The next 24 to 48 hours will surely be fascinating to follow as the Suns could be in a situation where the timing of this team’s path will change one way or another. While a rebuild around Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, and Dragan Bender might be the best long-term idea to continue to get them consistent minutes together on the court for chemistry and contention, owner Robert Sarver might have other ideas.
To this point, Phoenix is going into year eight of an extensive rebuild after Mike D’Antoni Seven Seconds or Less squad stayed in contention for multiple years but were unable to get over the hump. This time around, general manager Ryan McDonough seems on the right track, in terms of building a consistent contender with the right idea to build a roster around a young nucleus.
After taking over in 2013, McDonough was tasked with completely tearing down a non-contender with the Goran Dragic-led squad and start anew after unsuccessfully trying to add in Isaiah Thomas to rejuvenate a playoff run. The last two drafts he has hit out of the park with adding three plausible long-term pieces to the franchise.
However, the question will be this summer if Sarver doesn’t want to play the waiting game anymore with this roster and demands a playoff push this year rather than 2019. Going after a win-now piece like Griffin signifies that patience could be wearing thin, and it affects their current pieces significantly.
Not only would recent All-Rookie Second Team selection Marquese Chriss be relegated to the bench, but Dragan Bender, who Phoenix just invested a top-five pick into, would have a hard time even seeing the floor in the rotation while Griffin is here, unless Tyson Chandler gets moved and they do not bring back Alex Len and Alan Williams. Lots of dominoes that have to fall for you to have Bender play 20-plus minutes next season. As The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks said on my podcast this week, pegging a square into a round hole like Bender is at the three spot is wasting his potential.
On top of all of this, the Suns would have to bite the bullet and take Griffin on a four-year max contract at $130 million. Even though many reports out there have said Phoenix is hesitant to offer that type of deal — two or three years saves more flexibility to pursue multiple high-end free agents in 2019 and 2020 — they will have to if they are up against Los Angeles for his services.
Being handcuffed to a Griffin contract averaging over $30 million a season, especially with his injury woes, is a scary proposition.
Again, though, since Sarver has been non-committal to McDonough at this point heading into a contract year, he could feel pressure from above to make a splash and bring in more money to the organization immediately. Since he’s been in office he has swung for the fences nearly every summer at least, not staying complacent one bit.
Lets say unlike the failed pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015 (reports say Griffin’s camp wanted this meeting, however), Phoenix is able to pull off this signing that rarely takes place for an organization like themselves in recent memory. What the former No. 1 pick doesn’t bring you in terms of staying off the injury report, he helps a roster with budding talent ascend quicker. Adding in a big with passing talents of Griffin’s caliber will only help the developments of Booker and Jackson in both the short and long term of this team’s window of contention.
McDonough also mentioned to the media during the pre-draft process that Phoenix would look to add players all the way from it’s youth all the way to Bledsoe’s age, also known as someone in their prime. Griffin fits the billing here, as he coincides well with his good friend possibly starting alongside him at point guard.
A quick synopsis on a possible fit for both sides: Griffin would excel in a system Earl Watson wants to run getting up and down, but that injury question will always linger so it’s obviously a gamble. Either way, he will come in and take pressure off not only Booker on the perimeter, but Jackson and Bledsoe for easy cuts to the rim off a pass from the high post or slip screen-type movements. That’s Griffin’s bread-and-butter, and allowing him to also run point forward — which he has proven capable of throughout his tenure with the Clippers — will encourage the young pieces of the puzzle to get out ahead and go up for lobs.
Also, even if the Clippers keep DeAndre Jordan, are they in better contention right now than the Suns anyways? Once JJ Redick walks out the door for nothing this weekend, then I don’t believe so. New advisor Jerry West is better off blowing up the Lob City era than trying to reignite with B or C-list pieces. Griffin joining the Suns instead allows him to not only compete for a playoff spot still while staying in a green market for himself out west but enter free agency again at age 31 or 32 and look for one final payday from somebody after Chriss and Bender seem ready to take over the reigns.
Whichever way you sliced it, though, this move was coming whether it was in 2017 or 2018. It just had to be done to put a true star around an up-and-coming team. And when scouring through names in both free agent classes, Griffin and DeMarcus Cousins really are the only two you could make a run that fit both timeframes. Then when you see it from Sarver’s perspective comparing both, Griffin is the easy choice from all angles of on-court success, public relations, and helping the Phoenix Suns as a whole be more profitable.
The question that I remain stuck on with pursuing Griffin is sacrificing the potential ceilings of Chriss and Bender making a move such as this one.
After the calendar hit 2017, Chriss looked the part of a modern forward you build around as a secondary piece on a championship contending team. When Phoenix selected Bender, the expectation was bringing him along as a project, but you don’t want to debilitate his minutes this early on in the process, which would stay similar for at least three to four years if Griffin is brought on board.
Circling it all back around, going after the Clippers star fulfills a lot of immediate needs from both organizational levels, but is it really something that moves the needle for title contention? Simply, no, it doesn’t, but it might be a start in helping lure others.
Whether it’s Griffin or even Paul Millsap, the growth of two of the Suns’ core four pieces would be hurt substantially, especially when you try to plug in Bender into the rotation for an extended time period behind either signing.
Will it be staying committed to the youth movement and acquire pieces to bring out the best talents in them or will it be fetching a big fish such as Griffin to help push for a playoff spot right away? We will find out over the next couple of days as the dominoes start to fall around the Association.
What should the Suns do?
This poll is closed
Commit to the youth and compete closer to 2019
Sign Blake Griffin and figure the rest out later