Philadelphia is where the Phoenix Suns want to be

Phoenix Suns Philadelphia 76ers T.J. Warren Ben Simmons (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Philadelphia 76ers T.J. Warren Ben Simmons (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers did this season what Ryan McDonough said he wanted to do every year of his tenure as General Manager of the Phoenix Suns. They took their acquired assets, and traded for a star.

Whether intentionally or not, the Phoenix Suns have been in full-on tank mode for the better part of the last four seasons. Falling in the standings and rising in the lottery odds, each losing season has brought hope that the draft will bring the next piece to the championship puzzle the franchise and it’s fans have long been praying for.

Former General Manager Ryan McDonough too stated time and again that he intended on using his considerable wealth of assets to put together a package of young pieces and future picks necessary to acquire a star to place next to the accumulated young players that he has already drafted.

The idea was that with a young core of two or three players, additional players would be swapped for a disgruntled star elsewhere while the roster would be filled out through free agency with additional veteran role-players completing a now competitive roster.

Yet, aside from high draft picks, none of the rest of that has ever happened.

While Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, and Deandre Ayton were all hits in the draft, only Ayton was selected top-five with both Booker and Warren selected 13th and 14th respectively.

Alex Len, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, and Josh Jackson were all taken within the top-ten of their drafts, each adding to the increasingly higher expectations for the roster, but none (as of yet), actually playing at a level that breeds confidence in the future of the franchise.

McDonough too was never able to convince either himself, owner Robert Sarver, or the general managers of other teams, that a worthy package could be put together to bring in that long desired star, the way that the Boston Celtics were with Kyrie Irving, the Oklahoma City Thunder were with Paul George, and the Minnesota Timberwolves and now Philadelphia 76ers were with Jimmy Butler.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

Phoenix’s recent free agency claim to fame was $15 million for Trevor Ariza, a player who likely won’t even be with the team come Christmas.

The team that has succeed with all of this is the Philadelphia 76ers, the franchise whom Suns fans have long looked at as the blue print for what McDonough attempted to begin to build before his unexpected firing.

Fascinatingly enough, comparisons between the two franchise’s are abound:

While it took many years (and many worse years than Suns fans have even had to endure), the Sixers were able to acquire their core pieces through the draft that they will build around for the next decade.

While not direct comparisons, the acquisitions of stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, are similar core pieces of outside/inside play that Suns fans can look at as hope that their own pairing of Booker and Ayton can work out.

The two teams too have other top draft picks who at one point were expected to be solid starters but either never materialized or have yet shown their star potential.

Each team also hit on unsung heroes Dario Saric and T.J. Warren, Warren still with Phoenix while Saric being one of the key pieces in the Jimmy Butler trade.

While the Phoenix Suns whiffed on Alex Len, Dragan Bender, and Marquese Chriss, the Sixers also whiffed on Nerleans Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and while he was decent initially, Michael Carter-Williams never really panned out for them either.

Then each team has a second-year player that was expected to be a star immediately upon entering the league, but for one reason or another just hasn’t shown that star-level skill-set to guarantee themselves a position on their respective roster beyond this season (and who might actually be traded for  one another) in Markelle Fultz and Josh Jackson.

Where the Sixers have succeeded and the Suns have failed though is how they’ve taken their pieces and put together an actually winning team.

When Philadelphia decided their tank was done (prior to the 2017-18 season), their tank was done.  Philly went from a bottom-feeder of the Eastern Conference to a 52-win playoff team who broke into the Semifinals in their first postseason run.

The Phoenix Suns, on the other hand, have an owner who prior to 2017-18 said that his expectation of that particular roster was that it was a playoff one, and who prior to the start of this season stated, via his former general manager, the the tank was over.

Phoenix is 24-73 over since Sarver’s first statement.

Obviously the Suns are in the far more difficult Western Conference, but they haven’t even shown to be relatively competitive with even the mediocre teams of the league, and their 6-27 record against the lowly Eastern Conference over that stretch is evidence of such.

Are the Suns on the climb though?


Obviously they can emulate another franchise all they want, but a seemingly infinite number of variables have thrown Phoenix for a loop and while fans wish that the grouping of Booker, Ayton, Warren, and Jackson are enough to be a 40+ win team with playoff aspirations, it obviously has not been as successful a group as the Sixers have been since the start of the 2017-18 season as of yet.

Next. No Trevor Ariza means that it is Dragan Bender's time. dark

With the recent news that the Washington Wizards are now willing to take offers for and potentially trade John Wall, eventually a star player, like Butler, will become available for the Suns to make a run at via trade.

One never knows too if a star free agent would be willing to pick Phoenix over others this summer as well (Kevin Durant, anyone?) who would save Phoenix from needing to trade any of their young core to improve the roster as a whole.

All that said, the Philadelphia 76ers are where the Phoenix Suns want to be, and soon, and are the perfect template for Robert Sarver and James Jones to follow.

If things do work out in their favor and Phoenix does find that star trade piece that the Sixers found in Butler, this comparison might be more than a hopeful one by a single fanbase, but rather something that is broken down in national conversations for many years to come.