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Suns’ Dudley: Right now, it’s about developing the younger players

Phoenix Suns' Alex Len, left, Devin Booker, center, and Jared Dudley watch their teammates play during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, March 23, 2017, in New York. The Nets won 126-98. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

LISTEN: Jared Dudley, Suns forward

Last summer, Jared Dudley returned to the Phoenix Suns by way of a three-year, $30 million contract.

A fan favorite when he was with the team from 2009 to 2013, the forward developed into a good locker room presence who played solid defense and could shoot from three-point range.

Therefore, it made sense why a team with as much youth as the Suns would be interested in his services.

Dudley started the first seven games last season, averaging 6.4 points, three rebounds and 1.1 steals in 23.3 minutes per game, but was then sent to the bench in favor of rookie Marquese Chriss.

On the season, the 31-year-old averaged 6.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists while shooting .379 from three-point range, so all in all, it was a fairly productive year for the veteran.

Yet, the Suns won just 24 games, and though they have stockpiled some good young talent, it is a stretch to think they will end their postseason drought this upcoming season.

“Let’s just go from the organization’s standpoint,” Dudley explained to Bickley and Marotta on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station Friday. “For one, they have no choice. You have a young team — you can’t get All-Stars.”

Dudley said the Suns probably could have traded for Jimmy Butler, who was sent from the Chicago Bulls to the Minnesota Timberwolves on draft night, if they were willing to part with some draft picks.

But what would that have gotten them?

“Then you’ve got Jimmy Butler, Devin Booker — and you would have had to give up a couple of your young assets — that’s not a guaranteed playoff team. It’s definitely not a three or four top team in the league,” Dudley added. “So your whole thing is you’ve got to draft right.”

Dudley noted how the Suns did great in landing Booker and have good potential in Chriss and Dragan Bender, the No. 4 overall pick last season, as well as Josh Jackson, who was chosen fourth overall this year.

The trick will be seeing which of those players, if any of them, develop into stars over the next few seasons. As pragmatic as that perspective may be, however, the idea of waiting and hoping the team will be good would seem problematic for a player like Dudley, who is in the latter part of his career.

Yet, it’s not.

“Someone like me, as a person, as a player, it’s not about winning, right now, for me,” he said. “Right now it’s about helping these guys out to fulfill their potential.”

Dudley understands why people might ask how he could feel that way, and for that he has an answer.

“I knew what I was getting into,” he said. “Players in the NBA aren’t mad if you don’t lie to them. That’s when there’s a problem.

“There’s a problem when the communication is, when you tell me something and it’s something different.”

Dudley affirmed that he knew wins may be tough to come by when he signed his name to return to the Valley, and understood then there was a chance he might not sniff the playoffs.

Knowing that, Dudley said his main concern is making sure Booker and the team’s other young players are better because of his presence, which means constantly being in their ears, asking questions and offering advice whenever he can.

“That’s what you’ve got to do where three years from now, OK, hey, the Suns are going to be in business,” he said.

Of course Dudley’s contract will have expired by then, which means he may not be around to bear whatever fruits these labors produce.

Coming on the heels of the team waiving veteran guard Leandro Barbosa, some might think the Suns would look to part with Dudley, too.

The 22nd overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft out of Boston College, the 10-year veteran said at least when it comes to this season he expects his role as a leader and mentor with the Suns to continue.

Part of the reason is that he does not see other teams wanting to trade for him while he is recovering from surgery.

“Also, what value are you going to get from someone like myself?” he asked. “You can get a second-round pick? My value, for a second-round pick, is more than that to this team as of right now.”

Dudley pointed to how he did not complain about playing time as it fluctuated last season, and the organization knows he is willing to sacrifice his own playing time if the decision is made to go with the youth.

“I understand how that is, and I think it’s something where you get to me when it’s maybe the last year of my deal, hey, do I want to play more, am I looking for another contract, am I looking to be with the Suns, like a Nick Collison?” he said. “Some teams, some organizations like Miami are very loyal where, ‘Hey, we like you, we still want you to be around these young guys and help out, here’s a two-year extension at this value.’

“But that’s when you get there. For me, I don’t think I’ll be traded; in this business you never know, but I just see my value with the Suns. Unless they’re going to play a 25-and-under league, you need some vets, right?”

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