Editor’s Note: Kristofer Habbas is a writer for NBADraftInsider.com and this is a special piece for ArizonaSports.com
Imagine for a second the Suns management personnel had a Suits Convention to decide what direction this team should go in. They debate whether or not to trade key players away, sign others and which way is up. During this meeting they bring up the question every Suns fan asked from January to the trade deadline of February 24th: Should we trade Steve Nash and Grant Hill out of respect?
During the whirlwind NBA trade deadline the Suns made a few transactions thought to make the team better for a playoff push, but neither proved to change the inevitable fact that the Suns were not that good this year.
Last year at the trade deadline the Suns had a chance to trade a star that was bound to walk in the summer. They knew he wanted and would likely receive a max contract; they also were very public in letting him know they would not offer him a max contract. Off Amare Stoudemire went to New York leaving a void in the locker room and on the court that could not be replaced, but boy did Suns’ owner Robert Sarver try.
He tried to sell the faithful fans of the Valley that Hakim Warrick, Hedo Turkoglu and overpaying to keep Channing Frye were the solutions to all the Amare woes. A few months later they admitted to being wrong by shipping Turkoglu and Leandro Barbosa off in separate trades in an effort to boost the team towards the playoffs. The Suns tried numerous ways to replace the initial mistake of letting a superstar walk for nothing; all failed and proved to other teams they need to get value for a guy who could walk.
That left veterans and fan favorites Steve Nash and Grant Hill on a gutted team with a lack of direction or future. Both under contract and the classiest guys you will ever meet, they’re not going to demand out. Fans want to pay to see them; the team needs them to be remotely competitive, but was it fair for Sarver to force them to go down with his sinking ship?
From a business standpoint trading Nash and/or Hill would have allowed the Suns to save money, bring in youth and build a future. Would fans be disappointed? Yes. But in this situation the fans were more torn on this than maybe any other situation in team history. They are beloved players, even to the extent that people wanted to see them go to a winning team for their last few years.
Looking at it from a win/loss standpoint, with Nash and Hill the Suns are competitive, but nowhere near a championship contender. Without them the team is rebuilding, but then again they were never a championship contender.
At the end of the day Sarver decided to keep them to sell tickets, hope for playoff revenue and keep his marquee names attracting fans. That is all.
If you ask Hill today what it would feel like to be on the Celtics or Thunder pushing towards a title, he would probably politely answer with how much he loves Phoenix and his teammates. Turn to Nash and see what he would look like in a Knicks, Lakers or Mavericks uniform and he will make you laugh with some funny anecdote from a Jared Dudley tweet. Both are too loyal to publically consider what could have been because they are still focused on what could be.