As a new father I’m spending many a late night taking care of my newborn daughter. When I’m not watching Phoenix Suns games, to kill the time I’ve found myself watching a lot of 1990s sitcoms, shocker, I know. While watching shows like Seinfeld and Fresh Prince of Bel Air I realized the makeup of the casts are a lot like the makeup of a good NBA team.
Take Seinfeld for example. George, Kramer, Elaine and, yes, even Newman are classic television characters. That said, without Jerry, it’s a show that lasts a season or two and disappears into obscurity. The same can be said of Fresh Prince. We all love Carlton, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Uncle Phil but they wouldn’t be remember as all-time greats without Will Smith. That’s not to say they weren’t entertaining and didn’t provide all-time great moments but, to get to the next level, they needed a star and the star needed them.
So how does this all tie to the Suns? It has everything to do with building the next great team in Phoenix. While I love Devin Booker, the reality is he’s the Kramer of the Suns long term equation. Immensely entertaining, will have some of the more memorable moments but without a star he’ll never reach the level he has the potential to. (And, ironically enough, his bobblehead the Suns gave away looked almost identical to Kramer too.) The same can be said for T.J. Warren, Alex Len and even, as much as it pains me to say, Eric Bledsoe.
Could Marquese Chriss or Dragan Bender blossom into that guy in the long run? Sure, surprises can happen. Just ask Kelsey Grammer who turned a bit part on Cheers into a long run as Fraiser in his own show. That’s the exception and not the rule though.
So the question becomes, how do the Suns get the next great star? In the NBA there really are two paths for a mid-market team like the Suns to achieve this. You either hit the jackpot in the draft lottery or you trade for the next star who’s ready to jump ship and find greener pastures elsewhere.
Based on the standings, Phoenix is well on it’s way to having a great chance in the lottery. The issue there is, for every LeBron James and Kevin Durant there’s a Anthony Bennett and Kwame Brown. There is an inherent risk in it and, the way the Suns luck has gone since 1969, is that really a dice you want to roll?
The best path, and the one GM Ryan McDonough has seemed to be walking during his time in Phoenix, is accumulate enough quality young players and draft picks to be in a position to entice a team needing to rebuild or move on from their star. You get proven talent in exchange for guys and picks that provide a new fan base with the “hope” that things get better. (Sound familiar fellow Suns fans? We’ve been feeding of a steady diet of that for years.)
In order to get Devin Booker or (insert any young Sun that you’re in love with here) his Jerry or Will, the Suns are going to have to take a chance. Would you rather that chance be in their hands in the form of a trade or with fate and ping pong balls? You can put me squarely in the trade camp and it’s not even close.