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home : sports : sports November 20, 2014


10/29/2013 6:00:00 AM
Phoenix Suns will be spending this year rebuilding

Matt Hollinshead
Miner Staff Reporter


It's understandable if you have zero interest in Phoenix Suns basketball this season. They'll be horrid. That's OK, though. They have a master plan in the works, which they cannot mess up.

With a massive team overhaul underway, the focus is 2014 and beyond,

That's the sole intention with collective bargaining talks ending. Friday's five-player deal with Washington is essentially the tip of the iceberg.

The Suns traded center Marcin Gortat and guards Shannon Brown, Malcolm Lee and Kendall Marshall to the Wizards for a protected first-round draft pick in 2014 (the 12th overall pick), as well center Emeka Okafor's expiring contract.

Short term, Phoenix will miss Gortat's consistency in the post (11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season). The backcourt is now fairly depleted, which Eric Bledsoe will likely anchor. Bledsoe is expected to be part of new General Manager Ryan McDonough's vision to reinvent the organization.

Then the bulk of McDonough's plan will come in.

With the 2014 NBA draft saturated in talent, Phoenix is setting itself up for long-term success.

If they end up with a lottery pick to complement the 12th pick, here's what they should do:

According to nbadraft.net's latest 2014 mock draft on Oct. 16, Phoenix will have the fourth pick. If that becomes reality, they must take a center. You can bring out the most potential in a homegrown athlete versus scoring a big man in free agency.

Centers are extremely difficult and expensive to obtain via free agency or trade anyway. And there's no guarantee of success in that approach. Just ask the Los Angeles Lakers after they traded for Dwight Howard. It backfired. Howard didn't mesh with Kobe Bryant and Mike D'Antoni's coaching style and is now with the Houston Rockets.

Therefore, Phoenix would be smart to use their top pick on a big man. Though he tends to move slowly going up and down the court and in releasing shots, University of Kansas freshman Joel Embiid has the potential to compensate for that and succeed as a Sun.

Comparable to a younger and healthy Andrew Bynum, the 7-foot, 250-pound Embiid has made big strides since his junior year at the Rock School (Gainseville, Fla.) in 2011. That was his first season playing competitive basketball, and he keeps improving. He has exceptional body control and movement. His passing game is commendable by frontcourt standards. More importantly, he can score inside and out.

He's not raw, which means developing his game won't be a lot of work.

As for the second first-round pick, Phoenix should address the wing because they were often shorthanded there over the past year or two. Drafting a shooting guard-small forward combo (a.k.a. a slasher) will bring long-term reassurance. Creighton senior Doug McDermott can help address the wing and scoring from there. Known for dropping points in various - and sometimes unorthodox - ways, McDermott (who averaged 22.9 points per game last year) is efficient.

As for the remaining nucleus, Phoenix should pursue Carmelo Anthony's services in 2014.

Melo will reportedly test free agency, and the Suns must be proactive in the sweepstakes. They have to put his $23.3 million salary aside and take a crack at Melo for the following reasons:

• The Phoenix Suns strive to beat you in the scoring department. Defense isn't their calling card, but they can compensate by getting buckets on the other end. Melo is a pure scorer and will be a tremendous asset. He'd be a wonderful fit if Phoenix sticks with an offense-first system.

• While Melo's among the top 10 scorers every year, some may overlook is his defense. Defense isn't his primary M.O., but he's actually a strong man-to-man defender.

• Familiarity with the Western Conference. Anthony played his first seven seasons with the Denver Nuggets. Given how tough the Western Conference is, Phoenix needs a player who knows how to thrive in that conference. Anthony can teach the younger players what it'll take to win in the West for many years to come.

• LeBron James will be the ultimate prize. Size, strength, speed, fight and hunger on both sides of the floor. Above all, he has two NBA titles. Everyone will want him. That's to be expected. Phoenix is in no position to wait on LBJ because he won't leave the Eastern Conference. He hasn't so far, and I don't think he ever will. The Suns must think in realistic, reasonable terms.

If signing Melo doesn't pan out, Phoenix should focus on solidifying front depth - starting with New Orleans' Al-Farouq Aminu and Toronto's Amir Johnson.

Aminu, 23, will strengthen Phoenix's post and help snag rebounds. Though he only averaged 7.3 points a game last year, his 7.7 rebounds, .7 blocks and 1.2 steals a game will do wonders for the Suns' interior defense. With increased playing time, double-double performances will also become likely.

Johnson, 26, would also address interior play. Averaging 10 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game last year, he would be a strong, sturdy inside presence.

Phoenix can strike gold in signing both for about $11 million (the projected combined salaries of both players) and go from there. While signing Melo sounds nice, the Suns have to exhaust all possibilities.

The Suns open the 2013-2014 season at home against the Portland Trailblazers at 7 p.m. Wednesday. They'll have time to map out their future.



KRMC (career choice)-46961

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