Phoenix Suns should explore Robin Lopez trade


Robin Lopez could be on the move before the deadline in a deal that would help everyone involved.

As the March 15 trade deadline approaches, the inevitable Steve Nash trade rumors will start swirling.

But while several teams will be tying up Lon Babby’s phone lines in pursuit of Phoenix’s star point guard, there’s another player the Suns should shop around in order to brighten their seemingly gloomy future.

Enter Robin Lopez.

The Suns used to think Lopez was the future. But after a major decline in production and playing time, trading the hardly used 7-footer now becomes the most mutually beneficial and realistic deal the Suns could possibly make before the deadline.

From Lopez’s perspective, why wouldn’t he want to get dealt? As it stands now, there’s no future for Lopez in Phoenix. Marcin Gortat is cemented at the center spot, Channing Frye is locked up until 2013-14 with a player option in 2014-15, and Markieff Morris will only see more time as he grows and develops.

If Lopez wants to be a longtime starter in the NBA, it’s not going to happen in Phoenix, and the 7-footer isn’t ignorant to that fact. He already made it clear he wants to test free agency waters, choosing not to negotiate with the Suns on a long-term deal before the Jan. 25 deadline for players of his experience.

Do you think it’s a coincidence he’s seen an increase in playing time since the All-Star break? Is it just by chance he’s having his best month since December, averaging 4.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 14.7 minutes per game?

No. This is the last chance the Suns’ front office has to show potential suitors that Lopez has significant trade value before the deadline passes and he eventually jettisons elsewhere in the offseason. This is also his final audition to prove he’s not the immobile big man scouts would see if they turned on last year’s film.

A Lopez deal makes perfect sense for both sides. Lopez needs an opportunity, and the Suns need to get something in return before they lose the Stanford product to free agency. Most importantly, there’s a market for Lopez.

Sure, he’s proved injury prone and uninspired at times, but what team couldn’t use a 23-year-old 7-foot center with a reasonable price tag? Lopez is appealing to both a playoff team needing more depth up front to take them to the next level, and a young team stuck in rebuilding mode in search of a center that can grow and develop.

A Lopez trade is the most realistic deal the Suns can make before March 15, and it’s a trade that would only benefit Phoenix and potentially help them add a piece for the future. If the Suns move Lopez they wouldn’t have to deal with his contract situation in the offseason. They would also most likely be able to bring back a decent draft pick, which aligns with the Suns’ strategy for the future.

“I don’t think we’re interested in any short term fixes,” Babby said on Doug and Wolf on Feb. 22. “We’re interested in things that are going to make the Suns an elite team in the future.”

A Lopez deal doesn’t make the Suns an elite team in the future but it could give them a building block to move toward that goal. So while all of the talk will surround if and where Steve Nash will go, it’s Robin Lopez who should be on his way out of Phoenix in a move that would do nothing but help all sides involved.

Hypothetical Trade Partners

Rebuilding teams that could use a young big man

New Orleans Hornets: The Hornets are planning on shipping out Chris Kaman, which makes room for a center like Lopez. New Orleans has one of the weakest rosters in the NBA, and Lopez could help give them a building block at the center spot.

Emeka Okafor is still locked up for two more seasons, but Carl Landry is a free agent after this season which leaves Okafor by himself in New Orleans’ frontcourt. While the Hornets obviously wouldn’t give up a pick that will most likely be in the top three, they own Minnesota’s unprotected first-round pick, which would give Phoenix a selection in the late lottery or 15, 16, 17 range.

If New Orleans wouldn’t give up that pick, the Hornets also have some young talent in shooting guard Xavier Henry and point guard Greivis Vasquez, both of which could help the Suns’ future to some degree. If the Hornets land Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond, Lopez is an afterthought but they could end up with the third pick and miss both young studs.

New Jersey Nets: The Nets obviously already have Robin’s better half, but the twins played next to each other at Stanford and Brook could possibly lobby to get his brother in New Jersey. After all, he could use the frontcourt help as the Nets will lose Kris Humphries to free agency and after Memhet Okur’s deal expires will be left with Johan Petro down low.

Like the Hornets, the Nets have a second first-round pick from the Houston Rockets that they could offer the Suns. The pick is lottery protected, however, but if the Rockets sneak into the playoffs the Suns could be sitting pretty with a pick in the teens. New Jersey also has rising shooting guard MarShon Brooks, who the Suns could try and include in a deal.

Eastern Conference team that could use a big man for playoff run

Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks have the talent to make noise in the Eastern Conference but with Al Horford out for the majority and maybe all of the playoffs, Atlanta needs another big to help back up Zaza Pachulia.

The Hawks currently have Jason Collins and Erick Dampier behind Pachulia, but Collins is nothing more than a stopgap and has a sprained elbow, while Erick Dampier is, well, Erick Dampier.

Lopez could give the Hawks much-needed size and a warm body who could at least attempt to bang Dwight Howard. In return, the Suns could receive a draft pick most likely in the early 20s, which is almost like a lottery pick in this loaded draft.

Tags: Robin Lopez Trades

  • Zak

    I agree. Lopez knows the only future he has in Phoenix is as Gortat’s backup and there are several teams where he should at least get a shot at more court time. Hell, there are a few center-poor teams he might even start for. Better to get a late 1st or even an early 2nd round pick for him than to just let him go as a free agent at the end of the season. Maybe playing next to his brother again is what he needs get him motivated so NJ certainly wouldn’t be a bad destination for him and I wouldn’t mind having Houston’s 1st round pick in exchange for him.

    I actually like Lopez but I think a trade would be best for him and the Suns.

  • Cam

    Getting a first round pick for Fropez might be a little bit of a reach. I think the Suns should be satisfied if they are able to pull an early second round pick for him. Go Suns?

  • Zak

    @Cam – Lopez won’t bring an early 1st round pick from anyone but maybe a mid 1st round pick from a team that already has two 1st round picks. Lopez is still young and could benefit from and flourish playing in a different system. I think he could be a much better player in a more structured offense than the Suns have. For teams that badly need some help at center he’s probably a very good choice as a backup. Especially one that still has potential to be more than a career backup. All that said, I would be satisfied with an early 2nd round pick for him too. But I think they can get more if they don’t jump at the first offer they get.

  • And1

    I was just getting to like Lopez too…

    I have a feeling Brown will be dealt before the dead-line. His increase in minutes tells me they want to increase his value a little.

    I still want Monte

  • Scott

    If Gentry isn’t going to use Lopez, then Lopez should be traded.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with Lopez. But if he’s on the bench and the bench is a forgotten element of the Suns’ game – as it has been the last 2 “coincidentally” losing seasons – then not only will he not be properly utilized, he’ll be perpetually frustrated and his trade value will continue to diminish.

    IMO, the guy is a good shot blocker, good on defense, big, and only 23. He has potential to score like Gortat. He’d be the starting center for another club, like the Cavs.

    I don’t see him getting traded to Atlanta, as they already have Horford and Pachulia, and Robin’s too expensive to be the 3rd C, especially for an already over-budget team like the Hawks.

    The Nets would say “nyet” to Lopez as well. The “better” brother doesn’t rebound either, but at least he scores. If they got Robin too, they’d have to put the coach in a straight-jacket.

    As for the Hornets, I don’t think they’d want Lopez either, as they’re going to try to rebuild through the draft. They’ll be in the lottery for sure – maybe the #1 pick – and this year’s draft is big on big men.

    The best destination I see is Cleveland, and maybe in exchange for 3 consecutive year 2nd round picks (since the Cavs have a surplus from NO and Orlando).

    The Bucks would be another possibility, but by now it’s clear that either the Suns don’t want Udrih or the Bucks plan to pick up another big man in the draft.

    Portland would be another option, as Camby isn’t getting younger (he’s 37), Kurt Thomas is 39, Przybilla may not work out (too many injuries), and they have no one else to play center. This could be a great spot for Lopez, as Portland likes comic books and wild hair.

    The only problem with a trade to Portland is they don’t have any assets to trade with the Suns. So I only see Lopez going there in trade if the Suns are part of a three-way.

    Detroit is another place that could use Lopez. But again, I don’t think they have any assets the Suns would want, and they’re probably aiming to take a big man in the draft.

    As Sarver recently said, the trade talks won’t heat up till about a day before the deadline. That’s when the real deals will be made. So don’t expect to hear anything for about a week.

    Ironically … with this draft being so full of big men, and Lopez being a small expiring contract … it could turn out that Lopez isn’t tradeable and ends up having a lower signing value next year than he would at other times (due to the glut of young bigs), and the Suns might be able to re-sign him at a decent salary.

    BTW, anyone else think Elston Turner might be the next Suns coach?

  • And1

    @Scott

    If Brooks aint coming back, then a trade for Udrih with another Bucks are good for Lopez, although I like you thinks Lopez is a good Center just not getting the minutes to show it though.

    And I don’t think Elston Turner is the next Suns coach in the future. That spot belongs to our Suns legend Dan Majerle. But don’t count Gentry just yet. I like his style.

  • Scott

    @And1 -

    My impression is that Majerle isn’t ready yet, and that the players are fairly impressed with the results they’re getting from Turner.

    As for Gentry, I realize he has another year on his contract, but particularly if the Suns don’t make the playoffs, I wouldn’t count too much on him being around for it.

  • Grover

    I keep reading how this year is a “loaded draft”… I must be watching different college basketball games than most everyone else. This one doesn’t look any different than most to me. A bunch of under-producing players riding on the blue chip credentials coming out of high school. A couple of the top players look like they could be good in 3-4 years, but I haven’t seem anyone that looks like you could build a team around them.

    I’d love to trade Lopez, but we may not get enough for him to be worthwhile. As disappointing as he’s been, he’s only 23 and strong 7 footers don’t grow on trees. I’d say as much of it depends on knowing Lopez’ personality, which I do not pretend to know. If he’s given up on the Suns, we should get whatever we can, even if that’s a secon rounder. If he can be turned and is willing to put in some work, he may be more valuable to us as an athletic bug body than whatever mid first rounder we pick up. Take a look at the last 4-5 drafts… Yes, you can cherry pick some solid players using 20/20 hindsight, but if you randomly pick mid first rounders look who you’d get… Half of them are nothing.

  • Scott

    @Grover -

    I don’t know what you’ve been reading or expecting, because the draft news every year is loaded with incredible hype, but last year maybe 4 big guys (PF/C) expected to go in or around the lottery backed out. They’re in this year, so this year’s draft has not only last year’s big men, but this year’s, and is thus top heavy with big men. That’s pretty much all it is.

    Consequently, Draft Express has 7 of the top 10 on their draft board as PF or C. There’s an additional 9 of them in the rest of the first round. There’s another 13 PFs or Cs in the 2nd round, but with the exception of a few with overlooked talent (like Gortat, who was drafted at the tail of the 2nd round), these are usually “stiffs.”

    IIRC, the Draft Express board earlier was even more crammed with big men, but now there’s 12 in the first round who are guards or SF.

    Since it’s hard to get quality big men in the NBA, many teams in the lottery are expected to take bigs. This means that teams looking to draft small have the potential to get higher quality later than usual, but IMO this year appears to have a lot of really weak smalls. There’s no Irving, Rubio, or Wall in the bunch, for example. The top 2 PG picks right now, for instance, appear to be maybe backup PGs at best (Lillard and Marshall).

    The top quality SGs that I see are Beal and Rivers, both of whom can create. Beal sounds less explosive but with a high IO and strong character, while Rivers (son of Boston’s coach Doc Rivers) has more than a bit of diva in him. Rivers is being sold to the press as having possibilities at PG (because he’s only 6’4″), but he’s playing SG and hasn’t shown any PG skills. If he really can play PG, and if his character matures considerably in his first year or two, he might be the most talented PG in this draft. He’s also projected to go in the range where the Suns would pick (assuming the Suns don’t end up in the lottery).

    Aside from Anthony Davis – the consensus #1 pick – it’s hard for me to see who the Suns should take in the draft. Maybe they should sell the pick. ;)

  • Scott

    Out of the 2nd round, I kind of like Jae Crowder (6’6″ 235 lbs). He’s like a smaller Dudley, in that he’s not the most athletic player, but he hustles. Unfortunately, he can’t create his own shot or handle the ball, but he plays efficiently, has good competitive energy, works on developing his game, is credited with being able to defend all positions, and he can shoot the 3. He’s also a senior with a NBA body, so he’s pretty much good to go.

    I also like Brazilian PF Augusto Casear Lima, but that’s mainly because he has such a cool sounding name. :)

    If he has skills (his current situation involves recovery from injury and very little playing time with his Spanish team), I could see him getting picked up by San Antonio and stashed overseas for a year or two. His agent is Dan Fegan, who IIRC is the agent for Shawn Marion, Jason Richardson, Ricky Rubio, Anderson Varejao, and others. I’m not fond of Fegan as I think he inflates his client’s egos and pushes for far more money than the player is worth, in the end potentially damaging player/team relations. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Fegan was the reason why the Suns traded Richardson rather than trying to re-sign him.

    Toward the end of the draft board at Draft Express (#59), the description of PG Nemanja Nedovic’s game reminds me a lot of Dragic. He just needs to work on his 3 pt shooting.

  • Al

    I would really love Phoenix to land Chris Kaman before the trade deadline. It would also be great if Phoenix traded Lopez and Childress and cash to Nets for Okur and Morrow, and a pick. Nets would definitely not give up Marshon.
    I was also wondering. What if Robin goes to Miami for Norris Cole? Cole has potential to be a quality guard like George Hill.
    Kaman is at the top of my list and a Paul Millsap from the Jazz would be a great trade as well.

  • KeZ

    I would love to see Delonte West in a Phx uniform…

    West brings defense, scoring punch and a lot of SWAG!

  • scott

    Sorry to burst everyone’s bubble, but Lopez isn’t worth anything more than a 2nd round pick or some cash to line Sarver’s pockets, and Childress is one of the worst contracts in the league: nobody’s taking that off our hands unless we take one of theirs or give up additional assets (and, no, Fropez is NOT an asset).

  • B. Cray Z.

    Robin is a head case.

    Wild card that can just as easily be a bust as a stud.

    Our back up center that fills that role best is Channing Frye. Team Frye with Dud and trade to get LB, Louis and/or Gogi back.

    MUST reunite that killer bench unit. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • Andrew

    DEAL TO REBUILD QUICKLY!!!!!

    SUNS TRADE (Bare wih me people)

    C Marcin Gortat
    C Robin Lopez
    SG Shannon Brown

    HORNETS TRADE

    C Emeka Okafor
    SG Eric Gordon
    PG Greivis Vasquez
    1st round pick (Minnesota)

    Suns would have two potential stars return at the end of the month in (Gordon & Brooks)

    They would also have a shot to draft SG Lamb out of UConn, and SF Taylor from Vanderbilt, another big in the second rd.)

    The addition of Vasquez would allow them to let Brooks walk, and still have a solid backup for Nash.

    The addition of Gordon will allow the Suns to make sn offer eary to the only possible FA that we would have a shot at.

    Why it makes sense for Charlotte is they recieve a replacement center in Gortat that allows them to move Kaman, and two expiring contracts in Brown, and Lopez.

    IMHO Our best chance to rebuild, and keep Nash

  • Andrew

    DEAL TO REBUILD QUICKLY!!!!!
    SUNS TRADE (Bare wih me people)
    C Marcin Gortat
    C Robin Lopez
    SG Shannon Brown
    HORNETS TRADE
    C Emeka Okafor
    SG Eric Gordon
    PG Greivis Vasquez
    1st round pick (Minnesota)
    Suns would have two potential stars return at the end of the month in (Gordon & Brooks)
    They would also have a shot to draft SG Lamb out of UConn, and SF Taylor from Vanderbilt, another big in the second rd.)
    The addition of Vasquez would allow them to let Brooks walk, and still have a solid backup for Nash.
    The addition of Gordon will allow the Suns to make sn offer eary to the only possible FA that we would have a shot at.
    Why it makes sense for Charlotte is they recieve a replacement center in Gortat that allows them to move Kaman, and two expiring contracts in Brown, and Lopez.

    IMHO Our best chance to rebuild, and keep Nash

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