Since their expansion year of 1968 the Phoenix Suns have two consistencies in their history, perennially the highest winning percentage for a franchise that has never won an NBA title and several heartbreaking moments. From losing the 1969 coin flip for Lou Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), to dropping game 5 of the 1976 NBA finals (perhaps the best game in Finals History), to John Paxson’s three-pointer, Mario Elie’s Kiss of Death, and…well you get the idea. However the Suns would win consistently with very few down years but now they don’t even have success to sell to their fans or the NBA.
The reasons that the Suns were able to maintain their success for so long was due to the ownership of Jerry Colangelo, the sunny weather of Phoenix Arizona that lured free-agents and trade partners, and a commitment to whatever it took to win an NBA title despite their past disappointments. However the final reason is part of the massive problem in Phoenix and the other is the current ownership led by Robert Sarver but more on him later in the story.
The Suns foundation for prolonged success from the late 80’s into the late 2000’s was laid by Jerry Colangelo and executed by Cotton Fitzimmons starting in 1987-88. During this season Larry Nance the franchise cornerstone at the time was traded for Kevin Johnson, Mark West, and Tyrone Corbin who joined Jeff Hornacek. Tom Chambers was signed during the ’88 off-season and a fantastic draft that landed Tim Perry, Dan Majerle, and Andrew Lang. Eddie Johnson was signed during the off-season and instantly the Suns were in the next two Western Conference Finals. After trading for Charles Barkley using Perry, Hornacek, and Lang the Suns went on to more playoff success with the pinnacle being the 1993 NBA Finals.
It was not until 2002 that the Suns missed the playoffs and then again in 2004, and 2009 (despite a 46-36 record). It was in 2004 that Robert Sarver purchased the Phoenix Suns from Jerry Colangelo and slowly started destroying the franchise with his penchant for being cheap despite success from 2005-2010 and Western Conference Finals Appearances in 2005, 2006, and 2010 (to date the Suns last post-season appearance). Questionable GM hires and poor draft management along with anyway to avoid the luxury tax has doomed the Suns franchise.
Some of the questionable player transactions since Sarver took charge include:
2004- Drafted Luol Deng when they already had Shawn Marion, and then gave him away to Chicago for Jackson Vroman who never played a meaningful minute for the Suns.
2006- Gave away Rajon Rondo for nothing
2007- Poor scouting led to the pick of Alando Tucker who was never given much of a chance to develop.
2008- Marion traded for a declining Shaq
2010- Amare Stoudamire allowed to walk
During the 2012-13 the Suns were painful to watch, a team that not long ago was a model of consistency now barely able to field a competitive team. The people of Phoenix and the fans of the NBA as a whole deserve better. If Sarver doesn’t want to pay for competent front-office management and scouting and quality talent then he needs to sell the team and there are many individuals who are willing to pay that can pull the team out of its rut and keep the team in Phoenix. Normally the players and coaches get the blame if the season doesn’t go well but any educated fan can see there is a problem at the top in Phoenix.