Steve Nash: gone. Grant Hill: gone. Phoenix Suns fans feel the emotional attachment to the oldest and, historically, most popular professional sports team is heading in the same direction.
The owner is not a popular figure. The experience and vision of the leadership he has put in place is suspect. The plan moving forward is harder to anticipate than a Nash no-look pass.
But those who long for the Suns to tank a season in the desert for the reward of a top 5 pick that will magically transform the team back into a title contender, here’s a bit of a history lesson with a warning:
Let’s go back two years. The top five picks in the NBA draft were John Wall (Washington), Evan Turner (Philadelphia), Derrick Favors (New Jersey), Wesley Johnson (Minnesota) and DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento).
Fans in all five of those cities had to endure miserable seasons. The Nets won 12 games that year. The Sixers won 15. How close are those franchises to a conference final, let alone a title? Favors helped bring Deron Williams to Jersey, and Favors averaged nine points and six rebounds last year. Is that worth sitting through a 15-win season?
The Nets finished 28 games behind Chicago in a shortened season. The Sixers were the eighth seed in the East and wouldn’t have beaten the Bulls in the first round if Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah could have played. The Wizards won 20 games, the Kings won 22 and the Timberwolves won 26.
Hey, you might get a LeBron, a D-Rose or Dwight Howard. You might have impeccable timing like the Spurs, and stink just in time to get David Robinson and Tim Duncan. But the more likely scenario is you are bad and you stay bad, even with a young star that shows up on ESPN’s top plays every week. If you’re scouting department is missing on guys they are taking at No. 15, how much confidence do you have they make the right pick at No. 4?
I have been a regular critic of this regime, but look at what the Suns have done after a wild month of July. Don’t just look at who is gone, but who is here, and, with cap space and draft picks, who might be coming.
I like Goran Dragic as a point guard, although I don’t like the comparisons or the fact he is succeeding Nash. People are comparing Dragic because, like Nash, he was a Sun, was traded to a Texas team and then brought home. But a much better comparison to Nash — a smart, scoring assist machine that excels at pick-and-roll isolations but can’t play a lick of defense — is now the starting point guard in Houston: Jeremy Lin. The Suns might have gotten him cheaper than $32 million they are paying Dragic for four years.
I very much like the addition of Luis Scola at a bargain price, although his year-round basketball regimen makes him even older that his 32 years. The Suns have a real power forward, a real center (Marcin Gortat), real defense in the paint and a real chance not to get outrebounded by 15 every night; there is much rejoicing.
I like the decision to part ways with Hill, who is a wonderful person and gave the Suns much more than they gave him over five seasons here. I’m not a Michael Beasley fan, even though I’ve heard all the stories that he’s now ready to grow up and tap into his unlimited basketball potential. It’s not a horrible contract, not a horrible gamble, but not something I see paying incredible dividends.
I actually like the fact that Eric Gordon’s offer sheet was matched by New Orleans. The Suns need a shooting guard and he is an offensive force and wanted to come here. But is he a max player that could have locked up any flexibility moving forward?
So where are we in Suns land? (1) The page everyone has been pining to be turned has been turned. (2) The Suns roster as currently constituted won win 25 games or less and might challenged for a bottom-tier playoff spot. (3) There is room in the budget and draft picks to work with for the Suns to either sign a free agent, chase a veteran in a trade or package to move up for a surer thing in the draft.
Oh yeah, and Josh Childress is gone.
All in all, I’ll take it.
Photo: Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org