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Phoenix Suns

Updated Mar 13, 2013 - 4:02 pm

Suns players shouldn't tank, but Suns management should (and is)

Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley, right, passes the ball around Houston Rockets forward Greg Smith, left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 9, 2013, in Phoenix. The Suns won 107-105.(AP Photo/Paul Connors)

Arizona Sports 620's Doug and Wolf asked Suns forward Jared Dudley about the idea of tanking.

Well, maybe not so much the idea of tanking, but the fact that some Suns fans (and media members) believe every win the team earns is really a bad thing for the organization.

As it goes, the more losses = more ping pong balls, and more ping pong balls = a better chance to land a top pick in this summer's draft. And unless the Suns land a superstar via the draft, odds are they won't be contending for a championship anytime soon. So yeah, isn't tanking the best course of action?

"I don't feel bad at all," Dudley said about winning games. "Because you know why? I have a job. And my job, I have to perform. If I don't, I could be out of the league."

Dudley added that he may be signed under a longer contract, but not everyone on the team can say the same thing. So, in reality, they are playing for their jobs every time they step on the court.

"If they don't perform and they don't look good performing they could be out of the NBA," he said. "So if they want to go out there and just lay down and not try -- you don't think other GMs and other executives from other teams are looking?

"This is a business; we're not worried about the lottery."

That is perfect attitude for Dudley as well as every player and coach on that roster. You don't want anyone on the floor who does not give maximum effort every chance they get, and the simple fact that the Suns have come up with wins over the likes of the Spurs, Hawks and Rockets shows that there is still some fight left in this team and, perhaps, even a little bit of talent.

But the team needs more talent. A lot more.

Winners of four of their last seven games, the Suns have seen their draft position slip, and no matter how much some might say ‘tanking' is a bad thing, it is -- and always has been -- the team's best chance at getting good again.

And they know it.

You don't bench (and then trade) a productive Sebastian Telfair in favor of Kendall Marshall if you're trying to win games. You don't move Wesley Johnson as well as both Morris twins into the starting lineup if the goal is to be as competitive as possible night in and night out.

Sure, there is something to be said for seeing what the team has in its younger players, but when you do so at the expense of playing time for proven veterans, that's called "tanking."

And it's as fine as it is long overdue.

Since 1996, when the Suns drafted Steve Nash 15th overall, they've found themselves with six lottery picks. Of those six, three were in the top 10 of the draft. Those choices included Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire and Luol Deng. The other three picks were 13 or worse, and the Suns got Earl Clark, Markieff Morris and Kendall Marshall out of it.

Yes, teams can find talent late in the draft (see Rajon Rondo at 21), but the truth is if the Suns are to find a star, just being in the lottery isn't enough.

At the time of writing, the Suns are tied for the sixth-worst record in the NBA. According to NBADraft.net, that puts them in the range to draft someone like UNLV's Anthony Bennett, Maryland's Alex Len or Indiana's Cody Zeller or Victor Oladipo.

Franchise-altering players? Not likely, though many believe there aren't any in this draft. Potential superstars? Maybe. Valuable pieces going forward? Absolutely. But while it's better to be picking there than at the back of the lottery, it is not exactly where the Suns need to be.

"We're not worried about the lottery," Dudley said. "Think about it: a lottery pick takes jobs away from you. The better the pick, the more he has to play. So for other guys you should want to win more games; you should not want the best pick.

"Maybe management is saying, ‘Hey, if we can't make the playoffs you would love to get the number one pick', but as a player you're thinking, ‘Hey, I want to win the most games so we can do the best we can, and if it's the first pick then it's the first pick and we'd welcome him with open arms. But at the end of the day, we're fighting for our jobs and fighting to improve every day at our craft."

That is exactly how you want Dudley, his teammates and coaches to think. Their focus needs to be short-term, because nothing is guaranteed for them.

But management's eyes need to be focused on the long-term, which means doing everything it can to land the best draft pick possible. So go ahead and tank, Suns. It's for the best.

About the Author


School: University of Arizona

When you started with Bonneville Phoenix: Fall 2008, right before Cardinals Super Bowl run

Favorite sports memory: Being at Game 7 of the 2001 World Series with my dad

Favorite all-time athlete: Larry Centers

Favorite sports movies: The Sandlot, Rookie of the Year, Jerry Maguire

Most crushing sports moment: Grew up in Arizona and went to UA from 2002-06. In short, there are too many to name just one.

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