Grading the Phoenix Suns - Orlando Magic trade

Vince Carter is aging, but the Suns don't miss a step as he replaces Jason Richardson as Phoenix's two-guard.

At first glance, I thought the Phoenix Suns were the clear loser of the blockbuster trade they swung with the Orlando Magic Saturday afternoon.

(In cased you’re late to the party, the Suns swapped Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark for Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, a 2011 first-round draft pick and cash considerations).

Carter is an aging chemistry killer and prototypical chucker, Marcin Gortat is an overpaid backup center, while Jason Richardson is Phoenix’s top scorer (19.3 points per game) and a perfect fit in the Suns’ system.

This Suns team is also searching to find itself, and shuffling the roster doesn’t seem like the best way to build chemistry and solidify rotations.

But after some more deliberation, it dawned on me that this indeed is an above-average deal that Lon Babby and Lance Blanks won’t regret pulling the trigger on.

The Suns can rid themselves of the nightmare that was The Turkoglu Experiment, while finding a home for Clark, who never found his way out of head coach Alvin Gentry’s doghouse.

They lose Turkoglu’s painful contract, (J-Rich expires after this season), and only owe Carter about $4 million guaranteed next season.

Gortat is owed around $25 million over the next four seasons, including this season, which is a bit steep. But overall it frees up cap space for a future that looks quite grim for the Suns.

The 2011 draft pick, along with that freed up cap space, will help them find and develop talent to enhance their bleak future. I don’t think this deal makes the Suns all that much better, but it doesn’t make them worse, which isn’t bad for a sub-.500 team thirsting for change.

Overall grade: B

So what are the Suns getting with each new player and how will they fit with the Suns? Here’s a closer look:

Vince Carter

Suns fans know this isn’t the same Vinsanity that stuck his elbow in the rim during dunk contests or jumped over seven-footers in international competition. Carter can still get up there, but he’s slowed down considerably. He’s 33 years old, playing just over 30 minutes a game and doing most of his damage on the perimeter, as he’s averaging a career-low 3.4 free-throw attempts.

Although he’s known as a chucker who settles for bad shots, Carter is having his most efficient year as a pro. He’s shooting a career-best 47 percent from the field and a respectable 34.6 percent from three.

But how does he fit as a Sun? Carter should be a good fit in the wide-open Suns offense, although he’s equally as worthless defensively as Richardson. He can use his athleticism to get up and down, but still spots up for open threes he likes to settle for.

Health issues are always there, but that’s not a concern in Phoenix judging by what the Suns’ training staff did for Grant Hill and Steve Nash.

Carter brings a transition threat, and a playmaker the Suns thought they had in Turkoglu. History says he needs a lot of touches to be effective, but Nash can change that and Carter figures to be a perfect fit who can mimic J-Rich’s stats in purple and orange.

Carter as a Sun: B

Marcin Gortat

Although he isn’t flashy, the 6-foot-11, 240-pound Polishman helps the Suns more than anyone in this deal. The NBA’s worst rebounding team that can’t defend the interior to save its life just found the answer to its problems.

Gortat isn’t a savior by any means, but he’s an active big man that’s been waiting for his shot for quite some time. He’s known as one of the league’s best backup big men, and banging against Dwight Howard every day in practice has to make you a better pro.

His numbers aren’t staggerring (4 points per game, 4.3 rebounds, 0.8 blocks) but he’s still only 26 years old and gives the Suns four near seven-footers in Gortat, Channing Frye, Robin Lopez and Earl Barron. Gortat is the only true banger and should help the Suns fill their weaknesses.

My only question is: Where does he fit in the rotation? He’s not going to start over Lopez and he certainly can’t start next to him because the Suns need more spacing for Nash to operate. He’ll most likely back Lopez up and serve as injury insurance, which isn’t the worst thing because Lopez doesn’t seem poised to make that giant step the Suns had hoped for this season.

But what about down the road? When Lopez does develop, are you going to pay $7 million a year to a backup center? Gortat fills a need now and will do some great things for the Suns, but down the road I’m not sure how he fits in. The Suns could have used a a prototypical power forward, not a prototypical center.

Gortat as a Sun: B-

Mickael Pietrus

Pietrus is the forgotten player in this deal, but he shouldn’t be. He’s fairly cheap at $5.3 million this season and the same amount next season with a player option. He’s the perimeter defender the Suns thought they had in Earl Clark and Josh Childress.

He won’t create off the dribble, which is fine as Nash, Hill and Carter will dominate the ball. He figures to fill the role Childress hasn’t been able to yet, except he can actually shoot the ball. Eighty-seven of his 115 shots are threes this season, which is a perfect fit for the Suns’ offense.

Pietrus can defend, knock down the triple (39.1 percent) and has a swagger and toughness Suns fans will fall in love with quickly. It remains to be seen how many minutes he’ll play (my guess is 18-20), but although Carter and Gortat are the big names, Pietrus is the dark horse in the deal.

Pietrus as a Sun: B+

Tags: Earl Clark Hedo Turkoglu Jason Richardson Marcin Gortat Mickael Pietrus Vince Carter

  • Andrew Clark

    Just a point of correction. Gortat is 26, not 24.

    That said, this deal is a solid win for Phoenix. If Carter shows up to play it should get them into the playoffs and give them a chance to be competitive. Adding Gortat allows them to compete with bigger teams like LAL in a way they have not been able to in the past.

    If Carter flops, he’s a giant expiring contract and they can ship him off to Philadelphia for Iggy or some other team looking to dump and overpriced contract.

  • Nashty

    With this Hill, Nash, and Carter starting, the Suns have now have a legitimate shot at the 2003 NBA Finals.

  • lewis

    Losing richardson hurts, and lets be honest, i don’t expect anything out of vc, but this suns team as it was previously constructed would have been extremely lucky to make the playoffs. Mike is exactly right, pietrus is the dark horse in this deal, Gortat can play anyone who has watched magic games knows that, he is a quality big man in a leauge without many of them. If pietrus can revert back to 2009 playoff form and stay healthy the ceiling on this suns team rises from average to just maybe, maybe a couple wins in a playoff series.

  • Shawn Buckmaster

    Great deal for the Suns! Got rid of 2 bad fits and got 3 great fits! Vince will fill in nicely for Jrich as anyone with his skills will succeed in the Suns style of play. Plus Jrich would be gone after the season anyways as he’s showed he couldn’t play without Nash in the lineup. Gortat is going to surprise Suns and could be the best piece out the trade. He is widely considered the best backup in the league! We will have a good center on the court at all times. There is a reason why he’s got the contract he does… the Mavs wanted him in the offseason to start for them but, the Magic couldn’t stand to let him go. Pietrus is a great pickup who is a great fit for the Suns. He shoots the ball really well and is tenacious with good D. Our 2nd unit just got a lot better! Unfortunately Gentry is still going to have to figure out the rotation as we continue to have a glut of swing players but, we have lots of trade pieces to try and grab another good piece to the puzzle, PF or high draft pick anyone? I give the trade a B+ go suns!

  • jane

    First of all, I like this trade. Yeah, this trade is just “undoing” the miserable Hedo trade. Getting rid of Hedo’s contract is the most focused, I guess.

    Anyway, the Suns needed a big man, not like Earl Barron or Siler, who can really defend and rebound. And getting Gortat is a great addition.

    J-Rich will be missed, but I didn’t think that Sarver would be willing to give him a contract extention. So Vice Carter, if he is healthy, will basically do the same thing as J-Rich has done for this team. His contract is also favorable.

    Pietrus will be actually a good fit in Suns’ system, again, if he is healthy.

    Overall, I want to give A- for this trade.

    Hopefully, Nash gets well soon.

  • Mike L

    I don’t know how you give Gortat a B- in this trade. And I’m not sure how much you’ve done your homework, Mike, because I GUARANTEE that Gortat is THE guy the Suns really wanted out of the 3. The reality is that we were going nowhere without improving our D and Rebounding.

    And forget the whining about finding a high-scoring 4. Can you think of anyone out there that fits the bill? Last I looked, the teams who won Championships did it without their PF being the leading scorer. Now at least we have a well-rounded team. I feel better about this team.

    PS – let’s not forget that the days of watching Amare watch rebounds go into the hands of the other team’s 4 or 5 are behind us. Spend time watching Sportscenter and you’ll easily see that along with all of the drooling about his scoring.

  • Mike M

    I’m with Mike L. Against the bigger teams in the west, we have the flexibility to go Frye-Gortat-Lopez or Frye-Hak-Gortat without losing spacing (Gortat has a decent 16 footer, btw). Group that with Nash/Dragic and Carter/Hill and you’re okay. If we rotate those big guys we’ll have plenty of energy for key rebounds and have flexibility when we get into foul trouble against the Howards and Aldridges of the league.

  • Steve

    You’re harder on Gortat than I would have expected. He’s a good, athletic big that actually plays like a big. If he’s steep at $25mil, Channing Frye is a back-breaker.

    I hate Carter being part of this, but Gortat and Pietrus are quality players. We need to try to find a way to get move Pietrus and get something else for him (we’re compounding our SF problem). I think he’s valuable enough that he could be worth a draft pick or some cash. We could use either.

  • Lloyd

    I like the deal. In time, this should make the Suns better in the playoffs.

    Even though I hate the Lakers, Gortat is the type of big that Phil Jackson would like.

  • Matt Manske

    Why does everyone want to move Pietrus? He’s proven to be a decent role player and plays better defense than Childress from what I’ve seen. Why not move Carter’s contract and JChill for a young 2 guard?

  • Ben Z

    Gortat starts. He’s a beast and can finish on the pick and role. The only reason he is on the bench in Orlando is because he plays behind D. Howard. He would start just about anywhere else. Plus the bench looks like they can play nasty defense again with Pietrus and an actual center and power forward combo. I like it. Now the Suns make the playoffs instead of being a .500 team.