Jared Dudley: Suns’ direction was ‘tough to see at times’

Jul 26, 2018, 12:08 PM | Updated: 8:54 pm

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) and Jared Dudley look at the video screen after a foul was call...

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) and Jared Dudley look at the video screen after a foul was called on teammate TJ Warren during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, in Houston. Houston won 113-102. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

(AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Stability wasn’t common during Jared Dudley’s second tenure with the Phoenix Suns.

The forward, who was traded to the Brooklyn Nets last week, saw the organization through the only full year of coach Earl Watson’s tenure. The 2016-17 season saw the team shut down its best players to some of their disapproval.

The summer included a reported hard pass from the Suns in a proposed trade that would have landed Kyrie Irving in exchange for Eric Bledsoe and their No. 4 overall pick, Josh Jackson, reported 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s John Gambadoro. That deal also had the Pacers sending Paul George to Cleveland and Channing Frye to the Suns, per ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan.

Then, in 2017-18, Phoenix fired Watson three games in and eventually dealt a disgruntled Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks. All the while, the Suns were attempting to fasttrack order under interim coach Jay Triano while juggling roles for vets like Dudley, Tyson Chandler and Greg Monroe around a young core including Devin Booker and Jackson.

Now as a Brooklyn Net, Dudley has found time to reflect on his last two seasons with the Suns.

“I’m glad Booker developed into the player he is. I think Josh Jackson has it. I think it paid off: you get a number one pick in Deandre (Ayton). I think the future is bright,” Dudley told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi on The Woj Pod. “I just think for a veteran player, (Trevor) Ariza coming in, he might see a little bit of that (lack of clear direction). I think that sometimes it might get frustrating of not seeing the direction. As a player, seeing the direction, you can embrace it. It was just tough to see at times.”

Slowly, that direction has become more clear.

The Suns are putting all their chips on their drafting abilities. While they will also have cap space in 2019 for a loaded free agent class, many teams will have comparable financial flexibility.

Landing a star next to Booker depends on Phoenix either finding one on their own roster with Jackson or Ayton, or using one of those players’ development as a trade chip, Dudley said.

At the least, it will require a major leap forward in 2018-19 to convince free agents to join the Suns.

Dudley compared the Suns’ strategy to that of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who from 2007-09 consecutively drafted Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

But Phoenix’s decision to retain their draft picks amid that reported disinterest of pursuing the acquisition of Irving in July 2017 looms large, Dudley believes.

“My thing is, we’ll see five years down the road if that’s not the right decision,” Dudley told Wojnarowski. “Players (in free agency) will play in Phoenix. They could have had Kyrie. Now you’re basing (future success) on, if Deandre Ayton or Josh Jackson doesn’t hit, it’s tough now to reach that pinnacle unless they’re traded for a star.”

Dudley drew another comparison to the Suns’ decision of holding on to their draft picks.

The Toronto Raptors’ recent gamble to acquire Kawhi Leonard and his expiring contract from the Spurs for a package including DeMar DeRozan exemplifies a team taking the risk to acquire a star. Like Irving’s situation, there is worry Leonard could leave Toronto as a free agent.

But if he does, it’s back to building a team up — maybe with a memorable playoff run in the back pocket.

“At least you’re telling your fan base, ‘when we have a chance, we’re going for it,'” Dudley said. “In Phoenix they knew it was going to take a couple years. You keep drafting guys, over and over and over … you don’t get a big fish.”

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