The Suns finished up a disappointing year four games under ,500 in the standings, and out of the playoffs for the fifth straight season.
Phoenix partly has itself to blame, after making a series of midseason trades which essentially blew up the roster. Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas were sent packing, while Brandon Knight, Marcus Thornton and Danny Granger were added — though it remains unclear if any of them will still be with the team next season.
The draft will be important for the Suns, but perhaps only in terms of what may be available to them in trade when that time comes. The roster is a mess right now, and adding more young players wouldn’t appear to be the answer on the surface — which is why the team may be more open to trading its lottery pick than in years past.
“As a non-playoff team, I think you need help everywhere,” [Suns GM Ryan] McDonough said. “So we’ll take the best player, even if that goes against what some people think we should do in terms of conventional wisdom. I think, unless you’re a championship-level team, you always take the best available player. Our philosophy is if he’s better than the guys who are on your current roster, maybe he beats him out and you move one of the guys on your current roster. I think some mistakes, in the history of the draft, are made drafting for saying, ‘Oh, we need this. Let’s do the best player who does whatever.’ When you draft that guy, you tend to reach sometimes.” …
“At some point, there is a saturation point for young players as you try to put together a team that is capable of competing and making the playoffs in the Western Conference,” McDonough said after making five first-round picks in two years. “I think it (trading the pick) is something we’re more open to than in the past but, at the same time, we like the players that we think will be there at 13.”
In addition to figuring out what to do with their draft pick, the Suns have to decide whether their unrestricted free agents — Thornton, Gerald Green, and Brandan Wright — are worth pursuing, and whether or not their key restricted one (Knight) is going to be worth what it may cost to retain him.
After a couple of seasons where the rebuild in Phoenix seemed to be trending in the right direction, things are at now a critical juncture. The playoff drought has gone on too long in the desert, so rebuilding from scratch would appear to be an unappealing option. But unless a trade or two can be made to immediately add some impact players to the mix, the Suns seem primed to once again finish in no-man’s land — too good to land a high lottery pick, though not talented enough to crack the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference.