Tha Sports Junkies 101

Earl Watson Out In Phoenix; Bledsoe Wants Out too

Watson Joseph Glorioso Photography via Flickr


For the first time since 1975, every NBA team started the season with the same coach they had last season. Less than one full week into the season, we have our first coaching change. The Phoenix Suns have officially decided to part ways with head coach Earl Watson. They also dismissed 3 assistant coaches along with Watson; Nate Bjorkgren, and developmental coaches Mehmet Okur and Jason Fraser. This comes as a result of starting the season 0-3 and having lost all 3 games by a wide margin. This also happened to come about an hour after star Point Guard Eric Bledsoe sent out this tweet.

Presumably, this is in regards to him not wanting to be in Phoenix as a part of the Suns organization, though neither him nor the Suns have clarified yet. If so, the Suns might be in more trouble than they appeared to already be in.

After his 1 1/2 year tenure as the Suns’ head coach, Earl Watson accumulated a paltry 33-85 record. Although this is bad, it appears to be more of a problem regarding player development or general management than anything else. The Suns have had several high draft selections recently, yet they currently have little to show for it.

Recent Draft History

The Suns selected TJ Warren with the 14th pick in the 2014 draft. Warren has by no means exploded onto the scene in his first 3 seasons, but he is a nice piece for Phoenix. He has improved his points, rebounds, assists, steals, and games played totals in each season. There is no reason to think he cannot continue that trend into this year, aside from maybe Josh Jackson. He managed 14.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last year, along with just over 1 steal. He doesn’t space the floor as well as someone like Jae Crowder, but he is efficient, shooting .500 for his career. Warren is a good role player, but he is dispensable.

The Suns selected Tyler Ennis with the 18th pick in the 2014 draft. Ennis played only 8 games for the Suns before they traded him to the Bucks. The Suns received Brandon Knight in return. Knight averaged 11 points and 21 minutes per game in 54 games last season.

They selected Bogdan Bogdanovic with the 27th pick in the 2014 draft. He was later traded to the Kings in exchange for Marquese Chriss. Bogdanovic has yet to play his first NBA game.

The Suns selected Alec Brown with the 50th pick in the 2014 draft. He has not played in an NBA game.

The Suns selected Devin Booker with the 13th pick in the 2015 draft, and so far he looks to be the Suns most promising young talent. The man can flat out ball. He has demonstrated in his short NBA career that he can get buckets with the best of them. He scored at least 23 points 32 times last season, including a game in which he became just the sixth player in NBA history to eclipse 70 points. This is the highest single-game point total amongst all active players. Averaging nearly two 3-pointers per game last season, he has proven he has the potential to be an elite perimeter threat.

Booker is a good enough shooter to not leave open from long range, and once his man comes up to guard him he has the ability to take him to the hole and draw a foul. He finished in the top 25 players with the most free throw attempts last season, shooting 82% with 5.7 attempts per game. However, he has also proven to be inconsistent. Though he is usually always good for at least 12, it isn’t always pretty. Still, he is the team’s nicest young player, aside possibly from Josh Jackson. Booker will turn 21 on October 30th.

The franchise selected Andrew Harrison with the 44th pick in 2015. Shortly after selecting him, the Suns traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies for big man Jon Leuer. Leuer is currently with the Detroit Pistons.

The organization selected Dragan Bender with the 4th pick in the 2016 draft. For his career, he averages 3.3 points and 2.6 rebounds in 14 minutes per game. He has played only 46 games, but Bender has shown little to be excited about. His career high in points is 11.

They selected Georgios Papagiannis with the 13th pick in the 2016 draft. He was promptly traded to the Kings for 8th pick Marquese Chriss.

The team selected Skal Labissiere with the 28th pick in the 2016 draft. He was also promptly traded for Marquese Chriss.

The franchise selected Tyler Ulis with the 34th pick in the 2016 draft and he has shown to be a capable backup point guard. Last season, Ulis averaged 14.2 points, 7.2 assists, and 1.5 steals per 36 minutes. Through 2 games this season, Ulis has only seen 11 minutes per game. Should that number start to increase, we can begin to see how he will look in his sophomore season.

Phoniex took Josh Jackson with the 4th pick in this year’s draft. The forward from Kansas University was highly regarded as one of the top prospects available in the draft. He is 6’8″ with a 7’0″ wingspan, and averaged roughly 16 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3 assists in his lone season at Kansas. Jackson is a lockdown defender with the potential to drive to the hoop and spread the floor with his albeit sporadic perimeter shooting. He has played reasonably well in his first 3 games as a pro, and we should expect to see good things from him this year.

The Suns took Davon Reed with the 32nd pick in this year’s draft. The guard underwent surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee and will be sidelined until at least December.

It goes without saying that the Suns front office would have hoped for a little more production from their recent draft selections. It is worth mentioning Marquese Chriss has yet to prove he is worth the 3 young players who were traded for him. Last season, he put up 9.2 points per game, averaging just over 21 minutes per game. He also tacked on nearly 4 rebounds and 1 block and 1 steal per game. Hopefully, for the Suns, we will see him continue to improve and get more minutes this season.

Clearly, Phoenix has struggled with their past few drafts. This is largely why they are in the position they’re in now. This, of course, is not on Watson.

Moving Forward Without Earl Watson

The Suns have named Jay Triano as the interim head coach. In two-plus seasons as the head coach for the Raptors (2008-2011), Triano tallied a record of 87-142. His top assistant will be Tyrone Corbin. The Suns are now left with one big question. What are they going to do with Eric Bledsoe?

Maybe Bledsoe has already tried talking to Watson and the Suns front office about wanting a trade before putting it on Twitter. If not, the tweet was probably a poor business decision on his part. He should realize the value he brings as a player. He should also realize how much more trade value he has if everyone doesn’t know he wants a trade. The Suns will likely be reluctant to trade Bledsoe if they cannot get enough value in return, and therefore he has put both himself and the Suns’ front office in a tough spot. This hasn’t stopped other players from reaching out to Bledsoe and recruiting him.

Bledsoe spent his first 3 seasons as a Clipper in a reserve role behind Chris Paul. Bledsoe averaged less than 20 minutes per game in Los Angeles. Chris Paul is now in Houston, and rookie point guard Milos Teodosic is out indefinitely with a foot injury. Maybe there is a spot for him on the Clippers if that’s the direction the Suns want to take this. It would appear the Suns fired Watson in response to Bledsoe’s tweet, which would indicate they don’t want to lose him. More often than not, though, the cat does not go back in the bag.

So, What To Do With Bledsoe?

Bledsoe is a versatile point guard with a remarkable 7’0″ wingspan who can do a little bit of everything. He is a top 12 point guard in the league in his prime and will turn 28 in December. Bledsoe is currently under contract until 2019 for a very affordable $14.5 million per season. The trade value is certainly there if the Suns choose to utilize it, though they would be likely to get much less in return unless they find a team to trade with that Bledsoe explicitly states he would want to be a part of. If not, he will have to suck it up and continue to play alongside Booker and Jackson in Phoenix. Perhaps Bledsoe will be more partial to Triano than he was to Watson. Probably not.

I say they should move him. The Suns will likely be one of the worse teams in the league this season. They have very little chance of making the playoffs this season or being real contenders for the next two years. Bledsoe won’t be the difference maker the Suns need him to be while they still have him under contract.

He is too good to let walk for no compensation, and they should utilize his trade value while he has two full seasons left on his contract. Send him on his way, get some nice assets in return, and build the team around Booker and Jackson. Devote his minutes to developing other young talent and see what your players are made of. That feels like their best chance to succeed in a couple of seasons. Maybe Watson can find a new home in the NBA once more spots start to open up.

Update: Bledsoe met with the Suns’ front office today before a team shootaround and they decided to send him home afterward. The Suns will hold Bledsoe out of their home game tonight versus the Kings. Expect the Suns to trade Bledsoe soon.

All stats came from right here.

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