The Phoenix Suns appear to be following the David Kahn model, circa 2009: Sign points guards now, deal with the specifics later.
Just as Kahn inexplicably drafted point guards with back-to-back first-round picks — Ricky Rubio and Johnny Flynn (remember him?), while passing on Stephen Curry — the Suns continue to acquire point guards.
The Suns traded for diminutive Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas less than a month after drafting Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis in June. This now gives Phoenix four point guards on its roster, including its two breakout stars, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.
In an interview with Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck, Suns GM Ryan McDonough explained the thinking behind the team’s moves.
“I think the strength of our team is our backcourt. Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe when they played last year prior to Eric’s injury, they were both averaging about 18 points and six assists. I think our research showed us the last teammates to do that were Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen for a full year, so those guys were playing tremendously. I think Eric had a chance to be an All Star. Goran did end up just missing the All Star team, but he made third team All-NBA, so that’s the strength of our team and we realize that.
We missed the Playoffs by a game last year and that stung somewhat and we felt like when those guys were out, there was a bit of a dropoff when we went to the bench. So it might be a little counter to what most people are thinking, but we felt like we’d add Isaiah and make what we think is a strength an even greater strength … Take the Isaiah Thomas signing for what it’s worth but in no way is that an indictment on Eric Bledsoe or his future with the Suns. It would be our preference to have him back.”
However, ESPN’s Chris Boussard reported that the front office and Bledsoe are far apart in contract negotiations:
“Bledsoe’s representatives have been engaged in discussions with Phoenix, but the Suns’ offer is far below what Bledsoe is looking for.”
Despite the delayed contractual negotiations, there is a sense that the Suns will hold on to Bledsoe and match outside offers for its point guard. Columnist Paul Corzo, of azcentral.com, wrote:
“More so than Stephenson-Indiana or Monroe-Detroit, the Bledsoe-Phoenix dynamic appears to be in good standing with patient, ongoing negotiations and the history of how carefully the Suns handled Bledsoe’s knee rehabilitation.”
“The Suns have the right to match any offer sheet that Bledsoe might sign, and the Suns are the only team that can offer a five-year deal — something that seems unnecessary for them, in light of the market, and for Bledsoe, considering he should be in his prime as a 28-year-old free agent.’
Bledsoe is reportedly seeking a max contract after posting career highs in points (17.7), assists (5.5) and rebounds (4.7) last season. Dragic can also opt out of his current contract next season.
The Suns are coming off a 48-win season, which was a 23-game improvement from the previous season. The Suns also failed to re-sign Channing Frye, their starting center last season. The justification for letting Frye go is that his asking price was simply too high, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe explained in a recent column:
“Channing Frye was a crucial part of Phoenix’s go-go fun last season, but the Suns correctly concluded he’d be hard to move on a four-year, $32 million contract — especially given his age and health issues. Both Morris twins can play a rangy power forward, and P.J. Tucker can slide there in quicker lineups.
Paying Tucker more than $5 million per year over three seasons was a bit much, especially after declining to pay Frye a bit more; Tucker can’t dribble, he can really only shoot 3s from the corners, and he’s merely a good defender. But he’s the heart of the team, he can play multiple positions, and Tucker’s deal is easier to move than Frye’s.”
The Suns reportedly went after marquee agents like LeBron James and Chris Bosh, so this is clearly Plan B. The 24-year-old Bledsoe has his share of suitors, including the Milwaukee Bucks, but assuming the Suns can hold on to Bledsoe, the team should again be in the playoff hunt next season.