It's an overused cliche, but this season really can't end soon enough for the Phoenix Suns.
They were finally mathematically eliminated from playoff contention in Wednesday's loss at Dallas for the fifth consecutive season but the off-court drama rages on. This time it was Gerald Green's agent Kevin Bradbury of BDA Sports that stepped into the shooting gallery and took aim in an interview with The Sporting News, responding to a rather benign criticism of Green by Suns coach Jeff Hornacek.
"(Green) never really seemed to get it going and then it comes to the point where, if you’re not scoring and if your defense isn’t picking up, it’s hard to stay in the game. The next guy is going, ‘I needed help here and the guy wasn’t here.’ We’re trying to develop something for the future, not just being out here for everybody to play in the game. We want to get to a top-notch winning level and you’ve got to do it on both sides."
Fair enough, and also quite obvious. Green's defense has always been problematic and when a player of his style becomes mired in a prolonged shooting slump, what you have left is frankly a rather bad basketball player. Anybody who watched Green since January can attest that he was doing very little on the floor to help the team.
Nonetheless, Bradbury used Hornacek's remark as an opening to point the finger elsewhere. Here are a few choice nuggets:
I don't see the benefit for the coach to go about things this way.
The numbers show pretty clearly that Gerald is not the terrible defensive player he is being made out to be
He brings it on the defensive end, consistent with what the team brings as a unit. But when you hear the coach saying he is so bad that he can’t be on the floor? That’s nonsense.
I have no idea what numbers Bradbury is referring to, but I would put them immediately into heavy question. Never has the "eye test" argument been more appropriate. Even if Bradbury might be able to dig up some advanced metric that paints Gerald Green as even an average defender, coaches and even casual observers have seen the contrary throughout his entire career.
What really raised eyebrows was Bradbury's comments about the trade deadline:
There were multiple teams that wanted him and were attempting to structure a deal if that was the direction in which we all wanted to go. Teams were willing to give up assets in significant offers. The Suns did not want to trade him.
At this point you should probably reach for the obligatory grain of salt. Green has suffered a disastrous drop in production during the second half of a contract season. It's anyone's guess how much free agency money he had earned himself by January and then lost by April.
Bradbury's assertion that he was a sought-after commodity at the trade deadline could be nothing more than a last-ditch effort to boost his client's value before the summer arrives.
But if his comments are accurate, this is quite a bizarre revelation. Green already had one foot securely in the doghouse by the All-Star break. His minutes had dwindled and he received the first of many DNP-CD's on January 30. His role only continued to diminish after the Deadline Doomsday, so it makes little sense that the Suns would refuse any and all trade offers that might have existed.
It's also natural to wonder why a team would give up anything of value for 30 games of Gerald Green. It might just be that the "assets" alluded to were in reality long-term contracts that other GM's were trying to unload for Green's expiring deal. The worst they can do is say no, right?
Bradbury has a fundamental bias towards his client's interests and is looking at a significantly lower payday than he was four months ago, so like everyone else around the organization these days, he's probably quite bitter. It's never good practice for an agent to air dirty laundry and bash a team in the media (you know, since the teams are the ones that pay the players). Still, the number of public complaints registered against the current Suns regime has become alarming. Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Archie Goodwin and Green have all grumbled about their roles on the team, to varying degrees. Channing Frye even piped up from all the hell over in Florida.
It's impossible not to wonder about the communication skills of the Suns' front office and coaching staff at this point. They apparently have become quite proficient at rubbing people the wrong way since last summer.
Bright Side of the Sun will be giving you extensive draft coverage all the way up to June 25th. Our first installment of this process is a pre-combine look at the players sorted according to position by Sean Sullivan and Kellan Olson.
The Suns are currently stocked up at wing with the likes of P.J. Tucker, Marcus Morris, T.J. Warren, Brandon Knight, and Archie Goodwin, with Bogdan Bogdanovic overseas too. Knight will own the backcourt spot with Bledsoe, but there's doubt amongst some as to whether those three small forwards are good enough for the Suns to look elsewhere in the draft.
The way this draft is currently lined up will not help the Suns if they are looking to go the other way, as there is a good chance that one quality small forward prospect will fall to them at the end of the lottery. With that in mind, it's a good idea to check out all the wings available.
I'll be the first one to admit I was wrong when I was all aboard the Stanley Johnson train as far as small forwards were concerned. Winslow proved last month that he is the man to beat at the spot.
Winslow is a super athlete who works his ass off all over the floor to affect the game anyway he can with his NBA ready body. Lockdown defense, rebounding, steals, blocks, leading his team, etc. He can do it all in terms of everything else on the floor. There were concerns about his perimeter shooting coming out of high school, but he shut that down very quickly with a 42% number on the season.
The concerns for Winslow is how he generates his own offense, but scouts rightfully shouldn't be too concerned about that after the way he dominated the NCAA Tournament without being a primary offensive option. In regards to scoring he needs to develop everything he does after dribbling except for finishing at the rim, but there's plenty of time for that while he excels with every other part of the game. That motor and shooting is enough offense for now.
Winslow is the top wing in this draft and it will take something crazy at the combine and in the workouts for that to change. Expect him to be the first off the board.
6'7", 200 lbs, 20 years old, Barcelona
I'm not going to act like I've seen Hezonja play all the time the past two seasons, but I can tell you a few things after watching roughly 5-6 of his games. He is the complete package in terms of a wing when it comes to the way he attacks the basket and shoots the ball. His instincts and vision on the floor really help him as a slasher, but he will occasionally use those to show off that he can really pass as well.
Hezonja looks like a terrific NBA prospect, but the red flags about his selfishness on the court and personality concerns off the court are troubling. I'm not informed enough on him to make a definitive stance, but it sure sounds like he's trouble and that it's going to take the right fit to make it work. The Suns do not seem like that type of team. He's still a top 10 talent regardless.
6'7", 245 lbs, 18 years old, Arizona
Johnson looked like a better version of Winslow coming out of high school, but it turns out that Winslow is everything you want Johnson to be. Johnson is built like a semi and looks like the next guy built like LeBron James in terms of his size, strength, and speed. My favorite description of Johnson is that he's a mix of a gazelle and an ox in transition.
Johnson's biggest doubt coming into this season was his shooting and he proved that wrong by putting up a 37% number. When he's fully locked in, Johnson is the most complete perimeter defender in this draft. He can simply take guys out of the game off of the ball and plays some incredible physical defense. He's a fantastic rebounder for his size and his flexibility defensively means you can get that from the shooting guard position if you want (like Winslow). He's also a developed offensive player, who can score off the bounce with floaters, pull up jumpers, and can dunk on your big.
We stop there though in terms of the prospect we saw coming out of high school. Johnson's motor is not what it waa touted to be, as he takes plays off on defense and gets beat way too often for the type of defender he can be. Despite his amazing frame, he is not that great of a finisher at the rim. He can take a rebound and run with it, but he consistently shows poor decision making and turns the ball over a ton when he really gets going. This occasionally happens in the half-court as well and can be extended to shot selection despite the improvement he showed over the season.
Johnson is going to take much more work than we thought, but I still believe he has the highest ceiling out of any wing in the draft. His offensive game is the most developed out of any of the premier defensive prospects in the draft and he has the body to dominate at the next level. Some teams are moving him way down their board and that's where the Suns could capitalize. He's just begging to be mentored by P.J. Tucker.
6'7", 205 lbs, 19 years old, Kansas
Oubre is the talent that scouts kept waiting for to take over this selection of players and show he was the best player in this group. He recovered from a rough start to the season, but he still wasn't able to live up to all of the hype.
Oubre has everything you could want out of a wing prospect for this NBA. He has the length, can finish in transition, shoots threes, rebounds, and has the potential to defend his position. However, that's speaking more from an evaluation. He's a fantastic athlete and has terrific lateral quickness.
Scouts kept waiting for those two elements to develop more of his game throughout the season, but it never really happened. Oubre is one of the most raw prospects in this draft, but he's right alongside Johnson in terms of a ceiling in the NBA. He's a guy that should really benefit from the combine and workouts. If the Suns want a wing project, this is him and he has a chance of being on the board when they pick.
There are two Dekker's we see and we've seen the best one in March. He is a great shooter with the proper intangibles and athleticism to succeed everywhere else on the floor. He can handle the ball well enough to add more to his game. His inconsistencies at Wisconsin saw him hang around the late first-round last year and this year, but a great March has him possibly going in the lottery. Analytics love this guy and he has a chance to be a super role player in the NBA.
Booker is not Klay Thompson, but he is the type of shooter and intelligent basketball player to warrant this range in the draft. Shooters are valuable in the NBA and one this good that really understands how basketball works is going to get lottery looks. There's not much more to his offense, but he has done a good job of showing he can hold his own as a defender and that's the key element of his evaluation.
6'7", 220 lbs, 20 years old, Arizona
Hollis-Jefferson would be one of the better athletes in the NBA right now and was the best perimeter defender in college basketball this season. He was effective in guarding five different positions and has the really high motor to give you that extra gear when you need it. He is a terrific rebounder and is a good enough ball handler and unorthodox finisher to give you at least something offensively. He's tremendous in transition and is a better passer than you think, but he can't shoot at all and that's where his potential comes to a halt. He still projects as a great role player though because of his defense, motor, and rebounding.
Hunter is a complete college shooter. He might be the best shooter in the draft and has enough to his game as a playmaker and scorer off the bounce to get looks in the lottery. Unfortunately, I saw a guy that would check out on defense in the tournament and was not impressed by his effort or understanding on that end. He has serious potential to be a heat check guy on your bench, but I don't see much more than that. That's enough to warrant this position in the late first-round though.