Time: 7 p.m. MST
TV: NBATV / FSAThis is little about the Phoenix Suns and the Indiana Pacers. Moreso, the rest of the Suns’ season is about building a culture and standing for a cause. At this point in time, Phoenix is testing the trust between the franchise and both its fans and players.
Sitting Goran Dragic two games in a row has caused a stir. While it made sense at Utah against a Jazz team that could help earn the Suns a second lottery pick in the upcoming draft, sitting the point guard at home Thursday against the Sacramento Kings said it all.
The Suns are not just tanking for another asset, but they’re tanking for the best asset that could be acquired. If Nerlens Noel is on the mind, Michael Schwartz this summer made a great case for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury’s decision to take their tank to the bank in order to nab potential superstar Brittney Griner.
There is a dark underbelly of tanking that results in games that make a mockery of the sport, and nobody wants that. Something must be done to shift the incentives so tanking isn’t so enticing.
But today the Phoenix Mercury are set up as a future juggernaut, which proves once again that when the prize is good enough it’s only rational for bottom-dwelling teams to do what’s necessary to improve their odds at hitting the jackpot.
Chasing a top pick is coming at a cost, however.
Paul Coro’s story out of Utah spelled out the dissatisfaction in the locker room because of the decision. In fact, center Jermaine O’Neal and forward P.J. Tucker both mentioned that nobody in this year’s draft class appears to be a game-changer similar to — there it is again — Griner, who will by all accounts be selected by the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury after their own tank-job.
And as Schwartz mentioned, it’s a matter of the “jackpot” being worth it.
Ryan Weisert and I talked about the lack of star power coming to the NBA in 2013, and outside of Noel, tanking would appear to make minimal difference unless Phoenix is for some reason drooling at the chance of grabbing a winner of a player — say Victor Oladipo or Marcus Smart — despite nobody in this year’s draft being clearly anything more than a role player even through development.
Tanking to do so? It’s coming at the cost of building that same winning culture that Lindsey Hunter is riding his own coaching performance upon.
So those Pacers chasing the Miami Heat and the rest of the Eastern Conference contenders matters little. Where the Suns will be focused upon in the present will be the development of their own players and the fight to convince those in the locker room that this season means a little more than playing for self — Wes Johnson will need a new contract next year, after all.