To tank or not to tank, that is the question.
Before this six-game losing streak began (combined with the Paul and Booker injuries), this was not even in the back of most Phoenix Suns fans' minds. Life comes at you fast.
Things are disturbingly ugly right now on Planet Orange, and it feels like the injuries and losses just keep piling up. The schedule only gets more difficult in the coming weeks as well, unfortunately.
Disclaimer: This is not an all-out endorsement for tanking, but rather, me playing devil’s advocate against myself after going on the record multiple times saying this team should still compete this season, as long as they keep the future in mind.
If Devin Booker returns along with CP3 and Cam Johnson then this team is still fully capable of rattling off a long win streak and regaining their status in the playoffs. Right?
What if that’s not the move? What if the best course of action is a quick reset and waving the white flag this season? There are no guarantees in health, and assuming CP3, Book, and Cam all return without any setbacks or complications is unrealistic with how this season has gone. Hell, they could all return and then another key piece or two goes down. That’s just how things have gone this year.
These thoughts crept into my mind the second the team announced Chris Paul would not return to the game against Miami with hip soreness.
Along with that, the Suns have lost 15 of their last 20 games. That is quite the sample size. Looking ahead at what’s next, things could get a lot worse before they get better.
It almost feels generous to say they go 2-7 in this stretch with the injuries they have now. Maybe they can steal a game or two, but if they come out of this stretch at 22-28 or worse, then they’ll have a lot of catching up to do.
So, let’s hear the devil on my shoulder make his case for tanking.
Reason 1: The Prize(s)
The Suns are currently just 5 GB from the 5th slot in the lottery, and with their difficult schedule and injuries stacking up that number could shrink quickly. The fifth slot in the lottery gives you a 21% chance at a top-2 pick, which is the ultimate goal for every tanking team this season.
There are actually two players worth tanking for at this point in the Draft Lottery, and the new format distributes the odds amongst teams in a more realistic manner.
Victor Wembanyama, C- 7’2” (Metropolitans 92)
The grand prize of the 2023 draft starts with “Wemby”, the generational talent that has a chance to be one of the most impactful rookies in recent memory. The Suns likely won’t be bad enough to have a legitimate shot at him, but if they enter tank mode, this is the draft to do it. Maybe the ping pong balls reward them with an unexpected leap.
The Devin Booker and Victor Wembanyama duo could form a dynasty in Phoenix if the stars aligned. Okay, time to wake up now.
Scoot Henderson, G- 6’2” (G League)
Next is the “consolation” prize, which is disrespectful to say about someone of Henderson’s talent level. He’d be the number-one pick in just about any other draft and whoever drafts him will be adding a franchise-changing talent.
Landing a top 2 pick in this draft grants a club the opportunity to add a franchise player. Plain and simple.
Reason 2: Even if you don’t move up, there’s value in the pick
This is the more realistic James Jones type of thought process.
Unless the Suns magically jump into the top two, I do not foresee Devin Booker waiting on another 18-year-old to develop. Even then, using that pick as a trade chip puts you in contention for just about ANY star on the market, not that I’d personally deal it, but you can never count that scenario out.
Phoenix adding a lottery pick to its trade inventory is a needle-mover for teams looking to reset during the summer.
Regardless of where Phoenix lands in the first round, as of now they still own their pick, which holds value. “Star hunting” is all about collecting as many tradable (valuable) assets and picks as possible, and all things considered the Suns are sitting in a good spot with contracts, picks, and valuable pieces to move.
Reason 3: There are still so many holes in this roster
Even if Phoenix makes a move and adds a quality rotation player or two, is this team truly ready to compete for a championship?
The flaws in the roster are sticking out like a sore thumb, and after wasting an offseason hoping to land Kevin Durant (which I’m fine with given the circumstances and lack of external options) it may be best for the Suns to have a full offseason to build around what they desire if things continue to spiral.
If granted a clean bill of health plus external upgrades that address their flaws, I think so. That’s my hesitation towards entering “tank mode”, barring more injuries or setbacks to their star(s).
The Verdict: DO NOT TANK... yet. Get back to me two weeks from now for an update.