via Phoenix Suns Facebook
"The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming."
Now that the draft has ended and the nerves have calmed down, the draft picks are starting to grow on me. First off, I want to apologize to those who I offended with my remarks against our draft picks (namely, Archie Goodwin). But I think that this post will clarify the expectations of the fans and the front office. I am trying to play devil's advocate and find some reasoning on why the front office decided to draft they way they did. And this will serve as a clarification to the fans whom wanted a homerun in every pick we had.
Draft Strategies and Initial Draft Reactions
I think most of the fans here and outside BOTS were used to a "win now" strategy. The BS that was once fed by our former front office was to lose assets and try to realign ourselves for a playoff position. The "reloading" strategy was intact since the Suns lost Amar'e Stoudemire. The constant tries to restore their former talents on the floor, has led the Suns to miss the playoffs and damage the development of the future. That strategy left the Suns in constant disarray with humorously bad contracts and draft picks that were sold off. But that has, presumably, stopped. Sarver stepped down from his former role leaving the decision-making to his new front office. With the signings of a new General Manager in Ryan McDonough and Jeff Hornacek as the new Coach, a fresh foundation had been built for the future to emerge in the Valley of the Suns.
However, when it was time for the Suns' to draft, the fan's expectation turned against the new the front office. Personally, I was furious when the Suns decided to pass on Noel and McLemore because I believed they were the best "NBA ready" players left on the board. Unfortunately due to the exposure of our former "reloading talent" strategy, I, and along with other Suns fans, were expecting change to come now. That is a different picture from what McDonough wants to paint. The goal for the new front office is to develop a future through player development. I assume that we will not win a lot of games when our newly drafted players start to develop causing us to "tank". But that is not the intentions of the new front office. The ceilings for the players whom we drafted are extremely high. And this notion is extremely different from what we expect when the Suns draft. They want players with potential to grow together as a team. They are willing to side step the "homerun picks" and the NBA ready stars. Those players I just mentioned are NBA ready now, but we cannot risk our picks on "now". Hornacek and McDonough are looking at the bigger picture, setting goals for the future.
Despite "the most NBA ready" prospects falling to their laps at the 5 spot, the Phoenix Suns decided to go against the consensus pick. Despite the backlash against their fans, the Suns opted to select Alex Len, rather than McLemore, who would have fulfilled a need at shooting guard, and the well hyped power forward, Noel. Unfortunately, the team's training staff declared Noel's injuries a red flag hindering his chances of being drafted by the Suns. This pick makes sense with Gortat reaching the apex of his career. While he is on his way out, the Suns need to start fresh building around a big man. Luckily for the Suns, the skillset of Alex Len is comparable to Gortat. Gortat plays his best in an pick and roll offense while setting screens and rolling to the rim. Len is fast for his size and moves well without possessing the ball which is perfect for the pick and roll. Len has the potential with a higher ceiling than what Gortat ever achieved. Len is a decent shooter but is aggressive while positioning near the basket which can aid in rebounding and shot blocking. He has good defensive potential in shot blocking and defending the pick and roll. But he needs to fill his frame and work on conditioning. Luckily for him, the Suns medical staff can aid his foot injuries if it is a presisent problem.
Again, with the Suns' late pick, they decided to move up a spot to draft Archie Goodwin. I, along with other fans, felt that Goodwin did not fit the need at the shooting guard position despite him having playing experience. Most of his points come from slashing and finishing at the rim. He is not known for being a great decision maker with his shot. His shot mechanics show a very low arc. From what I thought, there were better options for the 29th pick at shooting guard position. Personally, I wanted the Suns to draft Jamaal Franklin due to his predraft hype. However, the Suns has other plans for Goodwin. Paul Coro tweeted that the Suns wanted Goodwin to be a Point Guard, despite him having very little experience with the position. The reason why the Suns drafted Archie Goodwin is because of how well he comes off of the pick and roll to explode towards the rim. He displays great physical tools and is a great ball handler and passer. While finishing at the rim, he is known to draw a lot of fouls too. Hornacek can work his shooting magic to help with Goodwin's mechanics to help his three point shooting abilities and his free throw percentage. The Suns can develop the young 18 year old into a great combo guard with a great amount of defensive potential. But, it will take some time and effort for him to excel despite his explosiveness and his fabulous finishing ability. Luckily for the Suns, Goodwin is only 18 years old and the depth at the Suns PG position will give him enough time to develop.
Together, if both Len and Goodwin reach their potential, they can dominate with the pick and roll offense. Now it will take a lot of time before these two can play the pick and roll well. Obviously, it is easier said than done, especially with how much of a project Goodwin will be. But thankfully, Dragic has learned from Steve Nash on how to run the pick and roll even though Dragic was more trigger happy than Nash was. But imagine the offensive capabilities of Len and Goodwin at their highest potential. Both draft picks can mesh together well and be a force in the league. So I applaud the Suns' front office for choosing Len and Goodwin. However, the journey to get there is going to be a rough one.
Fan Uneasiness and the New Front Office Strategy
The main thing to take away from this is the new strategy moving forward. This isn't the same BS that the old front office was feeding to their fans. This is the Suns rebuilding for the future. And reality is starting to set within the psyche of the fans. As fans, we can easily arm ourselves with knives and pitchforks to call for the end of the Sarver Era, but Sarver would be an easy target for a scapegoat. From stepping away from the mob and doing a little research on my own, I realized that the new Front Office knows what they are doing. We, as fans, need to be patient and a little more trusting, especially when things seems bleak. We need to understand that these two picks (I don't know if Alex Oriakhi will even make the roster) will take some time to develop. We are in a rebuilding phase. We have all the time in the world to wait. We do not need to rush things now. There is zero plans for the playoffs and fans that are skeptical of the development to the new projects will have to wait.
The Suns are a shell of their former selves. They don't have much assets to build around, so they need to start fresh. Dudley and Gortat are already rumored to be on their way out. Yes, to the general fan they may perceive that the Suns are "tanking". But, in reality, the Suns cannot afford to focus on tanking because it will harm the big picture. The big picture is similar to how the Thunder and the Pacers achieved their successes. The Suns need to develop an identity for which we can create a foundation for more assets to grow. In terms of Alex Len and Archie Goodwin, the Suns are not erasing everything. They are building upon the pick and roll offense which some of pieces now, such as Dragic can help the development of these new projects.
The Suns cannot afford to focus on star power. If the Suns focus on "tanking" for a phenom like LeBron, or in this case, Andrew Wiggins, then the Suns will end up like the Cleveland Caviliers or worse, like their former selves with the "reloading" strategy. We all know that story ended up. We need to understand as fans, that our team is in desperate need to develop their projects even while losing. During the development of the Suns prospects, even when there are mishaps, I have some confidence in the new coaching staff and the new front office to draft and sign well. In all, we cannot expect to buy a championship or attract superstar free agents like how the Suns did it in the past. With a stoic strategy, unlike our previous ones, and a little luck, we can reach the big picture. Although the wait will bring us to the depths of darkness, we all need to take a look at the Bright Side of the Sun.