Over the past 12 months, the Phoenix Suns have risen from the ashes of their worst period of basketball since the inception of the team more than 40 years ago. Much of that success is on the back of a series of trades made during the summer of 2013.
In just over 18 months, the Suns front office led by new GM Ryan McDonough has shaped a playoff contender by either acquiring or re-signing every single player on the roster besides incumbent third team All-NBA player Goran Dragic.
Only Markieff Morris (draft), Marcus Morris (trade), P.J. Tucker (free agent) and Goran Dragic (free agent) pre-date Ryan McDonough, and three of those were re-signed to long term deals this off season. The Suns even tried to hedge their bets on Goran Dragic by signing his brother to a multi-year contract last week.
Conventional wisdom says that the prior GM was awful with a capital A, W, F, U and L. And that the new GM is a miracle-worker.
While that is likely true, one must give a bit of credit where credit is due. In the twelve months before the Phoenix melted into ashes, the Suns front office did make some future-oriented trades to help shape the Suns of tomorrow. Some of those deals have not yet come to fruition, but they can be graded nonetheless.
Let's compare the last twelve months of Blanks/Babby/Sarver trades to the first six months of McDonough/Babby/Sarver trades.
We are just looking at trades here. Not free agent signings or draft picks.
The Steve Nash and Robin Lopez trades were future-based, both netting draft picks that even now have not fully come to fruition.
The Nash trade has so far netted diamond-in-the-rough Archie Goodwin, but the Oriakhi pick was a dud. The 2014 second-round pick from the Lakers was used in the Bledsoe deal (either that or the Lopez deal, I can't tell). Still to come is the best pick of the bunch - a top-5 protected pick in the 2015 Draft. It's very likely a lottery pick. With Nash's injuries and decline, you have to call that a big win for the Suns even though they've seen no production from the picks yet.
The Lopez trade was a wash, and could ultimately turn out to be a big failure for the Suns. In the short term, it was a win for the Suns. The Minny pick looked good, and the Suns needed to clear the logjam between Lopez and Marcin Gortat. But the long-term benefit has yet to be realized. Lopez was traded a year later to Portland for a second-round pick, while Gortat was traded to Washington. The two players, despite being starters, netted a grand total of a two draft picks in the summer of 2014. Still, Lopez is in line for a raise in 2015, while Gortat got $12 million per year from Washington in a new contract.
The Marcus Morris acquisition was seen by many as a gimmick to create twinnies, but to get a long-term rotation player for a second-round pick has to be considered a win for the Suns.
Led by Ryan McDonough, with the support of Assistant GMs Pat Connelly and Trevor Buckstein and President Lon Babby, the new Suns regime cleaned up last summer in the trade market.
The Jared Dudley and Luis Scola trades were slam dunk wins, netting three starters (Gerald Green, Eric Bledsoe and Miles Plumlee) and a quality rotation player (Ish Smith) for an exciting 48-win team.
However, the Marcin Gortat trade could ultimately turn out to be a dud. Gortat played very well for Washington, netting a $60 million contract this offseason, and even Kendall Marshall became a serviceable NBA player. In return, the Suns only have 20 year old Tyler Ennis, their fourth PG who will spend most of the year in a suit or in Bakersfield.
However, even the Gortat trade was a short-term win, in that it cleared a major rotational logjam, allowing the young Suns to flourish with well-defined roles and surprise the league with a group of castoffs and never-weres.
We would all agree that the new front office is Miles better than the old one.
The McDonough trades have been much more high-profile and had a better immediate return. I simply wanted to point out that some of the final trades of that old front office did set up the current team for success.
Double the Suns Swag!
A fan of the Suns and puzzles? We've got the hook up for you. Up for bid is a Phoenix Suns Rubik's Cube. A stadium giveaway, brand new, keep your mind sharp with images of Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns Gorilla. For those concerned with maintaining the integrity of the classic puzzle, there's a sticker that states "this is not a genuine Rubik's Cube." For those than can get past that and need something to keep themselves busy at work, it can be yours for a twenty dollar bill.
A chance to rep the colors of your newest, favorite Phoenix Suns draft pick. We've featured a Bogdanovic jersey on Suns Swag before, but here's another opportunity to expand your wardrobe. This is Bogdan's jersey with the Serbian national basketball team. Most recently Bogdanovic won a silver medal with Serbia at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. He averaged 12 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assists, on 47% shooting. This jersey is yours for $99 plus $12 shipping.
I love vintage pennants, and this one is a real gem. It's not always easy to tell the size of the pennant on an eBay listing, but the seller states that this offering is "full size." The pennant looks to be in fantastic condition, save for a small thumbtack hole. This can be yours for about 23 bucks after shipping, but the seller is taking offers so take a shot and I bet you can snatch this beauty up for less than twenty.
More vintage Suns swag for your collection. The seller's honest, he doesn't call it "rare," rather, "less common." He's got a bunch of them, and buy it now is not an option but this item has no major flaws and I'm guessing there's not a lot of competition when placing bids. If you can get it for the rock bottom price, it's headed your way for $17.50 after shipping.
Certainly among the rarer of autographed Suns jerseys you'll find. Strawberry was a late second round draft pick of the Suns in 2007 out of the University of Maryland. In all, Strawberry played in 33 games with the Suns, averaging just over two points in eight minutes before he was traded to the Houston Rockets for Sean Singletary. He has not appeared in an NBA game since, and is presently playing in the Turkish Basketball League. Evidently this was not proudly displayed by the owner, though the only identified problem is that it's wrinkled. No COA available, bidding starts at $66, $7 to ship. You can probably wait until it's half that.
I've got half of your Canadian tuxedo figured out for you. I'll be honest, my eyes widened when I can across this one. I'll tell you why. While this is a laughable piece, and that I cannot deny, it's simply a bargain. 29 bucks after shipping! You spent more than that on an Alando Tucker jersey! This can certainly be incorporated into a Halloween costume for the diehard Suns fan. Jump on it.
There's no shortage of bobbleheads available on eBay, but if your shelf already includes Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, and Amar'e Stoudemire, this could be a nice addition. Q spent one season in Phoenix, and the 2004-05 campaign ended with his name in team record books. Richardson set a Suns single season record by sinking 226 three pointers. He also set the single game record by drilling nine treys against the New Orleans Hornets. A little pricey in my opinion, the seller is looking for just under 32 bucks after shipping, but offers are welcome, so take a shot.
Further evidence that they will throw an NBA team logo on anything. What you see is what you get. This runs $11, free shipping, but does not even include a charger. One has to wonder if it even works. Who cares. Put it in your ear and go Suns!
A sharp piece, the seller describes this as "a very limited edition model." I'm in no position to dispute that claim. The seller has a lot of model planes for sale, including another Phoenix Suns model. 52 bucks if you utilize buy it now, though you may be able to get it for about 12 dollars less if you bid.
A little expensive for my tastes, but too cool not to share. The 1970-71 Suns finished 48-34, good for 3rd in the Midwest division and fourth best in the league, though did not make the playoffs. The team was led by Dick Van Arsdale with 21.9 points per game, and Connie Hawkins who averaged 20.9 to go along with 9.1 rebounds. Paul Silas set a Suns record by averaging 12.5 rebounds per contest. All the signatures are here, and it's a good looking piece. If you can part with the $400, do it. If not, bidding starts at about $100 less.
Phoenix native and famed streetballer G Smith offers his take on the Phoenix Suns' 2014/15 season.
Although Eric Bledsoe did not make himself particularly accessible during this past off-season, he kept plenty busy while home in Birmingham besides just staying in shape and driving Suns fans mad with impatience. For one, he and NBA legend Gilbert Arenas coached the Birmingham All-Stars in a matchup with the Ball Up All-Stars.
Ball Up is a professional streetball team that tours the country and makes a living by embarrassing local talent. For those unaware, streetball is a form of basketball that emphasizes flashy plays and encourages showmanship. Think of what guys like Allen Iverson and Nick Young would do on a basketball court if coaches didn't exist. It's pure, unbridled b-ball talent. No filler.
On July 26, Ball Up rolled into Birmingham and suffered the first loss in the four-year history of their summer tour, 84-83. Might the Man Of Few Words find himself in a coaching position some day?
While the Ball Up All-Stars featured legendary streetball personalities such as The Professor, AO, Air Up There and more, Phoenix natives might be most familiar with their 6'6 dunking dynamo, G Smith.
Gary "G" Smith cut his teeth at Independence High School in Glendale, AZ, located in the far west of Phoenix and just a small hop over Grand Avenue from where your humble narrator grew up. Not exactly a hotbed of basketball talent, but that didn't stop G from making a name for himself.
At 23 years old, after a collegiate detour through Minnesota and eventually Tucson, G was the winner of Fox Sports' reality series, "Ball Up Streetball", which earned him a multi-year contract with Ball Up. Since then, Smith has earned a name for himself with vicious posterizations, and is often referred to as "The Greatest In-Game Dunker".
After spending some time up-close with our own $70 million man, G was willing to give his two cents on the 2014/15 season for your Phoenix Suns. Here's what he had to say to BSOTS.
1) Did you have any idea that the Phoenix Suns would play so well last year, finishing just a game short of the playoffs after many national outlets predicted a rough season?
G: Looking at the Phoenix Suns roster last year I was very confident in the team's ability to have a winning season. The team's player personnel suited the Phoenix Suns well established up and down playing style. Therefore, the lack of expectations expressed by many media outlets never deterred my opinion on the team's future.
2) Do you think 6'3" Goran Dragic and 6'1" Eric Bledsoe are a long-term answer as a starting back court in the NBA? What are their strengths and weaknesses as a starting pair?
G: I do believe that Dragic and Bledsoe are the answers long term as a starting backcourt. They both possess the skill set to shoot the outside shot, or insert the defense and finish strong at the rim. As for a weakness, I only see injury preventing these two from performing at the high level they're capable of.
3) Do you think the rest of the Suns team, including Isaiah Thomas and the Morris brothers, can help carry the Suns into the playoffs with a back court of Bledsoe and Dragic?
G: Absolutely, having Thomas only inclines the guard position with even more consistent contribution. Also having the Morris brothers interior and exterior play drastically improves all levels of the team performance. In conclusion with Dragic and Bledsoe running the show I believe the playoffs are definitely obtainable.
4) This summer, did you interact with Eric Bledsoe at all when he guest-coached the Birmingham All-Stars? How much have you followed Bledsoe's career, and how good can he be in the NBA?
G: Yes I did interact with Eric Bledsoe this summer as he was a guest coach of the Birmingham All-Stars. Eric is an awesome person and over these last couple years we've built a great mutual respect for one another. I do follow his career in hopes to see him in continued success. I believe Eric can be as good as he wants to be, he has tremendous ability, therefore I see him becoming an NBA All-Star.
5) Who do you think will win the NBA Finals, and why?
G: I predict the Phoenix Suns versus the Cleveland Cavaliers in this year's NBA finals. I chose the Suns out of the Western Conference due to their fast pace basketball and hunger for success! Coming out the eastern conference I went with the Cavaliers. With the additions of Lebron James and Kevin Love I feel they're the most complete in the Eastern Conference.
Ed: LeBron versus the Slash Triplets matchup in the Finals? I think I could muster up some excitement for that.