James Jones must be active to bolster team

Phoenix Suns (Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns (Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports) /

When things start to look up for the Suns’ injury woes, their bad luck strikes again. Despite Cam Johnson and Chris Paul making long-awaited returns to the team last week, two more Suns found themselves unavailable for the subsequent games.

Deandre Ayton and Landry Shamet have been inactive since picking up a bug and an injury. They join a seemingly ever-replenishing list of Suns that has included stars and role players who have missed time this year.

Despite this tidal wave of injuries, general manager James Jones has been incredibly quiet to this point of the season. Quite frankly, it’s a bit stunning that he hasn’t been more proactive in adding to the roster as the injuries have piled up, but it’s never too late, and now is as good a time as ever.

The Suns’ ability to improve the team is massively hampered because they’ll need current owner Robert Sarver to approve any trades that bring in a salary above league average. Since the team’s sale reportedly won’t be finalized until right before the trade deadline, it limits Jones on that front, but there are still other avenues to reinforce the team.

One of those avenues comes in the form of 10-day contracts. Jones has dabbled in that recently, signing Saban Lee to a 10-day, but he must continue to explore that market. Lee has already seen a decent-sized role for the Suns averaging 20 minutes per game, and with the Suns’ continuous injury issues, there’s still room for more players.

Kemba Walker just had a successful stint this season with the Mavericks and is now available. Former Sun Eflrid Payton is familiar with the Suns’ system and players and could provide a steadying force. Both are part of a long list of experienced NBA players waiting to get back in the league.

With so many guard injuries, Monty Williams has had to play a lot of players out of their depth this season, and the Suns’ offense has suffered for it. There’s no reason not to take advantage of this system designed to help teams in the Suns’ situation, and Jones must continue to do so. Lee has proven how invaluable a resource ten days are.

One shoe that everyone is still waiting to drop is the eventual trade of Jae Crowder. Jones has held onto Crowder despite the Suns’ mounting injuries, but it might be time to finally move him.

At the beginning of the season, there was hope that Crowder and his contract could be used as a minor part in a trade to acquire a big-time player, but with the aforementioned need for Sarver’s approval, a trade of that nature does not seem likely. Crowder is in the last year of his deal, so it’s risky to wait for the sale of the team to go through to trade him. If the deal is delayed a little bit, the Suns will lose that opportunity.

Luckily for the Suns, there are still a lot of good players making less than the league average. Players like Kenyon Martin Jr. and Jalen McDaniels, who have been linked to the Suns, are good rotation players and would play a role on the team even when everyone is healthy.

The Heat have been rumored to be interested in Crowder for a while, and a player like Caleb Martin does many of the same things that made Crowder so valuable. The Suns have gotten nothing out of Crowder’s roster spot this year. It’s way past due for that to change.

James Jones has always preached organizational continuity. I think that’s a fine philosophy when dealing with your core players, but when your team is ravaged by injury, it’s not a bad thing to bring in outside players. He’s also preached patience, which is an excellent way to operate, but sometimes you have to get aggressive. Jones can’t stand idly by anymore. He must step outside of his comfort zone at some point soon to help the team.

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