Blogtable: What is next for Phoenix Suns?
Each week, we ask our scribes to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
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David Aldridge: They’ll trade Bledsoe, sooner rather than later. But that doesn’t really matter in the long run. The Suns have to get more out of their recent Lottery picks. T.J. Warren showed some promise last season, and I can’t kill Phoenix for extending him rather than letting him become a restricted free agent. And we obviously don’t have much data yet on rookie Josh Jackson, so he gets the benefit of the doubt. But they have to accelerate the development of Alex Len, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss. No one made Phoenix take, at the time, a 19-year-old (Chriss) and an 18-year-old (Bender) in the first round in 2016. When the Suns hired Watson, they spoke glowingly about his “natural leadership qualities and ability to connect with and motivate” his young players. If that didn’t work, it’s an indictment of their choices as much as his. I know management and ownership scaled back and decided on a rebuild after their disappointing 2014-15 season, and fairness dictates they get enough time to try and see it through. But that’s a difficult ask of a fan base that hasn’t seen much winning for a while. Owner Robert Sarver and GM Ryan McDonough have to look at themselves, too, when addressing what’s gone wrong there.
Steve Aschburner: Geez, the days of Phoenix being a destination market and even something of a country club for veteran free agents seem way in the past. The Suns need to make a smart hire as coach, assuming Jay Triano has the job on an interim basis only. Earl Watson wasn’t ready to be rushed into that spot in the wake of Jeff Hornacek’s firing. Maybe opt for a career coach rather than a former player this time, to focus mostly on teaching in a real commitment to rebuilding. There are no shortcuts anymore for a franchise that has lost its luster for proven NBA stars.
Shaun Powell: The worst the Suns and GM Ryan McDonough can do is panic. This was going to be another year of rebuilding anyway, even with Watson and Bledsoe. Stay the course. Get reasonable value for Bledsoe (Denver would be my first phone call). Let the kids play and develop, meaning Devin Booker, Josh Jackson and Marquese Chriss. Find a taker, if possible, for Tyson Chandler, who never should’ve been signed in the first place, who may have value to a contender. And if Jay Triano isn’t the answer, then get a coach who works well with youth.
John Schuhmann: They have to continue to play the long game, focus on player development, and try to add more assets. It’s kind of crazy to say this, but they should follow the models of Philadelphia and Brooklyn, two teams that found the right kind of coach for this phase of rebuilding. And part of player development has to be on the defensive end of the floor, because you can’t just flip the switch when it comes time to compete for a playoff spot. The right habits need to be formed.
Sekou Smith: It’s been so long since the Suns were a factor in the Western Conference. I wonder if many of the younger fans have any idea that, at one time, Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, Amar’e Stoudemire, Quentin Richardson and Joe Johnson formed the core of a 62-win team that seemed destined to be a power for years to come. Where do the Suns go from there current predicament (coach fired, star on the trading block)? You turn to the one thing that always rescues a bad situation: your star player — and you move heaven and earth to surround him with the proper pieces. That player is Devin Booker.
And if the Suns can’t get this part right, then they deserve whatever eternal lottery fate awaits them. Booker has the game and star power to be the face of your franchise, but you have to go all-in building around him now. You have to bet on his future much the way the Golden State Warriors did with Stephen Curry when Monta Ellis was still on the roster. And no, I’m not comparing Booker and Curry as players, but I am comparing the situations. You have to start somewhere with a franchise turnaround. And for the Suns, it all starts with Booker and whatever other quality pieces you put around him.
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