The Phoenix Suns may have slipped to 2-3 on the still young season, but there is no reason to hit the panic button yet. The organization have only gotten two games out of Devin Booker, while Bradley Beal is yet to play at all in the regular season through injury.
Kevin Durant has been immense, while many of the role players the franchise signed have performed exactly how it was hoped that they would. Back-to-back loses to the San Antonio Spurs are far from ideal, but it could have all been so much different in at least one of those games.
There may have been a time when the Suns could have pursued James Harden this offseason, but his recent comments should make them happy they didn’t.
Harden finally got his way in landing with the L.A. Clippers from the Philadelphia 76ers earlier in the week – the late night nature of the move catching many off guard. 76ers General Manager Daryl Morey finally having enough with Harden’s antics, while also likely believing Tyrese Maxey can be an All-Star as soon as this season.
Harden’s introductory press conference with the Clippers was… about as normal as you would expect media availability with Harden to be. After all, this was the third time he had forced his way out of a city, with the Houston Rockets, Brooklyn Nets and 76ers having been burnt in the past. You would think then that Harden wouldn’t want to rock the boat in L.A. You would be wrong.
Saying you are not a system player when playing with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Russell Westbrook and even Terrance Mann is problematic. The Clippers don’t need Harden to be a system anymore, he was that with the Rockets but he is now 34-years-old and amazing as he was back then, it did not lead to a championship.
What the Clippers instead need Harden to be is the player who led the league in assists last season, and who can toggle between leading man if Leonard and George are out, and playmaker if the Clippers are at full strength. So that comment may not have endeared him to Clippers fans, and it should make Suns fans even more grateful they opted for Beal instead.
Once Beal joins Booker and Durant on the court, that “Big 3” is going to fit a lot better than the collection of talent the Clippers have put together. Harden, George and Leonard all need a lot of the ball, while the mini-rebirth of Russell is sure to take a hit now that Harden has joined. A player he couldn’t work with in the past.
With the Suns, the hierarchy is a lot more clearly defined. Booker is the point guard, Durant is the player who will probably have the ball in his hands late in games, and Beal is going to fill in as the third option around both of those guys. They all know this, and said as much during the Suns’ media day before the season.
The Suns are still better than the Clippers after the Harden trade, and not going after Harden seriously during the summer may still be the best piece of business owner Mat Ishbia has done since buying the franchise. For all of the good he can do on the court – during the regular season at least – these comments were a timely reminder of the baggage that comes with that talent.
Instead, the Suns have a player in Beal who is younger and is a better fit and who will at least try and play some sort of defense when he gets back out there. As somebody who has scored over 30 points per game in two seasons in the past, he will also give their offensive schemes some jolt in ways that the static Harden never would have.
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