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Are the Suns still stealth tanking?

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With Bledsoe finally gone this looks a lot like the team that finished last season.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Phoenix Suns
All your first round pick are belong to us.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

While I was watching one of the ugliest basketball games this season Monday night a thought passed through my mind in the waning seconds...

“I can’t believe the Suns are about to lose to the Nets.”

Then something else immediately struck me.

“Oh no... That’s probably what the fans of about 25 teams think when they’re trailing the Suns late.”

You know, those rare occasions when the Suns have led late in games over the past few years.

The Suns are that team.

The one it’s embarrassing to lose to.

Then another thought occurred to me.

“If the Suns just had a real point guard they probably would have won this game.”

—————

So why haven’t they tried to go out and get one?

Why didn’t they do anything to improve this summer?

Why am I basically watching the same team that finished last season 3-16?

Because with Bledsoe gone for good that’s basically the team on the court.

Now that the dead coach bounce appears to be over, did GM Ryan McDonough retard his team’s ability to win once again by not bringing back a point guard in the Eric Bledsoe trade? Or at least making some separate move to get the Suns a starting quality point guard?

One could definitely argue he came into the season knowing this could happen. Or not knowing... which would be even worse.

Bledsoe was not happy and McDonough had opportunities to ship him off over the summer.

There have been rumors swirling around Eric Bledsoe for years now. The latest deal which seemed to gain traction was a deal centered around Bledsoe and Josh Jackson that could have netted the Suns Kyrie Irving. Knowing what the Suns ended up with, for Bledsoe some people might be reconsidering whether they would make that deal now if they got a do over.

Much in the same way McDonough kept Markieff Morris around when he was publicly disruptive and let that season unravel before our eyes... despite the fact anyone paying attention called that in advance... Now the Bledsoe banishment threatens to keep another team from realizing its potential.

For fans who are sick of losing and want a team that will compete for wins, whether that’s 30, 35 or even more, this seems to be the biggest stumbling block against progress.

And Ryan McDonough should have seen it coming.

So did he?

The team’s best player requesting to be moved isn’t some picayune detail. Since that apparently happened in private before it went public this has been brewing for some time now. While teams need to keep some sense of order and can’t let players hold the franchise hostage... just because Bledsoe didn’t want to be here doesn’t mean the Suns were obligated to acquiesce to him... McDonough didn’t necessarily need to put another season in peril by stringing Bledsoe along.

Was the firing of Earl Watson the final straw?

It’s hard to tell when McDonough had been throwing bales of hay on Eric’s back.

Now the Suns don’t have a starting quality point guard and that is Ryan McDonough’s fault no matter what way you slice it. Accountability goes to the top and this roster is his responsibility. Excuses are like you know what and the Bledsoe situation was at least privately known. This was foreseeable.

But this might just be perfect for Ryan’s master plan.

Who needs strategic resting when he’s “accidentally” constructed a roster every bit as bad as the team that finished with 24 wins last season?

And what guarantees that better than trading Bledsoe for basically no return while not addressing the team’s biggest deficiency?

Hell... wasn’t Eric Bledsoe basically being strategically rested again? He got sent home this season, but he basically got sent home last season, too.

In terms of how it affects the team, by deteriorating the level of talent, it’s essentially the same.

So the (stealth) tank rolls on.

A team that through the early going actually looks like it could have competed for a playoff spot with a real coach and engaged Eric Bledsoe appears to be instead be headed towards a top five pick.

It’s possible the Suns could have been ever better. After all, the team made zero effort to bring in anyone to improve the team over the summer.

When the Suns won their 24th and final game last season they started Alex Len, T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss, Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis.

In their last game, a loss to the Miami Heat, four of those starters were the same. The difference being Mike James starting at point guard... with Ulis now coming off the bench.

Basically the Suns just traded out a few ancillary pieces - Derrick Jones, Ronnie Price and Alan Williams for Troy Daniels, Josh Jackson and Tyson Chandler.

Jackson isn’t ready to contribute yet and right now a healthy Alan Williams would be a welcome addition, so I’m not even sure the current Suns are winning that swap.

The only player the Suns brought back in the Bledsoe trade, Greg Monroe, may or may not ever even play for the team. The prevailing analysis is that he’s a contract dump.

But don’t forget that first round draft pick that will likely convey in 2020 when the Suns may sadly still need it to improve a team that still hasn’t found a way into the playoffs.

I think almost anyone in Bledsoe’s shoes would have felt jilted. The team benched him last season during a career year and made zero effort to improve over the offseason. Eric was probably figuring the Suns were preparing to do the exact same thing to him again.

Ryan McDonough should have seen this coming. It’s happened to him before... and at this point what’s the evidence it won’t happen yet again?

So now the 2017-18 Suns look an awful lot like the awful post All-Star break 2016-17 Suns.

And people that wanted to finally push some chips into the pile and see what this young team can do will lament that Ryan McDonough should have seen this coming...

But maybe he actually did.


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