ESPN Insider On Suns: “I can’t say that they’re close”

As the NBA Finals near an end the Phoenix Suns must think: what could have been.

No, Planet Orange hasn’t been close to sniffing a title for several years but as has been well-documented former Suns’ players, coaches and staff members’ fingerprints are all over the Cavs-Warriors series. Steve Kerr has implemented parts of Mike D’Antoni’s while Cavs’ GM Dave Griffin cut his teeth working his way up the latter here in Phoenix.

The landscape out west has changed. As recent history has proven Phoenix is no longer a playoff team, due to their own shortcomings and the teams around them west of the Mississippi who have made strides to be not just post-season contenders but championship ones.

In short, the Western Conference mountain is tougher to climb than Camelback in July.

“Even though they have some nice pieces there and I’m a big Jeff Hornacek fan,” ESPN NBA insider Marc Stein told Sports360AZ.com in a recent phone interview. “I can’t say that they’re close…I think I would be mis-leading the [fans] if I threw the close word around.”

He isn’t the first high-profile analyst to question the direction of the franchise.

Stein believes the dust hasn’t settled from the trade deal bonanza which saw general manager Ryan McDonough completely overhaul the roster-including trading star guard Goran Dragic to Miami.

He still believes guard Eric Bledsoe could be the cornerstone of the roster if McDonough and the Suns’ front office believe he is still a fit here playing under head coach Jeff Hornacek.

Again Stein goes back to geography hurting, far more than helping, the Suns.

“People still think of Phoenix as a great place to be,” he explained. “In the east you’re only one good trade away from real contention and in the west it might take two.”

Trading is something McDonough and the Suns are certainly used to over the past couple years.