Some of you might be thinking, "Why not trade the Morris brothers (first/instead/too)?"
Well, if I thought there was a deal out there that wouldn't be a giveaway this article could just as easily be, "The Phoenix Suns need to trade Markieff and Marcus Morris."
I don't think such a deal exists.
Serendipitously, the Suns do have another duo of players that might actually be moved to their advantage and help wash away the fetid stink of last season's laborious crawl through the muck.
P.J. Tucker and Eric Bledsoe.
Here's why they need to go.
Tucker's super extreme DUI and missed bus theatrics, in Los Angeles and New York no less, show a pattern of irresponsibility. A pattern that doesn't adumbrate auspiciously for a neophyte roster.
Also telling was Tucker's lack of personal accountability after the Suns lost a close game to the San Antonio Spurs last January. With 1:57 to go in the fourth quarter and the Suns down 85-82 both Tucker and Markieff Morris drew technical fouls and were benched for the rest of the game... since coach Jeff Hornacek had (embarrassingly) instituted that rule in an attempt to quell the team's incorrigible behavior. After the game P.J. refused to accept responsibility for the loss. Clearly the timing of his outburst was compromising to the team's ability to win the game in the closing moments. Clearly Tucker neatly avoided taking the blame.
Tucker's effort on the court is above reproach, but his actions off the court aren't ones the team should want its young players to assimilate. As the only regular rotation player on the team over 30 years old, P.J. needs to be a veteran leader. Players over 30 logging heavy minutes on rebuilding teams need to set an example. Tucker just doesn't fill that need. His minutes could be more effectively allocated to a younger, improving player while a leadership role can be transferred to someone playing less minutes off the bench.
Another year of Tucker could just be another year of stunted growth for T.J. Warren, who dazzled in flashes, but struggled to find opportunities to play. It's very possible that Tucker will still be a better player than Warren next season, even if just by a slim margin that makes it difficult to push more minutes in the the younger player's direction.
Tucker is just a misfit... in both senses of the word. He could be a great role player on a contending team, though, and Phoenix should facilitate his relocation while returning something of value in the process.
Eric Bledsoe is less of a misfit, perhaps, but he's probably the team's best trade asset.
After signing a five year $70 million dollar contract Bledsoe allayed concerns about his health and filled the box score in a way not many players can. Eric is a very good basketball player. His contract doesn't look unreasonable given the pending ascent of the salary cap. It's the kind of contract that can be the framework of a big deal.
Unfortunately, Bledsoe has a few blemishes that detract from his overall persona.
While Bledsoe is dynamic, and at times spectacular, on the court he is vapid and reticent off of it. That's not to say Eric is a bad guy. He certainly isn't possessed of some of the unsavory traits his teammates have revealed. He doesn't yell at coaches. No legal issues.
Which is good, because a clean criminal record and benign temperament aren't things that should be taken for granted given the present state of affairs on the Phoenix Suns.
Bledsoe lacks fan appeal, though, on a franchise struggling to connect to its community. Even its previously most doted player, Goran Dragic, will be more of a footnote in the team's history than a chapter, page... or even paragraph. That the 'face of the franchise' left under such unseemly terms just adds to the Suns' image problem.
Basketball fans in Phoenix have traditionally enjoyed a special kind of relationship with their players. A connection that has gone past pure basketball skills and definitely treads into the realm of character... of personality.
I doubt that fans will ever have that kind of relationship with Eric Bledsoe.
Adding to the issue is the potential for another botched 'two point guard system' experiment with the addition, and assumed retention, of Brandon Knight. Knight has said all the right things so far, but how long will that last if the team struggles? While winning can be a panacea, Suns fans had a front row seat to the Pandora's box of last season's point guard imbroglio.
Knight has understandably tried to say all the right things entering restricted free agency this summer, but the fact that he's tried to foster unity with the fans still speaks to me. After all, when Eric Bledsoe was faced with the same contract situation the previous summer his lack of kind words towards the fans, and his lack of words altogether, was conspicuous. It ended up being a bad public relations situation for Bledsoe and the team... and probably unnecessarily so.
Brandon Knight is a charismatic young man. He is the type of player Suns fans have embraced in the past. Why not make him the de facto face of the franchise, at least in the interim, by handing over the sole point guard duties? With Bledsoe in the fold Knight's role will be marginalized. There is chance of statistical dilution and fickle team chemistry.
Knight will likely never be the best player on a contender, but neither will Bledsoe. At least Knight has the ability to be a better ambassador for the team and a conduit to get the Suns from here (lottery wasteland) to there. Knight just makes more sense for the Suns.
Trading these two doesn't have to be an admission of defeat, either. It's perfectly possible that the team might improve in the process.
Maybe T.J. Warren flourishes when given the opportunity to seize Tucker's starting role. Maybe a veteran shooter arrives as part of the Bledsoe deal and helps alleviate the dearth of outside shooting that plagued the Suns after the roster shakeup at the trade deadline. Maybe instead of duplicating strengths at the point guard position the team finds a better balance. Maybe the team adds better leaders and recaptures some of the excitement and energy from the previous season.
Taking a temporary step back would also be better than the current lottery limbo. Picking 13th every year hasn't appeared to be a path to securing elite talent. The team isn't good enough to make a star player think he could be the missing piece to a championship in Phoenix and isn't bad enough to get a top pick to draft one.
The Suns are in stasis.
Selling high on Bledsoe and Tucker will at least help the Suns achieve what they really need right now... something different.
The fans are ready for the future. The Suns just need to pull it together to recapture them. The fans are ready for the future, but I just don't see Tucker and Bledsoe as a part of that with the Suns.