Welcome to the Solar Panel. A gathering of some of the most unique minds discussing topics from around Planet Orange (if that’s still a thing). These media members and super fans will breakdown the hottest topics about the Phoenix Suns. Here’s this edition’s panelists.
Bob Young: Suns Beat Writer Emeritus, Arizona Republic
Josh Eberley: Writer for the NBA’s Hoop Magazine
Zach Clark: Host of the Zach Clark Show on ESPN Tucson
Greg Esposito: Suns Columnist for Sports360AZ and Former Suns Postgame Radio Host
1) In your mind, is Eric Bledsoe a star despite being on a bad team or looking like he’s a star because he’s on a bad team?
Bob Young: A star makes his team better, and he hasn’t done that well enough yet. His assist numbers are low and assist-to-turnover ratio is dismal for a starting playmaker. Is it him, or the team? It’s both. I’m not sure that he has shown that he can be a franchise player, but I think he can still be an All-Star at some point. I wouldn’t have said that at the start of the season.
Josh Eberley: Star is a broad term. He’s not a superstar, he’s not an All-Star, but he’s not far off from that caliber of player. I honestly don’t think the teams play matters, it’s the time and opportunity that has given him shine in Phoenix. People were equally excited about him when the Slash Brothers were relevant and when he has been healthy he’s been in the All-Star conversation.
Zach Clark: Star is a broad term. He’s not a superstar, he’s not an All-Star, but he’s not far off from that caliber of player. I honestly don’t think the teams play matters, it’s the time and opportunity that has given him shine in Phoenix. People were equally excited about him when the Slash Brothers were relevant and when he has been healthy he’s been in the All-Star conversation.
Greg Esposito: I’ve written it here before. Eric Bledsoe is the star from a lost era in Suns basketball. In any other era the kinds of stats he’s putting up and the things he’s done he’d be a fan favorite. The fact that he took some bad advice — we’re talking deciding to make A Dog’s Purpose level bad advice — from an agent and his name isn’t of Slovenia descent damaged his cred with fans. If it weren’t for injuries, he’d have already been an All-Star.
2)What move do the Phoenix Suns need to make before the trade deadline?
BY: I found the Ronnie Price move interesting. They don’t need him unless they might make a trade. So that tells me they’re at least shopping Brandon Knight. So, Price signs two 10-day contracts. If they trade Knight, he steps into the primary backup role at point and signs for the remainder of the season. If there is no deal, he slides into a coaching or front office role. What can they get for Knight? Well, hopefully not another point guard. And giving up veterans for more draft picks isn’t always the best plan, either. All of those young guys on the roster will have to be paid at some point if they develop. There has to be a balance or a team ends up ln the situation Oklahoma City was in with four young stars at once.
JE: I don’t think the Suns need to do anything, they aren’t going to the playoffs, and a lot of their youth is still in the process of being evaluated. I could see Phoenix moving Brandon Knight or Tyson Chandler to a contender for additional picks or youngins but the rotation is already pretty tight. I think the Suns, not unlike the Celtics, and the Rockets before them need to hold onto their chips until the right moment.
ZC: Eric Bledsoe brings the most value, but will somebody be willing to take on his contract and give the Suns a first round pick? PJ Tucker has a penthouse on the trading block (especially in a contract year) so he’s fair game. I don’t see the Suns with a ton of leverage. They have a lot of young talent and they certainly have needs but I don’t see them making huge strides at the deadline.
Espo: As a new father I’m trying to wrap my mind around this new math. From what I understand, addition by subtraction is a thing. It’s also what the Suns front office must do before the deadline. Right now the only thing Brandon Knight seems to be good for is keeping Tyler Ulis off the court. With the second worst record in the NBA, the rest of this season should be as much about teachable moments and learning lessons than anything. Ulis won’t see the court with Knight getting minutes. It’s time to admit that the deal acquiring Knight and re-signing him was a miscalculation in the rebuilding plan and cut bait. Get whatever you can in return.
3) What’s the most likely scenario for the Phoenix Suns to turn it around, drafting a star or trading for one?
BY: Trade. The problem with the draft is that there are usually only a few players who can really change a team’s fortunes immediately, and you have to be right at the top to get them. There are exceptions, but not many. And if a team misses on a player high in the draft, it can set the team back for years. It takes creativity to put together mufti-team deals, which are usually required to trade for a major piece. I never felt the Suns tried hard enough to go after James Harden when he was available. Calling and asking “Is there anything we have that you want” isn’t going to get it done. If you don’t have the pieces, find other trade partners.
JE: Drafting one. This is supposed to be a very good draft and once again the Suns will draft high in the lottery. It’s not easy to trade for a superstar but with the Suns consistently getting their pick at the top of the draft, they are bound to hit eventually –right? Even the Sacramento Kings landed DeMarcus Cousins.
ZC: I am always a fan of drafting good young talent and developing it. Especially when you have access to such high draft picks as the Suns have had and will have. The caveat is, do you trust Suns management to not only make the right choice but to be able to properly develop talent? The problem becomes simplified, obviously, if the Suns were to win the lottery.
Espo: I’m going to put on the chaps, saddle up and ride the fence like Major “King” Kong rode the atomic bomb in Dr. Strangelove. The Suns most likely scenario to turn things around and get back to the franchise’s historically winning ways is to get a top 3 draft pick and leverage that and other assets to land a star player. Even the No. 1 overall pick is a 50-50 proposition at best. You use the lore of that pick to land the player who can turn it all around.
4) Derrick Jones Jr. or Marquese Chriss, which Phoenix Sun would you rather see in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest?
BY: Derrick Jones, for sure. There aren’t enough “gliders” in the dunk contest anymore — think Jordan’s Jump Man logo. What Jones does on the way to the rim is just as entertaining as throwing it down hard. Reminds me of something a coach at Northern Arizona once said about one of his players. “The anticipation is sometimes greater than the act itself.” At least, I think he was talking about basketball…
JE: Derrick Jones Jr.. He’s just a phenomenal athlete and this is undoubtedly his best basketball skill. Chriss, who has a shot to be a real nice player can throw it down in game but I haven’t seen enough from his as a solo artist to warrant him going up against favorite Aaron Gordon.
ZC: This really isn’t fair. It’s horrible to have to eliminate one of these guys. As I was going back through to make sure I had seen all of the relevant dunks, I saw Marquese Chriss described as ‘violent’. And, that’s exactly what he is. There isn’t a rim that doesn’t fear Chriss.
Espo: If we can’t get Chriss vs. Jones as an after practice free for all dunk contest with the winner going to All-Star Saturday Night, then I’ll have to go with Derrick Jones Jr. The irony is, the most exciting Sun hasn’t even played in Phoenix most of this season, 3 minutes to be accurate. He was raining down pain on rims and making posters of opponents for the Northern Arizona Suns. He is Gerald Green 2.0. The kind of guy built to participate in and win dunk contests. I just hope we get to see him involve his teammates Devin Booker and Chriss in at least one dunk on his way to beating Aaron Gordon as they’ll be there for the Rising Stars game.
OT: Oh, you thought this would be over after four quarters? Nope. We’ve got overtime. Purple or orange?
BY: Well, considering the Suns have made the playoffs twice since 2007, when the whole “Planet Orange” thing started, I’ll stick with the old-school “Purple Gang.” I think they went to the postseason 27 times with that, including twice to the NBA Finals.
JE: Orange, orange forever.
ZC: Purple. It’s the color of royalty. Plus, I am a ginger, so I clash with orange.
Espo: Suns have always had a purple