So what now? An extended look at the Phoenix Suns’ future

By now we’re more than a week out from the blockbuster trade that changed our view of the Phoenix Suns, present and future.

I analyzed some of the issues surrounding how this affects the Suns’ future in the immediate aftermath of the trade, but now there’s been enough time and space for a further examination.

So far as I’m concerned this deal helps the Suns’ present as well since they needed to acquire a big like Gortat to have a chance, but let’s take a look at the direction this team is headed in the coming years.

First off, the Suns dealt three players that did not figure into their long-term plans. Hedo Turkoglu did not fit and avoiding paying him upwards of $11 million to be a bit player the next few years is a true blessing.

Earl Clark’s affordable (around $2 million) third-year option was declined at the start of the season, which rarely ever happens for lottery picks. It would have taken a miracle for Clark to return to Phoenix, and I was disappointed not only because of my well-chronicled love for Earl but also because it basically signaled to opposing teams that the Suns didn’t value him.

I would have preferred continuing to search for his talent for another year or at least picking up the option for trade purposes, but at this point I was just hoping the Suns could get any value for him. That was certainly the case with his inclusion into this deal.

Jason Richardson was headed toward unrestricted free agency, and we never really got a chance to explore the possibility of the Suns re-signing him in this space. J-Rich is making $14.4 million and would have had to take a severe paycut to warrant a return, something undercut by his productive season.

All along I thought something like three years, $30 million could be fair, but depending on how the market changes that could very well be far below market for a player of Richardson’s skills and it might not be worth spending such a large chunk of change on an aging shooting guard who doesn’t really figure into your future core.

Of course, losing Richardson for nothing after getting essentially flexibility for Amare would have been just as bad as making a mistake with a contract extension. Making matters even more difficult is the Suns couldn’t just dump him for any asset if they wanted to continue competing for a playoff spot, and in this deal they essentially got some value while rolling him into an even bigger trade chip that could produce similar numbers.

I have been screaming for months about the Suns’ need for a post-Nash star replacement, and with the short-term size issue addressed that immediately becomes priority numero uno for the Babbly/Blanks tag team.

The one thing this deal accomplished is that while the Suns have no stars beyond Nash, their payroll is now reflective of that fact.

Once Carter is traded or cut next by the start of this offseason, the Suns will have Nash at $11.7 million and then nobody else over $7 million next season. The three years after that nobody will make more than $8 million, so although the Suns have no future elite players at least nobody is being paid like one as Hedo was.

The Suns of course have a slew of role players being paid very good mid-level money, and with Dragic/Lopez extensions coming up and the unknown rules of the pending new collective bargaining agreement, it’s very possible the Suns will never be able to pluck a star out of free agency.

Assuming options are picked up (and nobody is dealt, which could be in the cards for one or two of these guys), the Suns will be going to war with Josh Childress, Marcin Gortat, Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick and Jared Dudley through 2013-14, and unless things go horribly wrong Goran Dragic and Robin Lopez will join that group.

Along with Dragic (24) and Lopez (22), that quintet is all between the ages of 25-28, so the Suns should be getting prime seasons out of them these next three seasons.

As I’ve written about ad naseum, the Suns MUST swing some sort of deal to add star power to that core, from which nobody should really be untouchable in the right deal.

In the interim the Suns need to deal away one of their wings either for a pick that can provide added flexibility when trying to acquire their future stud or use Carter’s monster semi-expiring deal to clear cap space if a team wants to get rid of a sizable contract of a talented player to clean house (yes, I’ve mentioned Andre Iguodala’s name before).

The Suns seem set for the future at point guard, small forward and (for once) center, but could obviously use a true power forward or elite shooting guard as Dudley/Childress are really more in the small forward mold.

A few days before the trade I discussed many of these same concepts in light of the Suns’ No. 26 ranking in ESPN’s future power rankings. Dumping Hedo certainly brightens that future and should make adding a big salary for the future much more palatable for Robert Sarver. In light of the trade, I just don’t see the Suns’ future being as bleak as those future power rankings put it.

In chess, you seldom can garner a checkmate with one move. You often need a move to set up that move where you make the kill.

This deal solves the roster problem in the present, but also puts them one move away from being in pretty decent shape for the future (and by that I mean continuing to be a perennial playoff team, not an elite championship contender. I know, that’s the ultimate goal, but baby steps here).

In the past I have thought the Suns should ship out whatever wing they could receive value for, but with Gortat they no longer need to make a desperation deal. Since they will be wasting a quality player by just benching one of their wings, a deal must be made, and if they can find the right team wanting to cut salary, Vince’s deal could be the key to bringing back the kind of mega-talent the Suns need to help Nash in the present and lead the team in the future.

I know, every team this side of South Beach could use another star and you can’t just snap your fingers and acquire one with semi-expiring contracts. I understand the Suns won’t be going very far this postseason (if they even get there) without another stud and that a future of role players won’t ever play deep into June.

But with the flexibility afforded by the removal of Hedo’s contract from their future cap and the addition of Vince’s potentially enticing deal, the Suns might finally have the bait to make up for this past summer and brighten the basketball future in the Valley.

Tags: Earl Clark Hedo Turkoglu Jason Richardson Vince Carter

  • roee

    face it, michael
    nobody knows what they are doing in phx
    future is quite bleak with overpaid role players
    no stars, nash deserves more than this
    hope to god they get better but trade looks awful.
    you need to pay someone, why not pay j-rich that was so good only to pay for a childress + warik or some other stiffs? it’s one big mess.

  • Daniel

    In my mind, they seem to be accumulating trade bait. Much as I love him, I dont think Richardson should’ve been one of our big contracts. We need to do 2 main things; find a 20/10 PF, and be sure that Dragic can lead the team into the future (there are long stretches out there where he stops running the offense). With these two things in check, I think we can get get away with a serviceable shooting guard (think Raja bell)

  • Zak

    My guess is that the Suns are eventually just going to have to out bid other teams to entice one of the younger stars to come play in Phoenix. With a really solid roster of role players to back them up, I can see them hopefully enticing an emerging star to leave one of the teams that ALWAYS winds up in the lottery. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help the Suns this year. Lol, but maybe we could “rent Carmelo Anthony from Denver for the rest of the season with a trade for Vince Carter. One for one, the trade works and I’m sure other pieces cold be added to make Denver at least consider it. I doubt Vince will be around long so why not give it a shot and at least see if it’s worth trying it? (Yeah, I know it will never happen but what the hell… Nash and Melo on the same team for even for just one season? That would be something worth seeing!)

  • adobbs

    Excellent analysis. I agree with pretty much everything here (except for acquiring Iguodola). Like everyone other pretender in the league, we are one superstar away from being a great playoff team. We need that player who can carry the team when Nash is injured or is having a bad game.

    I don’t think an elite shooting guard should be the goal, at least during the season. I’d much rather put money into a guy who has the potential for 20/10. My dream would be sending vince and warrick for a superstar PF and a young SG with potential. My reasonable idea is trade a wing for a true PF who can backup channing or potentially take the starting job from channing, then somehow acquire a higher pick in the draft and draft a young sg with superstar potential (and someone who can function as an alternative ball handler to dragic).

  • Just Me

    WEll… my suggestion… contract Al Horford next season… let’s save money for that!

  • Mirza

    wow you guys have a lot on your xmas wish list .. a 20/10 guy we had remember his name was Amare .. Or how about Zach Randolph .. see the problem is these guys dont just grow on trees so when you have one, its probably better to hold on to him .. but hey we have Frye (oh yea) and Warrick .. this team is pathetic .. Im not paying $200 to go to a suns game to watch this horror show .. i’d rather stay at home and scream at the TV and curse Sarver’s name

  • sun also rises

    Oh wow, mirza shows up to kick the team while it’s down and threaten to stop showing up at games… like I said he would a month ago. My prediction is we get a hissy fit by February and some long speech about how he’s “giving up on the franchise” after supposedly watching every game since 1986 or whatever that BS was that he was cooking in his post a while back.

    You fair weather freaks show your a$$ every time you fall back on the Sarver criticism. He manages to ditch dead weight, get us a big and put us back in the competitive market (AFTER GIVING STAT A PERFECTLY GOOD DEAL FOR THE BILLIONTH TIME; you clowns have some serious memory issues) and it’s still all “boo hoo, Scrooge McSarver peed in my victory Cheeri-Os”.

    You might as well stop coming around here all together, mirza. I don’t think your Grinch sized heart can take the reality of a team that’s going through some trying times, like REAL fans do on a daily basis.

  • Lisa from Taos

    I think Mirza secretly goes off to cheer for the Lakers whenever we lose, then comes back when Kobe and company choke. I never see a single post from him when the team is actually playing well. o.0

  • Herb

    Suns did acquire a star power in Vince Carter. If he pans out Sarver will sale Orlando’s pick to buy him out and negotiate a new contract.

    The dumbest thing Sarver did was sign Warrick.

  • George Z

    How come no one ever mentions Josh Smith as a potential PF for phoenix? I always thought he would be a better realistic replacement for Amare than anyone out there right now. I like the Horford and Randolph idea. If Randolph turned around his game in Memphis with that group imagine what he could do with the group in Phx.

  • Mike L

    I’ve mentioned Josh Smith a couple of times, too. I think he would be great, but not sure ATL will let him go. Horford isn’t as athletic but he’d be a great addition. Aldridge in Portland would be great, too.

  • KJ Loyalist

    People really need to get off of the STAT situation.

    Amare did NOT want to be in Phoenix anymore. The writing was on the wall for 2 consecutive years, (all of those attempted trades weren’t because Phoenix didn’t love Amare. They knew all along that he was going to walk).

    I don’t know why anybody downs the Warrick Acquisition. He would be the perfect fit in the starting lineup if RoLo had a jump shot, (or if he worked on his own). He’s the only true dive man Phoenix has in the PnR offense and it’s been the unrest around the rest of the positions that keeps him so irregular.

    Also you guys have to be smart about all of these bigs you constantly desire.

    Josh Smith is the perfect example.

    So okay perhaps he would be a nice fit in the valley, but in order to get something you desire, you have to trade something that said trade partner desires too.

    At this point, we really only have wings to offer. Atlanta has plenty of wings and Warrick wouldn’t be fair trade while at the same time, Smith isn’t worth a couple of draft picks, (which is what ATL would want from PHX. It’s the only thing they’d want).

    Randolph is a stud now, but he is not the type of stud that would thrive in the system Phoenix runs. You have to acquire talent that will fit into what the team is designed to do, (See Shaq and / or Hedo).

    To be totally honest, I’m fine going forward with the squad we have, (minus 1 or 2 congested wings), and actually keeping draft picks for a change and continuing to build for the future.

    I’m happy to have Nash, but if we keep doing what we’re doing every year, we’re not going to get closer to the end goal, Nash is going to leave / retire, and then we’ll have to start all the way over.

    I don’t want that, nobody wants that.

  • Mirza

    I’ve said before that Gortat is a stud and you regulars know how i feel about the Polish hammer so I agree wit the management in their talent assesment of him .. Pietrus is our best defender now (although Hill IS and always will be my favorite Phx Sun EVER and it will be a travesty if he doesnt make the All Star team .. great defender and what he’s doing at age 38 on the offensive end is ridiculous). I really think Carter will be traded before the deadline and Im good with stacking up draft picks as you cant just pluck a “20/10″ guy off the street ..

  • Auggie

    Fact: most Suns fans hate Sarver. If you don’t hate Sarver, you just might be Sarver.

    That said, I like what the management did with this deal, and I have a feeling that I will like what they do at the trade deadline.

  • sun also rises

    I’ve never seen you mention Gortat once, Mirza. But your “regular” posts are usually nothing but a bunch of reactionary crying and hating on the team and its players, so I don’t know when you think you actually contributed to the conversation rather than being a drag and a band wagoner. You sound like you have four different people using your account at once, which is the worst kind of fan mentality.

    And I couldn’t have said it better KJL. I know it’s “trendy” to hate on Sarver (As opposed to accepting that teams are good sometimes, and then teams aren’t so good, and that’s just the way it is in ALL sports) but it’s pointless. In a league where you have teams like the Kings and Cavs who went from elite status to an absolute joke in a free fall, you should all be thankful that we have a GM who is at least TRYING to make things work. Give the STAT tantrums a rest and show some support.

  • Zak

    Yeah, NY rolled the dice on Stat and have won… so far. With his injury history I think the Suns made him a VERY fair offer. But he’s in NY now and I wish him well and hope he never has any more serious injuries but I still think it was a gamble for NY to offer him the contract that they did. Hopefully it will pay off for them but you never know. But it’s time to let it go! He’s gone and he won’t be back. And rag on Sarver as much as you want but he’s a saint and a spendthrift compared to Donald Sterling. Just watch, either Gordon or Griffin will be traded away within 2-3 years because because they’re just too good for him to pay them the money they’re worth to stay with the Clips. Or more likely he’ll trade away B. Davis AND Kaman before then to cut costs… and he’ll still wind up trading one of them eventually. If Sarver was as much of an ass as some people think he is then Nash would already be playing somewhere else and the Suns would be in the lottery EVERY year.

  • Diego

    Let’s see what Vince can give us. He once was a true superstar and I think he can help our team in many ways. If he doesn’t work, he have a good asset to trade.

    One trade I can think of is Iguodala + Spencer Hawes for Carter. Iguodala would be a risk financially, but I really like his game. And I think Spencer would be really huge (literally) for us. He’s a 7-1 center who can run lightly and shoot from the outside.

  • Zak

    Yeah, I agree with Diego. VC could revert to form with the Suns and if he doesn’t then he’s a good trade asset. We haven’t seen what he can do in a Suns uniform yet. Pietrus and Gortat seem to be gelling well so far and I really doubt that Vince will be as big a bust as was Hedo. But I thought Hedo was a good gamble at first which turned out to be a mistake on the court but worthwhile in retrospect because the trade with Orlando that brought us Carter, Gortat and Pietrus probably wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t pulled the trigger on the Hedo trade first. No matter what, Gortat is going to be an asset to the team. Pietrus has proved to be an asset. Hopefully Carter will prove himself too. And the trading season is not yet over! Who knows what gems the Suns might yet acquire. I’m still hopeful.

  • Shaqita

    I think they are collecting all star oldies Nash, VC, Hill and Duncan (Babby’s former client), Yao (Nash’s friend) next year :D

    Howard, Paul, D-Will have player options in 2012/13.

    And if Nash wants to get traded, I would do Al Horford + Bibby for Nash + Lopez.

  • Artur

    I think we can revert VC into Varejao in a three-way deal with Cleveland and Houston… Varejao to Phoenix, VC and Ramon Sessions to Houston and Yao to Cleveland. Just fill with scrubs to make the numbers work and voila.

  • Milo

    Worse you can not trade well!

    If you are what we do not mtibekommt by the trade has become really bad!

    We must quickly because I do have a few ideas, Lopez, Warrick and Pitruos Josh Smith. Or tries to pull Granger on land or Beasley, but so what …. never with the title.