EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Examining Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday as potential Suns trade targets

Feb 1, 2019, 4:18 PM | Updated: 4:19 pm
(AP photos)...
(AP photos)
(AP photos)

Empire of the Suns examines two of the biggest names on the trade market before Thursday’s trade deadline that the Phoenix Suns could target.

Kellan Olson: Kevin, last week we made the case for the Phoenix Suns needing to be buyers at the trade deadline, specifically for a point guard.

Since then, we’ve got reports that the New Orleans Pelicans are listening to offers on Jrue Holiday and the Los Angeles Lakers are inching closer to getting a deal done for Anthony Davis that will probably include Lonzo Ball. There’s also reported “mutual interest” between the Suns and Ball.

Let’s touch on Ball first since he’s the most intriguing from a #TheTimeline standpoint. He’s 21 and is a defense- and pass-first type of point guard. What’s not to like?

Kevin Zimmerman: His pops! That’s what’s not to like. The lack of a jumper and that 42 percent accuracy from the free throw line, where players cannot be defended is another thing to dislike! After that, there’s still enough upside to consider him as a candidate to end up as the best player in a draft class that includes Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, De’Aaron Fox, Jarrett Allen, John Collins, Kyle Kuzma and the list goes on.

OK, point is the guy is a basketball savant with some very clear and problematic flaws. He doesn’t even get assists in the traditional NBA manner because he’s not the best pick-and-roll threat thanks to his offensive limitations. Still, he’s gained enough weight in his second season to have faith he’ll be a great defender. As a person, I don’t believe tying his camp’s trade demands (that he doesn’t want to go to the Pelicans) as his own doing. By all accounts, he’s a good dude and teammate who gets a bad rap because of, oh yeah, his father!

Now, here’s another thing: How does he help this team win now? And moving on, do you agree that Jrue Holiday fits that bill as good as anyone else in the discussion?

Olson: On Ball, that’s the direct conflict with acquiring any point guard that hasn’t really proven themselves. That extends to names like Tyus Jones, Delon Wright and if we go bigger we can say Terry Rozier (minus one playoff series) and D’Angelo Russell. The Suns don’t have time to wait and see if these guys can be good.

But I can’t get past how terrific Ball’s style of play and athleticism would be for this team. Pushing the pace quick for the wings in transition, getting Booker a free bucket or two per night and being someone who can throw an adequate entry pass to Deandre Ayton. If Holiday and Ball are both on the table and the Holiday price is extensively higher, I think that’s a tougher choice for the Suns to make than we think.

With that being said, pay what the Pelicans want for Holiday. I’ll throw in anyone or anything not named Deandre, Devin or Mikal with a protection for guys named Zion. And despite how much I love Bridges, I’d think long and hard before probably budging if he was the breaking point of a deal.

Holiday is perfect. He’s in his prime now, will be for at least another year or two and is at a high enough level to elevate Ayton and Booker to get them out of the gutter and towards 40 wins and beyond.

Are we being too close-minded from the pit of despair for a team in a rebuild to give up significant assets for Holiday?

Zimmerman: Nah. There’s a reason neither of us thought giving up the unprotected Miami pick to draft Bridges was that big of a deal. That’s because this team needs to use assets to try to patch together a competitive team.

There’s always risk in doing that, but there’s not often rewards for teams that stand pat and HOPE they hit on an Oklahoma City Thunder-esque run of draft picks. We’re already past that point with the Suns, and this isn’t a hot Vegas blackjack table.

What former GM Ryan McDonough did to acquire Brandon Knight involved this same line of thinking — only it backfired in myriad ways to make it look like a dumb decision to give up a protected pick for a guy who was, again, a borderline All-Star when Phoenix acquired him.

Holiday gets paid a lot and may not be the pure point most envision. But I can guarantee having a physical, defensive combo guard and a 20-point scorer and a guy who averages 8.0 assists off the ball would help Devin Booker immensely. That’s one guy who can do all those things, mind you. Pay the 28-year-old man who can do that more than $25 million over the next few years and this team immediately sniffs a little success, then sees its young players grow, then sets itself up to take even bigger swings if all goes well. That, or we’re back to rebuilding in two years anyway.

Olson: And that makes me wonder if the Suns are already in the mindset of just seeing the rebuild out and not course-correcting themselves with the type of deal we are talking about. That’s a tough sell because Robert Sarver said on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station the day former general manager Ryan McDonough was fired that the rebuild is over.

McDonough’s team-building strategy was always built around gathering as many assets as possible while not tying himself down to dumb long-term money to maximize flexibility. That’s still what the Suns are doing right now, and if they don’t get a point guard before the trade deadline, we can assume that’s still the strategy.

Will they be aggressive in free agency? Yes. But are they open to giving up draft picks for players who can help on the court get them from a 20-win team to a 30-win team? It does not appear so until they prove that wrong.

That would be a moronic way to go about things considering what just happened with Kristaps Porzingis. Yes, Booker already signed the long-term extension, but him being unsettled would get toxic in a hurry, let alone to the point he requests a trade. Yes, the Suns have the talent around him to get out of his hole, but when does he get as impatient as the fanbase already is?

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