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Burns & Gambo

Updated Jan 18, 2012 - 9:35 pm

Trading Steve Nash won’t be easy for Suns

The most important date on the calendar this season for
the Phoenix Suns is March 15th, and it has nothing to do
with a date in L.A. against Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and
the Clippers that night.

No, March 15th is the NBA trade deadline and the biggest
question surrounding the Suns is whether Steve Nash will
be wearing purple and orange that night in Los Angeles or
be on his way to a contender as part of a
blockbuster trade.

The Suns have never seriously considered trading Nash
before, although there were talks in the past mainly with
the Portland Trail Blazers. But nothing ever came of
those discussions because nothing serious was offered in
return.

The Suns are going nowhere fast this season. Their
chances of making the playoffs are slim. The reality is
that they just aren’t very good, a team surrounded by
role players making a lot of money but no stars. Nash is
still a premier point guard in the league even at
close to 38-years-old, and there will be a few teams that
have interest in trading for him — mainly the Los Angeles
Lakers — but making a deal will be extremely difficult
without taking back an undesirable contract or two.

Let’s start with the Lakers. They need a point guard in
the worst way because neither Derek Fisher nor Steve Blake
is very good. Putting Nash with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol
and Andrew Bynum makes the Lakers a threat again in the
West and allows them to possibly hold off the tidal wave
that the Clippers have created with the addition of Chris
Paul. The Lakers do have the Mavericks first-round pick
this year which is attractive, but that is all they have
that Phoenix would want. To make a deal work for teams
above the salary cap the money must come within 25% of
each other. So trading Nash and his $11.6 million salary
means Phoenix must take back at least $9 million in
salary. The Lakers would love to rid themselves of Ron
Artest (Metta World Peace) and the $15 million he is due
over the next two years. Same for Luke Walton and the $6.1
million he is due next season. They do not have an
expiring contract that Phoenix can acquire and the Suns
can not amnesty a player that they trade for so they would
be stuck with those players if they traded for them. So
making a trade with the Lakers seems almost impossible
without absorbing more bad contracts. The first-round pick
is attractive but not at the expense of taking on a player
who can’t play any longer and is tied up for two more
years. A first-round pick in the 20’s is valued at around
$3 million dollars so taking back $15 million in a
contract to get a pick worth around $3 million is not good
business.

The other team that we can envision wanting Nash is the
Knicks, but chances are New York will just wait until the
end of the season and get him for the mid-level as a free
agent without giving up any players. The one player the
Suns would love to acquire from New York is rookie Iman
Shumpert, who Phoenix desperately tried to get in the
draft by acquiring a second first-round pick. But the
Knicks are unlikely to trade a young, popular player who
is having success and doesn’t cost much. And ownership and
management are unlikely to allow Mike D’Antoni to call the
shots on a trade for Nash because there are rumblings he
won’t be back next year. The Knicks do not have a first-
round pick in this draft and besides Shumpert, there is
nothing on the roster that Phoenix would want and making
the money work would be near impossible with the Knicks’
salary structure. The Knicks also have Baron Davis close
to playing and feel they can ride out the season with him
rather than trade for Nash now.

Miami has come up as a possible destination in the past
but again, no they don’t have a first-round pick and
nothing of value that the Suns would want via trade. There
are a lot of quality point guards in the league so not
many teams would have interest in Nash if he is available.
What those teams have are bad contracts that they would
love to dump on the Suns. Phoenix needs to avoid adding a
bad contract or two at all costs. It is more important for
the Suns to preserve the precious cap space they will have
for future years rather than trade for more below average
role players who make a lot of money. The Suns have enough
of those guys.

So while everyone wants the Suns to trade Nash and get
draft picks and young players, that is easier said than
done. Chances are that March 15th in Los Angeles, Nash
will be suiting up for the Suns and riding out his final
season in Phoenix. And it won’t be because the Suns didn’t
try to make a deal, it will be because there are no good
deals out there, only bad ones.

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