This is an exciting time to be writing about the Suns. Not only are they having a pretty good season, but they’re everywhere. In his Morning Tip yesterday, David Aldridge named the Suns his “Team Of The Week”:
Phoenix (3-0): Two weeks ago, the Suns looked dead in the water, losing to the Jazz and Bobcats and looking bad doing so. But the NBA gives you a chance to get back on your feet quickly and Phoenix has taken advantage, ripping off five straight wins over four quality opponents — Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Denver — and finishing up a four-game road sweep with Friday’s victory at Sacramento. Despite the constant trade talk, Stoudemire has picked up his game, and Channing Frye looks like he’s gotten a second wind in his new role coming off the bench after struggling through December and January.
Phoenix, which experienced serious hiccups after a 14-3 start, appears to have righted its ship enough to be able to coast into the playoffs, provided the Suns don’t jettison Amare Stoudemire at the trade deadline.
Hey, how ’bout them Suns! But of course, both Aldridge and Hollinger allude to the real reason the Suns are in the news right now: the massive uncertainty surrounding Amar’e. Will they trade him? Will they agree to an extension? Will he opt out in search of more money? There are lots of questions, and tons of speculation from all sides. It seems like the general consensus is that there’s a better than even chance that the Suns will trade Amar’e before the Feb. 18th trade deadline. But there are so many IFs involved that nobody seems to know exactly what to think about such things. If you ask me, I think the Suns, if they don’t feel they can extend Amar’e at a reasonable price, need to trade him for the best possible value they can get. One of the worst things a franchise can do is allow a useful player to walk away and get nothing in return.
So if they’re going to trade him, what can they get? According to various rumors flying around the InterToobz, there are numerous possible trade partners for the Suns. ESPN’s Rumor Central lists Philly, Detroit, Cleveland, New Jersey, Miami, Chicago, San Antonio, and Washington as potential STAT destinations.
Let’s focus on two that seem like strong possibilities, as discussed by Paul Coro in this article, and dissected further by Seth Pollack at Bright Side Of The Sun. One trade would feature STAT heading to Cleveland in exchange for JJ Hickson and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (and his big fat expiring contract). The other is the much-discussed STAT to Philadelphia for Andre Iguodala and ?. Most of the discussion so far has been Iguodala and Samuel Dalembert, but that deal is generally poo-pooed due to the money left on Dalembert’s contract. But Coro talks about the other player possibly being PF Marreese Speights. Now that, my friends would be an intriguing deal for the Suns.
Much of the discussion amongst commenters on BSOTS is about whether it’s worth trading STAT’s 21.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1 block per game for Speights’ 9.1, 4.4, and .6 or Hickson’s 7.2, 4.4, and .4. That’s a large disparity, and one that wouldn’t likely be made up by Iguodala (with the position differences and what-have-you). But let’s look at some other numbers. Here are, in random order, some of the rate stats for those three players:
Well, I think we can fairly discount player #1: Hickson. Some of his numbers are good, but he just doesn’t measure up. But the other two…well, when you look at rate stats vs. counting stats, the difference between the two becomes a lot less clear. Player 3 has some advantages, but Player 2 comes out ahead in Player Efficiency Rating, an overall measure of a player’s statistical performance. Number 2 is Marreese Speights, and 3, of course, is STAT. Now, I like STAT as much as the next guy. Love his game, love watching him play. But if the Suns could replace him with a player who is 5 years younger and $15 million dollars cheaper (and lacks STAT’s injury history), for what would likely be similar production if the minutes were the same, is there any reason not to do it? I know that there’s no guarantee that Speights would bump up to those levels if given more minutes, but I think I’d take that chance.
The second question about that trade is: Would Iguodala be enough of an upgrade over Jason Richardson to justify moving Amar’e (since Iguodala would necessarily replace JRich in this situation)? Again, let’s stat it up:
Richardson is first, Iggy second. They’re pretty similar players; Richardson scores a little more, but Iguodala gets a lot more assists. Richardson is hovering right around the league average (15.0) in PER, Iguodala is a good bit above average. Iguodala makes about the same money per year (for three years beyond Richardson’s deal). Iguodala is almost exactly three years younger. That matters.
Obviously, this wouldn’t work as one trade, but if the Suns felt they had to move Amar’e (and could get their hands on Speights), wouldn’t this be a great deal for them…especially if they could figure out a way to move Richardson also? I say yes. And that’s without even considering the effect that playing with Nash seems to have on players’ stats.