What: Phoenix Suns vs. Sacramento Kings
When: 7:00 PM AZ Time
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ
TV: FoxSports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM Arizona Sports
The Phoenix Suns are fairly certain to finish the season with the 4th worst record in the league - up one win on the Nets with just two games to go. The Suns have let the 3rd overall pick slip away because the players stopped cooperating with the tanking plan and went ahead and won two games on the road this weekend.
The players clearly want to win out, despite the implications on the franchise's future. That's a phenomenon called immediate gratification, and we human beings know all too well how essential this thing called immediate gratification is.
It's like knowing you're short on rent, so you go and spend what you've got at the club.
It's like eating a whole pizza or carton of ice cream when you're supposed to be on a diet because "everyone gets an off day".
It's like throwing a rager at your house the day before the foreclosure is final.
We all do it, in some fashion or another.
Speaking of fighting the tank, the Kings have made an art form of this practice for even longer than the Suns.
The Kings are one of the few teams in the league with a longer playoff drought than the Suns' 6-year string. The Kings have failed to make the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons now, with win totals ranging from as low as 17 to as high as 38. In that time, they've cycled through eight head coaches and are nearly certain to be introducing their 9th in the coming weeks.
This summer will likely be the Kings' 8th consecutive pick in the 4-10 range. Their previous top picks include shining star DeMarcus Cousins (5th), but also include the disappointing and since-departed Tyreke Evans (4th), Thomas Robinson (5th), Jimmer Fredette (10th) and Nik Stauskas (8th). Ben McLemore (7th) is still around but largely out of the rotation and unlikely to ever be anything but a bit player (Wes Johnson's career might actually be a high comp for Ben). Last year's top pick, Willie Cauley-Stein (6th), may be good but just happens to play Cousins' position. The Kings also drafted and let go of Isaiah Thomas (60th) and Hassan Whiteside (33rd).
That's 7 Top-10 picks in 7 years, with another coming this season. Only one of them so far is a long-time Kings starter. Oh, and the Kings also drafted Spencer Hawes (10th) two seasons before this 8-year string, adding to their draft disappointments.
I do not point this out to gloat. The draft is a crapshoot. I only point out that drafting in the Top 10 for several consecutive seasons is not a guaranteed roadmap to success. Let's hope the Suns get lucky and bounce right out of this potential interminable rut they may be dropping into.
The Suns, on the other hand, have been middling for so long they will only be drafting inside the Top 12 for the second time since taking Armen Gilliam 2nd overall nearly thirty years ago.
The Suns only other high pick was Alex Len at 5th overall in 2013, one spot ahead of Nerlens Noel and two spots ahead of the Kings' Ben McLemore.
A number of lower-taken players in 2013 have bypassed those three in terms of bright future. Rudy Gobert (27), Giannis Antetokounmpo (15th) and C.J. McCollum (10th) are just a few who will probably have better careers than either Alex Len or Ben McLemore.
Yet Alex Len is servicable, and still has not reached his potential. His offense is a train wreck (which might explain former coach Hornacek's reluctance to count on Len too much on that end), but his defense and rebounding are proven assets.
Len is still one of only 9 NBA players averaging at least 13 points and 10 rebounds since the All-Star break, and Len's name is the least celebrated among them. He is the second-youngest player on that list, behind only Karl-Anthony Towns. Considering his obvious struggles and failures to maximize his talents, as well as inconsistent effort even during this stretch, gives you an idea that maybe Len isn't as bad as we think he is.
So while we swoon over Devin Booker, let's remember that the Suns have another bright spot in Alex Len. Let's hope the Suns draft well this year, with their second Top-5 pick of the McDonough era.
Okay, okay, let's talk about the game.
The Kings are resting DeMarcus Cousins for the remainder of the season for reasons unknown, unless he's just that tired of playing for George Karl. When the Kings next head coach will be Cousins' 6th in 7 years.
WCS will get big minutes now in Cousins' wake. Seth Curry, brother of the MVP, has been playing well lately (15 ppg over last 9 games), ahead of Ben McLemore. Rajon Rondo is a double-double threat as always.
The Suns, as we discussed above, are all-in for throwing a rager before the roster and coaching staff are foreclosed upon this summer. Yet the Kings have the Suns' number, and seem to prevail over the Suns any time they want to.
Who knows what will happen.