The Phoenix Suns made their third coaching related move of the summer on Monday, with the news that they had lured Utah Jazz associate GM David Fizdale to the desert to become an assistant coach. This following the hiring of Frank Vogel as head coach, and the signing of assistant Kevin Young to remain with the organization as their number two.
The recommitment to Young was splashy, and at $2 million per season makes him the highest paid assistant in the league. The Suns know what they’re doing with Young, and have now ensured their plan B is going nowhere if the Vogel hire doesn’t work out. Fizdale too was brought in having been given a strong financial package to walk away from the Jazz.
But what does owner Mat Ishbia splashing the cash on his coaching staff tell us about the Suns, and how they are going to approach trying to win a title with this group?
It is extremely encouraging news for fans, who for the longest time watched as former owner Robert Sarver cut corners financially when the team was flirting with being in a position to win it all. Ishbia has said all of the right things since taking over, but he is now putting his money where his mouth is.
The plays to get Vogel, keep Young and now add Fizdale, who was alongside Vogel with the Los Angeles Lakers and whom he has won a championship with, show a level of aggression that is refreshing for the organization. To wrap this business up while the NBA Finals are still taking place, means the Suns are not hanging about in their quest to go all in to win a championship.
Ishbia may also be thinking outside the box a little too, because there is no financial limit it place to stop him from getting the people he deems will help the Suns get over the hump. The cap sheet for the roster itself does not make for pretty reading, and with four players making over $30 million next season, the front office will have to get creative in how they make the team better.
But the coaching end of things is already sown up nicely, and Ishbia didn’t mind spending his money to ensure a top defensive head coach in Vogel was joined by somebody he has seen it all with in Fizdale. Add the offensively intelligent Young to the mix, who comes with a personal endorsement by superstar Devin Booker, and the Suns have built a “big three” of coaches.
It is rare that ownership takes that much of an interest in getting the right people in on the sidelines so soon after buying a team, and it is encouraging that Ishbia has had the foresight to do so. He’s already made the splashy move in trading for Kevin Durant, and there is little glamour in paying over the odds for the individuals who stand to the side with clipboards in hand.
But could this mean that Ishbia won’t mind spending even more money this summer, to actually surround the star players the Suns have with the kind of depth needed to win a championship? If the Fizdale and Young deals are any indication, then that is a resounding yes, which is crucial at a time when the new CBA will enforce even harsher penalties on teams who spend over the cap.
We have seen the Golden State Warriors go miles into the luxury tax in the past to make sure they could not only keep Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, but surround them with the players to win. That frivolous spending will come back to haunt them this year, and former President and GM Bob Myers has already skipped town.
But the four titles they won in the process were worth it, and Suns fans would gladly pay the piper in future if it meant they could win even one championship with this group. Only it is not the fans who have to balance the books and reach deep into their own pockets, it is Ishbia. So watching him spend his own money at the rate he has shows us he is capable of continuing to do so.
The Suns have to walk a fine line here, as the new, harsher penalties of the CBA could impact draft picks in future. But there is a first apron that would hit Ishbia’s pocket before anybody else, and if he can live with that, and it looks like he can, then the Suns could be in a great position to not even have to rely on their midlevel exception (another casualty of spending too much) to get better.
All of a sudden they don’t need to talk themselves into another go around the board with Jae Crowder, and could instead get into the mix for a Gabe Vincent type who would be a key part of their rotation right away. These are the margins between going on a deep playoff run, and actually winning the whole thing.
Perhaps this is reading too much into the acquisition of Fizdale. Really getting him alone to pair with Vogel and Young is a fantastic start to the offseason for the Suns. But that level of aggression this early in the summer, to add two quality coaches and keep their own best in house guy, is likely to lead to a similar attitude towards the roster itself.