The Suns’ youth movement was coming. For some, it came too slow. For Shannon Brown, it came fast and hard, sending him from his starting role and a career year all the way to the end of the bench, where he has stayed without moving for eight consecutive games.
Brown is unhappy. It’s hard to blame him. On a team that claims to lack a natural scorer, Brown (11.2 ppg in just 25 minutes per contest) is the closest thing to it (or was until Goran Dragic’s recent surge).
Phoenix, however, knows what Brown is (offensively aggressive, athletically entertaining) and what he isn’t (efficient, consistently smart with the ball). The Suns also know that, at age 27, Brown is who he is, and unlikely to improve.
With that in mind, the coaching staff made the decision to tap into their unknown talent. They wanted to find out how good Wesley Johnson, Kendall Marshall and recently acquired Marcus Morris can be. Even before the youth movement, it’s been clear that Brown’s offense wasn’t winning over the coaching staff as much as P.J. Tucker’s defense.
But while the team has made their preference of Tucker over Brown clear, the immediate results suggest the opposite should be true. In the 28 games boasting a starting lineup of Dragic, Tucker, Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola, the Suns are an underwhelming 9-19. Replace just Tucker with Brown in that lineup, and Phoenix is 4-4.
It’s a small sample size, but enough to illustrate what the Suns seemingly admitted at the trade deadline: rather than win in the short-term, they are building for the future — even if it means suffering defeats they might otherwise prevent.
It’s hard to criticize such an approach in and of itself. What is baffling, however, is the Suns’ subsequent decision to leave Brown rotting in warmups. If a youth movement was indeed the plan, the Suns missed a golden opportunity to sell Brown via trade while his value was high. Plenty of teams, be it playoff hopefuls needing a hole filled on the perimeter (Utah?) or contenders wanting an extra shooter and/or athlete off the bench (Memphis?), could have benefited from acquiring Brown.
Brown’s contract certainly didn’t impede a move. The veteran is slated for just $3.5 million this year and next, with the latter year not even guaranteed, making him a low-risk, high-reward investment. At the very least, the Suns could have created more cap space and added another draft pick to their assets. With Phoenix reluctant to part ways with its other pieces, it’s hard not to wonder why they didn’t cash in on the one player they clearly don’t want or need – but one that still had value.
Now, Brown’s sudden demotion and his resulting unhappiness are likely red flags to teams who might have had interest in acquiring him, leaving the Suns with a dead asset.
It’s a waste the Suns didn’t need to make. Even with a low return via trade, Phoenix still would have gotten more for Brown than they’re getting for him now.
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