The NBA is currently locked out, so no player movement is possible.
However, that won’t stop people from speculating on what could — and should — happen once the lockout is lifted, and the Suns are likely to be at the forefront of many a conversation.
The most likely topic? Steve Nash, and whether or not the Suns should trade him. ESPN writer Tom Haberstroh has already weighed in, and he thinks the only way for the Suns to rebuild is to tear it all down first.
In all likelihood, the Phoenix Suns are going nowhere with the team as currently assembled. They finished with a lukewarm record of 40-42 with their three top scorers all over the age of 34. They have more than $55 million due next season already — mostly to journeymen with low ceilings — which leaves them with little spending power if the salary cap looks anything like it did in 2010-11. But of course, it won’t; the next cap will likely handcuff them even more.
As painful as it sounds to Phoenix faithful, the Suns exist in NBA purgatory: lottery-bound, but nowhere close to earning first dibs on the next great player in the draft. No team wants to be caught in this in-between world where they can’t reap the benefits of a playoff appearance, but also lack the hope of landing the next Blake Griffin or John Wall.
So how can they find basketball heaven? The only way out may be to trade Steve Nash.
This topic has been discussed ad nauseam, but until the Suns either return to elite status or part with Nash for good the topic will never go away. And, as Haberstroh writes, chances are the Suns are not going to be a contender anytime soon.
So, the question then becomes whether or not to trade Nash now or let his contract expire after the season, likely parting with him then. Haberstroh makes a good argument for the latter idea, saying the Suns should learn from what happened in Cleveland and Toronto.
The Suns will outlive Nash’s stay, just like the Raptors were forced to endure without Chris Bosh, and the Cavaliers without LeBron James. Those two franchises were exposed as woefully unprepared for the inevitable transition, pinning their hopes on the frail backs of Andrea Bargnani and Antawn Jamison, respectively.
The Suns appear to be in a similar predicament, with no one on the roster appearing to be a star and no cap space with which to add the next great player. And, barring a total collapse, the team won’t be picking high enough in next year’s draft to land that guy, either.
The sharp organization is the one that balances a short-term focus with a plan for long-term prosperity. Nash may be the short-term answer from a business perspective, but his expiration date is dangerously approaching. Can the Suns accept the sobering reality that Nash, a 37-year-old in the final year of his contract, won’t lead the Suns to their first title?
Well, actually he can. Indirectly. If Nash won’t lead the Suns to hallowed ground, the Suns need to get working on finding their next candidate. And they can use Nash to acquire a bundle of prospects and fruitful assets rather than let him rot on a dried-up roster.
The only organization that could value Steve Nash as much as the Suns do is the one chasing a title. Now, there’s a short list of title contenders and an even shorter one that could hold interest in Nash’s services while also wielding promising pieces to make a palatable offer for Phoenix.
What could the Suns receive in exchange for the two-time MVP? Haberstroh suggests the Oklahoma City Thunder as an option, with names like Serge Ibaka and James Harden being linked to Phoenix.
Less palatable for Phoenix is another one of the suggestions, the San Antonio Spurs. Haberstroh says a Tony Parker for Nash swap works financially, but the bet here is that Robert Sarver and David Stern will vacation in the Hamptons together long before the Suns willingly send Nash to the Spurs.
Haberstroh also mentions the Knicks, but says that’s more of a pipe dream than an actual possibility.
But in the end, the idea of trading Nash is one the Suns should entertain once the lockout is lifted. While it would be tough to see him go, the alternative may be even worse.
But it’s hard to imagine the Suns getting back to the playoffs any time soon if they allow the warm, fuzzy feelings of keeping Nash to get the best of them.
If you think dealing Nash would cause ticket holders to run for the hills, imagine the revolt when fans realize their future hinges on Jared Dudley, Hakim Warrick and Gortat.