That didn’t take long. Just 25 games into the season and the Phoenix Suns decided to scrap the game plan and start over. Yes the Suns clearly didn’t like what they were and at 12-13 who could blame them. So they pull off a blockbuster six-player trade with the Orlando Magic that for all intent and purposes will make them bigger but not necessarily better.
There are clearly two ways to look at this trade. So let’s start with the glass half empty. Clearly and without any debate the two best players in the trade are Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu, both going to Orlando. And many times when you are dealing the best player or in this case two players you lose. Richardson and Turkoglu were also both guys who could make plays down the stretch. I for one wanted the Suns to resign Richardson and maybe after the new CBA comes into play they could have done it at a reasonable price. I also wonder if Richardson’s expiring contract could have fetched more in a trade than what Phoenix brought back. The problem with Turkoglu is that he is actually a decent basketball player but he is not worth anywhere near the amount of money he is getting paid.
On the positive or in this case glass half full side, the Suns have always liked Marcin Gortat, heck they even drafted him in the second round before trading him to Orlando. They tried to get him back once before but came up short. Now he is back and he is a load, 6-11, 240 pounds and I believe a better center than Robin Lopez. So now the Suns are a better rebounding team but not as good offensively.
If we break the trade down player for player we can find the reasoning that Phoenix made this deal. If Richardson wasn’t coming back under any circumstances than trading him for Vince Carter is a wash. Carter will show some flashes at age 33, some signs that he can still play. But at other times you will be completely frustrated by his inconsistencies. Richardson is a better player but Carter can give the Suns a lot of the scoring they will lose with JRich and they can pay him $4 million next year to go away.
Clark had no future with the team so moving him was expected. So let’s look at Clark for Pietrus. Pietrus can shoot the three, plays good defense and is a high energy guy – kind of like Lou Amundson in that category. He is not a smart player, takes bad shots and wasn’t really liked by his coaches in Golden State or Orlando. He has a player option for $5.3 million for next season and I expect him to pick that up if there is a season because I see no teams that would be willing to pay him that type of money. So slight edge to Phoenix here because they at least get a player who can contribute rather than one that just sits the bench. But he is another wing player and his addition will mean that someone will get less minutes
The key to the trade for Phoenix is Gortat for Turkoglu. Both players are under contract long term, Gortat signed through 2013. Carter is half a season and done in Phoenix and Pietrus a season and a half at most and possibly only half a season if he declines his option. So the only player who is part of the Suns future is Gortat. And the Suns decided that they would rather have Gortat, who is a serviceable big man, signed at $6.79 next year, $7.25 in 2012-13 and $7.72 in 2013-14 rather than Turkoglu at $10.6, $11.4 and $12.2 in his final year, which is only partially guaranteed.
The first round pick they got from Orlando is nice but that pick is not going to be good and this is not expected to be a good draft. But still you would rather have the pick than not have it and maybe it gives the Suns some flexibility when it comes to another trade.
In the end the Suns are likely not much better or worse after the trade than they were before it. Getting out from under Turkoglu’s contract is a good thing and adding Gortat is not a bad thing, although clearly he is being paid more than he is worth as well.
And all of this leads us to the million dollar question of whether or not the Suns are going to trade Steve Nash. While I can’t see Nash wanting to stay if things go south it just doesn’t make much sense to move him because I think you are going to get 50 cents on the dollar in any trade. The problem is that you are not going to get a top 5 pick for Nash and likely won’t even get a lottery pick. Any team trading for him is going to be picking late in the first round. And none of the true contenders has anything Phoenix will want roster wise, heck Miami doesn’t have any picks, the Lakers can offer Andrew Bynum but he is a bust and can’t stay healthy, Dallas doesn’t need a point guard, neither does San Antonio, Utah, New Orleans, Oklahoma City or Boston. The Knicks might be willing to talk trade but the way Raymond Felton is playing Mike D’Antoni may be reluctant to trade a trending upward young point guard for an aging one. It will be extremely hard to get value for Nash so trading him may not be worth it.
That the Suns are trying to right the wrongs from this past off-season is at least a good sign. That they are not satisfied being a .500 team shows they are committed to winning. But don’t expect this trade to put Phoenix over the top. It’s just one of many moves that will need to be made before Suns are contenders again.