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Ranking The NBA’s Pacific Division Teams

Jabari Davis ranks the teams in the Pacific Division and analyzes each franchise’s offseason moves.

Jabari Davis

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This week, Basketball Insiders’ staff will be ranking the teams in each of the NBA’s divisions, starting with the Pacific today. While this is generally the time of year when folks tend to get up in arms about perceived slights and misjudgments about their team or new acquisitions, the reality is that all anyone can at this point is establish a predictive pecking order based on the limited information that is available.

Anytime the defending conference champions somehow turn around and land the summer’s prize free-agent addition, that makes deciding the division’s top team a bit easier. However, it also forces other front offices to adjust their approach for the near future as they compete with the juggernaut Golden State Warriors. While some teams within the division are trying to finally break through and at least reach the next plateau along the general NBA ladder of success, others are showing great promise on the horizon and seem to have the potential to speed their development process along somewhat sooner than expected if certain players produce. Here is our look at the Pacific Division:

#5 – Los Angeles Lakers (17-65 last season)

Key Additions: Brandon Ingram (yet to sign), Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov, Jose Calderon, Ivica Zubac, hired head coach Luke Walton and staff

Key Subtractions: Kobe Bryant, Brandon Bass, Robert Sacre (unsigned), Ryan Kelly (unsigned), parted ways with former head coach Byron Scott and staff

Fans of the team may not like to see them in this spot once again as we head into the season, but it will be important to remember what newly hired head coach Luke Walton told Shaquille O’Neal on The Big Podcast With Shaq just a few weeks ago: “The expectations, to me, aren’t going to be wins and losses, right now at least. It’s about having an edge when you play. It’s about competing every single time on offense and defense. It’s about playing the right way.”

Walton was speaking as much to an understandably rabid fan base as he was to his players with that message. He went on to specify more direct goals for certain players and about setting a new foundation for the future, but he also knows that has to happen in conjunction with folks being able to limit expectations on the team’s winning percentage for another season or two. For example, say everything goes well and the Lakers win as many as 12-15 additional games in 2016-17 – a feat that would be remarkable. That would still put their win total in the high 20s or low 30s in a conference that isn’t getting any easier to compete within. Walton knows that even with all the promise and intrigue of a young core that features the last two No. 2 picks of the NBA draft in Brandon Ingram (2016) and D’Angelo Russell (2015) to go along with the recently re-signed Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr., it is going to take some time to not only teach and implement his preferred style of play and overall basketball philosophy, but to also continue preparing such an inexperienced mix for what it truly means to be a successful professional at this level.

They’re headed in the right direction, so after a few seasons of essentially having to “hope” for losses due to the protected draft picks, you might as well allow yourself to enjoy the process of watching a young and talented core develop without the burden of unrealistic expectations.

#4 – Phoenix Suns (23-59 last season)

Key Additions: Jared Dudley, Leandro Barbosa, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, Tyler Ulis, removed interim tag from head coach Earl Watson

Key Subtractions: Mirza Teletovic, Jon Leuer, Ronnie Price, Chase Budinger

Eric Bledsoe, Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight might be the veteran leaders of the team, but there’s at least a chance second-year guard Devin Booker eventually proves to be the team’s best player if he takes the next step in his development and improves upon what was an impressive rookie season. Bledsoe and Knight should still be main contributors if healthy, but the Suns appear poised to focus on a core that could potentially center around Booker, Bender, Chriss and even the reportedly (finally) healthy Alex Len as much as either of those veterans. In fact, much like the Minnesota Timberwolves, L.A. Lakers and Denver Nuggets, the Suns have one of the more intriguing young cores in the Western Conference.

As is always the case – but particularly with Phoenix’s roster – player health and availability could significantly impact how quickly fans in the ‘Valley of the Sun’ start to see tangible results. Still, they should have plenty to be excited about along the way as Booker, Bender and Chriss continue to adjust to life in the NBA.

It should also be interesting to see whether Coach Watson elects to lean on three-guard sets or is ultimately forced to make a decision with one of the vets currently slotted to play ahead of Booker. Barbosa’s addition and return to the organization is another positive, but if Booker starts well, the Suns could be in a situation where a trade to free up space while ideally shoring up another roster concern could be necessary sooner rather than later. In the event that happens and general manager Ryan McDonough tests the market on his veteran backcourt, Knight’s current contract happens to run a year beyond Bledsoe’s (through 2019-20).

#3 – Sacramento Kings (33-49 last season)

Key Additions: Arron Afflalo, Anthony Tolliver, Garrett Temple, Matt Barnes, Georgios Papagiannis, Skal Labissiere, Isaiah Cousins, Bogdan Bogdanovic (draft rights), hired head coach Dave Joerger and staff

Key Subtractions: Rajon Rondo, Marco Belinelli, Seth Curry, Quincy Acy, parted ways with former head coach George Karl and staff

Feel free to stop us if this phrase sounds familiar for the Sacramento Kings: franchise player DeMarcus Cousins is set to begin next season with a new head coach and system…

Of course it does, because this is now the sixth head coach that the Team USA center will have played for in his seven years in the league. Regardless of the reasons or which side has been at fault, it is time for the league’s best center to be a part of something successful beyond his Olympic endeavors. Coach Joerger has a short, but somewhat proven track record at this level and is generally well-received by his players from all accounts. The time has come for Cousins to turn some of his personal dominance into more overall success for his team.

While some might question or even snicker at the idea of having Barnes in that locker room, Joerger had him in Memphis and obviously feels comfortable enough with him as a potential influence for the younger players. Barnes, along with some of the other vet additions, can really look to insulate Cousins from having to shoulder so much of the leadership burden at times. Adding Afflalo as another option as a wing defender should help, but they could really use a year of him shooting in the low-to-mid 40s from beyond the arc as he’s done at times in the past.

Drafting two more frontcourt players was a bit perplexing, but that doesn’t mean Papagiannis and Labissiere aren’t each intriguing projects. The Kings were actually closer to the postseason than they were to the cellar in 2015-16 and seem to have a better fit in terms of their roster and style of play moving forward, so don’t be shocked to see them continue to inch toward that .500 mark this season if general team health permits.

#2 – Los Angeles Clippers (53-29 last season)

Key Additions: Marreese Speights, Raymond Felton, Alan Anderson, Brandon Bass, Brice Johnson, David Michineau, Diamond Stone

Key Subtractions: Jeff Green, Cole Aldrich

Even though the Clippers didn’t have much flexibility or cap room once they re-signed their own preferred free agents (Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, Wesley Johnson and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute), the front office did a solid job of acquiring some bargain veterans like Speights, Felton, Anderson and Bass and guys they were targeting in the draft.

As far as the prospects go, Johnson gives them another athletic big man who can run the floor and finish at the rim and has decent touch on his shot from the mid range. He also managed to shoot 78.3 percent from the charity stripe (4.6 attempts per game) as a senior for North Carolina last season. Stone and Michineau may still be projects even if they were to make the regular season roster, but each have at least shown potential. Doc Rivers has particularly mentioned Michineau’s defense and possible ability to play both backcourt positions, while Stone was one of the draft’s more intriguing (yet clearly unpolished) young bigs.

The real questions that remain about this team will be whether they are at least relatively healthy as a collective unit when the playoffs come around and whether Coach Rivers can find the right blend of rest and roster management throughout the year to help with the concern. For as much as the Warriors deserve the spotlight for the team they’ve managed to put together, there have to be at least some within and around this organization – the fans aside – who feel as though their time to put everything together and play to their full potential.

Will the re-signed Mbah a Moute finally be the right piece at the small forward position with this crew? The Clippers have been looking for a viable option at that position for years and while the 6’8 veteran is long and rangy enough to defend scoring wings, he is hardly the three-point shooter (career 30.2 percent on .6 attempts) they’d like to have in order to create a more balanced floor for their talented scorers. Felton gives the team a veteran floor general behind Chris Paul, Anderson strengthens what looks to be talented second unit, and the combination of Speights and Bass add depth in the frontcourt depth. Speights, in particular, seems like an important addition with his ability to space the floor alongside either Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan.

While the constant ring-count referencing and hyper-critical eye that we currently consume NBA basketball with may be a bit unfair or unrealistic to players at times, it isn’t beyond the scope of reason to expect more from the Clippers at some point. Although some might naturally place the San Antonio Spurs into that “best of the rest” category in the Western Conference, you’d hope to see a group as talented and multifaceted as Paul, Griffin, Jordan and J.J. Redick finally compete in a Conference Finals series and perhaps beyond.

#1 – Golden State Warriors (73-9 last season)

Key Additions: Kevin Durant, Zaza Pachulia, David West, JaVale McGee (non-guaranteed), Damian Jones, Patrick McCaw

Key Subtractions: Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Leandro Barbosa, Marreese Speights, Festus Ezeli

No need to bury the lead with this one, as adding Durant to such a talented blend of players still sounds about as crazy as it did back in early July. While there’s an absolute responsibility to remind you of all the other roster and rotation changes and how that could and almost certainly will impact team comfort and chemistry in the early going, there’s no point in denying the reality of the situation: Once they settle in and make the necessary adjustments, this team will be good. Scary good.

We shouldn’t expect them to really challenge last season’s record-setting regular season pace given all the necessary adjustments, but this unit does still have the chance to be historically great if Coach Steve Kerr and Co. can make the parts fit and players are truly willing to embrace the addition of such a great talent into their mix. It may sound somewhat silly to all of us rushing to crown them the paper champs, but chemistry is about as significant in the NBA as any other professional sport. The good news is, they have the type of culture and locker room that appears to be perfect for such a shift. If we’re being completely honest, Barnes, Ezeli and Speights were far less effective as the playoffs wore on during last year’s run to the Finals.

Although they aren’t likely to push for a regular season record in 2016-17, especially with the inevitable target that will remain on their collective backs on a nightly basis, look for these Warriors to really hit their stride over that final 35 games and into the postseason next spring. If team health permits, this will continue to be the most exciting stretch of professional basketball Oakland (and the surrounding area) has ever seen. Neither games nor titles are won on paper or during the summer months, but be prepared for at least a playoff-like atmosphere on a fairly routine basis this season whether the Warriors are playing at home or on the road.

Do you agree with these rankings? Leave a comment below!

Jabari Davis is a senior NBA Writer and Columnist for Basketball Insiders, covering the Pacific Division and NBA Social Media activity.

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NBA PM: Greek Freak Off to an MVP-Caliber Start

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the Bucks’ MVP and looks primed to be in the actual MVP race this season.

James Blancarte

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The NBA season is officially underway. Although each team has only played a few games so far, it has helped illuminate where many teams and players are in their development. For example, last night’s game in Oklahoma City gave a glimpse into how the Thunder will handle a late-game situation now that the team has three previous number one options. In the final minute, Russell Westbrook scored two of the Thunder’s last three baskets and assisted Carmelo Anthony on the final basket just before Andrew Wiggins hit a game-winning buzzer beater from well beyond the arc.

After three games, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s individual development has been one of the most exciting storylines to follow. A number of positive and far-reaching questions can be asked of Giannis. What is the ceiling for him? Can a player of his considerable talents continue to improve after winning Most Improved Player last season? Remember, Giannis was drafted in 2013 and is still only 22 years old.

When told in August that although he could win most valuable player, he could not also win most improved player as well, he responded with a simple, yet telling response.

“Why not?” Antetokounmpo responded.

While he continued to be lighthearted and moved on to the next topic, it’s fair to ask, “why not?” when it comes to Giannis. Through three regular season games, he is averaging 38.3 points, five assists, 9.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. These averages will likely regress to more sustainable numbers as the season continues. For now, however, his averages are in elite territory. In addition, his ability to impact the game is already getting to the point where LeBron James may be the only other player who can similarly fill up the stat lines while physically terrorizing opponents on both the offensive and defensive end of the court.

When asked who the “biggest freak in the NBA” is, Giannis elaborated that it was James due to his ability to impose himself on the game.

“The things [James] does, the veteran leadership he brings to the team, how big he is, how quick, how strong,” Giannis stated. “And at the end of the day, how smart he is. He can put his team in the right spots, make the right decision.”

In Saturday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Giannis willed his team to victory. It was Giannis demonstrating how big, strong and smart he was, putting his team on his shoulders and carrying them to an impressive win.
With less than a minute left in a close game, Giannis closed in with a well-timed double team on Damian Lillard and came away with a clean steal. The steal got the Bucks the ball back and Giannis was fouled, which put him on the free throw line. Unfortunately, he came up short on both attempts and the Bucks remained a point behind.

Despite missing the free throws, Giannis came up huge on the very next play. Giannis took on C.J McCollum one-on-one at the top of the key and created yet another steal. He then leaked out to receive the pass for a breakaway dunk that quickly gave the Bucks the lead with 11.4 seconds remaining.

On the next play, when Jusuf Nurkic set a high screen and roll, he received the pass on the roll and headed to the basket. Giannis’ primary responsibility was the shooter in the corner and yet he read the action correctly and was ready and waiting at the rim for Nurkic. Giannis times Nurkic’s shot perfectly and rejected him at the rim, which effectively ended the game in favor of the Bucks.

Giannis’ ability as defensive Swiss Army Knife was instrumental in the Bucks’ close win over Portland. In addition, Giannis has also made further improvements in an area of his that has received a lot of attention over the years. He continues to shoot a below average three-point percentage for his career (27.6) and has had a rocky start to this season as well (16.7). It’s likely that Giannis’ three-point shooting will be a significant limitation in his game for the foreseeable future. However, over his career, Giannis has shown an ability to improve his shooting percentage on two-point shots consistently, especially shots from 0-3 feet and 3-10 feet, per basketball-reference. As Giannis has gotten stronger and more explosive, he has developed a strong desire to attack opponents off the dribble and absorb contact at the rim. Whether he blows by his opponent outright or scores through opponents at the rim, Giannis has developed into an offensive force that few players in the league could hope to slow down.

In addition to his scoring, Giannis continues to display his unique ability to handle the ball in transitions and run the Bucks’ offense in the half court as a point forward. This sort of ability separates Giannis from the other elite wings in the league who don’t have the skill or vision to act as a primary playmaker. Giannis is doing much of what he did last year, but seems more aggressive and physically dominant through the first three games of this season. That sort of improvement of course puts Giannis in the MVP discussion (though it is incredibly early in the season to even start this sort of discussion).

Giannis was recently asked about his ability to win the MVP and wasn’t shy about his desire to win the prestigious award.

“I’m going to be one of the players that hopefully dominates the game. But I’ve got to still make sure that my team wins, that my teammates get better,” Giannis stated. “I’ve set the goal since the last game against Toronto last year, at the playoffs. I want to be the MVP this year.”

What helps solidify Giannis’ ability to be such a strong MVP candidate is also what makes his team less dangerous. The Bucks are woefully dependent on their star and, at least for now, lack the necessary depth to be a true contender in the East.

Through three regular season games, it’s clear that the Bucks will only go as far as Giannis can take them. And that is the key to Giannis’ budding MVP campaign. Let’s take a look at last year’s top five MVP candidates. Last year’s winner, Westbrook, has two new star-caliber players (Paul George and Carmelo Anthony) to share the spotlight, and the ball, with. James Harden is sharing the ball with Chris Paul, who is currently struggling with a knee injury. LeBron James and the Cavaliers are almost exclusively concerned with the postseason. Kawhi Leonard is similarly crucial to the San Antonio Spurs on offense and defense but has lingering health concerns and has yet to play this season. Finally, Isaiah Thomas is coming off a major hip injury and is not projected to play until January.

With so much uncertainty, Giannis has the opportunity to continue to draw attention as not only the most important player on the Bucks but perhaps the most valuable player in the league. Giannis’ early play this season indicates that this is possible. Despite his early-season outburst, Giannis is giving deference to LeBron James — though he admits he hopes to reach James’ level at some point in the future.

“Definitely [James is] the best player in the NBA. For a few years to come,” Giannis stated. “But I think a lot of players are getting better. Even myself. And hopefully one day we can get to that spot from him.”

Perhaps Giannis will take the spot as the best player in the NBA as early as this season. Considering how dominant he has been so far this season, it’s fair to ask “why not?”

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Wright Primed To Take Next Step With Raptors

Third year Utah alum Delon Wright is showing flashes of what he can do in an expanded role for Toronto.

Spencer Davies

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Backup point guards are essential to a team’s success.

They’re the floor generals of the second unit. They create for themselves to score. They collapse defenses in order for the others to get opportunities.

In some cases, these players perform so well that they outgrow the role they provide and force their way into the starting five—on that same team or elsewhere. Just look at past examples: Darren Collison, Eric Bledsoe, Reggie Jackson, Dennis Schroder, etc. The list goes on.

Kyle Lowry was 20 years old when he was drafted late in the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. He studied the position behind veteran guards Chucky Atkins and Damon “Mighty Mouse” Stoudamire.

But even after showing promise in his rookie season, management decided to take Mike Conley Jr. the very next year. Though the two were about even in playing time, it was clear the Grizzlies favored youth over anything else, so in 2009, Lowry was dealt with the Houston Rockets in a three-way trade at the deadline.

At this point, Lowry had started in only 30 games over two-and-a-half seasons, so the keys to the car weren’t ready for him just yet. Aaron Brooks was a unique talent that Rick Adelman loved to throw out there along with Tracy McGrady and Kevin Martin.

Brooks started all 82 games in the 2009-10 campaign and blossomed into a scoring machine. He was shooting the lights out that year, and because of that, it was tough to sit him. Lowry still took advantage of his playing time, though, with plenty of floor run. He averaged nearly 14 points and seven assists per 36 minutes.

To the misfortune of his teammate and the advantage to Lowry the next season, Brooks struggled mightily with the jump shot that made him so deadly. After 34 games, the Rockets moved him in a deal to Phoenix for Goran Dragic and a first-round pick. Dragic was on his way to carving his niche in the league, but it opened up a door for Lowry to really take hold as “quarterback” of the team.

Circumstances arose once again, however. Houston had let go of Adelman and hired Kevin McHale in June 2011. Lowry and his new head coach did not have the same rapport. He unfortunately suffered from a bacterial infection and missed out on the beginning of the season, and towards the end, the emergence of Dragic led to his demise.

That summer, the Rockets sent Lowry to the Toronto Raptors for Gary Forbes and a future first-rounder. Once again, it was a fresh start for him, but also a brand new team with a different head coach.

It didn’t take long for the man to realize his true potential there. Aside from shuffling a bit with Jose Calderon as the starter in Toronto, Lowry found a home. The jump he made between that season and the next one was impressive.

Lowry got paid after that 2013-14 season and re-signed with the Raptors for four years. He earned three All-Star appearances and—aside from the postseason disappointments—led the team to new heights with his fellow All-Star backcourt partner DeMar DeRozan.

Toronto and its star point guard agreed to a three-year, $100 million deal over the summer to keep him running the show and to honor that contract well as he has always had. But now there’s somebody behind Lowry waiting to break out, and could very well be the one who gets the torch passed to him.

Delon Wright is ready to make his mark. When he entered the league, he was a reserve behind Cory Joseph and had to observe and soak in the experience of NBA life. For some rookies, they get the chance immediately, and for the others, they have to wait their turn. In this case, it was the latter.

Playing the waiting game ended up working out well for him. In the offseason, the Raptors went out and traded Joseph for C.J. Miles due to the loss of DeMarre Carroll. It was a move that not only addressed a need for depth at the wing but also opened a door for Wright.

So here we are, two games in. The Raptors are 2-0 and have outscored their opponents by 51 points. In those combined, Wright has received 55 minutes of playing time.

Despite the competition being the rebuilding Chicago Bulls and a Philadelphia 76ers team trying to find an identity, he looks extremely comfortable. You don’t want to take too much out a sample size as small as that, but neither the numbers nor the eye test lies.

Wright has played the third-most minutes on the team thus far. He’s done a great job on both sides of the floor but has truly made a difference on the defensive end. As of now, the Raptors are only allowing 83 points per 100 possessions with him on the hardwood. When he’s not, that number blows up to 98.9 using the same scale.

Offensively he’s almost been just as good. Wright has been aggressive as a facilitator and as a shooter, putting up 13- and 14-point games early on. He dished out five assists in the season opener and nabbed five rebounds in the second game. He has a higher offensive rating than both Lowry and DeRozan.

According to NBA.com, Toronto’s net rating with him off the court (12.9) is the second lowest to his lifelong teammate Jakob Poeltl (12.8). Take it with a grain of salt because it’s one week into the season, but Wright has the best net rating in the league (37.6) among those playing at least 25 minutes per game.

Call it garbage time play or whatever you want: He has the tools to succeed. The stature is there. The intangibles are evident. It’s all about putting it together over the course of an entire season.

If the trend continues, there’s no way Casey can keep him off the floor for long. We don’t know where Wright’s career could go. It’s way too early to tell. The Raptors are likely hoping for him to be the successor after this era of basketball has come and gone.

Lowry is the man in Toronto, as is DeRozan. Nothing is changing that anytime soon. But rest assured, Wright’s primed to take a big step this year and it’s going to be fun to watch.

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NBA AM: Was Watson Setup To Fail or Just Ill Equipped?

Was Phoenix’s Earl Watson setup to fail or did he just not have the tools and experience to overcome the tenuous job of a rebuild?

Steve Kyler

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Set Up To Fail? Maybe

The Phoenix Suns have parted ways with head coach Earl Watson just three games into the 2017-18 season. Associate head coach Jay Triano is expected to be his replacement as interim head coach.

Some have suggested that Watson was set up to fail, but let’s be honest for a minute. Was Watson really the best option the Suns had after parting ways with Jeff Hornacek during the 2015-16 season? Watson was well liked and that an easy and intoxicating concept, but even as an interim coach Watson won just nine games in 33 tries.

It’s not as if Watson took the team in a totally new direction; the Suns were a bad team when they took the gamble on Watson. Moving the needle wasn’t exactly likely when the massive inexperienced Watson took over the team. Is anyone really surprised he couldn’t make it work?

Sure, the roster and the priorities of the franchise were an uphill climb, but let’s be real for a minute: The Suns couldn’t have expected Watson to have the tools to bring it all together. Rebuilding is hard all by itself, and doing so with a head coach that has never coached isn’t exactly smart. In fact, it rarely works out.

It’s easy to say Watson was set up to fail, but equally easy to say he never had the experience to believe he’d be successful. It was a gamble on the Suns’ part, a gamble that ran its course.

So What Next?

The Suns are not very good, as three straight blow out losses have proven. It’s possible that Triano can make enough changes to at least get the Suns to compete, but the word in NBA circles was the Suns locker room had basically quit after three games, so Triano’s task may be tough for even a coach that been around the block a few times.

Like Watson, Triano is incredibly likable and approachable, but unlike Watson, Triano has experience. Triano has experience not only as a head coach, having coached the Toronto Raptors for three years, but he is the head coach of the Canadian National Team and has been on the Team USA and Portland Trail Blazers staff as an assistant. While Triano’s stint in Toronto looked a lot like Watson’s stint in Phoenix, the big difference is Triano has been around a lot more situations and may be better equipped to put a system and structure in place that could yield improvement, or at least that’s the newest bet the Suns are making.

With Triano at the helm, it’s also likely that the front office will have a better relationship than what’s emerged in Watson’s time in Phoenix. General Manager Ryan McDonough and Watson haven’t exactly been on the same page, and Watson had grown emboldened enough to make it clear in the media somethings were not in his control, often taken subtle shots at decisions made by the front office.

It is rare for inexperience and dysfunction to yield success. The hope is Triano will smooth some of that over.

“I Dont wanna be here.”

As news of Watson’s firing began to leak Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, who had a very good relationship with Watson, took to Twitter to announce “I Dont wanna be here.”

Bledsoe has been a constant name in NBA trade circles for the last few years, and with Watson out of the picture, Bledsoe seems to be looking for the door too.

The 27-year-old Bledsoe has two more seasons remaining on his deal, $14.5 million this season and $15 million owed for next season. The Suns have listened to offers on Bledsoe off and on for some time, with many in NBA circles believing this would be the season the Suns would finally trade him.

With Watson, a long-time champion of Bledsoe, out of the picture, there is a belief that Bledsoe’s role is going to decrease, which is likely why Bledsoe took to Twitter.

Pulling off a trade three games into the season seems highly unlikely, especially given that Bledsoe has likely killed his own trade value. There have been several teams over the last two seasons with interest in Bledsoe; the question is, will the Suns close this chapter or try and see if Bledsoe can help them right the ship under Triano and rebuild some trade value when the trade market opens up in December?

$41.11 Million

Of the Phoenix Suns’ $85.448 million in guaranteed contracts, $41.11 million belongs to Bledsoe, injured guard Brandon Knight and center Tyson Chandler. You can toss $10 million more for injured forward Jared Dudley. While Bledsoe and Chandler have played in all three regular-season games, both are not part of the long-term future of the team.

The question becomes, what role will they play under Triano?

The Suns are truly a tale of two teams. There is the old veteran squad that is clogging up the top of the Suns salary cap chart, and there are rookie scale players that are the future, and not coincidentally the players performing at their worst so far this season.

Will the Suns just let the $41.11 million owed at the top just sit, or will the Suns try and fire-sale some of those veterans? The belief is they would like to do the latter.

As much as people may want to say Watson was set up to fail, the evidence in the situation is he was never proven enough to succeed.

The Suns are in a dreadful no-man’s land of bad contracts and underperforming players. Maybe a more proven established coach could have set this situation in a better direction, but the reality is Watson was never experienced enough to handle a rebuild like this because getting the most out of players while losing is a very tough job even for the most experienced of coaches.

Watson, like many before him, will find another job in the NBA. Maybe like Triano who is replacing him, he can take the lessons learned in Phoenix and become a better coach somewhere down the road and get a shot with a team that wouldn’t require as much as the Suns desperately need.

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