shooting guards that can reel off big points in a hurry and get to the line. Lastly, there are also a number of solid but talented pointguard prospects that can get to the hoop and score or make a good pass.

    This draft may not be as talented and loaded with star potential as others but when you stop and really look at some of the players mentioned in the first and second round it becomes very intriguing and very deep.

  • http://bigleaguewiffleball.com/ Jon L.

    I hope the Suns take a big man in the draft this year with the 13th pick. Also, Vince Carter is far past his prime and is now useless.

  • http://earthlink.net azor

    how about a trade w/minn.our pick and a wing for 20th and either one of their p/forwards,or 20th and one of their guards-then with the 20th pick take b.c.guard in 1st scenario or usc f/center with last scenario

  • Sam Cruz

    Great article. Looking forward very much to the Suns offseason. Quite a bit of pieces to move though

  • http://blog.suns.com/2011/03/5289/ Roy Mabe Jr.

    The Suns have to get a big center because you can’t compete in the NBA without one.

  • Dave

    Vince is gone (great player in his day). We need a typical 4, I’m hoping Gani can be that PF rebounder backup this year. I liked the starting 5 the last few games, Dudley will do the job and if Channing can develop more post up moves and keep striving on the boards, he will do fine.

    Gortat was a dream come true, he just needs to work on his attempts from the line and not miss so many layups. We would be even stronger if we could move him to the 4 with someone like Dalembert or pair him with someone like Kris Humphries at the 4. Both these players are unrestricted free agents this year. This would allow us to use Fry as the backup 5 or 4 if Lopez comes back to form or if Gani does’nt pan out.

    The 2 spot is also needed, but Dudley starts and if we can keep Pietrus from lofting when he isn’t set and stay focused on defense he might be a pretty good backup at the 2. Otherwise, this is where I would be looking for someone. But they have to pay D.

    The 3′s should be Hill and Chilly. Without a bad hand and now that he is reaquainted with NBA play, he will be fine as the backup. But Hill has to stop playing back-to-backs. He just doesn’t have it on the second night.

    I like Warwick’s dunking ability, he even started to hit his midrange shots at the end of the season, but he needs more bulk to bang with the big boys and to be a 3 he needs to develop one. Its a issue.

    And you will never get a better point guard than Nash. Let him end his career here. He and Hill with be great mentors for the new guys and may suprise us how long they can go. Cuban didn’t have faith, I hope we don’t make the same mistake.

  • eli

    well what are the suns going to do they completey screwed the pooche if you look around the league you see ex suns players making it happen for the teams they are on now, marion for dallas thomas for the bulls and so on they should of never put kerr incharge of anything if you take a snap shot look back before they start tearing a play off contender team apart we would’ve probalby have been in there and kick some ass to get to the finals i dont see the suns a play off contender again for several years down the road as for trades the only player worthy of a trade unforunately its nash the tradees that the suns picked up are washed up and not woth the people they got rid of to start. well lets see what happens roll the dice and see if we get lucky.

  • Allen West

    I agree that Vince Carter & Michael Pietrus should be traded because their contributions to the team last season were minimal at best. Robin Lopez needs to somehow show why he belongs on the roster or the Suns should look to trade him too because we can’t wait for him forever. This offseason, the Suns should find a way to get at least a go-to big man and/or a quality starting shooting guard; I hope they get both. As much as I like Jared Dudley, I think the starting shooting guard should be able to score at will, and I just don’t think that he’s at that level yet.