One of the key elements in deciding where to go during the offseason is the talent on a prospective team. After losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the finals, it would be no shock that LeBron James realizes that depth and team play would play a key part in having winning squad. If the former MVP chose to become a Phoenix Sun, he would be able to experience that being part of a team with a deep roster.
The Suns were, arguably, one of the most surprising teams of the 2013-2014 season. After all, a year prior Phoenix had a 25-57 record at the bottom of the Western Conference. This past season though, they had a 23 game turnaround to 48-34 record at ninth in the conference, a mere game from making the playoffs. There are a couple of reasons for this miraculous turnaround. Goran Dragic surpassed everyone’s expectations by winning the most improved player award where he put in 20.3 ppg, 5.9 apg, 3.2 rpg and 1.3 spg. However, it was not his individual performance that made the Suns’ turnaround remarkable. First year coach Jeff Hornacek was able to get a group of guys together to play like a team, thus they created one of the deepest rosters in the NBA, which essentially went nine-men deep.
Fortunately for the Suns, none of their core players are free agents this summer. The only questionable contract for the future is that of Eric Bledsoe, who can receive a one-year qualifying offer or become a restricted free agent next season. With none of their players having a contract above the $7.5 million mark, the Suns, therefore, are one of the few teams that can pick up a coveted free agent. They have a little over $30 million to spend. This is where the idea of landing LeBron James comes in.
James has enough of a basketball IQ to realize that it was the lack of depth for his team in Miami as to why they lost to the Spurs. Furthermore, he most likely understands that with San Antonio approximately going 10-13 guys deep in the finals, that it helped them ease the load of their top players, resulting in a win. It is for this reason that while it may be far-fetched, James may consider going to a team like the Suns. Yes, they are in a small market. Yes, a number of these players are not fully developed. Yes, they have a relatively new coach; however, when James went to Miami, Spoelstra was not exactly a seasoned coach either. However, there is plenty of upside for the former MVP to go out west.
Most look at a team like Phoenix as a team that is many years from a championship. However, prior to James and Chris Bosh coming to Miami, they also seemed far from winning a championship. If there is one weakness that Phoenix has currently it is that they do not have that alpha player who can take complete control of the game. Dragic is a very good player. He easily could be a second option, but a leader in the way of a LeBron James he is not. James will impact the team immediately by having that leader on the floor who is consistent and can do everything.
Pros: However, there is a drawback for Phoenix in picking up the former MVP. The attention that LeBron James has could potentially hurt a team like Phoenix. As mentioned, they are a squad that plays like a team. Dragic is their top all-around player who can do a bit of everything. Bledsoe is a potential top-five point guard in the league who can score, while also being able to get others involved. Frye is that unconventional big man who can shoot threes and spread the floor, juxtaposed to Miles Plumlee, a traditional rim protector. The Morris brothers are an excellent 1-2 punch off the bench to give the starters relief. James coming to this team may alter the team chemistry that this squad has developed over the last year. It could also affect the players’ attitudes in undoubtedly being given less touches in a game, with James on the floor.
Additionally, one can only assume how Hornacek will be able to deal with the ego of James and his people. It is not news that James can be a bit hard to criticism as was evident when playing for Mike Brown in Cleveland and even Eric Spoelstra from time to time. However, with Hornacek being a former player successful player, he may very well earn the respect of James.
Cons: The nice thing about James entering the foray in Phoenix is that he plays the position that they have the biggest need for. P.J. Tucker is solid relief, but he is not a high-caliber small forward, and he most certainly should not be a starting small forward. James will be that small forward that will give Phoenix an entire front line of shooters. Additionally, between the attention James will receive on the floor and his passing skills, he will make the Phoenix offense even deadlier. During the season, Phoenix was seventh in points per game. With James, they arguably could take the top spot by having threats inside and out. It will ultimately make Phoenix almost impossible to guard.
The weak spot for the Suns has always been their defense. While Dragic and Bledsoe are decent on-ball defenders, James will bring a whole new element to their defensive game. He is strong, quick and can check virtually any position 1-4. As such, he will be able to increase their defensive efficiency immediately.
As excellent of a pickup as this seems, it is no surprise that the possibility of James going to Phoenix is a very unlikely scenario. He would certainly have more help than he ever has had if he were to join. However, at the same time, they are a developing team with developing players. He may not want to take that risk. More importantly though is the fact that Phoenix may just be too under the radar for a guy who is trying to prove that he is the best basketball player. Phoenix is a small market team, so his earning potential will be considerably less opposed to a Chicago, Los Angeles, New York or even Miami.
At this time, nobody knows what the former MVP is going to do. Currently, he is on vacation and not thinking basketball. However, when he comes back, he will need to make a decision whether he wants to stay in Miami or move on in a different direction with a different team. If LeBron James were to become a Phoenix Sun, he would have a talented roster to aid his quest for more championships.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey