It’s time for another open letter to Phoenix Suns owner Robert “Bob” Sarver. The rest of you are welcome to listen in, but really we just need an audience of one.
Bob, I’m sure you remember the original Jungle Book. You know the old animated one? There’s a classic scene in there where the buzzards sit around asking each other what they want to do. If you haven’t seen it lately, you just give it a watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGTWmrnPdgk
It’s hard to imagine that the scene in the Phoenix Suns’ administrative offices looks much different.
If you look at the decisions made over the last 12 months it seems pretty clear: there’s no plan from management. And this isn’t a new problem, this is THE problem your franchise has had for years.
When the 2018 NBA draft came, it should have been obvious that the team needed to draft Luka Doncic. Not because anyone was a wizard at player evaluation or even because anyone would have justifiably thought Luka was a better player than DeAndre Ayton. But because the facts on the ground made the compelling case all by themselves.
It was and is far easier to find an above average center than it was to find an above average guard. There were tons of centers on the trade blocks and more that were easily available in free agency. Drafting Ayton boxed you into having to sign a sub-par guard who ended up being Ricky Rubio, and you missed out on centers you could have had, like since traded Clint Capela.
This is the difference between winning franchises and losing ones.
The winning ones; they war game.
They look at when the best players are going to become available and they build their rosters and salary caps in ways that allow them to maximize their chance to leap their way into contention with a big stroke of luck or two.
The ultimate example of this in action is Miami. They always have a plan. And that plan is so crisp it is blatantly evident to all of us.
They knew they wanted to go for the big three in 2010 and they cleared their entire roster to give it a go…and by a miracle, it worked.
They just did it again. They had a trade agreed to for Danilo Gallinari from the Thunder. Someone who would clearly make their team significantly better and might even put them into the NBA finals this year. The Heat declined to go through with the deal. Why? Because Danilo wanted a contract extension past the 2021 season. What’s significant about that? It’s when all the big guns become unrestricted free agents:
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Anthony Davis
- Kawhi Leonard
- Paul George
- Rudy Gobert
- Victor Oladipo
Now, there’s no promise that Miami is going to land a big fish in free agency, but they’re prepared to make a compelling offer.
Competitive team, winning culture, great location, no income tax, and a max contract.
They’ll have two All-Stars, a suite of complementary role players and max money.
Compare that to the Suns whose current cap structure is set up to make a max offer next year when they’ll be one of four teams with any significant cap room.
Who can the Suns pick between? Well it’s not great:
- Andre Drummond
- Hassan Whiteside
- Gordon Hayward
- DeMar DeRozan
- Otto Porter Jr.
Now don’t get me wrong, these are fine players, but if you have the chance to structure your opportunities to maximize money to chase the first list or the second, it’s pretty obvious where you the plan should be.
When that 2021 list is open the team will likely be capped out between Ayton’s extension, and a likely Oubre contract.
Which tells you that the team you’ve got, is basically the team you’re going to see for the next 3-5 years unless James Jones is willing trade away the farm.
The plan, if there is a plan at all, is clearly to just develop the team that’s here and hope it works.
Look, I get it if you think Devin Booker and Ayton are going to grow into All-NBA team players together.
I don’t believe it, but it’s not the dumbest theory in the history of the franchise.
If that’s the plan then you have to fit the other pieces around it.
Let’s take Rubio as a prime example of where no planning is killing your team. No one forced you to sign Rubio and we all know he wasn’t going to put the team over the top. If you’re going to go get Rubio as a stop gap to a better player that’s fine, but you have to actually target the better player.
No one forced you into a three-year deal. Had you made it a two-year deal you’d have had a pathway to clear max money in 2021 where your point guard options include:
- Chris Paul
- Mike Conley
- Kyle Lowry
- Jrue Holiday
- Dennis Shroder
- Patty Mills
- Spencer Dimwiddie
- Markelle Fultz
- Lonzo Ball
- De’Aron Fox
By locking him into a three-year deal you enter 2022 with no money and a class that is headlined by John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving.
Why would you choose to do that!? And…you gave away T.J. Warren for the privilege of boxing yourself into permanent mediocrity at that position.
Can you see where I’m starting to think the goats in the office have been replaced by the buzzards?
And that’s just one example.
We can go through Dario Saric, Aron Baynes, Tyler Johnson, and Frank Kaminsky with equal frustration.
With the Warriors, the Heat, the Thunder, and the other premier teams in the NBA, the plan is so clear we can all see it.
They might swing and miss, but no one is confused at the path they’re pursuing. There’s no secret sauce to greatness, just a lot of legwork, preparation, and persuasion.
The Phoenix Suns don’t have it.
So listen, I know everyone wants you to sell the team. I get why you don’t want to do that and I wouldn’t either.
But if you’re going to keep the team, for the love of God, give it a vision.
It’s a $2 billion dollar business. It should be abundantly clear what you are trying to do.
Hey, I’ll volunteer my time to help you get a plan. I promise there’s a thousand fans who would help you tomorrow. You can afford to hire the top talent that makes us all look silly. Don’t care how you do it, we just need it done so this miserable era can finally reach an ignominious end.