The Phoenix Suns have not made the NBA playoffs since the 2009-10 season, and it looks as though it will be at least another year before that will happen. The Phoenix Suns kicked off their 2015-16 NBA season by getting routed by the Dallas Mavericks 111-95, trailing by 28 points at one point. The game was not a good showing for Head Coach Jeff Hornacek, who is entering his third season at the helm. However, the blame really should not be centered towards the coach. Coaching can only do so much to generate wins. Any team that has the potential to win really needs to have the individual talent in order to be successful, and win on a consistent basis. That talent has been severely lacking for the Suns for quite some time.
No longer do the Suns have a field general to lead the team, a la Steve Nash. Nash gave everything he had on the court every night, and made everyone around him a better player. Nash was responsible for seven of his teammates attaining career-highs in season scoring. He didn’t necessarily have the physical talent, but knew how to take advantage of other players weaknesses, and knew the game of basketball inside and out. While with the Suns, Nash won the NBA Most Valuable Player both in 2005 and 2006, led the league in assists for five years. By the end of his illustrious career, Nash would end up being an eight time NBA All-Star, and rank as one of the top point guards in NBA history in a number of categories including; assists, free throw percentage, three-point shooting percentage, and double-doubles (points/assists) to name a few.
Nash left the Suns after the 2011-12 NBA season and has since retired. In return for sending Nash to the Lakers, the Suns received four draft picks, but never really got any player of significance out of the deal. After all the dust settled with the trade, the Suns ended up with Tyler Ennis (no longer with the Suns), Isaiah Thomas (who was later traded for a 2016 Cleveland Cavalier draft pick), Brandan Wright (no longer with the Suns), and Brandon Knight (when the Suns already had guards Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, and Isaiah Thomas). Only Brandon Knight remains with the Suns, and he has huge shoes to fill if he thinks he can make this team a playoff contender.
Another significant Suns loss was when Amar’e Stoudemire opted out of his contract with Phoenix prior to the 2010-2011 NBA season, to become a free agent and play for the New York Knicks. Instead of paying Stoudemire another $5 million to keep him, the Suns, who were willing to pay $95 million, opted to let him go to the Knicks for $100 million. In order to replace Stoudemire, the Suns spent over $80 million to acquire Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, and Hakim Warrick. We all know how that turned out. Turkoglu played for the Suns for about a quarter of a season, and is now out of the league. Childress only started 3 games for the Suns in two seasons, and has not played in the NBA since the 2013-14 season. Warrick played slightly more than Childress in his two years with the Suns, but has also not played in the NBA since the 2012-13 season.
For all that Steve Nash was not, Amar’e Stoudemire was. He was a physical specimen could jump out of the gym, and was quicker than any other player his size. Prior to his departure, Stoudemire was an NBA All-Star four straight seasons, and five of the previous six. He also led the Suns in scoring every season between 2004-05 and 2009-10, except during the 2005-06 season when he was injured. Nash and Stoudemire were arguably the best pick and roll duo in the entire NBA during those years.
Stoudemire had career averages of 21.4 points and 8.9 rebounds and helped the Suns reach the Western Conference finals in 2009-10, just before he left. Former Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni called Stoudemire “probably one of the best, if not the best finisher in the league” when he was with the Suns. With his departure as a free agent, the Suns received absolutely nothing in return. Over the last several years Stoudemire has been plagued with injuries, but nobody could have predicted that six years ago. Even with his injuries, Stoudemire has averaged 12.53 points, and 5.17 rebounds per game in limited playing time, coming off the bench over the last three seasons.
One additional player that has often been overlooked during his tenure with the Phoenix Suns was Shawn Marion. Marion was drafted in the first round of the 1999 NBA Draft by the Suns, just like Nash before, and Stoudemire after. Marion played for Phoenix until the 2007-08 NBA season. Many will tell you that his departure was the beginning of the end for the Suns franchise. Marion was traded, along with Marcus Banks, for Shaquille O’Neal, after Suns management refused to negotiate a contract extension the summer before his departure. Marion actually requested a move, calling his relationship with the Suns, “a bad marriage”.
Shaq was already 35 when he was traded for Marion, and only played for the Suns for a year and a half. He was certainly not going to help the franchise for another 8 years, like Marion (1999-2007), Stoudemire (2002-2009), and Nash (1996-1997, and 2004-2011) did. Marcus Banks signed as a free agent with the Suns, and was a reserve player for a year and a half before getting traded. He was never going to be a long term solution for Phoenix either, and was out of the league by 2011.
Marion often felt unappreciated by the Suns management, although he and Kevin Garnett were the only two NBA players who ranked in the top 40 in points per game, rebounds per game, field goal percentage, blocks per game, steals per game, and minutes per game. Marion was also named to his fourth NBA All-Star team in the season prior to leaving. Marion was a player that could do it all without ever having a play designed specifically for him. He also had the quickest reaction when jumping for a rebound, and also the quickest release when taking his shot. During his eight plus seasons with the Suns, Marion averaged 17.92 points, 9.86 rebounds, and 1.84 steals per game. Since his departure over seven years ago, Marion still averaged 12.89 points and 8.34 rebounds, before retiring after last season. Marion was an ironman, playing for 16 NBA seasons, and also won a Championship with the Dallas Mavericks during the 2010-11 NBA season.
Since the departure of these three incredible players, starting with Marion during the 2007-08 season, Phoenix is 285-273 (51.1%) overall, and has seen four head coaching changes in those seven seasons. They have made only one playoff appearance (during the 2009-10 season), and have seen almost every team statistic decline throughout those years, other than total team rebounds. When Nash, Stoudemire, and Marion played together from 2004-2007, the Suns were 232-96 (70.7%), and never missed the playoffs.
There has been so much turnover with the Suns over the last five years, with players coming and going, that nobody can even track them all. So many trades have not panned out during this period, as not one player has remained on the team longer than a season or two. The longest tenured player on the current roster is Markieff Morris, who is in his fifth season with the Suns. Most of the rest of the entire roster is in their first or second season with the Suns, and there is not one current player that could be considered a franchise player, although three Suns players are making $12 million or more this season.
As far as draft picks since 2004, only one of the 16 has really panned out, and many are no longer even in the league. See the information below:
Phoenix Suns First Round Draft Picks
- 2004 Luol Deng: Traded to Chicago for Jackson Vroman and a 2005 first-round pick
- 2005 Nate Robinson: Traded to the New York Knicks for Kurt Thomas and the draft rights to Djon Thompson
- 2006 Rajon Rondo: Traded to the Boston Celtics for Cleveland’s NBA first round draft pick in 2007, and cash considerations
- 2006 Sergio Rodriguez: Traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for cash
- 2007 Rudy Fernandez: Traded his draft rights to the Portland Trail Blazers for cash
- 2007 Alando Tucker: Played mainly in the NBA D-League, and eventually traded to Minnesota in 2009 for Jason Hart and cash considerations
- 2008 Robin Lopez: Played a few years with the Suns, mainly as a backup, and then Charlotte acquired him in a sign and trade in 2012
- 2009 Earl Clark: Played part of two seasons with the Suns, and eventually traded to Orlando for $3 million, and a 2011 first round draft pick, in a multi-player deal
- 2010 No first round draft pick in 2010
- 2011 Markieff Morris: Still a productive starter on the Phoenix Suns
- 2012 Kendall Marshall: Played mainly in the NBA D-League, and was traded to Washington in 2013 for Emeka Okafor, and a 2014 first round draft pick
- 2013 Alex Len: Still with the Suns, but mainly a backup player behind Tyson Chandler
- 2013 Nemanja Nedovic: Traded to Golden State for Archie Goodwin and Malcolm Lee
- 2014 T.J. Warren: Currently a role player with the Suns, but could still develop
- 2014 Tyler Ennis: Traded to the Bucks during his first year, for Brandon Knight, as well as a future first round draft pick
- 2014 Bogdan Bogdanovic: Drafted, but signed a four-year contract (with an opt-out clause after second or third season) with the Turkish team Fenerbahce for more seasoning
- 2015 Devin Booker: Is getting some backup minutes at shooting guard this, his rookie season
*Bold are players still with the Suns
Many of what has transpired over the last 10 or so years, has occurred since the Suns current franchise owner, Robert Sarver, took over the Suns in 2004. There has been one bluster after another in regards to player contracts, retaining players, trading players away, trading for them to return, and the selection of draft picks. Perhaps whoever is making the player roster decisions for the Suns needs to consider a new career.
If the first game of this 2015-16 NBA season is a sign of things to come, it is going to be very difficult to get anyone interested in getting behind the Phoenix Suns this year. It looks like another long season with no playoffs in sight.