Seven Days of Suns Trade-mas: The deal to blow it all up
Let’s be honest, fake trades are pretty stupid.
Everyone who has an opinion about basketball — knowledgeable or not — has a varying perspective on enough players that any scenario involving a trade is bound to be disagreed upon.
Even those watching over eight hours of NBA action a night will have these disagreements.
With that out of the way, the Phoenix Suns are bound to make a trade before the league’s deadline on Feb. 23.
Whether it’s veterans who contenders could use like P.J. Tucker and Tyson Chandler, or one of guards Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, there’s a move to be made for one of the worst teams in the NBA.
A muddled NBA standings picture that FiveThirtyEight currently projects will only have 12 teams finish above .500 means plenty of teams will have playoff aspirations deep into the season, convoluted or not.
In one basketball writer’s opinion, here are some moves that don’t seem completely out of the realm of possibility in less than two months.
Welcome to the seven days of Suns’ Trade-mas. With the Suns near the bottom of the Western Conference and a roster brewing with trade potential and questionable fits, Empire of the Suns brings you trade scenarios for a new year of Suns basketball.
Aaron Gordon, Jeff Green (expiring)
Eric Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker (expiring)
As I wrote a few weeks back, the Suns need to start evaluating where their future lies with Bledsoe. If they decide now is the time to deal their best player, here’s a possible deal to get that done. Let’s start with the Orlando Magic.
Someone might need to tell them to make sure they know, but the Magic are about to be committed to winning now unless they gave up a significant amount in a trade for one year of 27-year-old Serge Ibaka, who is an unrestricted free agent next summer. Ibaka, 24-year-old recently-signed Bismack Biyombo and center Nikola Vucevic are signed through until at least the summer of 2018 when Gordon becomes a restricted free agent.
The misuse of Gordon, arguably the Magic’s most valuable basketball asset, has been a big storyline in Orlando. Gordon’s future in the NBA is the modern power forward, but Orlando has elected to use Gordon more as a ball-handler due to its overstocked frontcourt.
Similar to the Suns’ Dragan Bender, Gordon’s skills are maximized at the power forward spot. He has the strength and rebounding ability to not be a negative in that regard, while his superior leaping ability and keen defensive instincts make him a tremendous secondary shot-blocker. Offensively, he has some potential — like Bender — to score and distribute off the dribble, but for now, he’s best for improving his three-point shot and making smart, energy plays.
This year, Gordon has the highest offensive rating on the Magic, and the team’s three lineup combinations with the best net rating and at least 25 minutes played all include Gordon. He’s effective for Orlando right now, but even if he continues to improve as a 21-year-old former top-five pick, the Magic don’t have the space to give him the role he needs.
Orlando’s issues extend to point guard. Former lottery pick Elfrid Payton has failed to secure his spot as their floor general, coming off the bench at this point in the season. His position is where the Magic are rumored to be looking for help.
That’s where Bledsoe comes in. He’s roughly one of the top 15 point guards in the league and while he’s not an MVP candidate, by averaging 19.9 points per game he is 0.1 of a point away from joining four of them — LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Russell Westbrook and James Harden — as one of the five players in the league averaging at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game. Bledsoe, 27, would make Orlando better right away while also matching up well with the age of Ibaka and Biyombo.
Tucker gives Orlando a better small forward option than Green, who is on an expiring $15 million contract. Tucker proved in back-to-back games he is capable of shutting down All-Stars like Carmelo Anthony and Anthony Davis, and while he is only shooting 33 percent from the three-point line on the season, he’s shooting 47 percent on 32 attempts this season from his preferred right corner, somewhere a better team with improved offensive options can place him more consistently.
The Suns could look to copy their three- and four-guard rotations and use the idea at forward. Warren is the offensive focal point, Gordon and Bender form a tantalizing defensive duo, and Chriss continues to grow through his bouncy energy. There’s one too many cooks in the kitchen for everyone to get ideal playing time, but at least for the next two seasons, Bender and Chriss are not ready for 25-30 minutes per game anyway.
At point guard without Bledsoe, the Suns get a serious last look at Brandon Knight while likely finishing with a top-five pick to select a promising point guard. Bledsoe’s prime will very likely be gone by the time the Suns are ready to push for the playoffs, and this is a hard reset in response to now three straight failed seasons.