Should the Suns re-sign Grant Hill?

Hill, Nash and Co. could smile for once at the end of a game against a playoff team. (AP/Ross D. Franklin)

Does it make sense for Hill and Nash to be teammates again next season on what could be a rebuilding Suns team? (AP/Ross D. Franklin)

At first glance it’s not even a discussion we need to be having: your Phoenix Suns must re-sign Grant Hill.

Steve Kerr has made him Phoenix’s top target in free agency, proving that by making sure he was the first GM Hill met with by traveling to his Orlando home when free agency started on Wednesday.

But should Grant Hill be Phoenix’s top priority for next season?

Obviously if this team plans on competing for championships, he’s a must re-sign. Hill was their best perimeter defender last season, he excelled in the transition game and he brought the kind of all-around game that thrives under Alvin Gentry.

That’s not to mention Gentry and Hill share a special rapport dating back to the days Gentry coached Hill in Detroit (that relationship is one of the reasons Hill came here in the first place), and as a person he just might be the best guy in basketball. Call him the Luis Gonzalez of the NBA.

His teammates love him, his coaches love him, the fans certainly love him, and he probably still has something left in the tank after putting up 12 and five last year after sitting out all those seasons with his various injuries.

But the question is, what direction are the Suns going in?

If they are dealing Amare and blowing this thing up, what use do they have for a 37-year-old Grant Hill?

At that point, Hill would only be taking away time and touches from future rotation guys like Earl Clark and Jared Dudley.

More importantly, why would Hill want to play in a situation like that? As mentioned before, he lost some of his prime years to injury, and he still has that monkey of never winning a playoff series firmly entrenched on his back.

He’s made his $100 million and then some; now it’s winning time for Grant Hill.

Even if Hill would prefer Phoenix, I can’t imagine him giving his John Hancock without knowing what the hell is going on with your Phoenix Suns. And frankly he deserves that. Hill should only come back if the Suns are committed to winning in 2009-10, not building for the future.

The ideal situation in my mind would be for Hill to sign a one-year deal in the $3 million range with the Suns for one final year with the club, although he’s gone on record as saying he’d like to play a few more than that.

If the Suns eventually commit to keeping Amare to start this season if they find no takers in the trade market (a very distinct possibility at this point), commit to keeping Nash and make one more move for a big, there’s no reason why Grant shouldn’t say “yes” to Kerr.

If they decide to go one more year as a quasi-contender and then really change things up during the much anticipated Summer of 2010, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t expect No. 33 back in purple and orange next season.

But even though Hill has already put down a deposit for his daughter’s private school in Phoenix (like he couldn’t afford eating that) and claimed to have a 91.3 percent chance of returning, don’t necessarily expect him back if the situation isn’t right, especially with teams like the Celtics, Nuggets and D’Antoni’s Knicks reportedly pursuing him.

What we have seen thus far in the offseason is that the elites (as in the Lakers, Spurs, Cavs, Magic and Celtics) are putting all their chips in the center to win it all by bringing in guys like Ron Artest, Richard Jefferson, Shaq, Vinsanity and potentially eventually Rasheed Wallace.

The rest of the league is largely dilly dallying around and waiting for 2010.

The gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening by the day, and even the most optimistic Suns fan would be hard pressed to envision a situation in which the Suns can be propelled anywhere near that group by the time training camp breaks.

Yes, the Suns could be a good, fun, exciting playoff team if they bring back Hill and don’t dump Amare, but they still won’t be joining the upper crust.

For me at least, complicating matters is the fact that the Oklahoma City Thunder own the Suns’ 2010 draft pick. If Kurt Thomas was never traded with the two firsts to an organization that traded him to a Spurs team that beat the Suns in the playoffs and then used him to acquire Jefferson, I’d be painting a completely different picture.

Then I would be advocating for the Suns to purge their roster of veterans, stockpile as much young talent as they can, tank this season, hopefully end up with a high pick in a stellar draft, and then use their cap space to add an impact free agent or two.

That way the Suns would basically have just one down year before being in position for another run like 2004-08, kind of like the purging of Starbury and Penny and a subsequently crappy year led to the Nash signing and the uncanny turnaround of 2004-05.

So the answer to “Should the Suns re-sign Hill” isn’t as simple as you would think it would be.

Unless he’s paid well below market value, there’s no way the Suns should offer him more than one year, especially considering his injury history (despite playing all 82 this year) and the fact that he will be a 38-year-old wing who relies on speed entering the 2010-11 season.

If the Suns are using 2009-10 to rebuild and get in position for a comeback during the Summer of 2010, the right thing to do for Hill and Phoenix’s evaluation process would be to let the vet sign somewhere he has a better shot at winning now.

If the Suns really plan on winning this season (a big if at this point), then I’m all for bringing him back.

Kerr and Co. just have to make up their mind about where this team is headed next year before they go around throwing money at a 37-year-old wing, even if that 37-year-old wing is the one and only Grant Hill.

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