Veteran presence: Jared Dudley opens up on Suns' present and future

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Jared Dudley weighed in on the future of the Suns. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Jared Dudley weighed in on the future of the Suns. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Devin Booker said he's sick of losing but wants to stay in Phoenix. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Devin Booker said he's sick of losing but wants to stay in Phoenix. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Suns general Ryan McDonough, left, has to make some serious moves this off-season. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Suns general Ryan McDonough, left, has to make some serious moves this off-season. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Eleven years in the NBA has conditioned Suns forward Jared Dudley to speak intelligently on all league-wide topics. An outgoing and honest personality has conditioned him to speak candidly.

In an exclusive interview with Arizona's Family Wednesday, the Suns forward expressed hope and concern when assessing the Suns' future after a 21-61 record left the franchise out of the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season. Suns fans are losing patience. Dudley is aware of that but says budding star Devin Booker is right there with them.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Phoenix Suns]

“You have a star in Devin Booker so it’s only a matter of time before the organization puts the right team around him,” said Dudley. “Two years ago, he wasn’t ready. I think last year he showed that he was ready and then this year, I think you saw some of his frustration where he’s kind of with the fans because he really wants to win.”

Dudley, though, preaching patience when it comes to that fan frustration.

“For them, I would say, ‘stay patient,'" said Dudley. “After this year, we’ll be able to tell a lot because [the Suns] have a lot of picks and a lot of money and a lot of young players you can build around – so I feel that now is the time.”

First-round picks, of course, do not guarantee an influx of capable players. In fact, the jury is still very much out on the Suns 2016 draft class which produced top-eight picks in Dragan Bender and Marquise Chriss.

Dudley doesn’t hold back when assessing the futures of both players, holding the organization accountable in the process.

“I thought as a Suns organization we did a bad job of holding [Bender and Chriss] accountable early in their careers – giving them too much too early,” said Dudley. “And I said that to [Suns GM] Ryan [McDonough]. We gave them the keys so early that I can’t imagine being 18 or 19 and being asked to be a star in the league without even knowing [what it takes].”

Bender, according to Dudley, is making strides but needs to develop a more well-rounded game.

“Bender this past off-season worked on his game where he can hit the three-point shot,” said Dudley. “So now we know he’s a good stretch four who can shoot the three. He needs to now work on his aggressiveness and watch film now because Booker gets trapped a lot – so he has to make the passes and make the reads like a [Warriors all-star] Draymond Green.”

Dudley’s assessment of Chriss combines praise and concern.

“With Marquese, it’s all mental,” said Dudley. “He has some of the best physical tools on the team. It’s mentally where he kind of gets inside his own head - where it’s not really the game, it’s more himself. He might have to meet with someone in a sense of [someone helping him to] stay calm, stay engaged and stay ready. If he does that, he can work on his game and take the step but that’s why it’s the NBA – there are a lot of talented people and some people don’t make it as far but hopefully, those guys can take a huge leap.”

Even with the development of its young players, the Suns will ultimately need to add veteran free agents. It will be a challenge for the Suns until they become a proven playoff team. In the era of the "super team," talented NBA free agents don’t want to join losing organizations.

“I think the challenge for the Suns is you have to hit on your draft picks,” said Dudley. “If you get the first, second or third pick, you have to make sure he’s a star like the Sixers have done with [Joel] Embiid and Ben Simmons. You have a star with Booker and Josh Jackson has the potential to be a star – now if you have that, you don’t have to go out and get a big-time Paul George because you’ve already drafted it.  Now you go out and get the role players as you’ve seen them do with the J.J. Reddick types. Once you have that and you’re competing in the playoffs, those [free agent] all-star players – are they going to want to team up with Booker? So, it starts with a foundation of drafting right and then putting the right veterans around to get them to the playoffs to showcase these young guys.”

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