How do you fix the Phoenix Suns?
Is it as simple as adding a strong point guard?
We’ve written in this space often that the Suns lack a good point guard who can make the players around him better. We don’t need to belabor the point again.
Yes, the Suns need a competent point guard who can distribute, score and defend. But would that point guard make the Suns a team that wins more game than it loses? No. I don’t see how the addition of a single player such as Jrue Holiday — not Holiday himself, but someone who profiles like him as a not-quite All-Star in his prime — would raise the Suns up to a winning record.
Is it as simple as adding a Top-3 talent from the draft?
We’ve talked about adding “Charles Barkley reincarnate” Zion Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick, or point guard Ja Morant, who could be a poor man’s Russell Westbrook.
But super-young players don’t win games by themselves, and adding Williamson or Morant to Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, et. al. would only keep the Suns from winning big soon. For every OKC, there are a dozen examples of the league’s youngest teams failing to win any meaningful games.
Interim GM James Jones knows this. Oh sure, he almost certainly would still draft Zion if given the chance, but it’s “almost certain” because it all depends on the opportunity cost. Should the Suns add Morant, or R.J. Barrett or Cam Reddish?
You can likely expect the Suns shop their 2019 Draft pick to the highest bidder, based on the assumption that the Suns are NOT heavily scouting the college ranks this year and even moreso on his quote given to Burns and Gambo this week on the radio.
“We aren’t in the draft pick business,” Jones said on Burns and Gambo. “We are not looking to get younger. We aren’t looking to add young players.”
Jones cites the Suns’ current youth and wants to stick with the guys he’s got. He repeatedly mentioned all the young Suns as guys they want to build around. But he’s done with adding more and more draft picks to the mix.
Is it as simple as adding handful of mid-career rotation players?
Jones says he wants to add — via trades and free agency — three to five winning vets who are already in the NBA. Guys who are in their skill/athletic primes, in the 25-30 age range, who are big parts of their NBA rotation.
Not too old like Jared Dudley, Tyson Chandler, Jamal Crawford, Trevor Ariza. Not unplayable on big minutes like Ryan Anderson or Troy Daniels because their games aren’t strong enough.
But also apparently not more 23-year-old restricted free agents like Kelly Oubre Jr. (This isn’t to say they won’t keep Oubre. Only that they don’t want to focus on more of him.)
There’s a reason Jones mentioned the ages 25-30, mentioned a profile of player who has already figure out how to play and win in the NBA. Seems like he’s ruling out over-paying on a restricted free agent offer sheet to try to get a young guy from another team who is on the Suns current roster’s timeline.
He wants to accelerate that timeline, force the team’s young players to grow “exponentially,” and just adding another young player or two their age won’t have that effect. Goodbye, RFA to D’Angelo Russell, for example.
So what rotation players could he be talking about?
Notable free agents at point guard and power forward who will be between the ages of 25 and 30.— Evan Sidery (@esidery) February 13, 2019
PG: Terry Rozier, Malcolm Brogdon, Ricky Rubio
PF: Nikola Mirotic, Al-Farouq Aminu, Maxi Kleber https://t.co/5cbCUBiVaO
Would the Suns potentially become a playoff-level team adding three of these guys?
Maybe. Putting a Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic in a starting lineup around Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges, with Maxi Kleber, Warren/Oubre, Josh Jackson and De’Anthony Melton coming off the bench could be a real team. I’m guessing that to get three new guys, you’d have to sacrifice one of Oubre or T.J. Warren’s mid-sized contracts.
At some point, adding more NBA rotation level players to the current young squad will create a ground-swell of talent that should push the Suns into becoming a better team on the whole.
Unless the new players fail to answer the needs at power forward and point guard. All bets are off if the Suns just add more wings.
Which leads me to the final question.
What IS the simplest answer to fix the Suns problems?
There is a simple answer. One that begets all of the other roster decisions.
HIRE SOMEONE WHO CAN TELL ROBERT SARVER TO GO MANAGE HIS BANK FOR A WHILE.
That new someone can’t just be a new coach with NBA head coaching experience. Sure, one of those would be nice. The Suns haven’t hired a head coach with prior head coaching experience since Robert Sarver bought the franchise 15 years ago.
No, that “someone” has to be higher up.
That someone has to be the President of Basketball Operations and General Manager, with the power to tell Robert Sarver to be quiet and let them run the team.
There’s a big reason Steve Kerr and David Griffin quietly and professionally walked away in the summer of 2010 after leading the Suns to the Western Conference Finals — the Suns’ last playoff appearance.
That reason was that Sarver wouldn’t even let them give raises to the underpaid front office staff, let alone allow them to manage the roster the way they felt was best.
Kerr went on to coach the Warriors to four straight NBA Finals appearances. Griffin went on to build a three-time Finals team (one-time winner) around LeBron James. Griffin’s job wasn’t easy. Sure he had LeBron, but LeBron might not even make the playoffs with the Lakers this year. Griffin built a supporting cast around LeBron that could get him to the Finals every year.
Kerr and Griffin have the last four league championship rings.
Meanwhile, Sarver hired a series of yes-men with no experience and no demands on front office control. And the Suns have gotten worse every year, all the way down to having their fans dream of 25% winning percentages as greener grass from days gone by, let alone winning records.
Robert Sarver needs to see the error of his ways. He needs to agree that he’s not a good basketball mind.
He needs to give someone else the power to tell him no, and give them the reins to run the organization like a real NBA franchise.
He needs to drive the Brinks truck full of cash directly to David Griffin’s doorstep, dump it all over the front lawn, and leave a signed one-way contract that promises full front office, coaching and roster autonomy to Griffin for the term of his contract.
Of course, Sarver could still fire Griffin any time. That’s part of the business. What’s NOT part of the normal NBA business is the owner constantly undermining the FO and coaching staff.
Griffin LOVES the Suns organization. He grew up with the Suns for 17 years in roles ranging from intern to Assistant GM. He knows how to politik with meddling owners, dealing with the Cavaliers’ owner for years.
Griffin has won a championship. He knows how to build teams.
Griffin has a great relationship with both James Jones and coach Igor Kokoskov. If he thinks those guys are good assets for the Suns organization, he can keep them. There wouldn’t necessarily be a ton of turnover if GRIFFIN thinks they should remain in place.
Griffin would likely agree with Jones that the Suns need to fill out the roster with playable vets around Booker, Ayton and the other kids they already have (unless Zion falls in their laps).
Griffin would be the guy who could actually execute whatever plan he made.
Hire David Griffin. Put him in charge. Give him contractual autonomy to make his own decisions.
That’s the simple answer to the question: how can you fix the Phoenix Suns?