The Phoenix Suns deciding to go with Earl Watson as their full-time head coach doesn’t mean what many people believe it does.
There’s a thought that because the 36-year-old is green, this signifies the start of a rebuilding process that’s going to focus on the development of younger players.
While that aspect of the roster won’t get lost — it’s not the top priority.
“We do value and emphasize the development of our young players,” general manager Ryan McDonough stated at Watson’s introductory press conference Tuesday. “That’s something extremely important to us. I think we’re going to try and continue to do both is the best way to put it. We want to win games. We want to establish a culture, and a framework of an organization that is conducive to winning, and is sustainable over a long period of time. At the same time, we do want to develop our young players. We’re gonna toe that line as best we can. I think coming into the season we hoped to be a playoff team and also get our young guys experience. I know that can be difficult to do at times.”
This is the same philosophy McDonough has held since the Suns overachieved in 2013-14.
The rhetoric emanating from Phoenix is the Markieff Morris situation and numerous injuries to key players were the biggest reasons for a 23-59 season.
Excuses. Excuses with some validity, but excuses nonetheless.
Owner Robert Sarver recently stated in a panel with AZCentral Sports:
You’re either close to the top or getting the assets to raise up. What we want to stay away from is being in the middle for an extended period of time.
The balance of what McDonough is trying to accomplish leaves the potential to fall into the trap Sarver specifically states he is trying to avoid.
The Suns are in a place where trading the majority of the veteran pieces they have to focus their efforts around the younger components on the roster is logical.
Looking to move Tyson Chandler and P.J. Tucker would signify a shift in organizational philosophy with an admittance this core of players isn’t heading where they’d like.
If this was the Suns’ play, I don’t think Earl Watson would be the permanent head coach. Chandler and Tucker are two of his biggest supporters.
Chandler had a five-game period late in the season (when games no longer had any meaning) where he played 34, 39, 38, 36 and 33 minutes.
Tucker averaged about 33 minutes per game in April and March.
The Suns played to win as many games as they could down the stretch, valuing victories and veterans over experimentation and discovery.
Phoenix’s same exact roster won’t be back, but it seems the hope of the Suns is to establish some continuity from this season to the next.
No one is explicitly saying it, but reading between the lines, you can tell there is belief with another offseason they have a chance to make the playoffs if they address some obvious roster flaws, like power forward and depth.
McDonough is betting on Watson and a good chunk of these players to be the ones to save his job.
The GM has made it clear that he expects success on the court in 2016-17.
“We’re not going to tear the thing down and build with just kids. We’re also not going to trade a bunch of our young guys and build with just veterans,” he said. “We’re going to have a blend and a balance. I think the good teams do that and I think that’s the best way to be sustainable going forward and try to have a good team for a really long time.”
There’s no going in one direction for the Suns.
If the record follows their ideology of being in the middle — what does that mean for McDonough himself?