While Phoenix Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough hasn’t made any public statements that either Marquese Chriss or Dragan Bender may be traded this offseason, Bender’s inconsistent Summer League play has made the decision to sit Chriss a brilliant one.
With Dragan Bender participating in his third Las Vegas Summer League, following two seasons in the NBA, the presumption was that fans would see a large step forward in play due to his experience and the mediocre talent.
Instead, as I discussed here, Bender has looked less than stellar, and through three games has played disappointingly similar to his play over the past two seasons, not showing much in the way of improvement overall.
If there ever was any intention that Bender might be traded, and if General Manager Ryan McDonough might try and add him in a trade package, the continued lack of consistency, especially against inferior (if nothing else, less experienced) talent, might totally be ruining any potential trade value.
For the past two seasons, Marquese Chriss too has been a disappointment, showing flashes of being a decent player, but never on a consistent or assertive manner. I have long believed too that of the two, Chriss does hold the greater trade value as his skill-set, which is predominantly based on his athleticism, is much easier to refine and develop than that of Bender’s which will be more intellectually tied.
McDonough has said this summer that he is looking to be aggressive and make moves to set the franchise up for the future, has made it known that he is willing to make trades, and said at the end of last season that he expected the roster will look different next season from this past one.
To pull any of that off, McDonough might have to move younger players to get the talent that he is seeking, players like Bender and Chriss.
So if Chriss is the more valuable trade commodity of the two, then the Suns will want to do anything they possibly can to retain whatever value he has, and potentially raise it through leaked reports of positive impressions with his summer routines.
Any intrinsic value grown could be entirely lost if he doesn’t show enough improvement on the court during the Summer League, and thus holding him out is absolutely the best option.
If McDonough had zero intention of making Chriss available in a trade this offseason, he would have added Chriss to the Summer League roster to continue to develop his game in a competitive environment. Who too wouldn’t like to see how Chriss would work alongside Deandre Ayton and let the two of them work out quirks in how the two might play with each other, especially if the Suns are setting up to be more competitive this coming season anyway?
And as Bender is showing with his poor and inconsistent Las Vegas play, if Chriss’ game hasn’t grown at all since the end of the season (which was already a disappointment as it is), then the chances of a team asking (or accepting) a trade that involves him diminishes.
There is no doubt that many Suns fans were disappointed that Marquese Chriss wasn’t added to the Summer League roster. Allowing him to practice under new head coach Igor Kokoskov, compete against other NBA talent – many of whom are lesser experienced than he and arguably less talented – while playing with Deandre Ayton, would seemingly have been a benefit to all involved.
With Chriss out though, if McDonough wants to make a move, general managers around the league can only go off of what they saw last season and what they have heard of him this offseason, presumably keeping a more open mind about his growth and talent, potentially adding trade value, which would only work to the Phoenix Suns’ advantage.