There was a flurry of moves made by the Phoenix Suns late in the season, and while a big one didn’t hit a home run, the little ones killed the club.
Trading for Kevin Durant may be bad for Phoenix, but it was the right move at the time. However, the acquisitions in and around the Durant deal left Phoenix lopsided and shorthanded, showing in another unceremonious playoff exit.
The trade that should have never been
The same day the Suns traded for KD, James Jones made another move, which looked more about cost-cutting than team construction, when Dario Saric was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Darius Bazley.
Saric is an experienced big man who plays tough defense and can stretch the floor with the three. Bazley played less than 1 hour of basketball in three months with the team. I am not saying Saric would have been the player to stop Jokic, but he would have provided an additional big body for the rotation lacking in depth. Saric didn’t do much for OKC in the playoffs, but at least he played; Bazley didn’t appear in the post-season for the Suns, and he, like another addition, hurt the team.
The Suns’ point guard plight a problem of their own making
As the regular season was winding down and the Suns were starting to struggle and look stagnant on offense, we asked about the disappearance of one of the regular season’s bright spots, Saban Lee.
Lee was signed over the winter when Paul and Payne were injured to add depth at point guard with a 10-day contract. A couple of 10-day contracts later, he was on a two-way deal, and Dwayne Washington Jr. was out of Phoenix.
As the season wore on and injuries persisted, Lee’s minutes continued. However, as the regular season ended and both Paul and Payne got ‘healthy,’ Lee disappeared, making only a couple of appearances toward the of the season.
As a two-way player, Phoenix would have had to sign Lee to a rest-of-season contract to have been playoff eligible. Instead. the Suns gave a rest-of-season contract to Ish Wainright – who likely earned it – and free agent Terrence Ross, who did not.
Whether or not the Suns could have used another point guard was obvious, especially one who could push the tempo and get to the free-throw line. Thus instead of having a third point guard to back up two players who missed a combined 57 games, we had Ross and Wainright, who combined for 75 minutes and 25 points.
Of course, Paul and Payne only missed 7 of 10 games in the postseason, so the impact of not having a third point guard was negligible.
Like Saric, Lee would not have changed the outcome of the series. however, the two combined, providing quality minutes from a bench that seriously lacked it, would have helped. Ultimately, the trade for Durant will define this season, and likely the next couple; however, a couple of bad decisions on some minor moves had a major impact on the team’s ability to compete. We hope that new ownership is learning some lessons about putting a championship team together.