Grant Hill re-signs with Suns; Mickael Pietrus traded to Toronto; Vince Carter, Gani Lawal waived

Grant Hill is back after re-signing with Phoenix for one year at $6.5 million. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Grant Hill is back after re-signing with Phoenix for one year at $6.5 million. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Despite similar offers from contenders, Grant Hill decided that Phoenix is still home to him on Friday after he agreed to sign a one-year, $6.5 million deal, according to The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro. The Suns reportedly increased their offer from $5 million to Hill on Thursday. Phoenix had made Hill its “top priority” this offseason. San Antonio, Chicago and New York were also in the running for his services, with San Antonio apparently willing to offer two years. Hill’s return to Phoenix seems to indicate three things: how highly he values Aaron Nelson and the Suns training staff, his sense of loyalty to the team and to Nash*, and his own sense of security in his legacy. Hill seems to be a surefire Hall of Famer, but winning a ring would have allayed any naysaying about his credentials.

*Suns fans likely rested a little easier with the news of Hill’s return. It may or may not impact Nash’s decision to stay through this year, but the inverse is much clearer: had Hill signed elsewhere, the odds of Nash asking for a trade almost certainly would have skyrocketed.

A championship is by no means assured with any contender, however, as the surprising Dallas Mavericks showed last year in vanquishing several favored teams in the playoffs. With the Knicks, Hill’s chances relied on Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony dominating on the offensive end and making at least a token effort on defense as satellites around New York’s new defensive star, Tyson Chandler. In San Antonio, an odd combination of aged stars and young pieces may have been enough to contend for a title; in a loaded Western Conference, though, the chances were slim. All things considered, Hill chose comfort and contentment, at least for one more year. And by re-signing with Phoenix, he left open the possibility that he and Nash will continue to play together after they leave the Valley.

The on-court implications are marginal at best. With his production right (or slightly below) league average by almost any measure since joining the Suns – a PER ranging from 14.0 to 15.7; a WS/48 between .087 and .127, much of Hill’s value derives from his familiarity with the system and the players in it. He’s a decent overall defender and will be as long as his athleticism remains, but he was susceptible in isolation last year, per Synergy Sports. On the plus side, he defended the 3-point line relatively well for a team that was 4th worst in opponent 3-point accuracy. And with a one-year deal, this signing has zero impact on the team’s financial flexibility after the season.

This move, combined with the signings of Sebastian Telfair and Shannon Brown, likely marks the end of the Suns’ offseason. Speaking of Telfair, he’ll wear No. 31 (hat-tip to Alex Kennedy).

The signings of Hill, Telfair, and Brown are mirrored by the departure of three players who wore purple and orange last season. Phoenix opened up some more room in its wing rotation and cleared some cap space by agreeing to deal swingman Mickael Pietrus’ $5.3 million contract to Toronto for a conditional second-rounder. This is a pure salary dump, a move that perhaps allowed the Suns to feel comfortable offering Hill more money, and it also frees up a spot in the wing rotation for Josh Childress. The Suns’ wings will now be Hill, Jared Dudley, Brown and Childress in some order. Pietrus is a “three-and-D guy, though one prone to mental lapses on both ends,” as Zach Lowe so appropriately says. His defense left something to be desired last season, at least during his stint in Phoenix, but he continued to shoot well from deep at times. Perhaps Pietrus’ most significant contribution was his Twitter advice to all the lovers in the internet-universe on Valentine’s Day, continuing the storied tradition of Suns players interacting with their fans through social media. Bravo, sir. Bravo.

In other, more expected news, Vince Carter is no longer a member of the Suns. Phoenix waived Carter, though they’re still on the hook for his $4 million buyout. Though he largely played well in Orlando, excepting a playoff series or two, Carter’s production slipped since coming to the Suns in the Marcin Gortat trade. As the year wore on, he found himself in a timeshare with Jared Dudley, similar to the center situation with Gortat and Robin Lopez. When the Suns were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, Dudley replaced Carter in the starting lineup. Carter reportedly hopes to sign with a contender.*

*In some ways, he is the Bizarro-Grant Hill. Both had outstanding college careers. Both had the “Next Jordan” title thrust upon them, to varying degrees, during their time in the limelight. And both will be Hall of Fame candidates. As I said earlier, Hill seems to be a shoo-in; I think his decision to re-sign with Phoenix reveals that, more importantly, he thinks he is a shoo-in. But Vince is a different cat. He has over 20,000 NBA points — a veritable golden ticket to Hall induction, yet many people who are smarter than I am believe that he will fall short of Springfield. The difference between the two candidacies strikes me as the difference between the “stuff” that surrounds both players.

Grant Hill likely doesn’t need an NBA championship to get into the Hall of Fame. Vince Carter probably won’t get in even if he wins one. And the dichotomy is fascinating.

Finally, Gani Lawal’s Suns career will end with his two minutes played in 2010-11, per the same Arizona Republic report.

Lawal became a victim of the Suns’ depth at power forward, where they have Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick and rookie first-round draft pick Markieff Morris. A portion of Lawal’s salary would have become guaranteed if he had made the training camp roster.

Lawal, who has been playing in Poland, underwent knee surgery at the start of the year after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and partially tore his medial collateral ligament in practice. He had made one appearance with the Suns for two minutes. Lawal, 23, was the final move made by the previous Suns regime when it drafted him 46th overall in the 2010 draft.

via Phoenix Suns waive Vince Carter, Gani Lawal.

There’s not much to say about a rookie who barely made an appearance on the court, other than this: 18 personal fouls per 36 minutes is awesome.

Tags: Grant Hill Mickael Pietrus

  • shawn

    I’m loving the small moves and I must be the only one who thinks this group can ball and make a run this year.

  • JMZ

    yeszir… love it need depht from lckout… duds is my idol/rolemodel lets get check us out on twitter yo!!!

  • Jason A.

    @shawn, I’m with you. If Dudley keeps improving and we get a surprise at PF I think we’ll be downright good. It could easily go the other way and we barely make the playoffs, but I like out team. Hopefully we don’t suck.

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    If Dwight Howard does indeed go the Nets (not the Lakers), the Lakers hopes will be shattered. If the deal eventually happens (Paul to the Lakers), the Lakers will be left with Bynum and not much else up front. If the Lakers do not get Paul, they will be left in disarray because it is not the team that they wanted to retain.

    The Suns (if Nash stays healthy) may be far better than many folks think. In fact, they may even challenge the Lakers for first place, in a fun year for Suns fans as we await next year and all of the salary dumps. Folks, Kobe is another year older with bad knees.

    I agree with Shawn.

  • Grover

    A run at what – Playoffs or championship? I agree if your saying we might make the playoffs. The West is way too tough for a team without an all star to even win the West, let alone the whole thing.

  • Drew

    The best part about these moves IMO is that Childress will be getting a lot of minutes. He’ll dispel Hill a lot to keep him fresh in this condensed season. On top of that, he won’t be splitting time with Pietrus. I may be overly optimistic, but I still hope that the Childress who was playing great in last year’s training camp will make a return.

    This also leaves room for Warrick to get some minutes at the 3 (when Childress and Hill are resting) and let Morris or Lawal get a couple here and there on the bench squad.

    While we may be able to make it into the playoffs, our main focus this year should be developing our core of complementary players to attract a FA next year.

  • Brian

    The Brown signing makes MUCH more sense now that we have traded Pietrus. Didn’t know why we had SOOO much money invested in wing players this season prior to that trade. If Duds is as improved as the rumors are, we should now have four above average starters, and if Frye and Morris can play well, we might be a pretty feisty team.

  • Mel.

    Feels like a total political/loyalty signing based on keeping Nash happy, but… honestly? What the hell else would you want to prioritize for this season, now that it seems like Steve’s a lock to stick around?

    Might as well go for the harmonious locker room, the low-seeded playoff slot, and a respectable performance over a shortened season. I doubt that this was the thought process employed by Babby or Gentry, but it’s easy to argue that a mid-range team with a positive attitude is more appealing to a potential 2012 FA pickup than some “we just gutted our roster, now COME HERE AND PLAY LAZARUS WITH WHAT WE’VE GOT LEFT!”-type franchise.

    So, I actually kinda like the incremental strategy. Of course, look for the team to jettison Dudley for an early third-rounder and cash considerations for absolutely NO reason in the next two weeks now that there’s a tiny glimmer of optimism, but… for now?


  • Cam

    Now if the Suns will just finalize the VC buyout. I honestly can’t wait to see some other team make a desperate attempt to upgrade by throwing money at him. Too bad the Suns couldn’t have moved Warrick. Any way the Suns pick up another teams bad contract along with some picks like the Supersonics did to the Suns in the Kurt Thomas trade? The Suns still have the ability to amnesty one contract to get some cap flexibility to do that. Go Suns.

    • Michael Schwartz

      @Cam I think that (Kurt Thomas in reverse type deal) will certainly be one of the things they look into next offseason will all their cap space.

  • Zak

    The Lakers are another year older without the CP trade. Dallas is just waving “bye-bye” to at least three important free agents. Roy is retiring. Denver has several players tied up in contracts with teams in China. As odd as it might sound, the Clippers might be the team to beat in the West this season. They just signed Butler which gives them some added punch at SF without them having to give up anything in return. But I think OKC will be “the” team to beat in the West this year… with Memphis not far behind… and San Antonio is still lurking and prepared to make another run at a title.

    With the talent the Suns have this year, they have virtually no shot at an NBA championship title. They should do well in the West this year though. I’m certainly aware that doing “well” isn’t enough for Suns fans. I want to see them win it all as much as anyone else. A lot of people think they should gut the team this year and start preparing for the future.

    Perhaps they are right. I won’t argue that point with anyone.

    The Suns have decided to not do that this year.

    I’ll still cheer for them.

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    Mel -

    Dudley gets better and better every year, why would they trade him?

  • Cam

    Nevermind, root world just reported that VC has been officially bought out today. Go Suns.

  • Cam

    Not root world, roto world.

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    The Diamondbacks proved last season that you just don’t gut a team.

    You keep the good players (they don’t have to be superstars) and just add to them.

    The Diamondbacks went from worst to first by doing that.

    The Suns have Gortat, Dudley, Frye, Morris and who knows maybe even a Shannon Brown and you just add to that. (Perhaps Lopez will put down his comic books long enough to play up to his potential.)

    If the Suns have a good year, they will be attractive to some good players with all of the cash they have to spend.

  • Scott

    Welcome back, Grant!

    I’m guessing he called Nash for advice on moving to the Spurs and Nash said, “Thbpbpthpt, the Spurs! You need to hang out with the cool kids.” ;)

    As for Pietrus, this is probably the best move for him. He’ll get some Francophone love and some French cuisine up in frosty Toronto.

    It would have been nice to get more for Pietrus, but under the new CBA I guess that’s the going rate. And second round may be particularly good next year.

    Aside from a question mark above the heads of Brown and Telfair, I’m anticipating some good team chemistry this year, and hopefully a better win/loss ratio.

  • Mel.

    Lloyd, I was just being facetious… I love Duds, and think he’s got a phenomenal work ethic and upside.

    But… we all kinda thought the same thing about DRAGON, and that didn’t stop management from inexplicably shelling the kid off to Houston for a sack of magic beans. I feel like any good administrative move (Extending Nash, extending Dudley, signing Childress, getting Gortat) HAS to be off-set by some horrific blunder in the longview (The Hedo Debacle, stacking fifteen wing players and giving three of them court time, the AB… thing. Which the jury is still out on), so I’m tempering my own optimism preemptively. :D

  • Mel.

    Also, did Zach write that Hill-VC comparison? It’s absolutely spot-on; maybe the best “tale of two MJs” summary of these guys, and their collective careers that I’ve seen.

  • PHX suns fan in LA

    i liked gani lawal but o well

  • Jt’s hoops Blog

    As a Toronto fna, I love getting the Suns’leftovers. they’ve helped us so much. Leandro Barbosa had a come back year w/ the Raptors. Hopefully Pietrus will give the Rap that much needed defensive boost that the team needs.

  • Tony

    So the Suns re-sign Hill and sign Shannon Brown and all of a sudden the Suns are the team to beat or at least a playoff team? Nevermind the fact they will not have Vince Carter, who although obviously not even a shell of his former self, at the very least took some of the defensive attention off of Nash because of his reputation and occassional 30 point game performances, or that they gave away Peitrus for a conditional second round pick which the Suns will probably never get.
    While I am happy to see Hill back as a Sun, as he is probably the classiest guy in the league, and I do like the signing of Shannon Brown because of his quickness and athleticism, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This team is not going to be able to compete with any of the top teams in the west and we have to remember that the Clippers, Timberwolves, and Warriors seriously should be much better. Obviously, the Hornets are a mess so I don’t expect them in the playoffs this season and since Denver will be missing three key players, they may not make it to the playoffs; however, I’m not sure the Suns are better than either the Clippers, Warriors, or even the Timberwolves.

  • Mel.

    I actually agree with that summary. But I’d also have to say that the Mavs are going to have one hell of a time getting back into the top four this year (Picking up VC just ain’t going to make that nut), the Blazers aren’t getting B-Roy OR Odom back, SA’s a year older… Utah and Denver might be really fantastic or really awful, and several of the non-placing squads from last year’s playoff picture are looking to make a push (Definitely the Warriors and/or Clippers).

    … though I just realize that Zak covered most of these points in his post above. LOL. Okay. Ahem. Getting to the point:

    I would argue that the state of decline/ascension actually benefits the Suns’ chances. They could be a spoiler, or they could be the tenth-place seed; it’s honestly as much a matter of their integrity as it is the potential slide of their contemporaries. In that, I’d say that the team’s actually pretty well-heeled: as horrible as it got last year, the roster we’ve got going into ’11-’12 is a LOT more promising.

  • HankS

    The Suns haven’t become the team to beat by any stretch of imagination, but they might be actually fun to watch once again. Brown and Dudley are very different off-guards, as Morris and Fry are very different PFs, which might open up interesting choices and different line-ups against different teams. If Lopez comes back as a competent sub (yeah, I know…) and if Telfair can run the team semi-competently for 10-15 mins a night, with the kind of veteran leadership the Suns boast, Coach Gentry might have a workable and versatile 10-men crew.

  • Mel.

    I was going to add that Brooks’ return would be a welcome shot in the arm, but… it dawned on me that his doing so is pretty much the EXACT SAME SITUATION that happened last year. Bumping into the rotation as Nash’s replacement with two-some months left on the schedule, and trying to figure out how he fits into the established chemistry of the team.

    I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he winds up being an overpaid bench fixture, if Telfair is remotely serviceable. No need to go rocking the boat, and AB’s attitude and dedication to the team don’t strike me as being particularly sterling.