The Kristaps Porzingis situation is what the Suns have been waiting for
When temptations arise, it’s always easy to tear up the current blueprint.
Since Steve Nash’s departure, the Phoenix Suns have tried to fast-track their way back to relevancy.
Only the past two seasons has general manager Ryan McDonough showed the willingness to start from scratch completely.
The emergence of Devin Booker and the commitment to youth development under coach Earl Watson has already — and again — put Phoenix in a confusing spot. The Suns have the assets to find All-Star caliber veterans, and now the temptations to win next year have reappeared.
While trading for a Jimmy Butler or Paul Millsap might look like cheap skipping of steps toward building a playoff team — even if paired alongside Booker — the news out of New York regarding Kristaps Porzingis’ availability is the exact opportunity McDonough’s stashing of assets was for.
Sources: So far, Knicks and Suns are without traction on a Kristaps Porzingis trade. Knicks will not get Devin Booker as part of any deal.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 22, 2017
Phil Jackson on Kristaps: "As much as we love this guy, we have to do what's best for the club."
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) June 22, 2017
John Gambadoro of 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station reported Tuesday that the Knicks offered Porzingis to the Suns and were seeking the return of Booker and the No. 4 pick.
The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported similar news on Wednesday, adding that despite the Knicks’ denials, they have been the aggressors on the trade market.
“The Knicks have made calls to teams about Kristaps Porzingis. I think they are trying to frame it that they’re listening to teams. They’ve put calls out,” Wojnarowski said on Facebook Live. “The Knicks are motivated to get into the top four in the draft — I think Josh Jackson would be their target.
“If they could get a what they consider a fairly elite young player, a young player who has a chance to be an All-Star or a very good starter in the league, and one of these high picks this year … there’s still a lot of curiosity about how determined they are to see this through with (Porzingis) and keep his name in these conversations.”
The Suns shouldn’t want to part with Booker.
But what if Phoenix can tempt Knicks president Phil Jackson with a package of, for example, Eric Bledsoe, the No. 4 pick, a future first-round pick from the Goran Dragic deal with Miami, and one (or even two) of T.J. Warren, Dragan Bender or Marquese Chriss?
ESPN’s Ian Begley reports the two first-round picks from 2016, Bender and Chriss, have been discussed.
Wojnarowski confirmed that the Suns have been active in other trade talks this year.
“They’ve talked with New York about Porzingis, they’ve been in some three-way conversations involving (Paul) George, Butler,” he said. “They’re looking at, can they flip that fourth pick and get an established star player?”
Of course, the word of the Suns’ work on the phone lines heading into the 2017 NBA Draft and the link to other trade rumors comes with a fear.
Where a Millsap or Butler would align with Bledsoe’s immediate success more than Booker’s, Porzingis is on his rookie deal and acquired in a trade would be eligible on his new team to sign max deal. Following that contract, he could be eligible to sign a super-max contract under the new collection bargaining agreement rules.
Don't forget, any team trading for Porzingis would be able to offer him a super max later in his career unlike Butler/George.
— Michael Schwartz (@SchwartzCenterM) June 22, 2017
Porzingis’ development fits perfectly with the 20-year-old Booker’s, and even a massive trade package like the one above would leave Phoenix with a reasonable amount of veteran and young talent.
Hours before the draft, there’s fear the Suns would end up taking another impatient step by dealing young players and assets for a player who doesn’t move the needle beyond a lower playoff seed for the next year or two.
Would Butler, Kevin Love or Millsap strike fear into the hearts of the Warriors or the Spurs? What’s the end game in the near future considering two MVP candidates, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, put together historic seasons but couldn’t challenge the top-tier teams in the conference?
The Suns might come up short in a trade offer with New York. The Celtics are arguably the biggest competition to land such a star with their stockpile of first-round picks and current players.
And the Knicks may end up keeping Porzingis despite all the trouble they’ve caused themselves.
Nonetheless, this is the exact opportunity the Suns have been waiting for, the rare situation that can’t be foreseen and makes perfect sense. It should be this or keeping with the theme of development — nothing else.
The Suns are at another crossroads of the long, safe journey of youth development they’ve sold and the rocky, dangerous path that might be a quicker route.
A Porzingis trade, on the other hand, would be like — ahem — jumping on the back of the unicorn into long-term relevancy.