Blow for Suns as key role players leave Valley for Eastern contender

The Phoenix Suns will be without the services of one of their key role players from last season after they opted to join the Philadelphia 76ers in free agency.
Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks
Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks / Ron Jenkins/GettyImages

If the Phoenix Suns are going to meaningfully improve their roster this offseason, then they are going to have to do it the hard way. Armed with only the veteran's minimum to achieve this, the organization surprised many by taking the NBA Draft far more seriously than in years past.

They added three young players in this way, and followed that up with the addition of Mason Plumlee in the early hours of free agency. A nice get for $2.4 million for one season, and a quick and nice replacement for the recently departed Drew Eubanks.

It was never going to go all the way of the Suns though, and key role player Eric Gordon is on his way out of Phoenix to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The writing already appeared to be on the wall with this one, but it was still a blow to see it actually happen so soon into free agency. Gordon declining his player option in the lead up to the summer bonanza of player movement, in favor of testing the open market.

While he wasn't the only player from last season to do this - Eubanks was among the players who opted out of the final year of their deals - Gordon's potential departure was always going to be the one that hurt the most. The 35-year-old surprisingly averaging the fifth most minutes on the roster during the regular season (27.8), and starting 24-of-68 games played).

Even worse for the organization, Gordon was one of the few individuals who covered himself in any sort of glory during the playoff beatdown at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves. His minutes increased slightly to 29.5 per game, and he shot 41.2 percent from deep on just over four attempts each night.

That's the sort of output the Suns expected from Grayson Allen - who instead shot 20 percent on 2.5 attempts when they needed him most - with Gordon stepping in and doing an admirable job of spreading the floor. He also proved he could defend bigger opponents right across the court, a skill that Allen, as well as many others on this roster, also lacks although not for the want of trying.

This news should come as no surprise to fans though - as if you were paying attention last season - then you'll know that Gordon was unhappy with his role in The Valley. That seemed to dissipate as the season wore on, but clearly it was a feeling that was always bubbling under the surface for the player. It is unclear just how much different his role can and will be with the 76ers though.

dark. Next. Kevin Durant for Evan Mobley, who says no?. Kevin Durant for Evan Mobley, who says no?

Barring some sort of unforseen trade - unlikely given the Suns are in the second apron - the organization are going to have to go back to the well with the veteran's miniumum to try and convince more players to join. Plumlee was a nice start and Bol Bol coming back makes sense for both sides, but they need an actual contributor who can play on the wing and soak up regular season minutes.

Which is why the departure of Gordon is going to sting, at least until an adequate replacement comes through the door. He showed up in the playoffs when many did not, and he also covered for Bradley Beal early in the season when he was out through injury. The 76ers are building something over there, and they've taken an underrated and important part of the Suns' roster in doing so.