Back in 2001, MVP Allen Iverson carried an undermanned Sixers to the NBA Finals, to face one the NBA’s greatest dynasties of all time…the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite being one of the most gifted, and best pound for pound players of all time, the Sixers seemed content to hope that the magic of AI could win them a title.
Fast forward 6 years, and a young Lebron James is set to take on the San Antonio Spurs, another legendary dynasty. With Zydrunas Ilgauskas as the Cavaliers next best player, Cleveland remained as a team carried by one superstar.
Fast forward 11 more years, and the Sacramento Kings have traded away All-Star centre Demarcus Cousins after yet another losing season.
What do these three teams all have in common? They failed to supply their star with the right pieces to win a chip. And now, the Phoenix Suns are looking at doing the exact same thing.
It all starts with Devin Booker. Even before his 70 point outburst against the Celtics last year, Booker was a star in the making. Despite being an underrated college player coming off the bench, the Suns took a chance and drafter him 13th…and boy was that a risk that paid off.
Averaging 13.8 points, Booker saw his incredible rookie season be rewarded with an All-First Rookie team selection. From there, his star grew, and so did his role in the Suns. In only his third season, it is clear that Booker has been given the green light to lead the team. Yet, with a talented player at only 21 years old, it seems that the Suns are ready to make the same mistakes as many teams before them.
If you want to raise a banner, you need a big 3. And in the current climate of the NBA, never has there been an easier time to snatch a superstar. 5 of this years All-Stars were traded in the last year, in addition to other borderline stars like Carmello Anthony, Isaiah Thomas, Chris Paul, Lou Williams and Blake Griffin, just for example. As far as the front offices go, the future is way brighter than now. Throw in a draft pick, a decent role player and a young player full of potential and you can steal a superstar. And this is supported by the trades.
At the time, the Thunder have up next to nothing for Paul George. The Wolves escaped with an easy Bulls trade and the Pelicans didn’t think twice about trading away Hield and some draft picks for the best centre in the NBA.
The window hasn’t closed yet. Rumours surrounding Anthony Davis and Deandre Jordan should be ringing loud in Ryan McDonough’s ears. They have their franchise centrepiece in Booker, so every other player is expendable. Make that trade. A pick and roll duo of Booker and Jordan could be deadly. Davis catching a lob from Booker is a highlight reel waiting to happen.
When it comes to building though the draft, this shouldn’t be the way to go. Other than Booker, the Suns have had a string of poor picks that haven’t materialised into the superstars they were hoping. Unfortunately, they aren’t on the same course of destiny as the Wolves, Sixers or the Warriors. They need consecutive Rookie of the Year contender draft picks. They need players who could be borderline All-Stars. Josh Jackson and Dragan Bender aren’t these players. And as more and more players look to rebuild (and therefore tank) the idea of having the number 1 pick secured is ludicrous.
The Suns biggest trade in recent years has been trading away guards. Most recently, the Suns had their hands tied when they had to trade Eric Bledsoe away, after a hair salon mishap made it clear he didn’t want to stay in Phoenix. Yet, the Suns knew about this. It was widely reported that Bledsoe was not interested in staying in Phoenix long term. So rather than trade him in the off-season for good assets in return, the front office was forced to dump him for nothing.
And this is where it comes back to Booker. Right now, drumming into his ears that the Suns are 5-10 years away from being a contender and that he just needs to be patient may work now. But sooner or later, Booker will come to the same cross-roads that Dwight Howard was at, that Durant was at, that Lebron was at: stay and suck, or go become a winner. Lebron James gave the Cavaliers every chance to get him help. Yet, their failure to do so drove him away. Durant wanted a ring, so he chased one. It is now the Suns turn, unless they get their act together and start building the team to be champions.