Outspoken NBA personality spells out who is to blame for Suns' season

The Phoenix Suns failed to live up to expectations this season, and one prominent NBA media personality is here to tell you why exactly that is.

Phoenix Suns v Houston Rockets
Phoenix Suns v Houston Rockets / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

The Phoenix Suns have failed to live up to expectations this season, and there have been several reasons why that has been the case. Injury to Bradley Beal for large portions was a bad start, while the turnover issues that have hampered the team all season have led to some ugly moments on the court.

One player we have lobbied to not get any blame for how this season has unfolded has been superstar Devin Booker. All he ever did was show up to play with the teammates he has been surrounded with, while also learning to play the point guard position more than he ever has in the past.

Smith was recently on First Take to talk about the Sums, and how he expected much more from them this season. The main source of his frustration at a roster with three multiple time All-Stars playing together each night? Current head coach Frank Vogel, and the perceived lack of defensive identity he has created, which Smith thinks has hurt the Suns greatly this season.

"There's a couple of people to point the finger at, first of all I'm going to look at Frank Vogel because Tim Legler, you know this, in the fourth-quarter they have been highly suspect, particularly defensively. We can't ignore that."

Stephen A. Smith on Frank Vogel

Smith wasn't finished with Vogel yet though, and he went on to spell out the problem with this Suns team defensively. One which plenty of fans in The Valley are in complete agreement with, having sat through nearly a full season of bad turnovers, ugly losses and a general feeling of malaise, and not the urgency required to try and make the playoffs.

"If you're Frank Vogel you got to figure things out defensively. That's the reason you're a head coach in the NBA. You're not the head coach because of your offensive brilliance as a mastermind on the offensive side of the ball. You're there because of what you did in Indiana defensively. What you did in Los Angeles defensively. What the hell is going on with the Phoenix Suns? So we got to look at it from that perspective"

Stephen A. Smith on Frank Vogel

On one hand you might think that criticism is unfair. After all, despite having a cobbled together roster of players on veteran minimum deals and an over-reliance on center Jusuf Nurkic, the Suns sit 13th in defensive rating this season, at 114.5. Is it fair to expect more of a Vogel led team? Absolutely, but it is not like it has been dreadful on that end, and that's with Durant having a great defensive season too.

Only if you look at the last 15 games - when the Suns were fighting for their playoff lives - does it become clear that Smith has a point. Despite being mostly healthy, the Suns rank 23rd (115.3) in that timeframe. An unacceptable place to be, and they are in danger of falling even lower given they have the hardest remaining schedule left in the league.

We recently posed the question if the Suns would have been better keeping former head coach Monty Williams for this season, and the honest answer is probably not. But that doesn't mean coach Vogel hasn't underwhelmed, although lead assistant Kevin Young and David Fizdale deserve some of the blame as well.

Smith then turned his attention to the Suns' "Big 3", and he had a very clear message for how they have performed so far this season, saying;

"I'm looking at Beal, Booker and KD together, when they played in games together their record is 21-13. I'm sorry, I expected better than that. All three of y'all in the lineup, what's 21-13? I mean damn, just eight games above .500, you can't do better than that?"

Stephen A. Smith on Devin Booker

Next. 4 way too early free agency targets for the Suns this summer. 4 way too early free agency targets for the Suns this summer. dark

Sadly Smith has a point with that as well, as there aren't many better trios in the league today. The the NBA has seemingly switched to having two stars - as well as a deeper bench - should be no excuse. Booker and Durant are two of the top 12 players in the league, and Beal is among the best third options to have.

But with the Suns having lost three times this season to the San Antonio Spurs, this criticism is all valid and fair. The coaching on the defensive end hasn't been up to the standard expected, and neither has the play of their three best players when out on the court together. When this season is finally in the books, we'll look back in complete agreement with Smith on this.