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Jared Dudley: Suns are on track for playoff appearance

Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley reacts after hitting a 3-point basket against the Denver Nuggets during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

It’s no question the Phoenix Suns had some work to do following the 2017-18 NBA season.

The team finished with the worst record in the NBA, though did earn the best odds to acquire the first overall pick in the upcoming draft.

But even so, it’s been four years since the Suns had a winning record, and eight since their last playoff appearance.

For veteran Jared Dudley, the postseason should be an expectation next season.

“I was telling (Devin) Booker the other day that it’s been awhile since I’ve been back to the playoffs,” Dudley told 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Bickley & Marotta on Friday. “It’s a different feeling that I want him and the Suns to experience. It should make you hungrier and willing to work to get there.

“I feel like going into this season, it should be a respectable goal to finally make the playoffs.”

The Suns head into the upcoming season with a new head coach after general manager Ryan McDonough hired former Suns and Utah Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov.

It wasn’t the home run name some were looking for, but Kokoskov’s proven track record of developing players makes Dudley believe he is a perfect fit for the Suns.

“One thing that Igor will bring immediately is the creativity when it comes to the offense,” Dudley said. “He developed Goran Dragic to the player he is now, he helped (Shaquille O’Neal’s) free throw shooting so he has a nice voice and a confidence about him when it comes to developing players.”

Kokoskov’s 18-year experience in the NBA and success leading the Slovenian national team were among the reasons he stood out to McDonough, vice president of basketball operations James Jones and owner Robert Sarver.

With Devin Booker and Josh Jackson leading the way in terms of the young talent the Suns possess, it presents Kokoskov with an opportunity to further develop the team.

“I think the Suns are on the right track,” Dudley said. “I think we stumbled a couple years ago and I think the plan has always been in year three to take the next step forward.

“I can see us starting to get free agents moving forward now if not this year, then the year after once you show we have a winning concept and ability.”

Acquiring a star player via free agency or trade is something the Suns have wanted to do since 2013.

But the building process starts with the NBA Draft, and the Suns have options should they draw the No. 1 overall pick.

One of the more intriguing prospects is Arizona center Deandre Ayton, who, at 7-foot-1, has the ability to make an impact right away.

Dudley, who once hosted Ayton at his basketball camp in San Diego, sees an opportunity to mentor the big man should he land with Phoenix.

“He is going to be an all-star,” Dudley said. “How great can he be is only on him.

“If we do draft him No. 1 and me being here and knowing him, he is going to be easy to mentor someone like that because he is willing to listen.”


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