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