The Phoenix Suns are set to follow up one of their worst seasons in franchise history with one of their most intriguing offseasons in recent memory.
With point guards Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight and small forward T.J. Warren set to return next year from season-ending injuries, and with young up-and-comers such as shooting guard Devin Booker and center Alex Len, the Suns will probably enter next season in better shape than they ended this one.
But the Suns haven't made the playoffs in six years, and management knows some things need to change in order to ensure that streak doesn't extend to seven.
So, yeah, the Suns have plenty of questions to answer heading into the offseason. Here are three big ones.
1. Who's the coach gonna be?
Before the NBA Draft and the free-agency period begin, there’s that pesky detail of deciding who's going to coach the team next season. Several candidates have been rumored as possibilities, including interim coach Earl Watson, whom many Suns players wouldn’t mind seeing become the permanent guy.
Other rumored coaching options are former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni, who led Phoenix to back-to-back Western Conference Finals appearances in 2005-06; Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton, who led Golden State to a 39-4 record this season in head coach Steve Kerr’s absence; and Dan Majerle, the former Suns guard and assistant coach, and current head coach at Grand Canyon University.
The Suns were also reportedly interested in Villanova coach Jay Wright, but Wright has since made it clear that he intends to stay put. In any event, a final decision on the team's next coach will probably be made within the next month.
2. What will the Suns do with their plethora of draft picks?
It's safe to say the Suns will have options at the June 23 NBA Draft. For starters, they ended the season with the NBA’s fourth-worst record, and as such, they have a 37.8 percent chance of landing a top-three draft pick and an 11.9 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick.
We won’t know exactly where the Suns will pick until the May 19 NBA Draft Lottery, but the odds suggest they will have the No. 4 overall selection. NBADraft.net’s latest mock draft has the Suns taking Croatian forward Dragan Bender with that pick.
The Suns are set to have a second lottery pick, most likely at No. 13 overall. That pick, however, is dependent upon it landing outside the top nine at the lottery. If it doesn't, the Washington Wizards will keep the pick this year, per the condition of the Markieff Morris trade. But the odds of that happening are slim.
In addition, the Suns currently control the No. 28 and 34 picks in the draft. With all of these picks at their disposal, Suns GM Ryan McDonough suggested they will look to make a trade or two on draft day.
3. Which free agents will return next season?
Four Phoenix Suns – forwards Jon Leuer, Mirza Teletovic and Chase Budinger, and point guard Ronnie Price – are set to become unrestricted free agents.
Leuer, a sixth-year pro, had his best-ever season in 2015-16 and will likely seek more than the $1.035 million he made this year. Teletovic, who set an NBA record for most 3-pointers made off the bench, made $5.5 million in 2015-16.
Price, a veteran backup point guard, made $1.5 million this season, and Budinger, who was added late in the season, made less than $500,000.
The Suns might also consider trying to trade forward/defensive specialist P.J. Tucker and/or veteran center Tyson Chandler. Tucker will become a free agent after next season, and the Suns probably have some buyer’s remorse with Chandler, who is past his prime and will make over $12 million in 2016-17.
Of course, it’s impossible to know how all of this will play out, but the bottom line is, one way or another, next year’s team will probably look significantly different from this year’s – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.