Mar 23, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love (42) fouls Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) in the third quarter at Target Center. Phoenix wins 127-120. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

No love for Kevin Love: Keep Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe


Do double-doubles win championships? That seems to be the question no one is asking in the debate over whether or not the Phoenix Suns should part with either of their burgeoning star guards to acquire Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves. While most people in the conversation have spent their time haggling over the number of first-round picks to package with Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe in exchange for the T-Wolves’ restless power forward, I’ve seen very few ask if Kevin Love is really worth the king’s ransom his soon-to-be-former team is demanding. This question seems as a good a place as any to begin making the case for keeping Bledsoe and Dragic.

Kevin Love has spent six seasons in the NBA. In that time, his team has not been to the playoffs. In fact, in the last six years, the Minnesota Timberwolves have not posted a record of .500 or better. There is no player in the NBA who has garnered the “superstar” tag so early in his career while achieving so little in terms of team success. There is also no player in the NBA who is defended as blindly as Kevin Love when the questions I’m asking are posed. His defenders are quick to point out the shortcomings of Love’s teammates, T-Wolves’ management, and the string of coaches he has played for. But how bad is Love’s supporting cast really?

Let’s start with the coaches. Love has, thus far, played for Kevin McHale, Kurt Rambis, and Rick Adelman. Kevin McHale is by no means Red Auerbach, but he has had a record over .500 in four of his five seasons as an NBA head coach. The one hold out? The year he coached Kevin Love. He also has two more playoff appearances as a coach than Kevin Love has a player. Kurt Rambis was probably never meant to be an NBA head coach, and his record in two years at the helm in Minnesota reflects that. But he was a four-time NBA Champion, and he, along with McHale, can certainly be credited with a great deal of knowledge and wisdom to Love over his first three years in the league. A player of Love’s caliber and pedigree could definitely do worse than two coaches with a combined seven championship rings and 27 years of playing experience. And then there’s Rick Adelman, a man with over 1000 wins as an NBA head coach. For the last three years, Adelman has been tasked with helping Love realize his playoff dreams. It has not gone well. In his first season, Ricky Rubio missed the last 25 games of the year, and the Timberwolves finished 14 games below .500. The next season, the first of Love’s near max contract extension, Kevin broke his hand doing knuckle pushups and played only 18 games. Last season, Adelman’s final year as head coach, Minnesota nearly broke through the .500 barrier, falling just two games shy. But for all that perceived success, they still missed the playoffs by nine games and were out of legitimate postseason contention very early. Adelman coached the late 80’s/early 90’s Trail Blazers and the immensely entertaining Sacramento Kings teams with Chris Webber and Co. While neither of those great teams won a title, they were consistent contenders in the Western Conference who were ultimately out down by the last two Laker Dynasties. I put all of this forth in order to make the point that Adelman is probably one of the 25 best coaches in NBA history, and even he couldn’t take Kevin Love to the playoffs.

As for Minnesota’s ownership and management, the foibles of David Kahn are well documented by Bill Simmons and many others. Suffice it to say, the T-Wolves fumbled several high draft picks and have had a serious problem attracting free agents. But that doesn’t mean Love has been surrounded by the scrap heap All Stars for the last six years. As I said before, Love has gotten the superstar treatment and defense from pundits and fans alike, but does his lacking supporting cast really explain his lack of winning? Are the players around him really any different than the players around Kevin Garnett when he was in Minny or Carmelo Anthony in Denver? I for one don’t think the difference in teammates is large enough to justify six losing seasons, but I’ll let you be the judge.

The best players Carmelo Anthony played alongside in his eight seasons in Denver were Allen Iverson and Chauncey Billups, both past their primes, and the oft-injured Nene. In the 2005-2006 season, AI was still in Philadelphia, Billups was still in Detroit, and Nene played just one game, yet the Nuggets still made the playoffs with a supporting cast of Andre Miller, Marcus Camby, and Kenyon Martin around Carmelo. I don’t think Denver’s impressive streak of eight straight playoff appearances with Carmelo can be attributed solely to supporting cast and coaching when compared to Minnesota’s six years of futility with Kevin Love. There is a difference in the caliber and mentality of those superstars.

An even better comparison to the Love situation is Kevin Garnett’s time with the Timberwolves. The best players KG played with in Minny were Sam Cassell and Wally Szczerbiak, both of whom made one All-Star appearance in the talent void years between MJ’s second retirement and the 2003 draft. KG went to the playoffs in eight straight seasons under Flip Saunders, who is now Kevin Love’s coach in Minnesota. Interestingly, both Garnett and Carmelo made it to the conference finals once and lost in the first round seven times with their original teams. So the T-Wolves and Nuggets were by no means world-beaters, but their respective superstars were talented and driven enough to drag the team over .500 and into the playoffs. So why hasn’t Love been able to do so?

Love hasn’t played alongside an All-Star, but Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, and Kevin Martin are no slouches. Garnett and Melo made the playoffs with worse. There’s a chance that Love’s inability to win has nothing to do with the supporting cast around him. The answer could very well be in his head and his heart. A player’s will to succeed can be just as important to winning as talent. For proof, look no further than the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns.

11 months ago, pundits called Phoenix The Island of Misfit toys. They saw Bledsoe, Gerald Green, and Miles Plumlee as pieces that didn’t fit around Goran Dragic and the rest of the returning Suns. They were wrong. Each of the team’s new additions brought something to the table, and helped the Suns win 48 games. That’s right. With no player even approaching Love’s caliber on the roster, the Suns won 48 games in a deep Western Conference. No one predicted this team gelling together under a brand new head coach so effectively. No one saw Eric Bledsoe realizing his potential so quickly. And most importantly, no one could have knew how well he would play with Goran Dragic.

When healthy, Bledsoe and Goran Dragic formed one of the most exciting backcourts in the NBA. They had great chemistry, shared the ball well, and complimented each other on offense and defense. Transitioned to more of a shooting guard role, and move that sparked an offensive explosion in his game which earned him the Most Improved Player trophy as well as a Third Team All-NBA selection. Bledsoe, before and after his injury, displayed the great point guard instincts and toughness we had seen flashes of in Los Angeles. He guarded the other team’s best guard, picking up the slack from the one flaw in Dragic’s game. And together, they helped fuel one of the fastest and most effective offenses in the NBA.

But beyond the points, the wins, and the excitement, the most important product of this past season was the generation of hope. The Dragic-Bledsoe backcourt showed Phoenix fans, and the league as whole, something they hadn’t really seen before. In an era where an elite point guard is more and more important for team success (unless you have LeBron), the Suns suddenly had two near-star performers who could share the floor without losing a step. With Goran and Eric healthy, Coach Hornacek could keep one of them on the floor at all times and still play them together for 20+ minutes. Imagine trying to defend a Suns’ team playing at breakneck pace for all 48 minutes. With these two at the helm, Phoenix could run teams to death night after night, and they did just that many times this past year. This tandem is a serious weapon that is nearly unmatched in the NBA. The charts below show how the Dragic-Bledsoe tandem stacks up against other backcourt and superstar tandems across the league.

Backcourt DuosAll Star Duos

 

 

 

 

 

And again, these two have played less than half a season together. Their potential as individuals and a pair has not been reached. Dragic is still young, and Bledsoe is very young. Keeping them together for the foreseeable future could be the move that propels Phoenix back into perennial contention and makes the Valley of the Sun an attractive place for premier free agents over the next few years.

The issue is resources. To retain Dragic and Bledsoe, the Suns will likely have to pay Bledsoe the max this summer. Then they’ll have to extend Dragic, who has a player option for 2015-16, next summer because there’s no way he will be content to play for $7.5 million when he just made All-NBA. In that scenario, the Suns will have to commit $25+ million to their backcourt annually. That’s a very hefty price tag for a pair of point guards. But that doesn’t mean it’s not the right move. Ryan McDonough should have been Executive of the Year by all accounts. Even with big resources committed to his backcourt, I have confidence that he can find cap room to attract free agents down the road, especially with the cap growing as much as it’s projected to. With a solidified backcourt, an offensive system that is sure to balloon anyone’s stats, and the ability to find great role players on the cheap, why wouldn’t free agents who want to win consider Phoenix as a landing spot for the next five years? Keeping Dragic and Bledsoe together is a gamble given the financial commitment necessary, Bledsoe’s injury history, and their short track record together. But there’s no way their joint potential is outweighed by the potential generated by splitting them up to add Kevin Love.

Love has never won in the NBA. Dragic and Bledsoe won straight out of the gate, despite only playing 40 games together. If the Suns want to win as many games as possible over the next several years, I’m not sure Kevin Love is the answer, especially if his acquisition breaks up Goran and Eric.

To be honest, there’s no way I’m writing this article today if Bledsoe had played the whole year. In that parallel universe, the Suns surely make the playoffs, probably as a fifth or sixth seed, and maybe knock off the Clippers or Rockets in the first round. Phoenix would be unanimously discussed as a surefire playoff team moving forward that was one star away from serious contention. But that is not the reality. Bledsoe missed half the year. The Suns missed the playoffs by one game.

Love is the most coveted guy on the market despite not being a free agent. I fully understand why the Suns are interested. But the tide is against them right now. Minnesota knows Love wants out and hopes to net a Godfather offer for him akin to what Utah got from Brooklyn for Deron Williams or Denver got from the Knicks for Melo. It’s important to note that neither New York team was successful in the immediate wake of those trades. That’s not a good omen for the Suns or any other team willing to part with the kitchen sink to acquire Love’s services. Plus there’s no guarantee Love will stick around long-term, especially if the team he lands with is gutted to acquire him. In so many of the proposed scenarios, Love would land with a team that has a worse supporting cast than he has now in Minny. Unless that team a big-market club with a history of attracting free agents that Love can rely on in the future, there’s no way he’s sticking around.

If this was a conversation about keeping Dragic and Bledsoe together and acquiring Love with other assets, I’d be unbelievably in favor because he compliments Phoenix’s deficiencies in rebounding and paint scoring so well in addition to his ability to space the floor. But Minnesota wants more than that. And that’s why the Suns cannot make this move. The price of Dragic or Bledsoe is simply too high for a player with no history of winning and no indication of building a future in Phoenix. Sometimes the way to Ignite the Future is to keep the powder dry.

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  • 4everis2long

    Ryan, Man that was a money article. I too think the price for Kevin Love is too high. To trade for him with no guarantees he stays in Phoenix after the Suns rid themselves of one of their guards, IMO would be insane. While I might consider letting Dragic if there was a promise to stay in Phoenix only because Dragic will be a free agent next summer and the age difference between he and Bled, I would not throw in multiple 1st round picks. However I just said a few days ago, keeping Dragic and Bled and simply adding a vet free agent forward such as J. Hill or E. Davis, will put the Suns in the 5-8 playoff range. Trading for Love will not improve on that. Great article Ryan. If we cannot secure him next summer as a free agent, let someone else trade for him.

    • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Kevin Zimmerman

      I think most teams want Love to commit to an extension before they work out a deal to acquire him. Hard to see him committing for any teams outside GSW and Chicago.

      • 4everis2long

        Thanks Kev. That is my thought as well. He might sign an extension with Houstonl since neither Harden or Howard would be part of any deal and he would be back with McHale.

    • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

      Love could not improve on that? I wonder how many games K.J and Hornacek win without free agent signee Tom Chambers? It is OK to hate Love but please keep it real. Regardless of his deficiencies he is a huge upgrade over the combination of Frye and Markieff.

      • MyMets

        Love will bolt for the Lakers if he doesn’t agree to an extension. And to me, a one year rental of Kevin Love is not worth the price. Now if he agrees to immediately sign a 5 year extension that’s different, but he has made it clear he wont sign.

      • 4everis2long

        EBJM, if the Suns have to trade Dragic or Bled to get Love, no way are they a better team than Spurs, Clips, OKC or Houston. I think they would still be in the 5-8 range.

        • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

          Well I’m counting on Goodwin to be a healthier and bigger version of Bledsoe anyway. I don’t believe Love is coming to Phoenix anyway. I’m hoping the Morri can take that next step and start together. Then Frye, Green and Goodwin make up the bench with Len hopefully taking Plumlee’s job.

          • coachj

            EBJM, you are always a goldmine of thoughts, but I think you are falling prey to the typical mindframe of basketball pundits with this. While I agree with your train of thought, you are saying that you are pinning your strategy on the “hope” that a player[s] develops the way you think he should, rather than focusing on going with the player that is a proven producer. Goodwin may yet become a top notch player, but Bledsoe already is and will only get better. Yes, there is risk of injury, but as Wall, Rose and Westbrook have proven, any player can succumb to injury [and even recover]. I believe Bledsoe to be a perfect player for us. He seems unselfish, a hard worker, a willing teammate and is already very good on both sides of the ball. He is an uncanny finisher at the rim and has amazing handles and driving capabilty. He is an emerging shooter and has already shown clucthability. He also is a guy I predict will be a first-team defender for years. On top of that, his teammates seem to like him and he is part of why this team succeeded [chemistry]. Goodwin had one good game. Again, he may well become very good, but as I see him right now, he is a long way off. Maybe he takes steps this season to garner some of Green’s minutes, but he has a lot to show before that happens. I wouldn’t dump Bledsoe in favor of Goodwin because you are dumping a known quantity for an unknown.

      • coachj

        Agreed. But what if you had to trade KJ and a pick [which would have been Majerle] to get Chambers? That team would have been far less successful. So your point is very good and only solidifies this argument that trading Dragic or Bledsoe for Love would be a bad idea.

  • Hawki

    Yeah, Great article Mr. Weisart…..McD has to be eyeballing somebody not named Love….if not the PF’s Forever mentioned than maybe a SF like Ariza or Deng & I wonder if they’ve spent time figuring out how to get Hayward out of Utah?

  • DBreezy

    “Tom this is business, and this man is taking it very, very personal”

    I feel that this is/has evolving into a Coke/Pepsi taste test on Love, and I’m not sure that’s the big picture thing here. To me this is all about McD. If we were talking about Blanks, Kerr, or D’Antoni/Griffin’s front office, I’d be sounding all sorts of alarm bells about these rumors, but it’s not. To me McD isn’t likely to make a deal that completely guts the Suns’ remaining roster nor is he likely to make a deal without assurances that Love is here for the long term. From what I’ve seen, only Cleveland and Sacramento have come out and said that they’d deal for Love without any kind of extension or other assurance of keeping him long term.

    Beyond that deal or no deal, I think it would behoove Suns fans to read between the lines on the Suns involvement in these rumors. McD clearly isn’t comfortable with something long term. It could be the Suns ability to be a legit contender without an impact starter at the 4. It could be paying max dollars to Bledsoe. It could be issues with having to pay that 25M+ to Goran and Bledsoe in a year. As I said in another post, when it comes to $$$ imo Lon Babby is still very much in the mix and he may have a lot to say on this subject. McD may be trying to strike before that becomes clearer around the league and hurts what he can get-something that has plagued the Suns before in the Sarver era.

    I don’t presume that the Suns would have been a 5th or 6th seed if Bledsoe had remained healthy. To me that ignores the realities of the grind of the 82 game regular season. Several teams above and below the Suns in the standings had significant players lost to injury for long stretches or simply rested in the case of the Spurs. The injury also lengthened the league’s learning curve on how to play the Bledsoe/Dragic backcourt, something they seemed closer to figuring out down the stretch. Does anyone really think that if they left this team alone and added a vet 4 that it could beat any of the old SSOL contending teams in a series? I don’t and I don’t think it would even be that close.

    To me the above is true without even talking about Love. As for why Love hasn’t made the postseason yet, it could be for any number of reasons including the ones listed above. You can’t mention the guys that play with Love without mentioning how many games those players have also missed due to injury and how many games the coach missed because of his sick wife. Or that while the West has been tough for a long time, the post Kobe/Shaq era was generally dominated by SA/DAL/PHX with a considerable gap below them. 48 wins would have put these Suns in as a 3-5 seed in some of those seasons. It’s also the inevitable consequence of a diluted league and the one and done era. Most of these guys don’t come in ready to win even if they start strong. Derrick Rose came into a much more talented team than your typical #1 pick and it still took until his third season to post better than a .500 record in the weaker Eastern conference. Kyrie Irving is a two time all-star and ROY in his other season, yet CLE has been terrible. Anthony Davis would probably generate at least as much interest as Love if not more if he were on the market yet he hasn’t won more than 34 games so far it would take a pretty big jump for his squad to make the playoffs any time soon. The same will probably hold true for Wiggins, Emblid, and Parker first few seasons even if they live up to their potential because of the organizations they will likely be joining. Even a guy like Demarcus Cousins probably wasn’t going to win much his first few seasons out West, even if his attitude/temper better matched his game.

    I say this not to pump up Love, but to say that it’s harder to properly evaluate even star players is harder than it used to be. I tend to think that Love will either stay put this summer or get moved elsewhere in the end, but the Suns will still be on the prowl to move one of Goran or Bled over the next couple of summers and will again be evaluating some player in the draft or via trade whose stardom likely won’t be crystal clear.

    • 4everis2long

      DB, I just don’t see the comparison between a second year player Anthony Davis and 25 year old Kevin Love. AD has only been in the league two years. Despite his brief tenure, AD contributed to Vasquez looking really good in AD’s rookie campaign. Without AD, he is back to being very average. I could be wrong but I think AD will get his team to the .500 mark in the next two years. I know we are speculating but It seems unjust to make that comparison. Damien Lillard is a second year player who made major contributions in his team being playoff bound after being in the lottery the previous season. So while it certainly possible a second year players can help bring the team from the ashes, it is a difficult venture.

      I could be wrong but I think one of Ryan’s main points is K. Love has not had the experience of any players or coaches having career years playing with or coaching him. Whereas it seems half of the Suns roster had career years playing with Bled and Dragic and Coach Horny was a good candidate for Coach of the Year. Perhaps the implication is why mortgage the farm for someone who does not have the resume to suggest he will help make his colleagues noticeably better especially if it requires the Suns trade Dragic or Bled both whom were huge factors in making a lot of Suns better.

      I personally think McD is too smart to risk a trade like this for Love, at least I am hoping so. I do agree that sometime in the next season or two Dragic or Bled will be moved if Goodwin develops the way I think he will next season.

      • DBreezy

        Foreveris, the point I was trying to make was a broader one than specifically Love vs Davis. In general the top talent coming into the league each year nowadays, are one and done players. That’s why I excluded Lillard. These guys tend to be very talented, raw, and simply do not know how to win at the pro level for a couple of seasons. They also tend to go to teams that are very weak in a diluted league talent wise and sometimes just end up in the ‘wrong’ conference.

        Rose had Deng, Hinrich, Noah, Nocioni, Hughes, Ben Gordon, Drew Gooden, Brad Miller, Ty and Tim Thomas, and others on his team as a rook in a weak conference and still only got 41 W’s in a ROY campaign. While I’m not a Vinny Del Negro fan, I do think he’s solid-at least as much as McHale. When I look at the West, it’s at least 10 teams deep playoff wise without much change to that coming in the next few seasons. Even if Duncan retires, the Spurs aren’t going to fall into the scrap bin and Dirk plans to play for several more seasons. That’s going to make it tough on teams like New Orleans and Sac to get themselves in the playoff mix. It’s entirely conceivable to me that if Davis stays in New Orleans that he may not be part of a playoff team in the next 4 years. Personally I think DeMarcus Cousins probably would have made it at least twice by now if he played for the eastern conference version of the Kings, the Toronto Raptors even with all of his temper issues. The Lakers will always be in play for a big trade or free agent and it seems almost inevitable that Utah will eventually quietly rise into being a very solid team again with players that most people don’t think about.

        It’s a tough field for a young guy to break into, and I’m just saying that I don’t necessarily ding these guys because they struggle to make the postseason early on as one and dones in the West. I understand the implication that Ryan, you and others are making. I’m just not sure that it’s entirely fair and it’s not like I’m a huge Love fan. I don’t really care if they make this trade or not, because I trust McD. I don’t see him gutting the roster, nor do I see him trading for Love blindly without assurances. From a timing standpoint, it would be nice to see how Goodwin develops before moving one of Goran or Bled, but opportunity wise you don’t always have that luxury. That’s something that will be generically true not just for the Love trade. Even if Goodwin is the truth, I don’t expect him to be much more than a very tantalizing 6th man next season.

        • 4everis2long

          I got ya DB, just enjoying the dialogue. While I appreciate the playoff criteria discussed, I like to employ the standard of did the all-star just make himself better or did any of his teammates get noticeably better with him on the team. Like you stated it is so tough getting a team to the playoffs in the West.

          I agree that Goodwin’s likely role next season will be a tantalizing 6th man, at least I hope so. I could be wrong but I think Tucker leaves and Green will slide to the small forward spot giving Goodwin some quality minutes at the guard spot.

          As always I appreciate the thoughts.

          • DBreezy

            Yeah, when talking about the playoff criteria I was more getting at what Ryan was saying in the article It’s just so tough with young players in tough conferences often with bad organizations. I honestly don’t know what to think about Kyrie Irving for example. I’ve seen some pretty sick stuff out of that kid, and also some questionable fight/attitude at times. But it’s hard to ignore his age/inexperience and the glaring red flag of an organization that has been dysfunctional since the end of the Price/Nance/Daughtery days.

            The Wolves are in that same category. If you’re gonna be a team in a market like that you’d better draft well for talent and fit like Utah does. They haven’t overall. KG, Love, Marbury(fit?), Rubio, Isiah Rider (fit?), and Pek are pretty much all they have to show since 1988 in the draft.

            As for Tucker, I’m not really sure what they do. I think they genuinely want to keep him, but I also think there’s a big picture with McD and Horny that PJ could price himself out of. If you look at the philosophy that Ainge used in Boston, they pretty much only extended themselves for the big 3 and Rondo. Perkins, Posey, Tony Allen, Big Baby, etc all got the gas face when their agents came calling.

        • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

          Excelent observations. I concur 100%.

      • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

        So coumselor, what I just heard you say is that Love would benefit greatly from playing with Dragic and Bledsoe instead of Rubio and Martin. If Bledsoe and Dragic can make Frye look like a starter and Markieff like a MIP and sixth mam of the year, they could make Love look like a poor mans Lebron James!

        • 4everis2long

          Yeah EBJM they could make Love look even better because now he would be a winner and playoff bound. However that obviously only works if they wait until he becomes a free agent.

    • Hawki

      “It’s not personal Tom, it’s strictly business”

      • DBreezy

        You know I put that in there for you, man :)

        • Hawki

          Appreciate it….”Let’s hit ‘em now while we got the muscle”

    • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

      The voice or reason speaks! Outstanding post.

  • WLX(AL)

    Kevin Love will opt out next off season regardless what team he ends up with. Love wants to eat expensive Filet Mignon/Caviar and drink fancy wine. He wants to be the ‘Hot girl at the Bar’ that all teams buy drinks for in hopes of landing him…

  • Kevin Vines

    Finally someone with sense i cannot believe the amount of articles there are of the suns getting rid of dragic or Bledsoe for love..don’t get me wrong if we could get him for maybe two picks and goodwin/len then I’m all for it but it would be stupid to trade any players that got us this far when we could just sign a decent free agent and still contend next year patience is a virtue

    • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

      Contend? For what? A first rd playoff exit?

      • MyMets

        Earl, you seem to think that by bringing in Love for one year and having him leave for the Lakers the next year is good idea? You need to put down the pipe!

        • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

          Yeah, Love is opting out so he can be the Laker’s only player. Keep dreaming!

  • Horny’s Harem

    McD is smart. He won’t trade Dragic or Bledsoe anytime soon. He will resign Tucker at around the MLE. He’ll either add a FA or a very good draft pick or both. But we can forget about Love until next season at least.

  • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

    That is the problem with the youth of our society, they do not learn from history. Look at Iraq, today. All of us old farts said it was Vietnam 2.0

    Ryan does a fantastic job for the Love haters. Nice piece of writing. But we do not have to look any further than the Suns own history to find support for Love. Way back to th early years when PF Paul Silas helped the young Suns take the mighty Lakers to the brink of elimination and then was traded for Guard Charlie Scott.

    Bad trade. SUNS rebuild through the draft and select PF John Shumate who was later traded for Garfield Heard. Enough said.

    Suns retool and bring in rebounding champ PF Truck Robinson. Suns are contenders for several years.

    Suns go Old School and trade for PF Maurice Lucas but JC trades Dennis Johnson and the hopes for the Suns first title.

    Suns draft PF Armon Gilliam and later trade him for Kurt Rambis. Suns are contenders.

    Suns trade Hornacek who was part of the dynamic K.J. and Hornacek backcourt for Charles Barkley. Suns get to the Finals.

    Suns take a chance on Amare Stoudemire and SSOL soon follows and a new legion of young Sun fans.

    Forty five years later and the Suns are back to square one, a fantastic backcourr, remember Goodrich and Dick Van Arsdale? But lacking a good rebounding PF who can also score.

    Is Kevin Love flawed? Sure! Are the Suns going to be any better next year with Frye and Markieff at PF even with Bledsoe and Dragic healthty?

    Highly unlikely. Suns have had some of the best backcourt tandems in the history of the league. Titles are still won at the rim, not the three point line.

    • DBreezy

      It’s gonna be tough if they don’t make some kind of big move at 4. I’m not saying that they can’t make the playoffs without one, but we all need to remember that it was a nine team race last season and that a healthy Denver will likely make it at least 10. Also if the Love drama doesn’t result in him being traded before the season, that’s still a 40 win team despite some injuries that will still have a good coach at the helm. They’ll be lurking in that case.

    • 4everis2long

      EBJM, Simply adding J. Hill or E. Davis and the development of the young Suns will get the Suns to the playoffs.

      • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

        I thought the main reason we are having this discussion is that Phoenix wants to make a deep run in the playoffs, not simply make them?

        • 4everis2long

          EBJM, while I would love to see the Suns make a deep playoff run next season, i would not bet the mortgage on it. IMO until we get a good defender and dominant low post scorer at the 4 or 5 spot, I do not foresee a deep run. We are too young at center and there is no one in the fold at the 4 spot to give us the needed production. Hill or Davis will upgrade the roster but not enough for a deep playoff run. Monroe? Maybe he would be a step in that direction. I read somewhere in the past day or two that the Suns were still going to shoot at P. Gasol, who brings rebounding and scoring. I do not think he is the deep run guy we need but he certainly would be an upgrade ever Frye.

  • coachj

    Excellent article. There has been some excellent points made on both sides of this discussion, and in fact, all have been poignant.

    There are some main themes around which these points have been made that I think IMO are flawed assumptions [keep in mind that I am not advocating for or against Love or any particular trade idea]:

    1] Kevin Love and being a winner/loser:

    Regardless of any opinion pro/con, for/against Love on the Suns, I think this point is completely irrelevant within the context of evaluating Love. Judging a player by results affected by so many variables cannot appropriately be attributed to any one individual. The attempt to compare Love’s situation to Garnett’s or anyone else is akin to comparing a player from 1950 to a player today. It makes for a fun discussion, but at the end of the day it is simply conjecture and personal preference. Had Kevin Love been drafted into a different situation, would the very people claiming his lack of winning quality be singing praises about his winner mentality?

    Winning is more than the collection of talent. It is even more than fitting the pieces of the puzzle together based on strictly skills to fit on-court strategy. It is fusing together skills and mentality together within the construct of limits put forth by the CBA, and having the direction of a coaching staff that understands how best to utilize those skills and to drive that mentality throughout the franchise [and a little bit of luck]. That is quite the challenge.

    2] Top Tier Talent – Wins

    Sure, Miami lead many to fall into the trap that putting three top talents together can create a winning formula [buying a championship]. But i tend to think Miami is an anomaly rather than the trend that holds. I think the Spurs are a better example of how things should be done than the Heat – over 17 years of retooling to be relevant.

    Last season [and if you were looking at it without knowledge of what happened this past season], the Suns had more paper talent than the current squad as judged by the common consensus held prior to this season [at that time - certainly not now]. Yet last year’s team was terrible together. For this season, they unloaded that “talent” and found pieces that not only fit together strategically, but emotionally [chemistry]. Does that make Miles Plumlee a better player than Gortat? Well, maybe he was a better player for the Suns to HAVE. But if you simply ranked big guys, I am not sure Plumlee is anywhere near Gortat. He just fit better with these guys than Gortat and that shows you bringing in a “Talent” doesn’t always result in making a team better. History has proven this time and again. Yet NBA “experts” will again make the same mistake this summer with Melo, trying to add him to the mix without consideration of how his particular skillset and mindframe [and salary] fit into the equation. [Mindframe being the key].

    To be successful, you can’t piece together talent. You have to bring together a diverse set of skills/ability who all have a similar mindset. Sometimes that requires foregoing a more talented player for one that maybe “lesser” talent but is willing to play his role to a greater perfection. I am not a huge fan of Tiago Splitter or Boris Diaw. On any other team, if those teams required either of them to step up into a role not befitting their current one, they would be deemed a disappointment [ like Diaw playing himself into relevance only to disappoint Suns fans when he couldn't live up to being a larger piece than he was]. But with the Spurs, they accepted their role and brought forth the skills that the team needed and didn’t try to do more than that. On the Spurs, they were lesser talents that fit and provided synergy to a greater effect than if the Spurs had gone out and signed bigger talent.

    3] Suns would be a certain seed if…

    Again, I believe this conjecture and irrelevant to how you should be evaluating a team’s decision making. If the coin flip had gone the other way. If we had not traded DJ for a bag of bones. If Walter Davis wasn’t on drugs. If Tim Perry had any skill to go along with his athleticism. If they had never drafted Bedford/Gilliam/Gluchkov/Skita/etc..If they had simply guarded Paxson. If JJ hadn’t broken his nose. If Amare had not been injured. If Mike O’Antoni had a “D” in his name. If Horry never existed. If if if if. EBJM mentioned the Suns not learning from history and I agree. So many decisions made out of reaction to what IFS.

    Acquiring or not acquiring Love cannot be based on IFS. He needs to be evaluated based on his skill-set, production within this environment, and his mentality, as well as how his presence impacts this team on the court and financially.

    4] McD is somehow god-like and we should all hate on Kerr

    This is where I know I will get a lot of blowback, but let us not let our basking in the glow of the Suns resurgence into relevance skew reality. I will give McD, and even Sarver/Babby credit for some good decision making over the past year. However, decisions are not made in a vacuum and every decision is made as a result of what came before. I know a lot of people hate on Kerr, but I don’t join them. Steve Kerr knew what he was doing. Was he able to convince Sarver to let him do it? Maybe that is where he failed. But circumstance plays a huge role in our perception. Alvin Gentry walked into the Clippers job and lost, and was deemed second rate. He walked into the Suns job and won early and was perceived as well-liked and effective. Then they started losing and he lost his luster and was fired. Like players, coaches are judged similarly when there may be extenuating circumstances beyond their control that effect their ability to win [or help them win]. Same with GM’s.

    Sam Presti has been deemed a “genius” and an example of how to build a winning franchise through the draft over the past seven years. I am not sure anyone would argue with that but me [i am not saying he isn't good, i just don't buy all the hype]. Yes, he has won and put that franchise in the mix of contention. Yet how long will that perception last? How long will the model he used continue to be accepted as how things should be done? Up until now, he hasn’t been able to capitalize on the immense talents of Westbrook and Durant as far as championships are concerned, and at some point, if they continue to fail during their window, how will people view Presti?

    Mike O’Antoni walked into a situation built perfectly for him and he started out winning a lot of games [because the team put in front of him was on the upswing]. Everyone jumped on his bandwagon and labeled him a “genius”. Was he? Now he is perceived to be a one-trick pony that can’t coach himself out of a paper bag [Knicks fans would feel this way]. Which one is it?

    My favorite player all time is Jeff Hornacek [not saying best player, just favorite]. I am glad to see him succeed with the Suns. He was a smart player that I can see being a very good coach. After this season, many will jump on his bandwagon and claim him to be among the better coaches in the league. He may indeed enjoy a lot of winning if McD and sarver/babby don’t screw it up. But is he enjoying an upswing or did he create it? We will never know.

    My point here is that we as humans often give credit when the result is win, and tend to blame when there is loss, but sometimes it should be neither in either case. My best year as a high school coach was a year when I went 15-14, despite the fact that in 20 years of coaching, I had one two losing seasons and most years I was well above .500. My best actual coaching was probably the year I went 0-21 [although the least enjoyable season in my life]. However, anyone outside of the program and those that were there and knew what we were up against would immediately dismiss those thoughts and claim I was a bad coach.

    My feelings on Love? He certainly is a talent, but I have no idea how he is made up as a person. The only people that know that are his teammates. Could he add value to the Suns with his skills/ability? Absolutely. Could he be the piece that puts them in a position to be a contending team? Possibly. Could he also just be getting a divorce and remarrying, but is still the same ole son of a bitch and have the same ole problems? That is a possibility as well. My feeling is that I really like the Dragic/Bledsoe tandem and believe that WITH A GREAT BIG, and a solid bench, we could contend. I also like watching those two in terms of entertainment. So breaking them up for the hopes that you get Love and he ends up being all you hope for is a risk and I think that unless you can formulate the other pieces, you are susceptible to failing. One thing I do know is that I don’t want any part of Carmelo.