Jeff Hornacek does not have an enviable or fun job.
The former Utah Jazz guard took over as Phoenix Suns head coach at the end of last season and is now part of the one of the biggest tank for a season and pray operations we’ve ever seen. Few NBA teams are prepared to lose and hope that the lottery ball that signifies the eventual arrival of Andrew Wiggins has their logo on it the way the Suns are.
To start the summer, Phoenix traded its best three point shooter in Jared Dudley for point guard Eric Bledsoe and replacement forward Caron Butler, which doesn’t seem like that bad of a move on the surface, but when you consider that they already have an above average point guard in Goran Dragic and an ungodly long list of forwards, it didn’t really seem to make sense. But, if you look at next season as more of a tryout for the two guards for the following year where the Suns can undoubtedly improve, then it may be a worthwhile move.
The Suns roster is too big at the moment, perhaps part of the reason they talked Michael Beasley into terminating his contract for $2 million less than if he’d simply been waived this week following yet another arrest for marijuana. The Suns can fall back on the excuse that Beasley was arrested again and they let him go because they want to “build a championship culture,” but we’d all be fools if we didn’t believe that they did this to save some money on the salary cap and dump a guy who, when firing on all cylinders could help them win.
Beasley is a decent scorer and could win them some games when paired with a guard who can get him the ball in the right places, but if you’re Phoenix and your plan is to tank this season and think long term, it’s definitely best to get him out of town. General Manager Ryan McDonough probably could have moved Beasley before the arrest, but once it happened his best option was to find a way for the club to part ways with him and that’s what they did.
Add to that the most recent trade, sending recently acquired Butler back to his home state of Wisconsin to acquire yet another point guard in Ish Smith and yet another center in Vyacheslav Kravtsov to join first round draft pick Alex Len, Miles Plumlee and Marcin Gortat, and what you have is a crowded Suns roster that costs $52 million, right around the league’s pay floor.
Next season, the team has options on several guys, while a number of contracts expire after this year. With only $29 million committed to next season, Phoenix can simply take their pick of the litter from this year’s squad, add their first round draft pick from next summer’s draft and use a trade chip like Dragic or Bledsoe (whichever one they don’t want) to acquire something else.
Truth told, considering the fact that team has a plethora of point guards and centers, two positions much of the league is constantly trying to fill, the Suns probably aren’t done dealing. They can acquire more draft picks or money, but odds are they don’t really need or want another body in town unless it’s really worth their while. Their best trade chips probably won’t be used until next summer, so Hornacek is left sifting through this crap heap of a lineup to find a few gems, lose around 60 games and pray. It’s going to be a long year in the dessert, but don’t worry Suns fans, in theory brighter days are ahead.